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The great American road trip, it’s subject of cult films and literary lore, and a rite of passage in the realm of travel. Gather some travelling buddies, curate a Spotify playlist and follow these mythologised paths across US soil – we’ve made sure they hit all the best hotspots (and dodge the tourist traps) along the way.
1. Overseas Highway
Following paradisiacal Overseas Highway is a short-term affair (the drive can take as little as four hours), and great journey to tack on to a pre-existing plan to hit up Miami for Art Basel. Rent a convertible car and start in Key Largo, where the 113-mile-long series of bridges linking the Florida Keys begins. The starting point of this trip is a top snorkelling destination, so we recommend booking in a few hours to explore the shallow reefs at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. From there, your focus should turn to food. Try conch fritters at Alabama Jack’s and Iguana Bait beer at Florida Keys Brewing Co., with a stop along Islamorada for sunbathing on the beach. Your next traverse will be the Seven Mile Bridge, which straddles the turquoise Florida Strait and the Gulf of Mexico. This trip’s final destination is Key West, the former home of Ernest Hemingway and the ideal spot for a couple of beachy days to cap things off.
2. Route 66
Known as the “Mother Road,” Route 66 is perhaps the world’s best-known drive. Stretching from Chicago to LA, the road cuts through part of the South, winds through the Texas panhandle and hits Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexican landscapes before shooting through the deserts of Arizona and California. More than any other route, the 66 offers road trippers the chance to see a side of the States they might never be exposed to otherwise. Savour barbecue in Missouri and stop by the Ozarks, or make a pit stop in Phoenix before the home stretch to the City of Angels.
3. Pacific Coast Highway
Hugging the Californian Coast, the Pacific Coast Highway is nothing short of iconic, and a favourite route among bonafide road trippers. Stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles, this 655-mile excursion will take you from redwood forests to the beaches of SoCal. The number of TV show hotspots you’ll encounter (think: the Bixby Creek Bridge of Big Little Lies fame, and Marissa and Ryan’s OC) is a clear marker of the noteworthiness of this sliver of the US, while the varied views and gorgeous year-round weather make the trip even more worthwhile.
4. LA to Joshua Tree
A shorter drive for hikers and hippies at heart, the LA-to-Joshua Tree route is a favourite track to follow (and not just among the Coachella set). Rent a Jeep Wrangler and set out from the city in the early morning with cup holders locked and loaded with smoothies and cold brew. Make Palm Springs your night-one destination, stopping for a swim at the Ace Hotel and cocktails in The Parker lobby, a retro-esque celeb hangout built around an open fire pit. The next day, set out for the second leg of your journey through arid plains until you arrive at Joshua Tree for a day of stretching your legs. Once you’ve worked up an appetite hiking, stop by Pappy + Harriet’s barbecue restaurant and music venue in Pioneertown before heading back to Palm Springs for your last night. On the way back to LA, a drive-thru for In-N-Out burgers and fries may well be in order.
5. Charleston to New Orleans
This itinerary is one of the best ways to get a wide-ranging view of the Deep South. Start off among the pastel facades lining Charleston’s waterfront and head to Savannah, Georgia. Between samplings of fried green tomatoes, grits and the city’s famous pralines, make sure to carve out a day or two to check out Hilton Head Island just off the coast, where, after hours in the car, you can give your legs a workout on beach cruiser bikes and take advantage of the bathtub-warm ocean waves. Next, you’ll hit the South’s holy trinity of music – Atlanta, Nashville and Memphis – before making your way down to New Orleans for days of dancing and Creole cuisine.
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