5 of the best coastal road trips in Europe

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As far as views from your car window go, sparkling blue waters and tumbling waves are hard to beat.

Europe’s beaches come in all shapes and sizes, from wide sandy swathes to dramatic rocky shores, and there’s no better way to access them than by car.

Enjoy the vistas as you zip your way along the coast, stopping for a paddle or a picnic on the sand at your leisure.

Need some inspiration? Check out these 5 classic coastal road trips…

Cannes to Monte Carlo, France

Distance: 34 miles (55 km)

Experience all the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur as you make the short hop from Cannes to Monte Carlo. This part of southern France is home to prestigious casinos, luxurious beach clubs and fancy marinas lined with super yachts.

The drive itself can be done in just over an hour, but we suggest taking your time and making a day of it (at least).

Stop off in the seaside city of Nice to stroll the palm-flanked Promenade des Anglais and get lost in the cobbled streets of the old town. Or make a beeline for one of the region’s picturesque beaches – popular spots include Antibes and Plage des Marinieres, in the fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

If you have a bit more time to spare, carry on along the coast to Marseille and explore France’s second biggest city.

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Sorrento to Ravello, Italy

Distance: 24 miles (39 km)

No trip to southern Italy is complete without ticking an Amalfi Coast road trip off your bucket list. Commonly described as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, this iconic route zigzags its way along plunging cliffs, serving up dramatic sea views at every turn.

There are no less than 13 towns to call in at as you make your way from Sorrento to Ravello, each with its own character and charms.

The most popular of the bunch is Positano, with its black-sand beach and pastel buildings that tumble down the cliffside. Pull up a seat at one of the many waterside cafes to enjoy lunch with a view.

It's worth noting crowds and congestion are common on the Amalfi Coast in the summer months. So, if you’re looking for a more leisurely experience, time your trip for between October and April.

Faro to Cape St. Vincent, Portugal

Distance: 76 miles (122 km)

There’s no better way to explore the Algarve than by car, and the drive from Faro to Cape St. Vincent showcases the very best of the region’s striking coastline. As you head west, you’ll pass wide golden-sand beaches and secluded rocky coves lapped by the Atlantic Ocean.

If you want to break up the journey, Praia da Marinha – which often features on lists of the world’s best beaches – is the perfect midway point. After admiring the panoramic views from the clifftop car park, you can take the stairs down to the sand to enjoy a spot of swimming or sunbathing.

As you carry on towards Cape St. Vincent, take a detour inland to check out some of the pretty whitewashed villages that are synonymous with this part of the world.

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Bilbao to San Sebastian, Spain

Distance: 92 miles (148 km)

Venture off the highway and take the scenic route along the Bay of Biscay to explore a lesser-known part of Spain. This is the heart of Basque Country – an autonomous community with its own language, cuisine and cultural traditions.

About halfway through your journey you’ll arrive at the seaside town of Lekeitio, which is home to one of the best beaches in the region. A sandbar forms at low tide, letting you walk over to the island of San Nicolas for a wander.

Further along the coast, the port town of Getaria is the perfect place to enjoy grilled seafood fresh off the fishing boat.

Want to extend your trip? Carry on across the boarder into France to spend some time in the popular coastal resort of Biarritz.  

Bud to Kristiansund, Norway

Distance: 40 miles (65 km)

Take in Norway’s wild and rugged west coast as you make your way along the country’s iconic Atlantic Road. Connecting the island of Averøy to the mainland via a series of bridges, there are few other routes in the world that let you drive this close to the ocean.

The spectacular views change with the weather – one day you might be treated to glorious sunshine and still waters, the next you could be witnessing moody skies and windswept waves.

There are plenty of designated parking spots along the route for you to stop to take photos, stretch your legs, and see if you can catch a glimpse of a resident orca. Most of the local towns also offer boat trips and fishing excursions.   

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