Exploring Mulholland Drive: Top down in LA in a Mazda MX-5

It’s a name almost as well known as the city itself – Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, California.

A 15-odd mile (24km) stretch of historic tarmac that winds its way from a defunct Nike nuclear missile silo in Encino to the 101 Freeway in Hollywood.

Mulholland Drive is part of the grander 50-mile Mulholland Scenic Corridor that was designed in the 1920’s as a way for residents to access the mountains and beaches from the sprawling urban metropolis.

Named for city engineer, William Mulholland, the corridor essentially runs along the ridge of the Santa Monica mountains, from downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean.

The most famous section, Mulholland Drive, is a scant 15 minutes away from the botox-lined streets of Beverley Hills, and easily accessible in any car.

Starting from a lookout point above the Hollywood Bowl amphitheatre, the road feels strangely familiar.

If you are a movie buff like me, the yellow dividing lines and the cactuses on the hills are immediately recognisable from the number of films that have been shot along Mulholland over the years.

Aside from the arthouse David Lynch picture of the same name, one of the most famous is Lethal Weapon 2. The house on stilts is located here (7436 Mulholland Dr), and the scene where dear old Mel is hanging on to the front of a tow truck was also filmed on Mulholland.

The road itself is a bit of a mismatch. You've got some beautiful, newly paved sections, and other parts that don't look like they've seen a grader since the 1950s.

It winds its way along the ridge and in places can be bumpy enough to upset a little sports car, like the Mazda MX-5 that we have for the day.

Being on top of a ridge, the view on both sides, with Los Angeles downtown to the south and Universal City to the north, is absolutely spectacular.

The scenery ranges from areas of arid desert parkland through to built-up urban areas, and quite a lot of houses along the way. In fact, we've just passed Ben Stiller's house, and Madonna lives here as well.

There’s plenty of history in the houses too, 12850 used to belong to exiled director Roman Polanski and is now the home of Jack Nicholson. Our very own Paul Hogan calls 12400 home, and Pamela Anderson lives at 31340…

Through every twist and turn, there is a fabulous residence up on top of a hill. You really know you're in Tinseltown, it is a great LA experience. Things are only further amplified by seeing the Hollywood sign in the distance (closest access is right near 3395 Deronda Drive – but you can’t walk up to it any more).

Although it is a pretty heavily trafficked route, there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy the drive. So much so, you forget that you're just minutes away from one of the largest urban centers in North America.

If you are in LA and have access to a car and a clear morning schedule, it’s worth a trip to Mulholland Drive – you never know who you might see!

Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward.

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