Ever thought about taking a vacation to a gas station? No, me neither, but there are some stunning locations across the US and beyond that might change our minds.
Some are fascinating from an architectural perspective, while others provide additional entertainment for the whole family. Here are some of those gas stations that are destinations in their own right.
1. Teapot Dome Service Station: Zillah, Washington
Yes, this is a gas station in the shape of a teapot, but there’s a bigger story behind this unusual location. The design refers to a political scandal involving former Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall, who was caught leasing reserves to private companies without a bid process. The scandal has links to Teapot Rock in Wyoming, and the large teapot office behind the petrol pumps pays a dubious tribute.
2. Giant Amoco Sign: St. Louis, Missouri
I’m one of only a handful of English people who understand the American obsession with giant roadside monuments. If only I had more time to travel and tick them off! At the top of my list would be the world’s biggest Amoco sign, which looms large over a St. Louis intersection. BP now owns Amoco, and the gas station is decked out in the company’s green livery, but thankfully, they have retained the original sign.
3. Catterlen Hall: Cumbria, England
It’s possible to tour some of the UK’s best-loved gas stations, including this beauty from the north of England. The building that hosts Catterlen Hall’s remaining unused petrol pump was built in 1460, so it may be the oldest of its kind. The UK has a fascination for auto memorabilia, so it’s good to see that the solitary pump has been preserved.
4. Watergate Gas Station: Washington, D.C.
There are many reasons to visit this infamous area of Washington, but a gas station may not be the most obvious. In times past, the Watergate Gas Station was known for selling the most expensive fuel in the U.S., which has been forgotten due to other nearby historical events. Under new owners, Valero, prices are standard today, but there is still an element of gas tourism based around those exorbitant figures.
5. Matuskovo Gas Station: Slovakia
A trip to Slovakia is essential if you are serious about visiting a gas station for its architectural delights. At Matuskovo, the canopies are constructed in a flying saucer style, and the effect is breathtaking. Designed in 2010, it’s still a working gas station, and, all joking aside, it’s a stunning building.
6. Dunkle’s Gulf Service: Bedford, Pennsylvania
Anyone who is a fan of the Art Deco style needs to head here. Richard Dunkle opened the station at Bedford in the 1930s, and working services still bear the family name. While there have been many upgrades to the forecourt, the original Art Deco building remains, and we are all very thankful for that.
7. Skovshoved Petrol Station: Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen boasts at least two iconic petrol stations and a short drive from the ice cream parlor at Oliver’s will bring you to Skovshoved. The standout feature here is the architectural design, and the building is known locally as The Toadstool due to its enormous overhanging roof. It was built by famous Danish architect Arne Jacobsen in 1937, and it’s been described as “an icon of modernist functionalism.”
8. Hollow Mountain: Hanksville, Utah
At first glance, this appears to be a regular gas station. There’s nothing unusual about the canopies and pumps, but the difference is in the convenience store, which has been carved out of the surrounding rock. Opened in 1984, this is also a well-stocked store, which is ideal, as this is a remote part of Utah where you may not see any other stations for many miles.
9. St. Mawes Petrol Station: Cornwall, England
I regularly visited St. Mawes when my partner’s daughter was at University in Cornwall. Sadly, nobody shared my enthusiasm for the local gas station. The pumps were installed in the 1940s but were switched off 30 years later when they began leaking. Happily, a group of locals had the foresight to restore them, and they remain today as some of the best examples of gas pumps from that era.
10. Shell Station: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Even those with no interest in motoring history will know that the iconic logo of this major conglomerate is a clam shell. Once upon a time, giant shells formed part of many gas stations around the US, but only one remains. Head to Winston-Salem, and the giant bright yellow shell, complete with corporate red trim, is a feast for the eyes.
11. Rutherford B. Hayes’ Birthplace: Delaware Ohio
Would you like to see the birthplace of the 19th U.S. President? Take a trip to Delaware, and you can do that while filling up with gas simultaneously. Only a stone plaque remains as a memorial to Rutherford B. Hayes, while the remainder of the site is a BP Station. Maybe Hayes haunts the pumps, although no reports are confirming this.
12. Socialist Stations in Ljubljana, Slovenia
If you are fascinated with Soviet architecture, hopefully, the days have passed when you needed to keep that information to yourself. Petrol station enthusiasts, yes, they do exist, suggest that Slovenia is the best destination for socialist, modernist design, with the capital Ljubljana a prominent location. Around four of the best examples remain, including an impressive building designed by renowned Slovenian architect Milan Mihelic. A sprawling red and white roof with a single support resembles a toadstool.
13. Union 76 Gas Station: Beverly Hills, California
Everything is over the top in Beverley Hills, including its gas stations. The Union 76 might win the prize as the most Instagrammable fuel station in the world, an award that I’ve just invented. Its sweeping, upward-curving roof is the focal point, and it was designed in the 1960s by architect Gin Wong. A nighttime visit is best; the dome looks magnificent when fully illuminated.
14. Brighstone Petrol Station: Isle of Wight, UK
I drove past this station in 2019 and was struck by the sign for National Benzole, a company that closed in the 1990s. It has a compact forecourt, typical of those seen in the UK in the 1970s, and, for those who can remember back that far, Brighstone Garage offers pure nostalgia.
15. U-Drop Inn: Shamrock Texas
If you’ve ever watched a documentary about Route 66 or a music video on the same theme, chances are you’ve already seen the U-Drop Inn. It’s an iconic piece of Americana, as a popular cafe with a tower gas station. It features another art deco design, and after falling into disrepair, a federal grant in 2003 means that the U-Drop Inn has been restored to its former glory.
16. Olivers Garage: Charlottenlund, Denmark
If the first suggestion has whetted your appetite, why not consider an overseas trip to a European gas station? You can’t pump gas at Olivers Garage anymore, and that’s the case with several entries on this list. However, the motoring paraphernalia remains a stunning piece of modern architecture. And you can now enter the former shop to purchase some delicious organic ice cream.