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Road trip: The 5 Best Self-Drive Vacation Spots!

Updated: Jan 31

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There’s something magical about a road trip: the freedom of the open road, being in charge of your own destiny, stopping when you want for as long as you want…. It’s pretty great! I love putting together self-drive vacations for people; the accommodations, flights, excursions, and car rental are all planned in advance, but then you have the convenience and freedom to spend as much or little time as you want along the way.


There are definitely some locations and countries which are PERFECT for self-drive vacations. I’ve got a few ideas for you!


1 – Self-drive New Zealand


Picture this: you're cruising in a car with endless scenic views stretching out on either side. This country is like a giant, open invitation to adventure, where every road is a story waiting to unfold. Imagine being able to pull over at whim - that lake over there? Perfect spot for a picnic. And oh, look at that mountain looming ahead; wouldn't it be fun to lace up your boots and explore a trail or two?


And if your heart beats in sync with “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings,”  you're in for a real treat. Picture yourself wandering through the lush landscapes of the Shire at the Hobbiton Movie Set, or maybe making your way to Wellington to sneak a peek at the magic spun by the wizards at Weta Workshop. Don't forget the eerie yet captivating Putangirua Pinnacles, straight out of the Paths of the Dead scene - it's like stepping into the movie itself!


I have a New Zealand self-drive itinerary for you, whether you love adventure or just a comfortable drive seeing the sights. How about a coastal drive along the Bay of Islands? Check. A journey that sweeps from the urban vibe of Auckland down to the dramatic allure of Queenstown? Absolutely. Or perhaps a leisurely tour through rolling vineyards is more your pace? New Zealand's roads are a never-ending call, welcoming you to explore at heart's content. So, why not see where the road takes you?


2 – Self-drive Scotland & Ireland


In Scotland, history seems to whisper through the mist and every corner has a story to tell. It's a place where you can't help but feel like you're on a grand adventure, driving through landscapes dotted with castles that have stood the test of time, serene lochs reflecting the sky, and mysterious glens that might just be home to a fairy or two. Imagine starting your day exploring ancient ruins, their stones steeped in tales of old, and by the afternoon, you're trekking through breathtaking scenery, all while the stories of Scotland's medieval past unfurl in your mind. Cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness will charm your socks off, but the true magic lies beyond city limits, where the wild, untamed beauty of Scotland calls out to every traveler, beckoning them to journey deeper into its heart and history.


Then there's Ireland, a compact treasure chest of experiences. This country invites you with open arms, ready to share its stories, music, and a pint or two of Guinness. Meandering through Ireland by car is like being let in on a great secret; yes, you'll want to see the famous spots like Dublin, with its vibrant streets, Galway, where music fills the air, and the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher. But the real joy? Discovering the hidden gems like Adare, a postcard-perfect village where thatched cottages tell tales of medieval times gone by, or the spiritual serenity of the Valley of the Two Lakes in Glendalough County, where history and nature embrace.


For “Game of Thrones” enthusiasts, a drive across the border into Northern Ireland to step into the real-world Westeros at Castle Ward and the atmospheric Dark Hedges of Armoy is an absolute must. It’s like living in your favorite scenes from the show!


Both Scotland and Ireland offer journeys where every turn in the road is a new chapter of exploration, with the freedom to create your own path through legendary landscapes and lore.


3 – Self-drive Iceland


The land of fire and ice practically demands you to pull over and bask in its wonder. Seriously, if you're into the whole freedom-to-roam vibe, a self-drive tour is the way to go because, trust me, you'll find yourself wanting to stop not just every five minutes, but maybe every three!


There are only two ways to see Iceland: on a self-drive vacation, or on a coach tour. I’d recommend the self-drive all the way!


Imagine this: you're behind the wheel, the entire island stretching out before you like a choose-your-own-adventure book. You’ve got the legendary Ring Road as your guide - a highway that loops around the entire country, making getting lost more of an achievement than a possibility. This Ring Road is your gateway to incredible sights.


Picture pulling over every few kilometers because, "Wow, is that a glacier?" or, "Hold on, we've gotta check out that waterfall!” These aren't just any waterfalls and glaciers. We're talking about scenery that looks like it’s straight out of a fantasy novel - towering waterfalls you can hear before you see, glaciers that sparkle under the sun like a million diamonds, beaches where the sand is as black as night, and remnants of Viking settlements.


A self-drive vacation in Iceland is part of the thrill. The landscapes are so ethereal and otherworldly, you'll find yourself eagerly anticipating what natural wonder is waiting to take your breath away just down the road.


4 – Self-drive Switzerland


If the thought of navigating a car along the narrow, twisty mountain roads with nothing but a breathtaking drop to one side sends a thrill of excitement rather than a shiver of fear up your spine, then I have a recommendation for you: Switzerland, by car, with you in the driver's seat. This is a journey not just about reaching a destination, but about embracing every curve and corner along the way.

Imagine this: You're cruising along, the windows down, with the crisp, fresh mountain air filling your lungs, and in front of you? Ever-changing, jaw-dropping beauty. Switzerland is kind of like that friend who’s good at everything - it's hard to find a view that isn't spectacular. From the driver's seat, you get a front-row view of nature's finest show, with panoramas that shift from majestic mountains to serene lakes, and everything in between.

And when you're ready for a change of pace from the exhilarating mountain roads, Switzerland’s cities are treasure troves of history, just waiting for you to explore. Dive into the heart of medieval old towns, where time seems to stand still among the cobblestone streets and historic buildings. Then, there's the wild call of the Alpine trails, inviting you for hikes around mirror-like lakes framed by peaks that touch the sky. And for a bit of high-altitude fun, why not hop on a gondola and glide your way up to a skiing resort? The views from up high are nothing short of magical.

Driving through Switzerland is like driving through a painting, with each scene more picturesque than the last. And with a self-drive vacation, you get to experience at your own pace, steering your way through the heart of one of the world's most beautiful countries. So, if mountain roads are your kind of adventure, Switzerland is calling your name.


5 – Self-drive Australia


Just saying the name Australia makes you think of endless adventures, doesn't it? This vast and vibrant land is pretty much the ultimate playground for anyone with a car and a bit of wanderlust in their heart. The beauty of exploring Down Under by car? Set the pace, choose the path, and off you go.

Starting in the rugged expanses of the Outback, where the horizon seems to stretch on forever, you can feel the sheer power of nature around every bend. But then, just as easily, you can find yourself cruising along the coast, windows down, the salty breeze in your hair, stopping off at some of the world's best surf spots to watch the waves (or dive into them).

The Great Ocean Road in Victoria isn't just driving; it's embarking on a winding, thrilling voyage beside cliffs, through rainforests, and past beaches that look like they've been plucked from a dream. You can dart in and out of charming towns like Melbourne and Geelong, take a pilgrimage to see the majestic Twelve Apostles jutting out from the sea, or maybe chill for a while in surfing town of Torquay. Or spend the day among the ancient, towering trees of the Great Otway National Park.

The possibilities are as endless as the Australian landscape itself. From the tropical allure of a drive from Brisbane to Cairns, the soul-stirring vastness from Alice Springs to Darwin, to the raw, untamed beauty of crossing the Kimberley in Western Australia, every road trip is a treasure trove of "I-can't-believe-this-is-real" moments. Australia is an adventure of forests, deserts, coastlines, vineyards, and so much more.


Let me know if you’d like me to help you put together a self-drive vacation! It’s the perfect blend of structure and freedom. You’ll be glad you did!


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