November 24, 2010
From the rugged coastlines and wilderness of the west to the Everglades in the south, the USA is best seen by road. Here are five of our favourite great American drives”¦
The West Coast’s great All-American Road is one long path through almost everything that’s great about the USA. Travel its length and you can pack some of the country’s most vibrant and varied cities, beautiful beaches, rocky seashores and wild forests into one trip.
The section along the Central Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco is justly celebrated, but heading north over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County you pass into an area where nature rules in a big way. This is the home of the dramatic Point Reyes National Seashore (great for winter whale-watching), where small windswept towns sit along a rugged coastline that heads all the way up to the so-called Redwood Empire, home to the world’s tallest trees.
The southern part of this huge highway makes a great side trip from Miami and travels all the way North to Tampa on Florida’s opposite coast, from which you can hop back across to visit Mickey in Orlando.
Between the two buzzing, Latin-influenced cities that give the trail its name, lies the northern border of the Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s this section heading across from from “˜Calle Ocho’ in Miami’s Little Havana towards swanky Naples that makes the trip worth it.
This is the swampy, untamed heart of the state, populated by an array of colourful birdlife, alongside bears, pumas and poisonous snakes. The whole road remains unfenced too, so watch out for crossing alligators.
Pejoratively dubbed ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ by Life magazine, Route 50’s legend has become its greatest asset, with the state officially adopting the slogan.
If you want to get a feeling for how vast America really is, this is the road trip for you. Entering Nevada from California at Lake Tahoe and passing through state capital Carson City, 50’s western end is a busy, four-lane thoroughfare. As you progress east past Fallon however, the traffic really drops off, leaving little but majestic mountain ranges and the nearly 400 miles of open road that pass between and over them.
True Americana, the landscape is punctuated (very occasionally) by former Old West mining towns, Pony Express-era service stations, Native American petroglyphs and ghost towns like Ruth, the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel Desperation.
Bustling Boston may be the centrepiece of any trip to Massachusetts, but if you want to capture the glory of the State, Cape Cod is a must for its quintessential New England scenery. And there’s no better way to take it all in than driving the length of the pleasingly semi-circular peninsula.
Route 6A takes a bay side course through American history, winding a tree-lined path through some of the country’s oldest villages. Beyond the gables and picket fences there’s the hilly, deeply forested Nickerson State Park and Sandy Neck Beach, six miles of beautiful seashore to stretch those car-weary legs.
The Main Street of America, the world’s most celebrated road, Route 66 may no longer officially exist in its original form, but its pull is as strong as ever.
The longest remaining continuous section of the historic route lies in Arizona, starting at Seligman, deep in cattle ranch country. The whole stretch can be covered in a few hours, but take it easy and take it all in.
Recommended stops: take a walking tour 210 feet underground at Grand Canyon Caverns, load up on soda and gifts at the frozen-in-time General Store and Museum in Hackberry and check out Peach Springs, HQ of the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
If you’re hitting the highway and you’re a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club member don’t forget you can earn miles with any of our car rental partners – Alamo, Hertz and Avis – in locations all across the USA.