Rapid 2 week roadtrip around the US West Coast States

My favourite road trip – the contrasts of natural landscape along the way with snowy mountains, red / yellow deserts, and temperate rainforests; the tasters of the different culture snapshots of the US with conservative cowboys through to uber-liberal SoCal and Pacific North West; the sheer world-fame of some spots like Las Vegas, LA, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon; but more than anything – its a trip that is simply perfect for driving.  The distances involved, the way the US in particular is set up for the drivers and the scenery to take in in between the obvious highlights is just world-beating

It’s also a super high octane trip – 4200 miles / 6760km of driving – the sort of thing you rattle off in your 20s, when you have the energy, 2 weeks of vacation and are keen to see and do everything.  There’s something just so incredibly fun and fantastic about seeing one world-famous site one after the other in rapid succession – one day being in the likes of Yellowstone National Park, the next in Arches National Park, the next the Grand Canyon, the next Las Vegas, the next LA etc etc.  An exciting whirlwind that creates a feeling most will never forget . . . and in a way equally spoils / sets the bar incredibly high for any other trip

A bit rushed? – on the trip itself, we didn’t feel overly rushed.  Again, we had 2 weeks vacation and wanted to see as much of this part of the world as possible.  For example, I actually found a day / half day in each of the national parks perfect to do a basic walk, see the main attractions and get the feel for them.  But of course, it would have been nice to spend longer in each – perhaps take a 3 day hiking trip across one of them.  Or perhaps see some of the other pieces we of course missed along the way.  Ultimately, I always suggest avoiding the mass tourism standard experience on offer, and I shudder just thinking of trying to do this again, but in a part of the world that has world class sites one after the other, the gorging on them was great fun

Campervanning through Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone – the name itself conjures up images of harsh, snow covered lands with roaming wolves, bears and bison; geysers (60% of the world’s geysers are found here) and truly wild nature – a real untameable wild west, and the first National Park of the US.  To get more of this feeling, and avoid the rush of summer visitors (30,000 a day at peak times), I’d suggest doing a couple of things: 1. Go as the park opens up in May (or closes in October).  You’ll have a few things limited due to the snow, but it doesn’t hold back the overall experience.  2. Try some of the back country trails, in addition to the key major attractions.  One of the main reasons less than 5% of visitors try this is a fear of the wild animals, so to counter this make sure to ask the advice of the rangers and, if needed, arrange a ranger-led hike.  We got some advice and headed to 2 spots where it felt like there was no one for miles around.  Didn’t hike far – maybe a couple of hours or so, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves with that wild feeling we were hoping for

We took a campervan around as part of a large 2-3 week trip (see here for Rapid 2 week roadtrip around the US West Coast States), which is super easy to do as Yellowstone is geared up for exactly this.  The “Grand Loop” drive of 132miles / 230km goes through most of the key sites and is well positioned if you want to jump off and find something slightly out of the way.  We stayed the night near the Fishing Bridge of Yellowstone Lake which had some great views

A note on the type of scenery – Yellowstone is less about the stunning individual features that you may find in a Yosemite National Park, Arches National Park, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley etc.  Whilst it does have some great waterfalls and the likes of Old Faithful, its more about the vast size of the place.  So think less about turning the corner to suddenly be presented with an El Capitan or towering sandstone buttes from a western movie; its more about driving and hiking across Yellowstone’s vast area

As we were on a super tight schedule we only had 2 days in Yellowstone, which was enough for a glimpse and to get a feel for the place.  But I would love to have stayed longer and done maybe some more hiking there

If you are driving through Yellowstone, be sure to take the time to at least drive through Grand Teton National Park – its is only an hour or so to the South and it is arguably even more impressive from a vista point of view than Yellowstone – see the travel entry Driving through Grand Teton National Park for more details

10 days campervanning around the South Island of New Zealand

New Zealand’s South Island has some of the most rugged natural beauty of anywhere in the world with world famous sites such as the fjords of Milford Sound, the Frans Joseph and Fox glaciers, and the adrenaline sports of Queenstown, yet is also super accessible by road and very compact to get around.  The combination of these factors makes it one of the most appealing places for a roadtrip and I’ve listed below a great 10 day itinerary to get the best of the island