South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries to take a road trip in! My experiences in South Africa were filled with kind people, diverse and glorious landscapes and dynamic wines that reflect the complexity of the soils they come from. Assuming you might land in Cape Town, the road trip could start from there! Renting a car is very affordable, I rented one for two weeks for under 300 Euro’s, went everywhere in it, and would do it all again in a heartbeat. I went to intern at a winery in The Little Karoo and then started my road trip up from there, down and back around to end in Cape Town. In this guide I share the details of my South African road-trip to help you plan your own. Cheers, to your South African adventure!
START YOUR SOUTH AFRICAN ROAD TRIP IN CAPE TOWN
Cape Town is an incredibly diverse and vibrant city. There are trendy restaurants, incredible history, and the classic V&A Waterfront. I stayed at Mojo Hotel, whose rooftop rooms and lounge really make the hotel. With Table Mountain always in your rear view, the city is a marvel full of diversity, a reflection of the country.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are not to miss, a lush biosphere of incredible plants. It is perfect for an afternoon of walking around. Bring a snack or drink to have on the grass in your chosen corner of the gardens! I visited after driving to Boulders Beach as a combined day trip.
THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
The drive out to the Cape of Good Hope is one of the most spectacular drives I have ever done. Twisting roads cut into the mountain and every turn reveals a view of the ocean that is even better than the last. The lookout points will blow your mind! The drive to the Cape is about an hour and a half from central Cape Town. As you drive by the various towns along the way there are small signs for the beaches, I recommend parking your car and get out for a twenty minute beach stroll or even a run! Along the drive you will also see an ostrich farm. I had to stop and feed them as they were so symbolic of our travels in South Africa.
You pay a fee to get inside the Cape Point Nature Reserve, where you can drive straight to the Cape or stop at viewpoints, take a hike, and explore the park. At the Cape, there is a sign with people crowding around to take their picture, cut past them and walk up the rock cliff for a beautiful view! One word of advice, do not take food out of your bags as there are baboons in the area and I even saw one snatch food straight out of a lady’s car! On your way back from the cape stop at Boulders Beach to swim with the penguins, and maybe Muizenberg beach for a second swim and an ice cream!
WINE TASTING IN STELLENBOSCH
Stellenbosch, a sweet little town, is like nowhere else in South Africa. The town centre has a hip vibe, filled with great restaurants and bars, all serving wines and spirits from the area. Wine tasting is almost overwhelming because of the enormous amount of wineries in a 50km area.
Winery choices depend on your preferences, but don’t miss the wines of Ken Forester, the Indian Runner Duck parade at Vergenoegd, and the beauty of Anthonij Rupert and Tokara wineries.
Wines the region is famous for are Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.
THE GARDEN ROUTE (N2)
The Garden Route is a 300 km stretch of land that goes from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth with a wide array of vegetation, landscapes, and coastal views. It’s a beautiful drive with many small towns to stop at if you have the luxury of taking your time.
Tsitsikamma National Park cannot be missed, there are beautiful hikes (one to a waterfall), a rocky coast, jungle like areas, and beautiful caverns. The town of Storms River is incredibly small, restaurants close early, but it is cute and close to the park.
Knysna was a pleasant surprise in my Garden Route bookings. The town has an incredibly laid back feel to it, cool markets, and great walks. There is the Knysna Quay which has souvenir shops and restaurants, but you get another new vibe when you cross to the next island. I suggest having a night on each! The Knysna Heads are a must see, have a drink or an ice cream while you look out over this incredible piece of land.
This was the first town I stopped in, and it is incredible to me how different it is from the end of the Garden Route drive, and that is exactly why this drive is a must do! A little rough around the edges, Mossel Bay had some amazing BBQ, authentic people, and lovely restaurants. While there is not so much going on in the town, there are a couple of hikes, and it is a cute place to unwind after active days. Plus there are a couple of private game reserves if you are interested in taking a safari.
ADDO ELEPHANT PARK
Addo is an extensive reserve on the eastern end of the Garden Route, that has a road going straight through it. I drove from the top to the bottom and started the Garden Route from there. It is so cool to spend a day going through the park searching for animals and come straight out of it to the highway at the bottom! You could pass several days in and around the park, or just pay once to go in it, it’s completely up to your safari interests. I stopped in the park, and did a three hour safari on horseback, which was a fun way to search for zebras!
THE GREAT KAROO
One of the reasons SA is so mind-blowing is its diversity and the Karoo is no exception. It is not exactly defined as an area, but is semi desert- think orange hills and aloe plants everywhere. It is divided roughly into the Little Karoo and the Great Karoo. My must see: The Valley of Desolation in The Karoo Nature Reserve. These rock formations formed under water are an incredible spectacle! Driving up from Graaf-Rienett you take a mini-safari up to two incredible look out points. Note you require cash only to enter the park!
THE LITTLE KAROO
The Little Karoo has an outback feel that is nothing like Cape Town or the Garden Route. Tiny restaurants serving ostrich and sweet wines give this area a rustic and authentic feel. Making your way to the sweet wines of Calitzdorp, roadside artists, wineries, and rough cut bars line the rural area.
Calitzdorp is home to award winning port wine, check out Boplaas and the glorious wines of Fledge & Co. If you feel adventurous, go up to the gorge in the mountains looking over and taste some of Peter Bayly’s wine. The back outdoor patio of Zumani Grill is sure to serve authentic dishes with a big smile! The town is full of antiques and rough around the edges charm.
Whether you do all of these things, or just one, South Africa is sure to have something for everyone. Be ready and get excited to welcome South Africa with open arms (just as it will welcome you)!
Have you ever been to South Africa? We’d love to hear your stories, tips or questions in the comment section below!
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Read More About South Africa
- South African Safari In The Karoo, Eastern Cape
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