As a young man, travelling from point A to point B was all about getting a friend to double you on their BMX.
Those days are long gone and in front of you now is a different kind of ride. It’s a little more upmarket, it has an extra set of wheels and it makes the kind of dirty noises that will make any EPA officer weep tears of disdain.
That is your big boy’s ride and these are the world’s best roads to drive it on. Grip on to that wheel and find out if these ten roads reside on your door step.
New Zealand: Skippers Canyon Road
Like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Skippers Canyon is beautiful and potentially lethal. Located outside Queenstown, the gravel road is narrow and steep, with sheer drops of several hundred metres. Caution and focus are compulsory if you plan to attempt it. Though fatality numbers are relatively low, Skippers Canyon is still consistently named one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
New Zealand: Arthur’s Pass
If your adventurous side is intrigued by the words “extreme engineering,” Arthur’s Pass is a trip you can’t miss. The spectacular route through New Zealand’s southern Alps is a coast-to-coast passage across South Island, achieved via a miraculous mix of viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes. Keep an eye out for the kea, the mischievous mountain parrot with a reputation for mangling unsuspecting automobiles.
Japan: Iroha-zaka Winding Roads
Iroha-zaka is a pair of winding roads that connect the lower elevations near central Nikko to the higher elevations of the Okunikko region. Used by ascetics in a former life, the Iroha-zaka Winding Roads are composed of 48 hairpin turns, each of which corresponds to a letter of the ancient Japanese alphabet. The turns are all labelled with their respective characters, which you’ll pass in alphabetical order along your journey.
Japan: Hakone Hill Climb
The iconic Hakone Hill Climb is a bucket list item for drivers in Japan. The road took the pioneers of drifting to the remote mountain passes where the technique was born, and has a surface that’s better suited to a speedway than a normal street, making it the place to go if you want to put your skills to the test. Since it’s a privately owned toll road, odds are good that traffic will be minimal and you’ll have free range to explore its twists and turns at your own pace.
Australia: Macquarie Pass
If drivers had playgrounds, this would be it. Macquarie Pass is a treasure trove of features that make car lovers go weak in the knees. Narrow roads? Check. No centre-line? Check. Limited visibility? Check. Dangerous drop-offs? Check. Hairpin bends and steep roadways? Check and check. All that adds up to a reputation for serious accidents that may deter more timid drivers, but thrillseekers can’t miss it
Australia: Great Alpine Road
If you noticed a similarity in name to the Great Ocean Road, you’re on the right track. The Great Alpine Road is one of the best driving roads in Australia because it’s considered the mountain equivalent to Victoria’s famous oceanside route. Take this one slowly, piece by piece, to make the most of the towns, wineries, restaurants, fishing spots and scenic stops you’ll find along the way. The Alpine National Park is particularly worth a visit if you’re into Instagram-worthy flora and fauna. Drive it during Winter when it’s covered with snow and you have balls of steel.
United States: Avenue Of The Giants
No trip to Northern California is complete without a visit to the state’s famous redwood trees. For gearheads, that visit should be a fuel-driven sojourn down the Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The ancient trees make this a more-than worthy addition to your bucket list. They stand hundreds of feet tall and one is over 950 years old – and it’s not even the oldest in the forest. For something even more unique, the Avenue of the Giants includes three trees visitors can drive through.
United States: Tail Of The Dragon
Is this the most badass expanse of asphalt in all of America? Some would say yes. This classic destination (particularly for motorcyclists) forms a swirling ribbon through the heart of the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. It’s not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The name comes from the road’s resemblance to a dragon’s tail when viewed on a map, which means what you’re getting is a serpentine stretch of 318 stomach-wrenching blind twists and turns. Mistakes made here are met with dire consequences, but avid drivers are undeterred.
Switzerland: Grimsel Pass
The downside: Grimsel Pass is located near the Grimsel Test Site, which is used for research into underground radioactive waste disposal. The upside: everything else. The road traverses a wild and barren mountain landscape at an elevation of 2,164 m. If you’re not good with numbers and geography, that makes it one of the highest paved roads in Europe and an engine-load of fun to drive. It’s not considered particularly dangerous, but it has its fair share of bumps and hairpin switchbacks.
Italy: Stelvio Pass
Do you need more than that picture to convince you Stelvio Pass is worth a visit? At an elevation of 2,757 m above sea level, it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the second highest in the Alps overall. Its 60 hairpin turns have seen plenty of accidents, so don’t overestimate the abilities of your vehicle, but don’t let that deter the more cautious among you from the experience. There’s a reason Top Gear named it the “greatest driving road in the world.”