8 of the Most Scenic Drives in the World

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Source: Thinkstock

Roads are often thought of as just a way to get somewhere else. But with some roads it’s worth slowing down, looking around, and taking in everything surrounding you. Gorgeous mountain passes, breathtaking desert landscapes, and stunning ocean scenery can all create an exquisite one-of-a-kind view that you can admire from the comfort of your car. So set aside a day, fill up your tank, and take a drive on one of these picturesque roads.

1. Milford Road

Soak up New Zealand’s beauty by traveling on Milford Road, a drive that takes you through the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island — from Te Anau toward Milford Sound into Fiordland National Park. Trying to imagine what you’ll see? Majestic cliffs, snow-capped summits, waterfalls, and fern trees, to name a few. You’ll want to save time to stop and take in the beauty of Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, and the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain along the way. Do take time to stop for a bite; CNN Travel suggests stopping by the Blue Duck Café & Bar at Sound Lodge in Milford Sound Village to enjoy some delicious food and great craft beer.

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Source: Thinkstock

2. Overseas Highway

Found in the Florida Keys, the Overseas Highway — also referred to as the Highway that Goes to Sea — jumps from island to island using 42 bridges along the way. The beautiful 113-mile highway serves as a magic carpet for travelers, allowing them access to water landscapes that normally aren’t accessible. The four-hour drive is filled with gorgeous scenery, countless coral and limestone islets, ocean wildlife, and great sunrises and sunsets (if you time it right.) Take note of the different ocean colors found in the shimmering seascapes, and look for the distant landscapes filled with swaying palm trees.

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Source: Thinkstock

3. Blue Ridge Parkway

Beginning in Charlottesville, Virginia and ending in Sylva North Carolina, this 469-mile, two-lane highway is a scenic road that connects Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. While traveling through Virginia, you can take in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. As you move through North Carolina, be sure to look for the gorgeous mountain crests and Pisgah National Forest (it’s hard to miss either.) The 45 mile per hour speed limit allows travelers to take in each of the breathtaking views and is a great highway to take if you’re in the mood for an exploratory road trip. The Best of the Road says many refer to the Parkway as a “window” to the region because it provides access to many communities along the way that provide one-of-a-kind histories, culture, and attractions. 

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Source: Thinkstock

4. Transfăgărășan

This is the highest and most beautiful road you’ll find in Romania (and perhaps the world.) It was built as a strategic military route by former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu between 1970 and 1974 and is able to connect beautiful Romanian regions such as Transylvania and Wallachia, and the cities of Sibiu and Piteşti, writes Cars Route. The road almost feels like a roller coaster at times, as you weave through the twists and turns that run across the tallest sections of the Carpathian Mountains. Once on top of the mountains, you’ll have access to Bâlea Lake, a glacier lake that’s been around for thousands of years. Since it is often buried under the snow between October and June, there are only a few short months in the summer to enjoy this beautiful route.

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Source: Thinkstock

5. Garden Route

You can find this treasure between South Africa’s majestic mountains and the Indian Ocean. It’s a 150-mile stretch of ancient forest, beautiful peaks, great beaches, and lovely lagoons. Stop at Mossel Bay along the way, an area that offers a beautifully mild year-round climate. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy the beautiful weather, stop at Plettenberg Bay, known for its glorious golden beaches. Another great stop is Knysna, which Mail Online writes was voted South Africa’s best small town, offering quaint art galleries, great coffee shops, and exceptional dining. For those of you who are hoping to take in all that nature has to offer, look for all of the beautiful blooms scattered along the way, spot whales and dolphins along the Garden Route’s coast, or stop by the Knysna Elephant Park and see the majestic creatures making themselves at home.

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Source: Thinkstock

6. Great Ocean Road

Australia seems more beautiful than normal when traveling along Great Ocean Road, an approximate four-hour drive filled with mountains, oceans, rainforest, cliffs, lighthouses, and national parks. Along the way, expect to see all sorts of wildlife including anteaters, kangaroos, penguins, koalas, and multi-colored parrots, writes CNN Travel. The incredible coastlines provide great places to stop and enjoy the weather along the way, including Bells Beach (a spot that draws in surfers from all over the world), Apollo Bay, and Cape Otway Lighthouse, which offers a beautiful view of Australia’s ShipWreck Coast. If you’re in the mood to see a collection of limestone stacks towering about the water (yes, such a thing does exist), be sure to stop by the Twelve Apostles.

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Source: Thinkstock

7. Death Valley

A stretch of highway between Las Vegas and Mammoth, travelers can watch the Vegas lights fade away to be replaced by beautiful rock structures spread across the landscape. The road will take you toward Mammoth Lakes overlooking Yosemite National Park. Short List suggests you turn this drive into an overnighter and stay at the Furnace Creek Inn for the evening.  Imagine waking up to those beautiful desert landscapes, including sand dunes, saltwater flats, volcanic craters, and other unique geological oddities. 

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

8. Atlantic Road

This five-mile stretch of road shows off Norway’s true beauty. The winding road connects Molde and Kristiansund and will take you up and down with the sea as you admire the great views around you. Stop for a visit at Bremsnes Cave, found at the Bremsneshatten Mountain, or take a break and scuba dive off the shore where you’ll be witness to some of the most exquisite marine life in the world. Also take in the Storseisundet Bridge, which is the Atlantic Road’s tallest and most dramatic bridge, according to Visit Norway. The Atlantic Road will take you over several small islands that are connected by causeways, viaducts, and bridges, providing breathtaking views of the ocean and wildlife along the way, writes Oddity Central. This road is so incredible that it was chosen as Norway’s construction of the century in 2005 and has been awarded the status of a national tourist route because of the architecture of the road and bridges.

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