The journey is the destination on the world's best coastal road trips, writes Sarah Pollok.

1 Great Ocean Road, Australia

Mountains and ocean, rainforests and cliffs, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria certainly deserves its title as one of the top road trips in the world. Starting in the village of Torquay, you'll hug the southern coastline of Victoria for 253 breathtaking kilometres all the way to Warrnambool. While you can race the route in four hours, the speed cameras and beautiful scenery make this a road best travelled slowly.

Top Spot: With surf beaches, lighthouses and national parks, there is much to stop for enroute but the Twelve Apostles is one you can't drive by. Towering 65m above sea level, the giant limestone stacks are an incredible site. If you can't spot 12 don't worry; erosion means only eight remain.

Bells Beach near Torquay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Photo / Getty Images
Bells Beach near Torquay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Photo / Getty Images

● To find out about walking the Great Ocean trail.


2 California's Highway 1, North America

No traveller's bucket list is quite complete without some sort of American road trip and this is one of the best. The famous "All-American Road" follows State Route 1 for 1055km of hairpin turns, steep cliff drops and breathtaking views all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. After flooding and mudslides closed large stretches of the highway last May, the route is expected to be especially busy when it reopens this July. So if driving on the opposite side of narrow, un-railed coast roads has you weak at the knees, keep this trip for later in the year.

Top Spot:

Ditch the car at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and stretch your legs with a redwood tree-lined kilometre walk to the McWay Falls; a 25m waterfall that spills off into the ocean.

3 Great Coast Road, New Zealand

Surrounded by ocean, it's hard to choose just one of our countless seaside routes to take a roadie on. However, we know when it comes to exploring the South Island, nothing beats the wild, weathered Great Coast Road. From Westport to Greymouth, the rugged 100km road clings to the coast as it traverses the old towns of Charleston, Fox River, Punakaiki and Rapahoe. Running the edge of the West Coast you'll be treated to views of stormy surf beaches, wind-worn cliffs and moody skies.

Top Spot:

Any attraction named after a brunch food is one you really can't miss and Pancake Rocks is no exception. Located in Punakaiki, the famous limestone formations are best seen from the 20-minute loop track that gives you a 360-degree view of the 30 million-year-old stones.

4 The Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

Short but oh-so-sweet, Norway's Atlantic Ocean Road's 8km drive is certainly one of the quickest yet most beautiful road trips you can take. Crossing over eight bridges that link Averoy with the mainland of Norway, it was voted the country's engineering feat of the century. The road, called Atlanterhavsveien by the locals, connects an archipelago of sparsely occupied Norwegian islands, giving you sweeping views of the Hustadvika Ocean and, if you're lucky, its blue whale population.

One bridge of the famous atlantic road (Atlanterhavsveien) in Norway. Photo / Getty Images
One bridge of the famous atlantic road (Atlanterhavsveien) in Norway. Photo / Getty Images

Top Spot:

Stick around till sunset for some of the most spectacular views as the ocean turns gold around you.

5 Amalfi Coast, Italy

Commonly described as one of the top locations in Italy, the Amalfi Coast is a spot that practically begs you to cruise around it in summer. Costiera Amalfitana, the road on the southern edge of Italy, takes you along a stretch of sheer cliffs, small beaches and pastel-coloured villages that will have you daydreaming of its cinematic views for years to come. Start in the popular town of Sorrento and travel east to the port of Salerno. The drive may only take two hours, but after stopping at the charming towns dotted along the way it's easily a trip that takes a day — or two.

Top Spot: Prepare for all your childhood dreams to come true when you visit the Grotta dello Smeraldo, 4km west of the Amalfi Coast road. The Emerald Caves are all kinds of magical, tucked 4m underwater and filled with brilliant green light.

6 Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

There's no better way to experience the wild coast of Northern Ireland than the Causeway Coastal Route. Taking you from Belfast to Londonderry, the 195km drive hugs the Atlantic coast as it winds through quaint villages, remote beaches and wild landscapes.

Drive it in less than four hours or draw it out into a long weekend and stop at towns like Carnlough, Ballycastle, Greysteel or Campsey. If by Londonderry you're longing for more of the Irish coast, continue along the Wild Atlantic Way and Mourne Scenic Route.

Top Spot: Whether you're a die-hard Game of Thrones fan or love a beautiful view, Giant's Causeway is well worth a pit stop. Made up of 40,000 basalt columns, the spectacular stretch of rock holds 60 million years of history and is a sight not to be missed.

7 Adriatic Highway, Croatia

While our daydreams about European getaways usually take place in summer, it turns out this Croatian road trip is best saved for the moody winter months. At 670km, the Adriatic Highway connects Rijeka in Croatia with Denovici in Montenegro as part of the European E65 route. The road trip may clock up more than seven hours of drive time but with stunning views of the Adriatic ocean on one side and grand mountain ranges on the other, you'll wish it was longer.

Top Spot:

Two hours into the drive, let yourself get sidetracked and head towards Jablanac Port where at the base of the Velebit Mountains you'll find Zavratnica Cove. With rugged cliff faces and turquoise water, this little inlet is a secret you won't want to share.

8 Garden Route, South Africa

White sandy beaches, mountainous forests, charming towns and boundless wetlands — the Garden Route has it all. Named after its lush and exotic vegetation, the South African coastal drive travels 300km from the Eastern Cape, through Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Little Brak River and Nature's valley to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape. With the second-mildest climate in the world, any time is the perfect time for this adventure as temperatures rarely dip below 10 degrees or above 28 degrees.

Top Spot: At the heart of the drive, Knysna is well worth an overnight stop to take in its lush forests, stunning lagoons and adventurous hiking trails.