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50 roads every enthusiast must drive

By Wheels staff, 10 Apr 2020 Features

50 roads every enthusiast must drive

The ultimate list of awesome roads every motoring enthusiast must experience at least once

Roads, at their core, are pretty boring.

Most of them are simply utensils built by governments to ferry people from point A to B.

But not all roads are like this - some are special.

Twisting and winding their way into our hearts, some roads have a magic about them – as if they’ve been designed for pleasure, rather than to connect pieces on a map.

They might be rare, but roads like this are a petrol head’s dream – so that’s why we’ve compiled this of 50 roads every enthusiast must drive at least once.

The Great Ocean Road, Vic, Australia

You probably know the Great Ocean Road as a scenic but ultimately frustrating piece of tarmac that's always choked with tourist traffic. In which case you need to take a leaf out of Andy Enright's book, wait until all the day trippers have long departed and drive it at night. Yes, you will miss the awesome vistas, but there's ample recompense in scores of beautifully-shaped corners. Anywhere from Anglesea to Apollo Bay should scratch the itch, but the twisties at Big Hill, a kilometre or so past the famous Memorial Arch are well worth double-backing and having repeated cracks at. Watch out for wombats and your fuel gauge.

Highway 1, Big Sur, California, USA

While Highway 1 isn't the sort of route we'd seek out were we trying to absolutely drive the wheels off a hot car, it's nevertheless one of the best roads in the world to dial it back a notch or three, kick back and watch some beautiful Pacific coast scenery scroll by. The Bixby Bridge is a must stop for Insta-cool, as is Hearst Castle and, as you trek further north, Point Lobos. Book a V8 Mustang drop top from one of the major rental agencies and take your time.

Highway 1, Big Sur, California

Putty Road, NSW, Australia

Well within driving distance of Sydney, this twisting 174km stretch links the northwestern suburbs with the Hunter Region. Narrow and winding, particularly in the more northern sections, the Putty road is a favourite with motorcyclists and driving enthusiasts. There are a number of rest stops along the road, in particular the Grey Gum Café. The final stretches of the Putty have been recently repaved, resulting in a fantastic, smooth, driving surface. It should be noted the Putty Road can be treacherous during wet weather, but if you drive to the conditions you can still enjoy yourself.

KTM X-BOW front facing

Tianmen Mountain, China

Heaven's Gate Mountain might be the big draw for millions of visitors to Hunan Province, but the road to get there is the secret ingredient for keen drivers. With 99 corners in just 11km, get there at dawn light in an agile car and you'll arrive at Tianmen Cave, a 131m high natural arch with twisted blood. If you want a more direct route, know that in February 2018, a hybrid Range Rover SUV clambered up the 45-degree angle staircase of 999 steps to Heaven's Gate. That's hardcore.

Ken Block Climbkhana Two  roads

Mt Nebo/Mt Glorious/Northbrook Parkway, QLD, Australia

Any Queenslander should be well acquainted with this trio. The Mt Nebo and Glorious pairing is a well-worn route for local enthusiasts. Combining brilliant vistas and well-groomed bends, there is something for everyone. While most will turn around at the bottom for a return trip to the Brisbane CBD, it is well worth continuing on to Northbrook Parkway and revelling in its fast, open, and flowing sweepers.

The Atlantic Road, Norway

Norway's ninth-most visited attraction is a road a mere 8.3km long. The Atlanterhasvegen links together a series of islands and skerries with low bridges and causeways running between Molde and Kristiansund and is at its best in wilder weather, when the crashing seas make it feel genuinely adventurous. In better conditions, keep an eye open for seals and orcas. Those and car companies filming commercials.

Atlantic Road, Norway

Milford Road, New Zealand

Located deep in the beautiful Fiordland National Park in New Zealand’s South Island, this snowy road is over 120kms long, stretching from Te Anau to Milford Sound, into the heart of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area. The road passes through incredibly scenic sports like the Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Earl Mountain and the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain. Milford Road has a peak elevation of 940 metres above sea level, with much of it having been carved out of solid granite in the 1920s and 40s.

Milford Road, New Zealand

Chapman’s Peak drive, Cape Town, South Africa

We normally associate South Africa more with carjackings and dirt roads, but head down to the Western Cape and you'll find one of the great coastal drives. Set the nav for Noordhoek Beach and from there to Hout Bay Beach. It's hard to get lost because there's only one road, but it is an absolute gem. Think of it as a wilder version of the Great Ocean Road with less Chinese tourist buses but more huge rocks that can detach from the sandstone cliffs above and crush you.

Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Town, South Africa

Gillies Range Road, QLD, Australia

Most people wouldn’t normally associate Far North Queensland with stunning mountain roads, but that is where you’d be wrong. Gillies Range Road is one of the most criminally underrated stretches of driving nirvana in Australia. Running from Gordonvale to Atherton it crams 263 corners, and 800 metres of elevation, into just 19km of road. Being relatively removed from any significant population centres also means it is usually bereft of heavy traffic, though it is a popular route for tourists.

White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

The 160km White Rim Road loops around and below the Island in the Sky mesa top and will generally take two to three days to complete in a sturdy 4x4. The steep, exposed sections of the Shafer Trail, Lathrop Canyon Road, Murphy Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and the Mineral Bottom switchbacks will test the most adventurous drivers and the scenery is jaw-dropping for much of the route. Check ahead, because when the Green River's in spring melt, the complete loop can be impassable.

White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Old Pacific Highway, NSW, Australia

This classic piece of highway just north of Sydney stretches from Hornsby to Calga, and is one of the shorter segments of bitumen on the list. Intersecting the current M1 Pacific Highway, the winding Old Pacific Highway takes in some fantastic views, and is paved with butter smooth bitumen. This is an incredibly popular motorcycle riding spot, and is heavily trafficked (but rarely congested). You can often count on a police presence, both with speed cameras and roaming patrols.

2015 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV First Drive Review

Col de Turini, France

'The Night Of The Long Knives' was, for most, the highlight of the Monte Carlo rally, where drivers braved icy and snowy conditions to race through the inky blackness from La Bollène-Vésubie up over the 34 hairpins of the col and down to to Sospel. It's the stuff of legend, of Sandro Munari wrestling a Stratos or driving past the spots where the likes of Bjorn Waldegård, Francois Delecour, Colin McRae, Marcus Grönholm or Petter Solberg have had little indiscretions. It's undoubtedly exciting, and really needs to be done at night. Just be careful of icy conditions that could easily remind you why you're not at the pointy end of the WRC.

Col de Turini, France

Grand Pacific Drive, NSW, Australia

This is the route down through Royal National Park south of Sydney, ending at Stanwell Tops. If you keep following this gorgeous forest drive, it will continue over the picturesque Sea Cliff Bridge into Wollongong. A favourite with Supercar drive experiences, this route makes for a great day trip if paired with a picnic in the National Park. Make sure to pack the Kodak, as the Grand Pacific Drive is seriously beautiful.

Sea Cliff Bridge

Dades Gorge, High Atlas, Morocco

Drop down off the southern slopes of the Atlas mountains, drive through the desert oasis of Ouarzazate, ease east-north-east along the N10 and you'll find yourself at the Dadès Gorges, a series of rugged wadi gorges cut by the Dadès River. The R704 road into the gorges is not for the faint-hearted, as you'll often be driving inches from precipitous drops and the surface can be slippery. Every terrifying section is probably something you're going to have to repeat, because the bitumen runs out after 63km at Msemrir. Beyond that, you'll need something with a knobby tyres and a low range 'box. Aim for midsummer (June/July) to avoid the rain and snow.

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys, USA

Want to relive scenes from 2 Fast 2 Furious, True Lies and Licence To Kill? Thought not. But you probably owe it to yourself to drive Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys in any case. As with most things American, the claim is bigger than the 6.79-mile reality, but you can't help but be impressed by 440 spans of box-girder bridge and the prospect of a mojito at Key West will keep you motivated. Cornering, no. Pelicans, yes.

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys

Lake Mountain, VIC, Australia

This brief 10.5-kilometre stretch of road is used as the access point to Lake Mountain Ski Resort, so is heavily trafficked in winter. However, come the warmer months, when the snow fields are long gone, it becomes a joyous playground for thrilling driving experiences. The trip from base to summit takes just 13 minutes, but Lake Mountain Road is well worth multiple passes. The road offers a great combination of turns and views. Make a day of it, by combining the trip with other Dandenong staples such as Reefton Spur, Black Spur, Chum Creek Road, and Marysville-Woods Point Road. After you are done with Lake Mountain Road, make sure to stop off at Marysville for a hot chocolate or bite to eat.

2016 HSV Maloo GTS

Furka Pass, Switzerland

Now we can argue this one all day long. There are those drivers who swear by the Furka, while others reckon that the nearby Julier or Bernina Passes are better. In reality, everyone's a winner because you need to try all of them. Alex Inwood did in a Mercedes-AMG A35 and came away with a big grin on his face and a great pic at the iconic Hotel Belvedere, sitting at 2429m above sea level and framed by the Rhone Glacier.

Mercedes-AMG A35 Swiss Alps

Obi Obi Road, QLD, Australia

This is one of the shorter pieces of bitumen in this list, and perhaps one of the least glamorous, but it makes the cut due to be a personal favourite of our Online Editor, Cameron Kirby. The Obi Obi is one of the rare pieces of bitumen in Australia that twists its way up a hill, with no traffic coming in the other direction. Because the road splits in two, with opposing traffic taking different routes, driving the Obi Obi is a unique experience, allowing the enthusiastic driver to explore the full width of the road without worrying about a truck coming in the other direction.

 

Transfagarasan Highway, Romania

While we'd champion the Transalpina as the better road, if you're schlepping all the way to Romania, it'd be churlish not to drive the Transfagarasan as well, if only to be that annoying guy who one ups everybody. Known as Ceausescu's Folly, the road was built as a military route in the early 1970s and boasts 833 bridges, 28 aqueducts and five tunnels. Open from the start of July to the end of October, it's more accessible than the Transalpina and has better roadside amenities. Watch out for some dodgy surfaces that are full of more holes than the Ceausescus.

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Guoliang Tunnel Road, China

Everyone's heard of the Yungas Death Road in Bolivia. Well, here's the Chinese equivalent. At some points, the road is just 4 metres wide, so if two Lamborghini Aventadors meet, someone's going to have to perch their bum on the sill and do some reversing. The tunnel itself opened in 1977 to connect the remote village of Guoliang to the rest of the world. Best vehicle for the job? Something narrow and tough. We'd take a Jimny.

Guoliang Tunnel Road, China

Great Alpine Road, Australia

Say hello to arguably one of the greatest driving experiences in Australia. If you enjoy a good drive, then make sure you put the Great Alpine Road high on your to do list. The 339-kilometre route winds from Wangaratta in the state’s north-east, all the way to Metung and the beautiful Gippsland Lakes. The Great Alpine Road is butter smooth, with fantastic flowing sweepers, combined with ruggedly handsome and typically Australian scenery. Taking about 5 hours to transverse, it is well worth setting aside a weekend for this route.

Bogong High Plains Road, VIC, Australia

If the Great Alpine Road is too mainstream for you, the Bogong High Plains Road should be right up your alley. Taking in mountainous landscapes, this alpine road is smooth, flowing, relatively traffic free, and lacking the sticks and other green debris that can hamper most mountain passes. This driving road would make a great addition to a weekend venture to the Great Alpine Road.

The Nurburgring, Germany

How can we write a piece on the best roads in the world without including that hallowed 20.832km stretch of Eifel bitumen? We can't. Check out Enright's guide on winning at the Nurburgring here.

Nurburgring

Stelvio Pass, Italy

The archetypal hairpin-fest, at 2757m, the Stelvio is the second highest pass in the Alps, pipped only by the Col de l'Iseran. You'll need to negotiate 75 hairpins, with 48 of them on the photogenic north-eastern section towards Trafoi. Sir Stirling Moss binned a car here, so you probably could too with the right encouragement. The pass is often clogged with labouring cyclists who think they're Marco Pantani as well as numerous tourist buses. Best to travel in late evening and don't get too confused if you hear the pass referred to by its German name of Stilfserjoch.

Stelvio Pass Italy

Oxley Highway, NSW, Australia

Winding inland from Port Macquarie, the Oxley Highway is one of the finest driving roads in Australia. In total, the Oxley stretches 653-kilometres into central NSW, taking in arid plains, fertile farmland, luscious forests, and much more between. The rural road is fantastic for testing yourself and your car on a fun, twisting route. If based in Sydney, it is well worth making a weekend of driving the Oxley, staying overnight in one of the many pubs and homestays which dot its path.

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Touge Roads, Mount Fuji, Japan

Few roads are as steeped in automotive legend as the Hakone Skyline, the stretch of tarmac that birthed a hot Nissan whose name escapes me. From Hakone, head for the roads around Lake Ashi. It's hard to get things wrong here with a variety of testing touge rouutes. Then it's northwest to Lake Yamanaka for the best view of Mt Fuji, hoping that the local 'white demon' fog doesn't obscure your view of the scared peak. Pro tip: don't try to follow the locals.

Iroha-zaka, Japan

The best thing about the pair of Irohazaka roads? Aside from the 48 hairpin bends it's that one goes up the mountain and the other comes back down, so there's never any oncoming traffic. The Japanese flock here in autumn to witness the trees changing colours, so pick your moment for this one. Go when it's quiet and you can get very rowdy with your line choices.

Thunderbolts Way, NSW, Australia

Although sections of the Thunderbolts Way are in a poor way in terms of maintenance, you cannot go past this stretch from Goondiwindi to Port Stephens for its fantastic Australian scenery and history. Named after the famed bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, it winds its way through a number of sleepy towns and for a great weekend away.

2016-Porsche -911-GT3-RS-rear -Cayman -front

Sani Pass, South Africa

The so-called 'Roof of Africa' road, ascends to 2876m and heads from the KwaZulu Natal province to the Lesotho border.With gradients of up to one in three near the top, this dirt road is a handful at any time of the year, whether it be blinding dust in summer or mud, ice or snow in winter. It traverses a few water crossings, ascending vehicles have right of way (in theory) and you'll need to get there quick if you want to experience it in its raw form as, like Pikes Peak, it's going to be all bitumen in due course. Conquer it and you can enjoy a cold one in the highest pub in Africa. What would we take for this one? It'd be hard to top a classic Pajero Evolution.

Trollstigen, Norway

Harsh Scandinavian winters don't really do much for bitumen roads and the Trollstigen, said to be Norway's most visited tourist road, bears the scars of years of water seeping into cracks, expanding as it turns to ice and cracking and shattering the surface. All up there are a mere 11 hairpin bends to tackle, but the rroad is steep, narrow and the scenery of waterfalls and mountains is so arresting that it's occasionally hard to keep focused.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana, USA

Glacier National Park rarely needs the big sell to get punters through the door but just getting there can be a heck of a ride. The weirdly-named Going-to-the-Sun Road isn't really one for the leadfoot, as the speed limit is a measly 72km/h (45mp/h) on the lower sections and a mere 40km/h (25mp/h) in the high alpine. The 80km road takes about two hours to negotiate, ascending to 2025m at Logan Pass and you may well encounter bighorn sheep, brown bears and, if you're not diligent at the wheel, the Jackson Glacier.

Going-to-the-Sun-Road, Glacier National Park, Montana

Karakoram Highway, China/Pakistan

The greatest road of all to drive? If it's sheer majestic scenery and adventure that you're after, it doesn't get a lot better than the Karakoram Highway. Known colloquially as the KKH, you've got 1300km of highway to negotiate, the 'Eighth Wonder of the World' cresting at a head-spinning 4714m above sea level near Khunjerab Pass. Connecting Baltistan to the ancient Silk Road, it starts in Kashgar in China and terminates in Abbottabad, Pakistan, best known for the location where Osama bin Laden had a bad day. The route is at its most spectacular near Jaglot, at the confluence of the Gilgit and Indus rivers, this marking the meeting point of three great mountain ranges, the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas and the Karakoram. Some of the areas on the route are politically volatile so seek out government advice before travelling.

Pikes Peak, Colorado, USA

Arguably the toughest hillclimb around, Pikes Peak is one of the most fearsome stretches of tarmac in the world. Locally known as the Pikes Peak Highway, the official route starts at Mile 7, and has 156 turns crammed into the 19.99km run. During the run, you climb almost three kilometres, to one of the tallest points in the US. Just make sure you have good brakes for the return trip.

Falls Creek / Mount Buffalo, VIC, Australia

While two distinct routes that are enjoyable independent of each other, we’ve combined these two roads into one entry due to their proximity. Starting in Bright head for Mount Buffalo for its sharp ascent and decent and brilliant hairpin turns, before travelling onwards to the impressive climb toward Falls Creek. You can play on these roads all day and never tire.

Ronda Road, Costa del Sol, Spain

The A397 starts in the Mediterranean resort of San Pedro de Alcantara , just outside the playboy paradise of Marbella and climbs. Hard. With beautiful surfacing, challenging corners, some magnificent views towards Gibraltar and the chance to take lunch in one of Spain's most picturesque villages, the Ronda Road is hard to better. Finish your day off with a few laps at the adjacent Ascari Race Resort? It'd be rude not to.

Jebel Hafeet Road, UAE

There's not a lot to draw the traveller to Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates. Apart from the Jebel Hafeet road, that is. An 11.7km stretch of perfect bitumen built by the Germans, soaring to the UAE's second highest point at 1219m above sea level, it has two lanes going up, and one coming down. It's rarely trafficked, so you can take some sporty lines through the 60 bends at an 8 percent average grade. Go in late afternoon for an amazing sunset view from the summit.

Angeles Crest Highway, California, USA

Los Angeles is usually portrayed as a traffic-choked, over-policed hellhole for motorists, but head north from Glendale or Pasadena and it soon changes for the better. In fact, the Angeles Crest Highway, which winds its way through the San Gabriel mountains for 106km, is a belter. Traffic dies off the further east you head, but check that the road is open. It's usually shut during winter between Islip Saddle and Vincent Gap due to avalanche danger.

Black Spur, VIC, Australia

A staple for many Melbournites, the Black Spur is one of Victoria’s most idyllic drives. Regular local traffic means you’ll have more fun taking it slow and soaking in the surrounding forest. However, if you are lucky enough to find it bereft of other vehicles, the beautifully smooth road is a delight for any keen driver.

Route Napoleon, France

The route taken by Napoleon in 1815 upon his return from Elba strateches from Antibes to Grenoble. Base yourself around Castellane and you shouldn't be able to miss, in either direction. The nearby Clue de la Roche Percee is one of the most exciting balcony roads in France, cut into the side of a cliff, with unlit tunnels, abrupt bends and very fast locals. Do it.

Cap Corse, Corsica

Youtube virtually any part of any the WRC's Tour de Corse and you're instantly transported to what looks to be some of the most breathtaking roads on earth. There are few Corsican roads more spectacular than the Cap Corse, the often-unprotected coastal road that snakes around Corsica's north-east peninsula. Base yourself in Bastia, follow signs for the D80 and enjoy. It's stunning.

Eildon-Jamieson Road, VIC, Australia

Running for 60km between the towns of Eildon and Jamieson, this stretch of tarmac is probably mainland Australia's most challenging section. The queen stage of Targa High Country is lengthy and unrelenting. It's also within a reasonable distance from Melbourne, which makes it a tempter if you've got a keen-handling car.

Tail of the Dragon, Deals Gap, Tennessee, USA

I'll admit that Tennessee doesn't sound like my idea of motoring nirvana, but it's hard to argue with the challenge presented by the Tail of the Dragon. US Route 129 in Blount County might just be the best forest road in the States. Over 18km, it packs in 318 curves and features some great corner names such as Gravity Cavity, Beginner's End and Brake or Bust Bend. My favourite? The Tree of Shame, where crashed bike bits adorn the branches.

Mt Nebo, Jordan

If you like your challenges, short, sharp and scenic, it's hard to better the Mt Nebo road. Climbing from the lowest point on earth, the shores of the Dead Sea, up to the mount where Moses was allegedly given his first view of the Promised Land, it's not wanting for either geographical or historical interest. Moses is buried somewhere near the summit. Enright nearly joined him in a Peugeot 206 a few years back. You'll probably want something grippy and powerful to challenge the huge sweeping switchbacks.

Tizi n’Tichka, Morocco

Adventure driving doesn't get much more beautiful than the Tizi n'Tichka which climbs the Atlas Mountains in Morocco before dropping into the High Sahara towards Ouarzazate. The road can be anything from smooth bitumen to fording creeks and all the locals seem to agree on which side of the road to drive on: the middle. Stay in Marrakesh: it's one heck of a town.

Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife

Pico del Teide is a huge stratovolcano located on Tenerife, a tiny island a few hundred kilometres off the African coast of Western Sahara. At 3718m, it's the highest point of Spain, and the road up is something very special. Route TF21 crosses the island from corner to corner and ascends 2650m through a number of biomes. Go in the early morning and you can get the road to yourself. Go in the evening and you can enjoy sunsets over the Atlantic looking down onto a sea of clouds. It's magical.

Transalpina Highway, Romania

When Top Gear tried to find the best road in the world, they decided it was the Tranfagarasan Highway in Romania. They were wrong. What's more, they didn't even manage to find the best road in Romania. The 148km Transalpina is higher, wilder, better surfaced, more consistently challenging and more beautiful than the 90km Transfagarasan and, thanks to TG, a whole lot quieter too.

 

The WHOLE of Tasmania

Do yourself a favour, and book a week long driving holiday in Tasmania. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed. There are so many brilliant roads in the state that it deserves its own article entirely, but to get you started try the 99 bends road out of Queenstown. There is a very good reason this route is used for Targa Tasmania each year.

Isle of Man TT course

How could we not include a section of speed derestricted tarmac that's home to possibly the greatest challenge in world motorsport. Even in a private vehicle there are some sections of the course that are completely exhilarating. The Snaefell Mountain Road (A18) links Douglas and Ramsey and features a 21km long section where you can really stretch your car's legs. Look out for slow traffic, sheep, cyclists and, yes, the police. Although there's no speed limit, you're responsible for maintaining a responsible velocity and the local plod take a dim view of halfwit hoons.

Gorge Road, SA, Australia

This route connects Adelaide to the Barossa Valley, and is a pleasure to drive year-round. Making this driving road even more enjoyable is the litany of brilliant cafes, bakeries, and wineries that are scattered around the region.

 

The Wheels COTY test loop

Now, we aren’t going to give away the location of this one, but as for the Wheels team driving this finely-honed custom route is the highlight of the working year. Refined over decades of Wheels Car of the Year testing, the road loop allows our judges to pull a car’s ability apart, unmasking its true nature. But, the great thing about the Wheels COTY test loop is it could be anywhere in the world, and you yourself could design your very own version. It is more of an idea than a fixed route. So, get planning, design a route, and build your own perfect road trip.

Got your own favourite road that we missed? Let us know in the comments