Like holidays, the joys of driving go much deeper than getting from A to B. What really makes our world beautiful often lies somewhere in between the natural wonders of ‘A’ and vibrant cities of ‘B’.
It’s been said that life is a journey, not a destination. If you focus too much on where you’re told to go, you may just miss the many marvels that present themselves along the way. North America is a continent shaped by our appetite for adventure. Its roads are like a recipe filled with awe-inspiring ingredients, offering delectable discoveries and experiences for any hungry traveller to sink their teeth into. Between the Atlantic and Pacific, some of the world’s most scenic roads stretch out into the sunset. Meandering through mountains, delving through deserts and careering outwards to cradle the coast, North America’s highways and byways are an impressive testament to the scale of what mankind can achieve. They’re so much more than lifeless asphalt lines linking A’s and B’s – they’re a collection of sights, sounds and stories that bring millions of people closer together every single day.
Route 66 – Chicago to Los Angeles & Santa Monica
Perhaps the USA’s most iconic route, popularised both in song and on the big screen, Historic Route 66 was a main artery that pumped wealth and prosperity to the beating heart of America. When construction was completed in 1926, the road stretched over two thousand miles from the windy city of Chicago to the sun kissed Californian beaches of Santa Monica. Arriving in Illinois, as your epic eight-state itinerary lies before you, we highly recommend a stay at The Langham Hotel to kick things off in style. Along the famous route, the cities of St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque and Los Angeles await your exploration, not to mention a number of national parks, which punctuate one of the most diverse and stunning landscapes in the world. Once you finally arrive in Santa Monica, sitting right on a beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Casa Del Mar is fantastically placed to help you discover exactly why more than 1 in 10 Americans choose to live in California.
Pacific Coast Highway – San Francisco to Santa Barbara
Hearing the word ‘California’ instantly conjures up images of sun, sea and surfers, but the Golden State’s terrain is actually more varied than most. San Francisco’s climate has been likened before to that of Manchester, which makes sense when you’re exploring its fertile forests of majestic redwood trees. Once acquainted with the historic trams and trendy Frisco scene, California State Route 1 extends along the coast, offering sweeping ocean views all the way to Santa Barbara. Along this route, we’ve found outstanding accommodation and levels of service at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, the Inn at Spanish Bay and, a particular favourite with our travel experts, Dolphin Bay Resort at Pimso beach.
Overseas Highway – Miami to Key West
At the southern tip of Florida, an archipelago of coral cays extend into the sea, connected to the mainland by an impressive seven mile bridge. Unofficially, the Florida Keys are known as the Conch Republic, due to a successful publicity stunt pulled by Key West’s former mayor to stop disruptive border checks on people crossing the bridge to the mainland. The colourful Keys enjoy a tropical savanna climate and, as such, receive their fair share of tourists in spring and summer months. The drive here is every bit as much about the journey as it is about the destination and driving seven miles into the Gulf of Mexico with nothing but sea on both sides and the distant mainland in your rear view is a magical experience. A particular favourite Key West haunt for high profile Florida fans, including US Presidents, is the stunning Little Palm Island Resort and Spa. This captivating coral cay is home to one of the most idyllic retreats in the Western Hemisphere – the perfect prize at the end of an exhilarating drive over the ocean.
Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia to North Carolina/Tennessee
Built specifically for the purpose of admiring the landscape around it, originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway, this road meanders through 469 miles of seemingly endless forest, hills and mountains. If you’re out on the east coast and the idea of following in pioneering footsteps sounds enticing, then this is the best route west you can take. Starting at the base of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Blue Ridge Parkway twists, turns, climbs and descends all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. The road once featured on Top Gear, to test widespread claims that it’s the best driving road in the world. Rather predictably, Clarkson wanted to drive faster than legally or safely acceptable and instead settled for driving around in circles on a racetrack. Although we appreciate that odd decisions often make the best TV, we think Jeremy Clarkson was a total fool to swap speed for scenery of this magnitude (Jeremy, if you’re reading this, we were joking about you being a fool, please don’t punch us).
Sea to Sky Highway – Vancouver to Whistler
As we’re sure you’re aware, the scenery doesn’t stop north of the border. British Columbia Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway, not only provides a journey of incredibly humbling vistas but also links two fantastic destinations. The road begins in Vancouver, consistently named as one of the top five cities in the world for liveability and quality of life, this bustling cosmopolitan area has a population almost as diverse as its landscape. It’s also earned the nickname ‘Hollywood North’ due to its status as a hub for Canadian film making. About ninety minutes along the Sea to Sky highway, lies the popular mountain town of Whistler. Famed for its alpine skiing, Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and benefits from some of the most sublime snow-capped mountains in the world. If heading up the highway and taking to the slopes is on your agenda then the picturesque Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside hotel has exactly what you need to help put your plan into action.
So, there you have five of the best – 2750 miles of driving delight. If you’d like further inspiration, you’ll find pre-packaged self-drive itineraries by clicking here and our experienced travelling team are at hand to set your wheels in motion with a host of enthralling stateside sat nav suggestions.