Travel Picks: Top 10 coastal drives around the world

Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:11am EDT

LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Few things celebrate the end of
winter like a great drive and enjoying the beach. Whether you
can put the top down or not, members and editors of travel
website VirtualTourist (www.virtualtourist.com) are sure you'll
enjoy any of our "Top 10 Coastal Drives." Reuters has not
endorsed this list:
1.  Pacific Coast Highway - Monterey, California
    At around 454 miles (730 km), California's Pacific Coast
Highway is probably the most well-known coastal drive in the
United States. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, the distance
is about 455 miles (732 km), though VirtualTourist members
specifically suggest the 135 mile (217 km) stretch from San Luis
Obispo to Monterey. This drive includes Point Lobos State
Reserve, Point Sur State Historic Park, and the
highly-recognizable, oft photographed Julia Pfeiffer Burns State
Park.  One thing to keep in mind: when you pay admission to one
CA state park, your receipt will cover your admission to any
other state park for the day - so it's great to hit this sector
of the road on the same day.
2.  Kuhio Highway - Kauai, Hawaii
    Although many choose Maui's Hana Highway as Hawaii's primary
coastal drive, the drive from Kauai's South Shore to the "end of
the road" at Haena State Park is truly exceptional. By starting
at Poipu Beach, your 52 mile (84 km) drive along Highway 56 has
gorgeous views in either direction. With lookouts along the
road, you'll see scenery that is vaguely recognizable - this is
the land where dinosaurs once roamed in Jurassic Park. The drive
ends at Haena State Park, also the start of the Kalalau Trail, a
rugged difficult climb along the NaPali Coast, which is
inaccessible to cars. If you've got time, turn off the road and
follow signs to the Kilauea Lighthouse as well as the St. Regis
Princeville Resort - both spots have exceptional views.
3.  Overseas Highway (Hwy 1) - Florida Keys
    The Overseas Highway is the portion of US Route 1 that
extends from the end of mainland Florida through the Florida
Keys to southernmost Key West. The route runs 160 miles (257 km)
from Miami to Key West, with large portions of the highway built
on bridges left over from the long-forgotten Overseas Railroad. 
While the primary view seen along this drive are the bright blue
waters of the Florida Straits, the waters between the Gulf of
Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Keys are actually exposed
ancient coral reefs leading to varied wildlife and much
ecotourism. The Keys have an interesting spirit of their own and
it's definitely worth pulling off the route to explore some of
the individual island's personalities.
4.  Cabot Trail - Nova Scotia, Canada
    Multiple VirtualTourist members suggested the shores of Nova
Scotia, particularly the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, as
an ideal coastal drive for Canada-bound travelers. The Cabot
Trail, which spurs off the Trans-Canada Highway 105, extends
north and passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park
before looping back to the 105 only 16 miles (27 km) further up
the road. Cape Breton Highlands National Park has 26 hiking
trails and 24 stunning viewpoints along the Cabot Trail, so it
is definitely worth the small price of entry ($7.80 per adult,
$3.90 per youth) to get out of your vehicle and explore. The
entire route is approximately 170 miles (274 km) in length.
5.  Great Ocean Road - Victoria, Australia
    Only 60 miles (93 km) from Victoria's capital of Melbourne,
the Great Ocean Road winds alongside the Southern Ocean from
Torquay to Portland. Created by soldiers returning from the
First World War, the route is more than 180 miles (290 km) and
includes a variety of sites such as world-renowned beaches,
national parks, and shipwrecks. The most famous spectacle along
B100 is the Twelve Apostles, a natural formation of limestone
stacks which seem to magically rise from the Southern Ocean.
There are two walkways alongside the Twelve Apostles so park
your car and get a great photo.
6.  The Garden Route - Western Cape Province, South Africa
    The shores of South Africa provide as many great drives as
they do gorgeous views. Members suggested the "Garden Route,"
which lies between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town connecting the
Eastern and Western Cape Provinces. The route (known as N2
within South Africa) is nicknamed for its abundance of wild
flowers and is also dotted with secluded bays and quaint
villages. For those who don't want to leave Cape Town proper,
VirtualTourist members also suggested Chapman's Peak drive as
fun driving, as it has over 114 curves and spectacular cliffside
views.
7.  Ring Road - Iceland
    Most visitors to Iceland do the "Golden Circle Tour,"
embarking from Reykjavik and traveling inland to see Thingvellir
National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the island's geothermal
geysers. However, Iceland's "Ring Road," or Route 1, forms an
830 mile (1335 km) circle around the country with incredible
coastal views and even more landmarks to behold. Traveling east
on Route 1 from Reykjavik includes sites such as Skaftafell
National Park and Jokulsarlon, the largest glacier lagoon in
Iceland. If you only want to travel a section of the road, the
trip from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon is just 233 miles (376 km).
8.  The Atlantic Road, Norway
    Located in the fjord area of Norway, the Atlantic Road
connects a series of islands along the Western coast. Even
though talk of connecting the islands began as early as 1909,
the Atlantic Road didn't open for another eighty years, in July
of 1989. Although the road, known as Route 64, is relatively
short compared to our other chosen drives at just over 5 miles
long (8274 meters), you may recognize it as it's been the site
of numerous car commercials. Many locals use the bridges for
cycling and fishing. Surprisingly, an area along the route,
Hustadvika, is incredibly popular for scuba diving due to the
number of wrecks along the route before the bridges were built.
9.  Northeast Loop - Phuket, Thailand
    While the majority of the resorts on Phuket are centered on
the south and western shores, a few VirtualTourist members
suggested driving along the Northeast loop to get a "behind the
scenes" view of island life. By turning off Route 402 at the
Heroines Monument circle, drivers head on a 6.8 mile (11 km)
loop on the far Northeast tip of the island. The loop provides
the opportunity to see excellent bay views and small fishing
villages, a nice change of pace from the busy beach resorts on
the opposite side of the Thai island.
10. Kotor to Sveti Stephan - Montenegro
    An unexpectedly popular suggestion by many VirtualTourist
members was Montenegro, specifically the drive from Kotor to
Sveti Stephan. This route, which starts through Montenegro
countryside, eventually travels south along the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea past the popular resort town of Budva to Sveti
Stephan. From the shoreline, the islet of Sveti Stephan juts out
resembling Ischia's Ponte Aragonese and making it a fantastic
stop for photographs. If you'd rather not make the trek south,
members also suggested following E65 along the Bay of Kotor -
it's only a 24 mile (37 km) round trip along this scenic route
from Kotor to Risan.

 (Editing by Paul Casciato)