Traffic and parking nightmares rightly dissuade visitors from renting a car in densely packed urban areas like London, where you’ll have to pay dearly to enter the Congestion Zone.
But you’ll definitely want your own wheels in these top holiday destinations.
If you’re ever going to spring for a convertible, do it here. The sun shines 300 days a year, and the highways are a pleasure to drive compared to the clogged arteries 100 miles north in Los Angeles.
Drop the top, throw a surfboard in the back and you’ll be at the beach in minutes. A favourite drive crosses the 200-foot-high Coronado Bridge to the seaside haven of Coronado Island.
Even if your Maui accommodations are on the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen, you’ll still want to explore the Valley Isle by car. Drive up Haleakala and you can hike the National Park or wander charming upcountry towns like Makawao at your leisure.
And the waterfalls and swimming holes along the way are what make the twisting, turning Road to Hana so memorable. It’s just not the same in a tour bus.
Frankfurt is strictly business, Hamburg is for nightlife, Berlin is for art and culture. But Munich is for exercising your lead foot.
Here you’ll find BMW’s headquarters, plant, and the ultimate driving museum known as BMW World.
Indulge your disdain for speed limits on the A95 Autobahn to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps. Then tack west to the Romantic Road, where the drive is all about the stops along the way.
This part of the American Southwest is all about hiking and biking through crimson canyons, persimmon-hued gorges, and serendipitously shaped spires called hoodoos.
The region is home to Zion National Park and four others, but the sights along the roads linking them are just as spectacular. Scenic Byway 12, connecting Bryce Canyon with Capitol Reef, is a destination unto itself, traversing narrow ridges, mountain streams, and lunar landscapes.
One reason to brave Italy’s notoriously chaotic roadways is the 100-mile route around Lake Como, high in the Italian Alps, less than an hour from Milan. Parts of this strada almost careen into the sapphire waters; others are no wider than a strand of pappardelle, hemmed in by stone walls that force traffic to slow down. So tuck in your side mirrors and savour the view in front of you.
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The Florida Keys
Sure, you can fly or cruise into Key West and never stray from the T-shirt shops and bars on Duval Street. But to find the bohemian atmosphere that originally attracted Hemingway and hippies alike to this coral archipelago, you’ll want to drive northeast to its less-touristy dive destinations and fishing villages.
The Overseas Highway, an incredible necklace of bridges, practically makes you feel like you’re sailing between the keys.
The Outback, Australia
There are precious few roads in this desert wilderness, and even fewer paved ones, so it’s hard to get lost. If the short drive from Australia’s Alice Springs to Standley Chasm only whets your appetite for vast nothingness, take the much longer journey to Darwin or Ayer’s Rock. Be sure to venture into the void at night to marvel at thousands of stars you can’t see from the Northern Hemisphere.
Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nevada
To add some ‘gambolling’ to your next gambling holiday, head not to Las Vegas where a car is a nuisance, but to the Biggest Little City in the World, where your own wheels can escort you to nearby Lake Tahoe after you’ve made (or blown) your fortune in the casinos. It’s a premier ski resort in winter; in summer, it overflows with outstanding opportunities for hiking, biking, and sailing.
Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky
There’s something ironic about touring the bluegrass state by horseless carriage. Start in Lexington, renowned as much for thoroughbreds in basketball as in the sport of kings. Then meander country roads through Civil War battlefields and towns like Loretto and Clermont, where America’s best bourbon is distilled. Bring an extra bottle to Louisville, where you don’t have to wait for the Kentucky Derby to mix up some refreshing mint juleps.