Few road trips are as rewarding as a great drive along the ocean, whether it’s a behind-the-scenes view of a Thai island, a route past Australia’s “Twelve Apostles,” the Jurassic Park-like scenery of Kauai, or the over-the-ocean drive through the Florida Keys.
Put your top down — or don’t — but members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com are sure you’ll enjoy any of our “Top 10 Coastal Drives.”
• Pacific Coast Highway, Monterey, Calif. 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, though VirtualTourist members specifically recommend the 135-mile 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 California state park, your receipt will cover your admission to any other state park for the day — so it’s great to hit the full length of this sector of the road on the same day.
• 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 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.
• Overseas Highway (Highway 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 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.
• 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 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.