The Call Of The Wild: 5 Amazing Road Trip Destinations

Posted on November 19, 2013

We have teamed up with our friends at The Inertia to bring you the "Call of the Wild"- a monthly series of editorial features that will cover every aspect of heeding the call. This month we're sharing five of the best road trips you could ever take (in our opinion), where the horizon stops being a finish line, and begins to become something to chase without ever expecting to catch.

It’s funny how immensely popular getting away from life is, and how prevalent that feeling is in the surfing culture. Photo: Haro

A good road trip is something every surfer talks about at some point. Surfing has a certain something, a certain je ne sais quoi, that just begs for the empty road. There is plenty of surf in places where creature comforts are readily available, but where’s the fun in that?

On a good road trip, at every corner you turn, over every hill you crest, there’s something unexpected. Even the boring stretches take on a sort of whimsical charm. When the light hits the cracked, white pavement just right, something strange happens. What was previously just plain old pavement burning in the heat of the day turns into a shimmering pathway to the unexpected. The inevitable boredom of a long trip is fractured, if just for a few fleeting moments. The horizon stops being a finish line, and begins to become something to chase without ever expecting to catch.

Three months ago, I packed a van full of stuff and a girl, then pointed south and didn’t stop. I’m still in the van. For better or for worse, it’s a trip, in both senses of the word. After watching Cyrus Sutton’sCompassing I was struck by a few things: how immensely popular getting away from life is, and how prevalent that feeling is in the surfing culture. “I’d credit Foster Huntington for creating #vanlife,” Cyrus wrote me in an email regarding van life. “Glad you’re feeling it.”  I’d credit Doc P, I thought. But whoever it is that started the movement doesn’t really matter. What matters is where you’ll go. Like my favorite doctor used to say: Oh, the places you’ll go. You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way! Here are five of the best road trips you could ever take. And of course, fill us in on your story in the comments section below for a chance to win $200 worth of gear from Howler Brothers, perfect for those fall road trips.

1. Canada to Mexico – West Coast (Vancouver to Tijuana, 2500 km/1500 mi-coastal route).

Take this road and find everything you’re looking for. Photo: Matt Bauer

The road from Canada to Mexico is beautiful. Things change from country to country, even when it’s two countries as similar as the US and Canada. The air smells different. Street signs have slight changes, and there’s some kind of something that lets you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. It’s still there when you get off a plane, but it’s been diluted by the global village syndrome – that oft-touted-as-a-good-thing term for the modern technology making the world a smaller place.

The coastline from Washington to Oregon is surreal in its visual beauty. It seems as though massive parts of the coastline have broken off and made their way out to sea before coming to rest in the shallows. The Pacific’s fury is unleashed on them, battering them with open ocean swells. But when Mother Nature is feeling pretty, she puts on a yellow sun dress and caresses these states with a gentle touch. Waves are everywhere, and due to the long coastline, they’re often empty.  In between the giant, crowded cities of California lies mile after mile of empty wonder. As you move south, things slowly change. The grass on the side of the highway changes shades. It gets taller and has more ridges, grabbing your legs on pee breaks. The ocean seems less angry, and the sun is undressed by clouds more often. The waves get better, and the water, degree by degree, gets warmer. Beer is cheaper, and before you know it, you’re in sunny SoCal among the glitter and glam, feeling sweaty, dirty, and out of place. It’s a wonderful feeling. Next stop: Mexico.

Must Stop Surf Spots:.

Washington – La Push: Probably not worth the trip in the dead of winter. La Push swallows as much swell as the ocean can throw at it, and in this part of the world, that’s a lot. But find it on a good fall day or with something in the water in the summer… you’ve found a chilly paradise.

Oregon – Lincoln City State Beach: Thumping beach break on those bigger days. The outside here holds larger swell, and there are plenty of peaks to choose from.

California – Trestles: Of course it’s Trestles. Although you’ll never find perfect Lowers with no one out, the crowds are worth the wave. And if you really can’t handle it, just head north or south for some other almost-Lowers waves.

2: East Coast of South Africa – (Cape Town to Durban, 1700 km/1056 mi-coastal route).

If you’re road tripping to this spot, you’re a braver man than I. A lesser-known big wave spot near Cape Town. Photo:

Africa is so big. It’s so incredibly big! On a map, Cape Town to Durban looks like nothing, but in reality, it’s an incredibly long way, and it’s only the slightest fraction of the Dark Continent. Following the Indian Ocean, part of this route includes the Garden Route, which boasts the most incredible array of things to do. From hiking in old-growth forests to pristine white sand beaches, the Garden Route also includes an almost endless capacity for discovery. Swell comes around the horn and up from the south, making this part of the drive a surfer’s dream. Heading further north, roadtrippers run into the Wild Coast, where the hills roll slowly into the edge of the continent and down onto miles of empty beaches and empty waves. While Africa’s size might be daunting, it’s also what makes finding those waves that no one else has so much easier. And once you hit Durban, you can wash off the dirt from your trip in South Africa’s largest city.

Must Stop Surf Spots:.

J-Bay – J-Bay has long been a contender for the title of World’s Best Wave. Get it on a good day (or even an average one) and there isn’t much point in going anywhere else. A curving lava reef gives this wave its perfect shape, and gaps in the reef that fill with sand give it just enough of a mix-up to keep it interesting the rest of your surfing life.

Long Beach – Situated on the Atlantic side of of the Cape Peninsula, Long Beach is incredibly consistent. While it’s not great for the big stuff, there’s always the Outer Kom, which can give you a real run for your money.

3: Australia’s Great Ocean Road (243 km/151 mi-coastal route).

Winkipop. If you’re lucky, you’ll see it like this as you’re pulling up. Photo: Lucia Griggi

The Great Ocean Road has Bells Beach. That should be enough. But there’s so much more, and it goes far beyond our tiny little world of surfing. Winding along the Southern Ocean from Geelong to Portland, the Great Ocean Road was built primarily by soldiers and is dedicated to their fallen comrades in World War 1. Much of the coastline it hugs is sheer cliffs, beaches, and rain forests, and is known as the Surf Coast. While it’s not incredibly long, such sights as the Twelve Apostles, imposing limestone towers formed by erosion that sit right off the coast. Interestingly enough, there are actually only eight towers – there were nine until 2005, when one collapsed, a fate that will eventually befall all of the Apostles, thanks to that inevitable corrosion called erosion.

It’s not only the Bells Beach surf spot that can be found along the Great Ocean Road, it’s countless others, many of them un-named. Step on the gas and go find your own.

Must Stop Surf Spots:.

Bells Beach – Home of both the Rip Curl Pro and the Fifty Year Storm (RIP Bodhi), Bells is an icon in the surfing world. Including Centerside, Rincon, Outside Bells and Bells’ Bowl, Bells takes anything from 2 to 12 feet, and sometimes bigger. Long, fast walls paired with incredible surfers have turned it into a legend.

Winkipop – Just to the east of Bells sits Winkipop, a long, fast hollow right-hander. Winki is cut off from Bells by something called the Button, a rocky point that crawls out into the ocean. If you make the trek to Bells Beach, you have to swing over to Winkipop.

4: USA’s East Coast – Florida to Maine (3000 km/1900 mi-coastal route)

It’s funny how immensely popular getting away from life is, and how prevalent that feeling is in the surfing culture. Photo: Haro

Come hurricane season, there aren’t too many places better than the East Coast. Barrels galore to be found here. The Atlantic ocean whips up storms that make landfall anywhere from the southern tip of Florida to Nova Scotia, and anywhere north or south. They’re hurricanes, and they go where they want. All we can do is hope they don’t cause too much damage and bless right coasters with that perfection that we all know the other side is capable of. A few years ago, Zach Weisberg, the Editor-in-Chief/Founder of this brave little dingy afloat in the giant stormy seas of the internet, did this trip for a story with SURFER Magazine. “Of all the surf trips I’ve been on, I think my road trip from Miami to Maine with photographer Patrick Ruddy was my absolute favorite,” he says. A big part of road trips are the people you meet along the way, and the people along this particular way are something special. “It wasn’t necessarily exotic, but the warmth of the people in each surf community and the way American culture and hospitality transformed as we made our way north was amazing. Can’t beat the people back East.” And of course, the all important question: how were the waves? “We scored perfect waves in the Outer Banks and New Jersey. We couldn’t have planned it better.” Truer words were never spoken.

Must Stop Surf Spots:.

The Outer Banks – North Carolina’s jewel of Hurricane season offers some of the most scenic surf shots you’ll ever see. Perfect sandbars trip waves into peeling barrels while stilted houses watch precariously from the sand. Make sure you time this right, though… driving by perfection when it’s not perfect is not a good feeling.

Ruggles – Newport, Rhode Island does indeed have fantastic waves, and they’re set in the most pristine setting. Not only is one of the best point breaks on the right coast, it was recently saved from a stone break wall and two jetties that would reach directly into the middle of the line up. Hurray for progress!

5: Portugal – Braga to Portimão (700 km/450 mi-coastal route).

It’s funny how immensely popular getting away from life is, and how prevalent that feeling is in the surfing culture. Photo: Haro

Portugal seems to have sprung into surfing’s collective consciousness. While Supertubos has always been a world-class destination, the other nooks and crannies that punctuate Portugal’s coastline have seeped slowly into the general public’s headspace. And with the big wave spot at Nazaré’s North Canyon, the non-surfing world has sat up in their seats, too.

Portugal, like most of Europe, is steeped in culture. Because of its positioning, with Spain to the east and the Atlantic to the west Portugal has long been a melting pot of different cultures, and they’ve been developed into one of the world’s culturally rich places. Surf perfect, uncrowded waves, and better yourself as a person here. This is not a place for the Spicoli stereotype.

Must Stop Surf Spots:.

Supertubos – World class barrels bless this Portuguese paradise. When it’s on, there’s almost nowhere else in the world you’d rather be. This beach break has offered up some of the most exciting contests in memory. Big, sandy death pits wait for those who dare venture out on the right day, and the beauty of Portugal waits for those who don’t. Not a bad fall back plan.

Praia Azul – Central Peniche is one of the most wave rich places on the planet, and Praia Azul has its fair share of those waves. Due to the sandy bottom here, waves shift around each year, but there’s always somewhere to find. If it’s not working at Praia Azul, chances are it’s not working anywhere.

Tell us your best road trip adventure! Add them in the comments section on this post at Best one wins $200 worth of gear from Howler Bros, perfect for those fall road trips. Congratulations to Stanley Cupper for winning the last prize pack! Read past installments from The Call of the Wild Adventure Series.