Illustration for The Club by Eduardo Fuentes

DRIVING • November 2021

The Club’s favourite American escapes

Jonathan Thompson
Jonathan Thompson


With the US finally reopening to international visitors, it’s time to cross the pond once again. To celebrate, The Sunday Times’ US travel correspondent Jonathan Thompson and your fellow Executive Club Members share their favourite show-stopping drives away from the crowds…

Boston to Nantucket
Drive time: 3h 30m
Autumn is famously the best time to enjoy New England in all its glory, and this drive affords a glimpse of screensaver-worthy scenes before a swift ferry ride to its grandest island. Nantucket sits just 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, but feels a world apart with its stately mansions, cobbled streets and quaint pubs. Come for the 80 miles of pristine coastline and the Moby Dick origin story. Stay for lush boutique hotels such as The Wauwinet and The White Elephant, plus mouthwatering seafood and sunsets at Galley Beach.
En route: Stop at picturesque Plymouth, Massachusetts, where the Pilgrim Fathers famously landed in 1620.
Where to stay: Jared Coffin House, a charming historic hotel, where Moby Dick author Herman Melville stayed during his own visit.

Boston to Nantucket

A New England sunset in Nantucket

“A beautiful, scenic drive is from upstate New York, through Vermont and New Hampshire into Portland, Maine. It’s a picturesque New England drive that takes you through lush green hills, rapids, gorges and lakes – with lots of places to stop for beautiful photographs!”

- Victoria Knightsbridge, England, Blue Member

San Francisco to Napa Valley
Drive time: 1h 30m
Savour your own Sideways moment with this trip to pretty Yountville in the endlessly bucolic Napa Valley. A superb base from which to explore the celebrated wine region, this diminutive town is easily reachable from San Fran airport, with the drive encompassing sweeping views of San Francisco Bay. Yountville is all about good food as well as good wine, with more Michelin stars per capita than any other town in America. The French Laundry and Bouchon are (quite literally) the stand-out stars, but don’t miss the recently renovated Brix, too – the only restaurant in Napa Valley with an on-site vineyard.
En route: The last town before Yountville, Downtown Napa is a lively blend of fashion boutiques and wine-tasting rooms. For something a little more active (and socially distanced), it’s also a great place to rent kayaks and paddle on the Napa River.    
Where to stay:
Bardessono Hotel & Spa, for the ultimate eco-friendly luxury within walking distance of numerous wine-tasting opportunities.   

San Francisco to Napa Valley

Brix restaurant, Napa Valley

“The drive from San Diego to San Francisco is fabulous, going through the city of Los Angeles to the iconic small towns of La Jolla, Santa Barbara, Carmel and Monterey. Not forgetting the amazing coastal scenery”

- Lynn Georgiou, Bristol, Bronze Member

Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
Drive time: 3h 45m
The drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is along good, fast roads, with large portions of the route slicing through spectacular desert scenery. Head for the South Rim, a jump-off to the area’s best biking and hiking trails, as well as helicopter flights from the Visitor Centre – and one of the best views of the canyon from Mather Point. To stretch your legs after the drive, try walking the 1.2-mile Trail of Time – an easy portion of the main Rim Trail with handy signposts throughout.
En route: At the Nevada/Arizona border, take the time to park your car and walk across the magnificent engineering marvel that is the Hoover Dam.
Where to stay: Under Canvas, luxurious glamping in a secluded juniper forest near the South Rim entrance.

Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon

The Hoover Dam

“My favourite ever drive was through Monument Valley at sunset with the sun at my back and the red buttes and mesas shining red against a darkening sky”

- Peter Moore, Cardiff, Silver Member

Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park
Drive time: 1h 30m
Spanning the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado is as spectacularly beautiful as it is criminally underrated. The tiny town of Estes Park is a perfect hub from which to venture into the mountains (hardcore hikers will appreciate Longs Peak, just off the Colorado 7) and forests, as well as to book adventure tours ranging from white water rafting and fly fishing to cliff camping. From brown bears to rare birds, the wildlife watching here is a rare treat, too.
En route: Enjoy a quick pit stop in University town, Boulder – frequently voted America’s happiest place to live.   
Where to stay: The Stanley, the legendary grand hotel in Estes Park made famous by Stephen King’s The Shining

Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountains reflected in Estes Lake

“Route 66 is a must! We drove this in May 2019, spending almost three weeks on the road. We used our Companion Voucher for flights, booked a Chevy Tahoe through Avis and used Google Maps to pin things we wanted to see. Don’t miss Pops 66 in Arcadia, Oklahoma, where you can spend hours picking from over 100 different flavours of sodas!”

- Ashleigh Blaney, Glasgow, Blue Member

Austin to Big Bend National Park
Drive time: 7h
Everything’s bigger in Texas – including the driving distances across this colossal state. But Big Bend National Park is well worth the (scenic) slog from Austin. On the rocky Texas-Mexico border, you’ll find some of the best hiking in the southwestern US, as well as the star of the show – the Rio Grande river. Here, either kayak or raft from the town of Lajitas, and soak in the natural hot springs. Or take a side trip to the Mexican village of Boquillas (a border guard scans your passport before you hail a rowing boat from the far shore).    
En route: Break your drive in Marfa, the hipster-friendly arts hub beloved of celebrities and creatives alike.
Where to stay: Willow House, a unique desert retreat in Terlingua – an artists’ haven on the edge of Big Bend National Park. 

Austin to Big Bend National Park

Willow House desert retreat

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This article has been tagged Adventure, Driving