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Wedding

Romantic Road Trips

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The quintessential honeymoon involves candlelit dinners, tons of champagne, perhaps a long stroll or two on the beach, and lots of private time away from work, in-laws, and post-wedding worries. But who says that means staying put in one place? Sure—some couples are more suited to unpacking their bags and setting up camp in a single destination. But in a time when experiential travel has become so overwhelmingly popular, wouldn’t it make sense to go on a choose-your-own-adventure?

It all boils down to what you want from your honeymoon. If sitting on a beach for a week is your vibe, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! But if you and your better half are the kind of couple who likes to get out and explore, a road trip honeymoon could very well be the answer. Hitting up a variety of places on a road trip opens up the possibility to stay at multiple vastly different properties—especially ones that might not be weeklong destinations in themselves, but are still delightfully romantic nonetheless.

Planning a romantic road trip, of course, is no small task. You’ll want to avoid impersonal interstates and frustrating traffic patterns at all costs, and depending on hotel availability and such, you might need a fair amount of flexibility in your plans. But the good news is that the world is vast, and by driving from one place to another, you’re likely to see more of it—and likely to make some unforgettable memories along the way. As the old saying goes, it’s not the destination, it’s how you get there.

Here are a couple of especially romantic road trips that could easily be tailored to suit your honeymoon needs. Buckle up!

Virginia: An Easy, All-American (But Still Romantic) Road Trip

While Virginia might not sound like an exotic destination, trust us—there are plenty of winding country roads, dramatic oceanfront seascapes, and rolling mountains to inspire romance on any honeymoon. Start by flying into Richmond, where you can pick up a car and then it’s a quick drive out towards the Chesapeake coast. The Hope & Glory Inn is a great place to spend a couple of nights and get your oyster fix by visiting the nearby Rappahannock Oyster Company and Merroir Tasting Room. Next up, drive west to experience Monticello, America’s oldest viticultural area, where Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards steals the show with its sweeping landscapes and farm-to-table restaurants. And next up, head over to the Shenandoah Valley where there are numerous small towns to explore the further west and south you head into the state. Our favorites include the Blackburn Inn in Staunton, the Martha Washington Inn & Spa in Abingdon, and the surprisingly chic Western Front Hotel in St. Paul on the edge of coal country. Just make sure to drive the country roads that parallel Interstate 81 so you’re getting an up-close and personal view of this gorgeous part of the country. At one point, you’ll actually be further west than Detroit, and from there, it’s not much further until you cross the border into Tennessee for a flight home.

Courtesy of La Résidence

South Africa: From Winelands to the Garden Route

An African road trip—what could sound more exotic than that? Cape Town has become a hugely popular destination for honeymooners, but staying in Cape Town is just a fraction of what this part of South Africa has to offer. Rent a car in the city, then make the easy drive up north to the wine lands, preferably Franschhoek where you can stay in Elton John’s favorite room at the over-the-top luxurious La Residence. Or if you want something a little more key, stay at La Clé des Montagnes Country Lodge; designed by local interiors powerhouse Jacques Erasmus, it’s designed to look and feel like your fanciest friend’s country house. After a couple of days of wine tastings and wonderful meals, it’s time to head to the coast—where just two hours away is the seaside town of Hermanus. There you can check into Grootbos, a private nature reserve, luxury lodge, and truly one-of-a-kind place to experience. The views of the mountains meeting the ocean here are some of the best in the world, and are sure to spark more than a little romance. Grootbos also offers safari-style game drives where you can learn all about the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the most important ecological biomes in the world. Even if you aren’t a plant-lover, you’ll walk away from two nights at Grootbos feeling like a botanist. Next up, it’s time to drive further East along the coast to the Garden Route, one of the most famous road trips in the world, where there is no shortage of scenery or adorable little seaside towns to explore (we recommend Knysna and Wildnerness). On this trip you’ll encounter the bustling energy of Cape Town, the quiet oenophile luxury of Franschhoek, the magical nature at Grootbos and the wild scenery of the Garden Route. By the time you reach Port Elizabeth, you just might want to double back and do it all over again.

See more: Skip the Airport Lines: These Are Honeymoons You Can Drive To

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Canada: Untamed Mountain Majesty

There’s a reason that it was rumored for a time that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry would honeymoon in the Canadian Rockies: the landscape here is one of the grandest and most unspoiled in the world. Start by flying to Calgary (which has many direct, quick flights to numerous American airports), where you can beat your jet lag with a night or two in this prairie city that has one of Canada’s most exciting food and music scenes at the moment. From there, it’s a quick ninety minute drive to Banff, where brunch or tea at the Banff Fairmont Springs Hotel is essential. You can stay here for a couple days of hiking or skiing, and then pop over to nearby Lake Louise to snap a picture in front of the iconic glacier-blue waters. And when you’re ready to hit the road, take the scenic Icefields Parkway north over the mountains (where the views are truly out of this world), and you’ll find yourself in the adorable remote town of Jasper. And while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex unfortunately did not bring their Fairmont Jasper Lodge honeymoon plans to fruition, it’s still fun to pretend they did—with fireplaces in each room and a luxurious spa fit for couples’ treatments, you’ll feel like royalty nonetheless. When you’re ready to head back to Calgary, it is perfectly acceptable to drive back the way you came, and trust us, you won’t mind having to drive the Icefields twice. But whatever you do, make sure to stop for a quick recharge at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa for a proper hot springs experience before catching your flight home.

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