Why is it whenever I see a Volkswagen van, I just want to travel? It must be their association with peace and love-loving hippies who used them in the 1960s and 70s to roam without a care from beach town to beach town and from music festival to music festival that makes them the symbol of freedom and wanderlust they are today. If you feel the same, you’ll want to check out these five incredible places to rent a volkswagen camper van and travel like a hippie.
1) Southern England
Start a summertime English jaunt in Cornwall, a peninsula at Britain’s southwestern tip where you can tour seaside villages, surf, meander through the countryside and camp in style at a music festival (ladies, here’s your chance to finally post a photo of yourself wearing a flower crown). For the most fitting set of wheels, check out Cornish Campers, whose fleet of vans includes the spacious, yellow and white Mrs. Robinson, which was built in 1969. Located just two and a half hours by car from London along the country’s central southern shore, New Forrest Safari Campers also has a groovy-looking fleet of vans and tons of resources to help you plan the best road trip ever.
2) Southern France
From quiet medieval villages to lavish seaside cities, exploring Southern France is like living in a dream (or living in reality if you’re a supermodel or a European prince). You can visit wineries, indulge in French cuisine (hello butter, garlic, truffles and cheese), swing by Monaco to catch the Monaco Grand Prix, stop in Cannes for the Cannes Film Festival, spend a day on the beach in Nice or rub shoulders with the 1% in Saint-Tropez. For a classic ride, check out 69 Campers, whose 1968 VW van named Amélie sleeps four. Also in Southern France’s Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, you’ll find Freewheelin’ Classic Campers, which offers two beautifully restored vans from the 1970s.
3) Southern California
When you think of cruising in a vintage VW van, you probably envision surfboards on the roof, a warm Pacific Ocean breeze in your hair and The Beach Boys playing on the stereo. To help you turn this Southern California dream into a reality, there’s Vintage Surfari Wagons, purveyors of classic VW vans based in Costa Mesa (which is about a one hour drive south of Los Angeles International Airport). Stick to the coast and explore San Diego, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Big Sur and San Francisco. Or head inland to roll through redwood forests, Yosemite National Park, the Mojave Desert and California’s southern, central and northern wine regions. And if you don’t want to go at it alone, Vintage Surfari Wagons also offers self-driven group tours.
4) Southern Spain
Andalusia, an autonomous region in Southern Spain, is home to over 500 miles of Atlantic and the Mediterranean coastline and more protected natural areas than anywhere else in Spain (including the Tebernas Desert). It’s also the birthplace of flamenco dancing and bullfighting (i.e. the most Spanish things you can think of). To experience it all at your own pace, check out Weekend Wagon, whose fleet includes the MickyVan, a red and white Westfalia model van built in 1970. If Spain sounds nice but exploring the coastline and wine regions of Portugal sounds better, Camper Tales can hook you up with a vintage van and also direct you to the best surf spots.
5) Western Montana
Home to America’s most untouched and wild places, a visit to Montana can feel like a visit back in time. But ditch the horse-drawn wagon used by westward bound pioneers of days gone by and opt instead for a VW Westfalia camper van from the 1980s. Based in Missoula, Montana, Dragonfly Vans offers a growing fleet of totally rad VW vans perfect for camping and fly fishing trips, as well as exploring nearby national parks like Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. In these rugged parts, the van’s small size will allow you to access places large RVs can’t — plus they’re a more comfortable and mobile alternative to tent camping. It’s a win win.
Photo credit: top photo by grassrootsgroundswell, all other VW van photos by their respective companies.