The World's Eight Best Driving Roads
In 2007, the Top Gear team set off to find the world’s best driving road. After a long search through Europe they settled on one road that exemplified driving: the Stelvio Pass – a windy, hairpin-packed road that runs through the Swiss Alps.
Image © Depositphotos.com/Marina Dannenberg
As fantastic as the Stelvio Pass undoubtedly is when it’s completely blocked off to all traffic – as it was during the Top Gear shoot – a Jalopnik blogger recently discovered that, during the rest of the year, it isn’t so great.
Tour buses, slow-moving tourists in rental cars and sheer narrowness mean that the famous Stelvio Pass isn’t quite what is seems to be on television. In fact, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
With this in mind, we set out to find the world’s eight best driving roads – the roads that every car guru should add to their bucket list – that are just as good in real life as they look on the big screen.
Great Ocean Road, Australia
Built in the wake of World War I by returning soldiers, the Great Ocean Road links the Australian towns of Torquay and Allansford. 151 miles in length, it’s definitely Australia’s most awe-inspiring coastal drive.
Packed with exciting turns and incredible views, the Great Ocean Road is a feast for the senses. Push your car to the limit (within the law, of course) and stop at some of Australia’s most stunning natural attractions along the way.
As well as being a great place to enjoy a weekend drive, the Great Ocean Road is the home of some of Australia’s best coastal walks. Stop along the way and step onto the Great Ocean Walk – a 65 mile trail that passes the famous Twelve Apostles rocks.
Germany is legendary for great motoring. Home to well-known car manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Audi, it’s no wonder the Germans have such an obsession with speed and automotive performance.
While the Autobahn might pop into mind when one first thinks of German driving, the country’s best road is actually a scenic route through the Black Forest that has been a mainstay of the Bundesstraße 500 for years.
The Schwarzwaldhochstraße runs from the spa town of Baden-Baden, on the border with France, all the way to Freudenstadt. Along the way, it offers outstanding views of the Rhine plain and the Black Forest’s dense and beautiful wooded scenery.
Te Anau to Milford Sound, New Zealand
New Zealand might not be a big country, but it’s home to a massive range of amazing natural environments. The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, located in the south of New Zealand’s South Island, is undoubtedly its greatest motoring gem.
The route, known by the rather bland name of New Zealand State Highway 94, has a reputation as the country’s most scenic drive. It’s also one of the most dangerous in New Zealand, with a fatality rate about almost double the national average.
Luckily, it’s easy to enjoy the road without much of the danger. Drive this road in the summer, when ice and snow aren’t issues. Take it slow and focus on the road, even if the scenery is difficult to ignore.
Going to the Sun Road, USA
The only road through Glacier National Park in Montana is also one of the USA’s best for car enthusiasts. Built in 1932, it cuts across the Continental Divide and offers one of the most incredible scenic experiences in the entire United States.
Due to the altitude and remoteness, the road is closed during winter and only open for a few months a year. Drop by between June and October to enjoy this beautiful slice of North American driving at its very best.
The United States has many other amazing scenic routes, which includes motor legend Quentin Willson’s favourite, which you might want to try…
“My all-time favourite road is the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Santa Barbara. Sea the colour of Paul Newman's eyes on one side and gorgeous movie star houses set in the hill tops on the other. I've done that drive in various crazy cars but the best was in a baby blue 1965 convertible Ford Mustang V8 with an eight track playing Eagles Hotel California.”
Quentin Willson, August 2014
Evo Triangle, UK
The Evo Triangle is widely regarded as the UK’s top driving route, and for plenty of great reasons. Its name, in fact, is due to its popularity with EVO Magazine, which is known for shooting its car testing videos along the route.
Located in Wales, the route is truly stunning. The EVO Triangle covers patches of the A5, A543 and B4501. Each road has its own unique character, making the journey as much about driving contrast as it is about performance and stunning scenery.
From the sweeping bends to the stunning Welsh scenery, there’s lots to love about the EVO Triangle. Drop by early in the morning on a weekday to enjoy this road at its best, without many other drivers to bother you.
San Bernardino Pass, Switzerland
Widely regarded as the most impressive of Switzerland’s roads, the San Bernardino Pass is truly stunning. A favourite of vintage rally drivers, the San Bernardino Pass is well known amongst motorists and travellers seeking motoring perfection.
From the road’s early beginnings in the Val Mesolcina to the final switchbacks close to the Italian border, the sweeping turns and incredible scenery of the road through the San Bernardino Pass make this Europe’s finest driving route.
Hana Highway, Hawaii
Hawaii is known for many things: beautiful tropical beaches, stunning walking trails, charming culture and excellent surfing. In addition to its beautiful scenery, Hawaii is also home to one of the best driving roads in the United States.
The Hana Highway is a 68-mile stretch of road that passes through Maui, linking the towns of Kahului and Hana. Along the road, drivers pass almost 60 bridges, some of which are just one lane wide.
Although it is not the greatest driving road in the world for speed gurus, the endless twists, turns and stunning scenery of the Hana Highway make it one of the greatest driving roads in the United States.
Nihon Romantic Highway, Japan
Despite the name, there’s very little romantic about Japan’s Romantic Highway. This 200-mile road links Ueda City and Utsunomiya City and passes some of Japan’s best hot springs and volcanoes.
Local attractions aside, it is best known for one thing: incredible turns, corners and twists that impress even Japan’s most experienced drivers. This beautiful route is best covered over 3-5 days, preferably with a responsive Japanese sports car.
What’s your favourite road?
From the Autobahn to a local A road, everyone has a favourite route. Let us know your favourite road – whether it’s a single carriageway or a scenic highway – in the comments section.