Sublime nature, epic adventure, and a sense of freedom that’s inspired an entire canon of film and literature: the driving holiday takes some beating. If you’re ready to hit the road this summer, set the sat nav for these must-drive destinations

The Garden Route, Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

The Garden Route Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

Distance: 749km

Recommended journey time: 5-6 days
Fly into: Cape Town, South Africa

Sweeping vineyards, dense forestry and dramatic mountain ranges to your left; sharp cliffs, sandy beaches and the Indian Ocean to your right; and nothing but the open road ahead of you: South Africa’s famous Garden Route is as epic as they come. With ten nature reserves along the route, a smattering of lively towns, and en route activities like hiking, bird watching and canoeing, there’s also plenty of opportunity for thrill seeking, wildlife spotting, and paradisiacal photos. Highlights include the small town of Knysna, set on an idyllic lagoon (be sure to sample the oysters); Tsitsikamma National Park, with its gorges, tidal pools and pristine forest (book ahead for the Dolphin Trail); and a safari at the Pumba Private Game Reserve for a grand finale in Port Elizabeth.

The Amalfi Coast, Naples to Positano

The Amalfi Coast Naples to Positano

Distance: 87km
Recommended journey time: 3 days
Fly into: Naples, Italy

Italy has produced 98 Formula One drivers, and it’s more than likely most of them tested their mettle in and around Naples. But don’t let that fiery Latin temperament put you off driving along one of the world’s most romantic routes. UNESCO-listed and an inspiration for artists and writers for centuries, it is considered Italy’s most sublime stretch of coastline – if not Europe’s. The prettiest part of the journey lies between Vietri sul Mare and Positano, so leave frenetic Naples behind, heading for the postcard-perfect pastel towns, ancient churches and astonishing scenery of Amalfi, Ravello (stay at the heavenly Belmond Hotel Caruso, a former 11th century palace), Positano and everywhere in between – and, of course, excellent food, with countless outstanding restaurants along the way. The route does get busy at the height of summer, so try the start or end of the season to avoid traffic.

The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne to Warrnambool

The Great Ocean Road Melbourne to Warrnambool

Distance: 243km
Recommended journey time: 3 days
Fly into: Melbourne, Australia

Sun, sea and surf are a way of life in Australia. To soak up some of the best, drive the Great Ocean Road along the south eastern coast of Victoria, which takes in some of the world’s finest surfing spots, secluded secret beaches and wonderful weather. Flying into Melbourne, drive along the coast to Geelong to watch waves crash against limestone cliffs as surfers spiral through the water, then delve into ancient rainforests at Melba Gully, where colonies of glow worms light up the night. The highlight of the route is Port Campbell National Park, where erosion by wind and sea has created a series of impressive sculptures, such as the Twelve Apostles – monoliths that rise from the Southern Ocean. Along with natural beauty, the road also has a strong cultural heritage. Built in 1919 by soldiers returning from WW1, it’s the world’s largest war memorial. It is possible to drive the full stretch in a day, but to really enjoy the ride, take your time. Split the journey by staying at Chris’s Beacon Point Restaurant & Villas, overlooking the Bass Strait.

New England Trails, Boston to White Mountain

New England Trails Boston to White Mountain

Distance: 445km
Recommended journey time: 5 days
Fly into: Boston, USA

Fiery reds, syrupy ambers and dynamic greens – these traffic light colours have a far warmer impact on the roadsides of New England’s great driving trails. Visit Massachusetts at the end of summer, when forest palettes explode and residents prepare to toast the harvest festival. From Boston, take Interstate 90 towards Williamstown and the Green Mountain National Forest, then continue north to Stowe in Vermont, where mountains are mirrored in the still, clear lakes. If you’re feeling hungry, follow a food trail in Stowe, sampling cider apple doughnuts, coffee and chocolate, staying the night at Stowe Mountain Lodge, a year-round spa resort. Join cyclists on the winding roads to White Mountain National Forest, where towering firs tickle the clear sky, stop off and zip-wire through the treetops, or hike to gleaming pools and waterfalls, keeping a lookout for resident brown bears.

Argentine Patagonia, Calafate to El Chaltén

Argentine Patagonia Calafate to El Chaltn

Distance: 215km

Recommended journey time: 2-3 days
Fly into: Calafate, Argentina

Even if you don’t drive, it’s possible to take on this life-changing route; buses depart daily for a four-hour trip that takes you past hanging glaciers and lakes that glow from milky grey to spearmint green. Start in Calafate, with a visit to the mighty blue-hued Perito Moreno Glacier, a natural wonder of jagged crevasses and soaring seracs. Hire crampons and join a guided mini trek across the ice, or watch dramatic iceberg calvings from the safety of a boat. If you have your own car, stop off along Route 40 at the lakeside La Leona hotel for coffee, then continue past the stirring Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma. As the serrated towers of Mount Fitz Roy loom in the distance, make your way to El Chaltén, a playground for hikers during the summer months (November to February). Either camp at one of the excellent sites, or relax at Don Los Cerros Boutique Hotel & Spa where, from a private Jacuzzi, you can watch mountain peaks burn red at sunset.

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