Whether you’re cruising in a chrome-plated RV or sputtering along in a vintage VW, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of hitting the road in a camper van, where you’re beholden to no timetable and limited only by your ambitions.
Most travellers set their satnavs for the smooth highways of the old dependables – North America, Australia and New Zealand – and with good reason (not least the savings offered on pricey accommodation), but those willing to navigate the potholes of roads less travelled may find richer rewards elsewhere.
Whatever your preference, there are open-road adventures to be had in these eight destinations perfect for a camper van trip.
For all-weather campers: Scotland
It was billed as Scotland’s Route 66, but the North Coast 500 is of course nothing like its US counterpart. Cutting a course through sodden carpets of heather in the bleakly beautiful Highlands, the 516-mile route joins the dots between crumbling castles, weather-beaten fishing towns and middle-of-nowhere distilleries.
Lined with campsites, the road itself incorporates the meandering mountain pass of Bealach na Bà – the highest highway in Scotland – and swings by John o’ Groats, the most northerly point in mainland Britain. Bring your bathers in case the weather behaves: there are some surprisingly beautiful beaches up here.
Most campers start and end their trip in Inverness – the largest city in the Highlands – whose cosy pubs, 19th-century cathedral and lofty castle bookend the journey nicely.
- Where to hire: Local rental companies include Highland Coastal Campers, Loch Ness Motorhomes and Inverness Campervans
- Rental costs: Campers from around £90 per day
For wannabe starlets: California, USA
Romanticised by beat writers and Hollywood film directors, the American road trip is practically a subgenre of its own. From Grapes of Wrath to Vanishing Point, Thelma & Louise to Sideways, the nation’s highways are littered with great plots.
Lined with campsites, this feted highway hugs the rugged Californian coast for 143km between San Simeon and the Carmel Highlands. All plunging cliffs and wave-lashed beaches, it is the longest stretch of undeveloped shoreline in the US.
- Where to hire: Local rental companies include Escape Camper Vans, Outdoorsy and Jurnii
- Rental costs: From around USD$65 (£50) per day
For the hedonists: East Coast Australia
Like koala bears to eucalyptus trees, road trippers have long been drawn to Australia’s East Coast, where hedonistic surf towns, colourful coral reefs and paradisiacal beaches provide the pretext for camper van capers.
Buckle up in Sydney, where the booming market in used camper vans should produce a reliable set of wheels for those looking to buy. As the Opera House disappears in the rear-view, the East Coast unfurls to reveal impressive national parks, offbeat islands and hard-partying cities such as Brisbane, Cairns and Surfers Paradise.
It’s not all boisterous beach jamborees, though. Quiet camping grounds can be found along the East Coast, including many free sites, which often include public barbecues for the obligatory shrimp tossing.
- Where to hire: Local rental companies include Wicked Campers, Hippie Camper and Travellers Autobarn.
- Rental costs: From around AUD$22 (£12) per day
For wildlife lovers: Namibia
You’ll need a 4WD to tackle the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia, where buzzing cities, stark desert scenes and wildlife-rich national parks are amongst the highlights.