49 Unmissable Coastal Drives: Discover the World's Best Scenic Routes by the Sea
Driving can be one of the most relaxing activities. Spanning from California to Australia, sometimes the journey really is the destination. A relaxing scenic drive down winding coastal roads can be really therapeutic.
Here are some of the most rewarding and scenic coastal driving routes in the world.
Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a portion of State Route 1 (SR 1) running along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. It is also part of the larger Pacific Coastal Highway that extends along the Pacific coast of the entire Americas. This asphalted state highway runs along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, leading to its designation as an All-American Road.It's very intense because there are no guard rails at the edge and there is little room for error if on coming traffic swerves in your direction. Also called Highway 1, it takes about five hours to drive the PCH. The highway sees the most traffic in July and August. Avoid these times if you want to take a leisurely drive. In the winter seasons, drivers must be aware of danger from mudslides as well. Always check local advisories before embarking on your journey. The road often takes hairpin turns with narrow shoulders and steep drop-offs, so you must be alert at all times. Don't forget to pull over in safe places to really enjoy the vista.
Located in Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, the road is 52 miles (84 km) long. You will pass 617 white-knuckle switchbacks, 56 one-lane bridges, and tons of waterfalls as you travel away from civilization. This snake-like hairpin bends on a warped narrow road links Kahulu i with the town of Hāna. This serpentine coastal route offers a perfect antidote to the vagaries of mainland winters—and a complete escape from daily life. You’ll have to navigate through and around 600 hairpin turns, 54 one-lane bridges, steep cliff drops, falling rocks, and even some confusing mile markers that reset. Plus it rains often. Winding its way past waterfalls, beaches, bridges and spectacular ocean views, the 600 hairpin turns and 54 bridges make it one of the most demanding.
The Australian Great Ocean Road (B100) is one of the most incredible coastal drives in the world. It’s an outstanding coastal journey and one of the Australia’s most famous road-touring routes, with awe-inspiring limestone cliffs and incredible rock formations. This asphalted road, in the south-eastern coast of Australia, spans 243 kilometres (151 mi) along the stunning coastline of Victoria's south-west. It links the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Passing the famous Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations, the Great Ocean Road runs along Victoria’s south east edge, starting at Torquay and finishing at Allansford.
Located in the midwest part of the Norwegian coastline, the Atlantic Road, with a length of 8274 meters (5,1 miles), is part of Norwegian national road 64 (Rv 64). It’s a very popular tourist attraction in the country. The road includes 8 bridges with a total length of 891 metres. The construction of the road started on August 1983 and it took six years to be finished. Driving along the Atlantic Road is like teetering on the edge of the sea. This road has been heralded as one of the most spectaculars roads in the world by the dangerousroads.org users. It links the towns of Kristiansund and Molde, the two main population centers in the county of Møre og Romsdal in Fjord Norway. It starts approximately 30 kilometers southwest of Kristiansund and ends 47 kilometers north of Molde. The road's roller coaster-feel, curvy bridges and phenomenal views have made it a favorite of road trippers and motorcyclists. It was also designated a Cultural Heritage Site, is considered a National Tourist Route, and has been recognized as the Norwegian Construction of the Century.
The popular Amalfi Coast route (SS 163 Amalfitana) follows the shoreline from Sorrento south to Salerno, in Italy. Locals recommend planning a drive of the Amalfi Coast during the shoulder tourist seasons, mid-September to October and May, when the road is less crowded and lumbering tour buses are fewer. The road along the Amalfi Coast is famous for its hairpin bends, zigzags, the views over the sea, and the narrowness in some parts. The road winds along the cliffs, and it was built at a very steep angle, so zigzags backwards and forwards.
This scenic roadway is located in northern Victoria County and Inverness County on Cape Breton Island, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The route is 298 km (185 mi) long. It’s open all year round and completes a loop around the northern tip of the island, passing along and through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands. Besides the natural beauty to be found here, the Cabot Trail immerses you in the still vibrant Gaelic and Acadian cultures of Cape Breton.
Captain Cook Highway is a very scenic asphalted road that winds alongside the coast located in Queensland, Australia, with a length of 75 km (47 mi). The road starts in Cairns and ends in Mossman, in the far north of Queensland. Despite the fact that the Captain Cook Highway is a short Queensland highway and also one of the most popular routes in Australia used by lots of tourists, the highway is regarded as one of the most dangerous roads in the country.
D81 road through the Calanches de Piana is one of the great drives of Europe. It’s located on the west coast of Corsica, France. Located in the gulf of Porto, this 11,7km section goes through a spectacular landscape of red granite cliffs and spiky outcrops, carved into bizarre shapes by the forces of wind and water. Between Porto and Piana, this narrow road winds against the magnificent red granit faces that plunge into the sea. These are the "Calanche of Piana". Engraved by the erosion, they look like a fantastic sculpture.
The Slea Head Drive is a circular route, beginning and ending in Dingle, in County Kerry, Ireland, with a length of 30 miles (47 km). The road, officially called R559, shows a large number of attractions and stunning views on the western end of the peninsula. The route is clearly labelled by road signs throughout its length. To properly enjoy the Drive, a half-day should be set aside for the journey.Very twist and turn of this extraordinary route presents breathtaking views and stunning vistas, causing it to be one ofIreland’s favourite and most photohraphed attractions. And for good reason too. Slea Head Drive has been etched out of the steep hillside, following every contour of the coastline. It is narrow, and winding, and precarious, and undoubtedly a little frightening in places. The roads are narrow and windy. So drive with caution. The road narrows appreciably and uncovers amazing views over the Atlantic, the nearby BlasketIslandsand the rugged coast covered with luscious green.
Sa Calobra Road, (officially designed MA-2141), with a length of 13 km only, and located in Majorca Island, Spain, is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Imagine dropping a long piece of wet spaghetti on the floor. The pattern it makes looks something like what the road looks. Snaking through the rocky landscape of the island, the eight-mile stretch of tarmac is also steep. Built in such a way as to avoid using tunnels, a fair proportion of the road has a gradient of more than 7%. If you really want a challenge, try tackling it by bike.
D512 state road is one of the most beautiful roads on the Adriatic coastline of Croatia. The road is 30.6 km (19.0 mi) long and carries substantial tourist traffic in summers. This narrow, winding hill road starts in Makarska, one of the best tourist destinations on the Croatian coast and ends in the Road 62 near Vrgorac, a town in the Split-Dalmatia County.
The Overseas Highway is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in America. This highway — the southernmost leg of U.S. 1 — is where the visitors from Florida's mainland can cross countless coral and limestone islets through that special world of the Florida Keys. This asphalted highway — sometimes called "the Highway that Goes to Sea" — follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 when Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West.
In Madeira there’s a rather peculiar and dangerous road (ER101). It is the oldest and most beautiful road of the island. Due to Madeira' s dramatic coast line, the road has many curves, narrow passages and steep climbs and descents, and is rugged, slow and old. This one-direction road runs along the ocean, with several cliffs and tunnels through the rock and was built after the World War II. The peculiarity of this road, apart from its narrowness, is that along the path, in the rainy season, there are waterfalls that cascade down from the sheer cliff and sparkle in the sunshine. The locals refer to stretches of the road as the "free car wash". On stormy days, the waves arrive up some points on the road, sweeping away all those who circulate around.
Driving along the coastal road from Orikum to Dhermi you will pass through the famous Llogara Pass (Qafa e Llogarasë – in Albanian), a spectacular winding road, rising up to 1,043m and overlooking the Ionian coast of the Albanian Riviera. This is the highest point on the main coastal road between Vlore and Sarande.
Located in the Costa Brava, Spain, this utterly scenic ride is exhilarating but hugely dangerous, driving along the cliffs with perfect surface and incredible views. This really magic coastal road is 21.3 km long and links the towns of Tossa de Mar with Sant Feliu de Guixols. The road offers sea, beaches, mountains, cliffs and forests mixed in an impressive drive. The road goes uphill and downhill all along the road, because it goes through the mountains close to the sea. Is a hard road, every new turn is an adventure, you have to concentrate on it because if you go off the road, you fall down the cliff.
Located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Road 15 is a journey to the end of the Earth. No cars, no smog, no noise at all. Lots of birds and animals around. The road is a rough 53.6 km track. It starts in Tulum along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea and ends in Punta Allen, the largest village in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, at the tip of a small peninsula, at the entrance to the Bahía de la Ascensión. There are no ATMs or internet cafes in town. Electricity generally works between 10am and 2pm, and 7pm and midnight.
Located on the north-east of the island of Corsica, in France, the Cap Corse road offers spectacular views of the ocean and charming villages. The road was first built by one of the Napoleans in the ninteenth century. The scenery is spectacular and the road, at times, utterly terrifying. The road, located in the Haute-Corse department, is called D80. It’s 110km long hugging the eastern coastal roads of le Cap. This beautiful coast road heads north to Cap Corse and its small villages. But as far as possible, go north to south. You'll be on the sea side. It's even better. The west coast of this peninsula is simply exceptional. This west coast road has hardly improved for 20 or 30 years, so expect an average speed of around 40 km/hour.
Located in the Albanian Riviera, Gjipe Beach is said to be the most beautiful beach of the country. Drive with care as this is a terrifying steep road (up to 9%) with dangerous dropoffs. It's best not to look down. One mishap and you plunge off the cliff and into the sea. If you have a 4wd vehicle with high clearance, you can drive all the way down to the secluded beach, that is at the end of a canyon called Gjipe Canyon.
Seitan Limania ( “Ports of Satan”) is a remote sandy beach located on the northwest coast of the Greek island of Crete. The road to this beach, also known as Stefanou Beach, is surrounded by rock formations. Placed between rocky cliffs, the road to this beach has many hair-raising hairpin bends. The asphalt road descends abruptly, ending at a parking area.
Running along the Arabian Sea coastline, Makran Coastal Highway is a very exciting and sometimes very exposed and unsecured driveway in innumerable twists and turns. The road is 583km long and links the N25 road and the Iran border. It’s totally asphalted. It runs primarily through Balochistan province between Karachi and Gwadar, passing near the port towns of Ormara and Pasni.
The Adriatic Highway is an asphalted road in Croatia, along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. The road, part of the European route E65, runs along the coast of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. A quick glance at the map, at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. The road (known as Jadranska magistrala) has a collection of serpentine twists and turns, leading to a hole in the crash barrier, the sea hundreds of feet below. The route has clear blue water to one side, and the view of islands in the distance. The Adriatic Highway has to be seen to be believed. It swoops down close to the shoreline before climbing high over clifftops, often with nothing but a sheer drop on one side to the sea below.
Located in the central part of the SakhalinIsland, in Russia, the 64H-3 road is mostly gravel. The road runs for 300km along the shore of the Strait of Tartary in the Pacific Ocean. The trip is amazing. The road is 498 km long and links Smirnykh, the administrative center of Smirnykhovsky District of Sakhalin Oblast, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk the administrative center of Sakhalin Oblast. This track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Located in northern Chile, Ruta 1 runs for 438 km along the South Pacific Ocean. It starts in Iquique, a coastal city to the west of the Atacama Desert and ends in Antofagasta, a port city capital of Antofagasta Province and Antofagasta Region. The surface of the road is perfect, but expect some closures after bad weather due to landslides and washouts. This drive passes through remote areas, so you need to be prepared. Expect very little traffic at the southern part. Due to the many views on the coast and the Pacific, this is absolutely the road to be taken by tourists.
Located in the Haparanda's fantastic archipelago of Sweden, the Nikkala-Seskarö road is an amazing drive. The road is called Industrivägen. It links the small towns of Nikkala and Seskarö in Haparanda Municipality. The road is asphalted. It’s 13.6 km (8.45 miles) long and was built in 1978. The drive includes a bridge, via some intermediate islands.
Located in Flakstadøya, an island in the Lofoten archipelago in Nordland county, Norway, Fv805 is 5.4km long following the Norwegian Sea shore. The track is mostly asphalted (with a couple of km of gravel) and it links the small towns of Napp and Myrland.
Located in central China, the Over-Water Highway links XingshangCounty and the ZhaojunBridge in Hubei province. In order to avoid cutting through the woods, about 4.4 kilometers of the 10.9-kilometer highway has been constructed above a river that runs through picturesque mountains. Works began in 2013 and finished in 2015. The new road shows that drivers are literally traveling over water as the motorway is built in the middle of a river valley. The road is built on top of a bridge that follows the curve of the river valley.
Port Jackson Road is a pretty rugged road located in the north of the CoromandelPeninsula in the North Island of New Zealand. The road is 25.7 km long along the coast, with stunning coastal views. On one side of the drive you will enjoy the extensive hilly surrounding and on the other side you will have awesome views of the rough, wild ocean. During the Christmas holiday season it is recommended that beginner riders avoid this road.
Located in the Olympic National Park in Clallam County, Washington, in USA, Lake Crescent Highway runs along the south shore of the lake Crescent, one of the most beautiful lake in the United States. This mostly two-lane road is a picturesque backdrop for an epic road-trip experience. Each bend opens another vista more transcendent than the last. The road traces the southern shore of the lake, dipping inside the park boundary.
Top coastal road trips, New Zealand’s South Island
Cape Palliser Road, New Zealand
Located on the southern coast of New Zealand's North Island, Cape Palliser Road is dramatically scenic. It’s remote, quiet, charming and unpredictable. This mostly asphalted scenic ocean road offers unforgettable seaviews along the way. The road ends in the Cape Palliser Lighthouse.
Situated on the Atlantic Coast, Chapman’s Peak Drive runs from Noordhoek to Hout Bay, the twisting 9km drive has 114 curves and gives you spectacular 180° views of the Atlantic coastline. It’s located at the south-western tip of South Africa. The route skirts the rocky coastline of Chapman’s Peak (593m), which is the southerly extension of Constantiaberg and is a great hike for the energetically inclined.
Located in Fraser Island, off Australia’s eastern Queensland coast, 75 Mile Beach Road is one of Australia's most iconic 4WD adventures. It’s a 4wd road littered with places of interest to visit along the way. Be careful when driving due to hidden sand humps and dips, and beware of the Dingo's! Fun, beautiful and just a bit scary. The sand squeals as you drive over it. The drive runs along most of the east coast of Fraser Island. You have to be aware of the tide and cannot drive on the beach at high tide or for two hours either side of it. The sand can be hard, soft, dry or wet. Aircraft often land on the beach and if you can afford it, this mode of travel is a great way to see the entire island in a short space of time, with the obligatory beach landing, of course.
The Road to Fontana Amoroza, located on the Akamas Peninsula, is one of the most dangerous roads in the world, as well as one of the world’s best coastal drives. The road starts with a sign which - truthfully- says "Do not enter - dangerous for cars". The track is very steep and links Baths of Aphrodite and Fontana Amorosa. It’s 6.0 km long and it involves a long climb to the top ridge at halfway before a descent back to the bay. It’s a 4x4 track. The track hugs the coast and there are some really good views to the sea below and provides a magnificent view of the Bay of Polis.
Vathy-Karlovasi road, Greece
Located in the island of Samos, North Aegean, Greece, the Vathy - Karlovasi road is 30.5 km long. It’s called Road 62. It’s asphalted but includes several narrow sections. It links the port towns of Vathy and Karlovasi. The road is located along the coastline, it is directly affected by sea waves of the northern sector and requires coastal protection.
Causeway Coastal Route is an epic tour of the Northern Ireland coast. Known as ‘one of the world’s great road journeys’ the route follows a majestic coastal road starting in Belfast and ending in Derry~Londonderry. This scenic drive is also known as Giant's Causeway road, and is stretching more than 190 km and taking in most of the major sites in Northern Ireland. The four-day route takes in a rich tapestry of legendary landmarks, fantastical locations used by HBO’s Game of Thrones and into the culture-filled villages of the Glens of Antrim.
Located on the South West tip of Mauritius, the B9 road offers some of the most spectacular views in Mauritius – and probably the world. The road is asphalted. It links Le Morne and Baie du Cap and you can enjoy stunning views of the Islands southern coast and views out to sea, if you are lucky you may well see large turtles swimming nearby. The road swoops dangerously around a sharp hairpin turn there, clinging precariously between the rocks and the ocean. This comfortable and secured road offers the opportunity to lay your eyes right and left, on the vast spread of turquoise water and the luxuriant vegetation.
The scenic Fornelli - Cala d'Oliva road is the only paved road on the Italian island of Asinara, at the north-western tip of Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea. Located within the Asinara National Park, the surface of the road is concrete which well integrates in the landscape. It links Fornelli in the south and Cala d'Oliva in the north. Following this road it is possible to observe the most important habitats of the island the many distinctive characteristics of the landscape, its surprising biodiversity, the vegetation, as well as its terrain and historical features and its most characteristic species. Along it, you will also get to the main towns: Fornelli, Tumbarino, La Reale and Cala d'Oliva.
Kystriksveien-Road 17, Norway
Located in the Nordland coastline of Norway, the Kystriksveien – road 17 is 650 km long. Starting in Steinkjer it takes you north, across the Arctic Circle, to Bodø. According to National Geographic, it’s one of the ’101 World’s most Scenic Routes. Along Kystriksveien there are many islands that you may visit by ferry or boat. On the 650 long road you need to take 6 ferries, taking from 10 min to an hour each.
Agia Effimia – Karavomylos Road is a very scenic coastal road located on the east coast of the island of Kefalonia (Cephalonia). The road literally takes the breath away. A serie of four earthquakes hit the island in August 1953, and caused major destruction, with virtually every house on the island destroyed.
GC-200 is said to be the most dangerous road in Spain. It’s an exhilarating drive with stunning coastal and mountain scenery located in Gran Canaria. It's also one of Europe's top drives with cliff edge moments. The road has it all from hairpin bends to sheer cliff-edge drops. The asphalted road lies within the Parque Natural de Tamadaba o Pinar de Tamadaba Natural Park and clings to the cliffs for 25kms or more at a height of about 200 to 900 meters and there is just enough room for 2 vehicles to pass (trucks blow their horns going round corners and there has to be some juggling over passing).
Balos beach road is located on the western side of Crete at the edge of the peninsula of Gramvousa. The gravel road to Balos beach is recommended for 4-wheel cars. One way to get to Balos Beach is by car over a (not very good) road. 8 km of dirt road that will lead you to the parking lot over Balos beach-lagoon. You have to drive slowly, and the last part of the route is not suitable for cars. You'll still have to walk a an hour and a half before you're on the beach and back the hike lasts a little longer because you must climb up. The coastline views along the way are breathtaking!
Located along the Bay of Kotor of the Adriatic Sea, in southwestern Montenegro, the road is very narrow (one lane in many places) and drops right off the edge into the water in many places (with no guard rails). The road is really winding and will not fit two cars. It follows the shoreline of the Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor) and is quite nervewracking. You will have to stop and back up to let cars pass and other times had to pull into driveways to let cars pass by.
Located in the south-western North Island of New Zealand, this short coastal road was built in 1849. The surface of this narrow, winding hill road that connects Porirua with the Kapiti Coast via Pauatahanui, is asphalted. This cliff-side road of New Zealand still parts the steep hills standing sentry over the sea. It has a length of 17,2km.
Aramoana Road is a very scenic coastal drive located in the South Island of New Zealand. The road is asphalted. It’s 10.7 km long. The road is winding and in many places bordered by a drop of several meters unprotected by guardrails, directly to the sea. The road along the coast links Port Chalmers and Aramoana.
Strada provinciale 227 di Portofino (SP 227) is an exhilarating drive with stunning coastal scenery located in the province of Genoa, in Liguria, northern Italy. It’s 12.8 km long and links Rapallo, a town known for the hilltop Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro, a pilgrimage site with sea views and the exclusive town of Portofino, on the Gulf of Tigullio. It’s a famous Italian fishing village and vacation resort famous for its picturesque harbour and historical association with celebrity and artistic visitors.
With a length of 2,500 km (1553 miles), the Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal to Cork along Ireland's Atlantic coast is said to be the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. The journey runs from County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula to the southern town of Kinsale in County Cork on the coast of the Celtic Sea. A large part of this route is most definitely closed to coaches and “difficult” for any large vehicle due to the small roads. This route gives visitors the opportunity to truly discover the wild west of Ireland. It has some of the most dramatic and dazzling coastal views in the world and includes more than 150 discovery points along the way. These points of interest come from different perspectives of culture, history, nature or natural history.
Ano Meria - Agios Georgios road is a short extreme road located in the island of Folegandros, in the Aegean Sea, part of the Cyclades, in Greece. It links the town of Ano Meria and the beach of Agios Georgios. The area around is not inhabited and the beach is rather secluded. This beach is subject to strong winds and it is always wise to first check the weather report of the day prior to visiting the beach. The road is unsuitable for private conventional car or taxis. Only bikes and 4WD cars.
Sveta Nedilja is a small beach village located on the southern side of the island Hvar, in Croatia. The road to the town is recommended only to the brave and adventurous. The journey offers gorgeous views to the sea and surrounding islands. The road will surely pump adrenaline into you as you drive near the vertical falling cliffs on a macadam road. The path which snakes up through pine woods offers amazing views of the Adriatic Sea. 4wd vehicle recommended. The drive is 6.7 km long. Take this road only on your own responsibility and ask the locals about the current conditions.
The R319 is a very scenic road in Achill Island, situated off the coast of County Mayo in the west of Ireland. The drive travels by hairpins to the edge of the sea. This busy regional road is 35.4 km (22.0 mi) long traveling along the shore most exposed to the Atlantic. It runs from Mallaranny to Toorglass West. Be aware of pedestrians, traffic and possibly sheep. This cliff road provides some quite magnificent views. It’s narrow with some bridges. The road gets progressively narrower and windier until it terminates at a large car park towards the western end of the island.