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Monday, April 15, 2013

Top 5 Coastal Drives Around the World

1. Pacific Coast Highway - Monterey, California

At around 454 miles (730 km), California's Pacific Coast Highway is probably the most well-known coastal drive in the United States. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, the distance is about 455 miles (732 km), though Virtual Tourist members specifically suggest the 135 mile (217 km) stretch from San Luis Obispo to Monterey. This drive includes Point Lobos State Reserve, Point Sur State Historic Park, and the highly-recognizable, oft photographed Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. One thing to keep in mind: when you pay admission to one CA state park, your receipt will cover your admission to any other state park for the day - so it's great to hit this sector of the road on the same day.

2. Kuhio Highway - Kauai, Hawaii

Although many choose Maui's Hana Highway as Hawaii's primary coastal drive, the drive from Kauai's South Shore to the "end of the road" at Haena State Park is truly exceptional. By starting at Poipu Beach, your 52 mile (84 km) drive along Highway 56 has gorgeous views in either direction. With lookouts along the road, you'll see scenery that is vaguely recognizable - this is the land where dinosaurs once roamed in Jurassic Park. The drive ends at Haena State Park, also the start of the Kalalau Trail, a rugged difficult climb along the NaPali Coast, which is inaccessible to cars. If you've got time, turn off the road and follow signs to the Kilauea Lighthouse as well as the St. Regis Princeville Resort - both spots have exceptional views.

3. Overseas Highway (Hwy 1) - Florida Keys

The Overseas Highway is the portion of US Route 1 that extends from the end of mainland Florida through the Florida Keys to southernmost Key West. The route runs 160 miles (257 km) from Miami to Key West, with large portions of the highway built on bridges left over from the long-forgotten Overseas Railroad. While the primary view seen along this drive are the bright blue waters of the Florida Straits, the waters between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Keys are actually exposed ancient coral reefs leading to varied wildlife and much ecotourism. The Keys have an interesting spirit of their own and it's definitely worth pulling off the route to explore some of the individual island's personalities.

4. Cabot Trail - Nova Scotia, Canada

Multiple Virtual Tourist members suggested the shores of Nova Scotia, particularly the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, as an ideal coastal drive for Canada-bound travelers. The Cabot Trail, which spurs off the Trans-Canada Highway 105, extends north and passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park before looping back to the 105 only 16 miles (27 km) further up the road. Cape Breton Highlands National Park has 26 hiking trails and 24 stunning viewpoints along the Cabot Trail, so it is definitely worth the small price of entry to get out of your vehicle and explore. The entire route is approximately 170 miles (274 km) in length.

5. Great Ocean Road - Victoria, Australia

Only 60 miles (93 km) from Victoria's capital of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road winds alongside the Southern Ocean from Torquay to Portland. Created by soldiers returning from the First World War, the route is more than 180 miles (290 km) and includes a variety of sites such as world-renowned beaches, national parks, and shipwrecks. The most famous spectacle along B100 is the Twelve Apostles, a natural formation of limestone stacks which seem to magically rise from the Southern Ocean. There are two walkways alongside the Twelve Apostles so park your car and get a great photo.

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