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July 12, 2012


Coastal Drives – West Coast of USA, Amalfi and Antrim Coast

by Julianne Mooney

There is something exhilarating about driving along a cliffside, sheer drops to one side, towering mountains to the other, nothing stopping you from plummeting into the crashing waves below, but a skimpy piece of rail, if that. It is along such drives that you get panoramic views of the ocean, views that will take your breath away.

I have driven along some of the best coastal drives in the world, The Great Ocean Road in Australia, The Garden Route in South Africa, the stretch between Monaco and Nice and closer to home, the Antrim Coastal Road, Ring of Kerry and Inishowen Headland. These have been listed amongst the best coastal drives in the world and if my memory serves me correctly, each one seemed more spectacular than the next. I remember deep gorges, idyllic coves and charming seaside villages. Around each corner was another picture postcard, the photo opportunities were endless.

The best way to enjoy these coastal drives is to pack up a car, grab a map and take your time to enjoy some of the best scenery you will ever see. Move at a slow pace, stop off in the villages and towns, scale down the steep steps to the pristine, deserted beaches, stand still and watch the dolphins in the distance. Now this, for me, is a perfect holiday.

Today on Ireland AM I talked about some of my favourite coastal drives, which I hope will inspire you to embark on a similar adventure!

Information from the slot can be seen below.

NOTE: Special offer we did not have time to mention this morning was for Highway 1 and shame as it’s an amazing offer! Special Offers American Holidays : From €1335 includes return flights, 10 nights accommodation, 7 days car hire and insurance


A winding, narrow road hugs the Amalfi coastline, the steep cliffsides covered with chestnut trees, interspersed with vineyards, patches of olive and lemon trees. The Amalfi Coastal Drive has, deservedly, the reputation as Europe’s most spectaular coastal drive. The towns and villages dotted along the coast serve as idylic seaside retreats, the bustling Sorrento being the most popular, with beautiful architecture and an abundance of romantic restaurants and hotels making it a popular spot for couples. The town is a good base from which to explore the Amalfi coast as it has a good selection of hotels for all budgets and is easy to reach from Naples either by train or bus.

From Sorrento, the road climbs into the mountain up to St Peters Hill, a peak from where you can admire both the Bay of Naples and Bay of Solerno. The road moves to the brink of the cliffs, clutching to the edge and becomes a series of twists and turns. Panoramic views across to the small island of Capri are breathtaking. Often, a mist hangs over sea that was once called the Bay of Sirens.

Positano, known as the Vertical City, teeters on the edge of a cliffside. It has long being a popular retreat for writers and artists, with no real road in the village, therefore eliminating the sounds of passing cars and the pounding of feet from tour buses which are prohibited from stopping at the town. The buildings are built on top of one another, brightly coloured bougainvillea draping over the walls of the old houses. Positano is a romantic town and therefore, very popular with honeymooners, although accommodation is limited and significantly pricier than Sorrento. However, if you are doing your own driving holiday, you could spend a few nights in Sorrento, a night or two in Positano or the nearby town of Praiano, a sleepy village, with a few hotels, but with more affordable accommodation.

The road leads to Amalfi, a pretty town, its bustling town square dominated by the impressive St Andrews Cathedral. The narrow, cobbled streets are lined with shops selling locally made ceramics, paper and souvenirs, while cafes and restaurants offer respite from the afternoon sun. Boats line the harbour offering visitors tours along the coast and across to the picturesque island of Capri.This is a great thing to do as you get to see the coast from another perspective.

The road continues to the busy resort of Salerno, or you can drive into the mountains to the beautiful towns of Scala and Ravello.

The drive along the coast is not for the faint hearted with sheer drops appearing at every knife-edge turn and parking in the villages along the way is next to impossible. This, combined with the fact that the driver will spend most of his/her time watching the road ahead anticipating the next surprise along the lively road, can put people off doing the drive themselves. In this case, it is possible to do an arranged tour of the coast, which is a remarkably enjoyable day trip. Be sure to sit on the right side of the bus so you have the best views!

Getting There fly direct to Naples from €40 each way

Hotel Costs From €100 per room per night  

Special Offers Topflight – Fly 15th July for €599 per person – includes 7 nights accommodation, return flights, resort transfers, luggage allowance and representative service October Offers:  Stay at the exclusive 5 star Capa La Gala From €959pps includes B&B, return flights, resort transfers, luggage allowance and representative service.


The 120-mile Causeway Coastal Route runs all the way from Belfast to Londonderry, along the A2, and has been rated as one of the top ten road trips in the world. It is not until after Larne that the road begins to open up, offering views of the Irish Sea, across which, on clear days, you can see across to Scotland. The road is narrow and winding,with panoramic ocean views to one side and the verdant Glens of Antrim rising majestically on the other. There are many stops along the way, so the trip is best done over a few days.

Take time to stroll the main street of Glenarm, into the forest and perhaps time your visit to coincide with one of the open air concerts that take place on the grounds of Glenarm Castle during the summer. Small roads sprout off the coastal road leading you into the glens and one not to be missed is at Waterfoot heading towards Glenariff Forest Park. The forest has a campsite and some stunning walks through the magical forest. If you’re limited on time, do the boardwalk walk Cushendall is a popular spot with tourists as a base to explore the county, its streets lined with gaily coloured buildings, or mover further north to the sweet village of Cushendun, famed for its picturesque white cottages, curved sandy beach and pretty harbour.

If you have time, the best views are along Torr Head, a somewhat treacherous road, but with unsurpassed views across the ocean. Ballycastle sits on the other side of the headland and is a busy spot during the summer months, with plenty of bars and restaurant. It is from here you can take a boat trip across to the bird haven, Rathlin Island. From here, take the B15 so you can make a pit-stop at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It may take some nerves to cross the swinging bridge, but you’ll be rewarded by a short stroll around the rocky outcrop and a peaceful place to perch awhile and look north.

The main sights along the remainder of the road include the intriguing Giants Causeway, where you can visit the mysteriously shaped rocks that have been the source of many legends and myths. The recently opened Visitor Centre provides plenty of information on the formation of the columns of basalt, aswell as the folklore around it. Those who fancy a tipple can stop off in Old Bushmills Distillery, where you get a tour of the impressive distillery. If you’re looking for a good lunch or somewhere to lay your head, try the cosy Bushmills Inn.

The coastal drive continues along the north coast and not to be missed is Dunluce Castle, perched at the edge of the cliff, then stop off for lunch in Portrush and a walk along its beautiful beach and then continue on to the stunning Mussendun Temple.

Hotel Costs From €70 per room per night

Special Offers

Ballygally Castle – 2 nights B&B and 1 evening meal from £100pps

Bushmills Inn Hotel – 2 nights B&B & 1 evening meal from £178pps

Bayview Hotel – 2 nights B&B & 1 evening meal at £109pps midweek  

For further information please contact NITB Dublin office where they provide a free booking and advice service as well as securing all the best accommodation deals.

Tourist Information Centre, Suffolk Street, Dublin 2.

Callsave 1850 230 230, or click on


The road between San Francisco and LA, Highway 1, is one of the world’s best known coastal drives and while it can be done in a day, it should be enjoyed at a slow pace, taking in the mission towns, surf beaches and beautiful views. Get over your jetlag in San Francisco and discover the sophisticated city in two or three days, before jumping in the car, crossing the Golden Gate bridge and heading for the pretty town of Carmel. Carmel is one of the most romantic seaside towns in Monterey Bay, with an abundance of stylish small hotels and B&Bs and good restaurants.

Be sure to visit the superb Monterey Aquarium before driving the dramatic Big Sur coastline, along which you should keep your eyes peeled for sealife including otters, whales and seals. This stretch of road is windy and dangerous in parts, so care should be taken when driving it. Stretching 120kms it is a sparsely populated area so if you want to stay along the route, you are best to book beforehand as accommodation is limited. There are number of spots you can stop to appreciate the dramatic views from atop the sheer cliffs, looking down at the crashing waves of the Pacific. You don’t want to miss the impressive Hearst Castle, perched high on the mountainside surrounded by 123 acres of land.

A good place to visit and stay is Cambria, a popular town with artists and then move on to San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach before hitting Santa Barbara. It’s well worth staying in Santa Barbara for two or three nights, where you can immerse yourself in the Spanish influenced town, do excursions to local vineyards, enjoy the beach and just kick back and enjoy the California vibe, before heading to the glitz and glam of LA. A good time to do the drive is in November when the Santa Ana winds come in pushing the fog out of the cities, ensuring beautiful sets and perfect views.

Getting There Fly to San Francisco From €370 return (November) with and and

Hotel Costs From €60 per room per night  

Special Offers American Holidays : From €1335 includes return flights, 10 nights accommodation, 7 days car hire and insurance wine country tour 

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Amalfi Coast, Italy | Julianne Mooney
  2. My Top 5 Irish Coastal Drives | Julianne Mooney

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