Whether or not you’re cruising in a chrome-plated RV or sputtering alongside in a classic VW, there’s nothing fairly like the joys of hitting the highway in a camper van, the place you’re beholden to no timetable and restricted solely by your ambitions.
Most vacationers set their satnavs for the sleek highways of the outdated dependables – North America, Australia and New Zealand – and with good motive (not least the financial savings provided on expensive lodging), however these keen to navigate the potholes of roads much less travelled might discover richer rewards elsewhere.
No matter your desire, when journey restrictions are eased there are open-road adventures available in these eight locations which might be excellent for camper van journey.
1. Scotland’s North Coast 500
Greatest camper van journey in Europe
It was billed as Scotland’s Route 66, however the North Coast 500 is after all nothing like its US counterpart. Slicing a course by sodden carpets of heather within the bleakly-beautiful Highlands, the 516-mile route joins the dots between crumbling castles, weather-beaten fishing cities and middle-of-nowhere distilleries.
Lined with campsites, the highway itself incorporates the meandering mountain go of Bealach na Bà – the best freeway in Scotland – and swings by John o’ Groats, essentially the most northerly level in mainland Britain. Deliver your bathers in case the climate behaves: there are some surprisingly-beautiful seashores up right here.
Most campers begin and finish their journey in Inverness – the biggest metropolis within the Highlands – whose cosy pubs, a Nineteenth-century cathedral and a lofty fort bookend the journey properly.
2. Freeway 101 in California, USA
Greatest for seashores
Romanticised by beat writers and Hollywood movie administrators, the American highway journey is virtually a sub-genre of its personal. From Grapes of Wrath to Vanishing Level, Thelma & Louise to Sideways, the nation’s highways are suffering from nice plots.
Given the profusion of highway motion pictures which have come out of Hollywood, California is an apt place to (wheel) spin your personal 4WD narrative. The Golden State provides a handful of iconic itineraries, from Highway 101 to the filth tracks of Death Valley, however for those who solely drive one highway, make Route 1, properly, the one.
Lined with campsites, this feted freeway hugs the rugged Californian coast for 143km between San Simeon and the Carmel Highlands. All plunging cliffs and wave-lashed seashores, it’s the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline within the US.
3. East Coast Australia
Greatest for partying
Like koala bears to eucalyptus timber, road-trippers have lengthy been drawn to Australia’s East Coast, the place hedonistic surf cities, colourful coral reefs and paradisiacal seashores present the pretext for camper van capers.
Buckle up in Sydney, the place the booming market in used camper vans ought to produce a dependable set of wheels for these trying to purchase. Because the Opera Home disappears within the rear-view, the East Coast unfurls to disclose spectacular nationwide parks, offbeat islands and hard-partying cities akin to Brisbane, Cairns and Surfers Paradise. It’s not all boisterous seaside jamborees, although. Quiet tenting grounds will be discovered alongside the East Coast, together with many free websites, which frequently embody public barbecues for the compulsory shrimp tossing.
There are all types of East Coast road trip routes to take relying on the period of time you need to spend and which beautiful Australian websites you most need to see. The one exhausting half might be narrowing it down, or deciding the place to start.
4. Namibia overlanding
Greatest for wildlife
You’ll want a 4WD to sort out the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia, the place buzzing cities, stark desert scenes and wildlife-rich nationwide parks are amongst the highlights.
Most self-drive journeys start in Windhoek, whose Bavarian-style boozers are the right place to pore over maps and finalize routes. Be sure you set the GPS for Etosha, a Belize-sized nationwide park the place self-drive safaris and in-park tenting are permitted, providing early morning sightings of rhinos, elephants and lions earlier than different vacationers have completed funnelling by the gates.
High off your tour with spectacular drives by the shape-shifting sand dunes of the Namib Desert and a stop-off to eyeball the colossal rusting shipwrecks alongside the Skeleton Coast. A phrase of warning: Namibia’s roads are largely unfastened gravel and there are sometimes massive distances between cities, so ahead planning is important, together with camp-site bookings. In case you benefit from the experience, nevertheless, you would possibly end up hungry for extra alternatives for overlanding in Africa.
Greatest for tradition
The concept of driving in Japan might sound terrifying, however a highway journey right here is surprisingly serene: apart from the odd boy racer, Japanese motorists are typically courteous, while fashionable satnavs imply there’s now no want to fret about translating indicators. Having a cell house right here additionally saves on resort prices – a few of the costliest in Asia.
Wending their means from snow-capped peaks to palm-fringed seashores – through limpid lakes and primeval forests – Japan’s highways provide a privileged perspective on components of the nation that many guests don’t get to see. Replenish on tradition in addition to gasoline in pulsating cities, middle-of-nowhere temples and conventional villages.
With views of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashinoko, the Hakone Skyline Course is without doubt one of the nation’s most scenic drives, and is conveniently lined with helpful relaxation stops. No much less beautiful is the Mikuni Go, which tiptoes above primeval forest in Tokachi Subprefecture.
6. New Zealand
Greatest for hikers
Vacationers typically proclaim New Zealand to be one of the best vacation spot for a camper van vacation – and it’s exhausting to argue in any other case. From glistening glaciers to wave-lashed shores, its landscapes convey a sure grandeur to highway journeys, whereas its mountaineering trails and legion of campsites make the surroundings eminently accessible.
In case you like lofty peaks then chart a course by the North Island’s volcanic heartland, stopping off on the hiker’s paradise that’s Tongariro National Park. For rugged seashores take the ferry to the South Island and drive the windswept West Coast, previous Franz Josef Glacier to Milford Sound.
Shopping for a camper van is virtually a ceremony of passage for travellers in New Zealand. Trusty steeds will be bought at Auckland’s well-known automotive festivals, although there are many locations to hire for those who don’t need the effort of haggling. One other plus is the 200 or so campsites run by the Department of Conservation; unfold all through the nation, these spots provide low costs and wonderful amenities amid some unbeatable rural settings.
7. Chile’s Pan-American Freeway
Greatest for journey journey
It’s exhausting to lose your means on a camper van vacation in Chile, the place the foolproof Pan-American Highway runs nearly straight down the backbone of the nation, dispatching highway trippers to colourful colonial cities, arid deserts and verdant nationwide parks.
The sheer number of landscapes is staggering. It appears exhausting to consider that the Atacama Desert – supposedly the driest place on Earth – is present in the identical nation because the vineyard-carpeted Elqui Valley and the ice-blue glaciers of Patagonia.
It’s not all about pure wonders. The 3364km Pan-American additionally serves up swaggering seaside cities within the type of Iquique, La Serena and Valdivia, and, after all, the capital, Santiago, behind which loom the lofty peaks of the Andes.
8. Alberta, Canada
Greatest for households
Icefields Parkway manages to distil nearly every part that’s epic in regards to the Canadian wilderness right into a brisk 230-km camper van route. From glowing glaciers to wildflower meadows, snow-capped mountains to cascading waterfalls, this freeway packs in some severe surroundings.
Calling at Banff and Jasper National Parks, the route hits a candy spot in Might, when spring makes its presence felt within the flowery foothills, however snowboarding continues to be potential on larger floor for individuals who have packed their boots and poles. Come just a little earlier – in April – and you may even skate on Lake Louise.
Earlier than you come the camper van, take a detour to the sandstone hoodoos of Alberta’s Badlands, an alien-looking panorama the place a few of the rarest dinosaur fossils identified to humanity have been discovered. Dinosaur Provincial Park, a Unesco World Heritage website has an excellent family-friendly campsite alongside a wonderful customer middle the place kids can study in regards to the space’s prehistoric inhabitants.
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This text was first printed in April 2019 and final up to date in April 2021.