Going on a coastal drive is a fantastic means to uncover the contrasts and beauty of our globe. With routes running the gamut from California’s Pacific Coast Highway and its imposing cliffs, to the ancient castles peppering Scotland’s North Coast 500, each journey is a memorable one. If you’re drawn to the colors of fall on New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway or the otherworldly terrain of Iceland’s Ring Road, rest assured there’s a coastal path that’s got your name on it.

In this piece, we’re going to highlight some of the world’s most amazing coastal road trips—let’s go!

1. Pacific Coast Highway, California, USA

Let’s start with a true classic among road trips: a journey along the Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1. The journey begins in San Francisco and travels all the way down to Los Angeles. Along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll see the Pacific Ocean with stops along picturesque cities like Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Big Sur. You’ll find attractions aplenty to keep you engaged, such as the Bixby Creek Bridge, Hearst Castle, and the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

2. Great Ocean Road, Australia

Victoria, Australia, is home to the Great Ocean Road, an unmissable treat for nature buffs and beachgoers. Your journey starts in Torquay, following the coastline and leading you past the iconic Twelve Apostles—limestone structures that jut out from the Southern Ocean. There’s plenty of seaside charm to explore in towns like Lorne and Apollo Bay, where you must try the local seafood. And if you want to go hiking, the rainforests of the Great Otway National Park can’t be missed.

3. Amalfi Coast, Italy

Take an Italian vacation with a road trip along the Amalfi Coast in the country’s south! The road twists and turns along the Mediterranean Sea, with views of quaint cliffside towns. Your drive begins in Sorrento, and you’ll navigate the coastline through places like Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. Take advantage of the magical Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo in Ravello, promising enchanting views and a touch of history.

Related: Italy Is Dangerous—A Cinque Terre Love Affair

4. Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

The Wild Atlantic Way along Ireland’s raw, rugged west coast, promises a fantastic road trip experience. Commencing in County Donegal and finishing in County Cork, this route presents a miscellany of landscapes, from cliffs to tranquil and villages. Check out the cliffs of Slieve League, take in the lively atmosphere of Galway city, and step back in time at ancient landmarks like the Cliffs of Moher and Dun Aonghasa on the Aran Islands.

Related: Ireland Travel Guide—Land of the People That Sorrow

5. Garden Route, South Africa

Embark on a coastal journey through South Africa’s Garden Route, stretching from the peaceful Mossel Bay to the busy Storms River. The Tsitsikamma National Park is great for exploration, with hiking trails through ancient forests punctuated with views of the coast. Take a detour to the town of Knysna, enjoy a safari at the malaria-free Addo Elephant National Park, and indulge in exciting activities like whale watching and bungee jumping.

6. Big Sur, California, USA

Along the central coast of California, Big Sur delivers an iconic road trip experience. Cruising the stretch from Carmel to San Simeon will show you towering cliffs, a rugged coastline, and amazing views of the ocean. The route meanders through the Santa Lucia Mountains, and unmissable landmarks include the iconic McWay Falls, a picturesque waterfall that plummets straight onto the beach. Be sure to visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, explore the Ventana Wilderness, and relax at Pfeiffer Beach.

7. Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Ireland’s Ring of Kerry travels around the Iveragh Peninsula in the southwest. This 179-kilometer journey will lead you to charming hamlets like Killarney, Kenmare, and Sneem. Noteworthy sights include the Gap of Dunloe, sweeping views from Ladies View, and the stone circle at Staigue Fort. Extend your journey with the Skellig Ring—a detour to the famous Skellig Islands, home to ancient monastic settlements and dramatic cliffs.

8. Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada

Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail is a highway curving around Cape Breton Island, with ocean views, mountains, and fishing hamlets. This 298-kilometer journey ventures through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and along the way, remember to make a stop in the village of Baddeck, housing the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. From the Skyline Trail, take in 360° views, keep an eye out for wildlife like whales and bald eagles, and immerse yourself in the vibrant Celtic culture in communities such as Chéticamp and Ingonish.

9. Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

Embark on a drive across Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route, which travels from Belfast to Derry-Londonderry. This scenic drive travels alongside the impressive coastline of County Antrim, with natural marvels such as the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its hexagonal basalt columns. Don’t miss the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, high above the tempestuous waves—and enjoy the scenic Glens of Antrim. Wander through idyllic villages like Cushendun and Ballintoy, and visit the ruins of Dunluce Castle. The Causeway Coastal Route also has must-visit stops at the Old Bushmills Distillery and the historic Derry Walls.

10. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire, USA

Also known as Route 112, the Kancamagus Highway provides an extravagant fall spectacle in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Use the opportunity to pause at various lookout points and hiking trails, and don’t miss the scenic Sabbaday Falls and the quaint town of Lincoln. The Kancamagus Highway, particularly during fall, is a must-see for nature enthusiasts.

Related: 10 Best USA Fall Road Trip Ideas for Couples

11. The Ring Road, Iceland

Iceland’s Ring Road, also called Route 1, offers an extraordinary adventure encircling the island. This 1,332-kilometer journey will bring you along a landscape of glaciers, black sand beaches, waterfalls, and fjords. See iconic attractions like the Golden Circle, hoe to the mighty Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir’s geothermal marvels. See the Vatnajökull National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier; and discover the magical Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, the volcanic wonders around Lake Mývatn, and the secluded beauty of the Eastfjords. Relax in natural hot springs, spot puffins, and enjoy your unforgettable trip!

Related: Hiking the Laugavegur Trail: Planning and Itinerary

12. The North Coast 500, Scotland

The North Coast 500 is a 500-mile journey through Scotland’s northern Highlands. Starting and ending in Inverness, this circuitous route showcases mountains, castles, and coastal hamlets. Along the way, you’ll see the iconic peaks of Torridon and the rugged cliffs of Cape Wrath. Explore quaint fishing villages such as Ullapool and Dornoch, and view the ancient ruins of Ardvreck Castle and the historic Dunrobin Castle. Outdoor activities like hiking, wildlife watching, and dolphin spotting in Moray Firth are sure to delight.

Related: Explore the World’s 12 Most Iconic Hiking Trails

13. Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

Travel along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, from Dubrovnik to Split, for a journey you definitely won’t forget. Begin in Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved medieval walls and Old Town. Heading north, you’ll have the chance to visit picturesque villages like Ston, renowned for its ancient city walls, and the delightful island of Korčula, the alleged birthplace of Marco Polo. Explore the waterfalls and lakes of Krka National Park and visit the historic city of Šibenik. The journey continues to Zadar, home to the unique Sea Organ and Sun Salutation installations, before reaching the lively town of Split with its impressive Diocletian’s Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ready for an Adventure?

From the amazing vistas of California’s Big Sur, the unspoiled beauty of Scotland’s North Coast 500, to the unique landscapes of South Africa’s Garden Route—each journey is an amazing experience of its own, sure to leave memories that last a lifetime.

What are your favorite road trips? Share your ideas and stories with the Frayed Passport community!

Featured image by Ben George on Unsplash

About the Author

As the editor-in-chief of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at!
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