The ultimate Cape Town road trip guide
Posted on 23rd September 2019 at 12:07
For those who love driving through open countryside there are stretches of road that pass sweeping sandy beaches and travel over dramatic mountain passes.
We spoke to Gwen Strachan, owner of Incredible Experiences about road tripping in South Africa. As summer approaches, warm and sunny days makes Cape Town the best place to visit for a holiday in South Africa.
We often get asked about how safe it is to travel around Cape Town, and the answer is that it is extremely safe and really enjoyable. The roads are well maintained, with the ever-changing landscape a delight for avid road trippers. Quaint little towns and gorgeous scenery is why even locals love self-driving in South Africa.
We’ve put together a suggested self-drive tour, with information on where to go and where to stay.
Start your journey in Cape Town
Cape Grace Hotel
The famous cosmopolitan city of Cape Town is where your journey should begin. Tt's worth spending a few days here enjoying fine dining, visiting a few museums and drinking in the view of the city, coast and mountains from the top of the iconic Table Mountain.
You can either collect your hire car at the airport or have it delivered to your hotel. There's a wonderfully scenic drive that loops south before returning to your Cape Town base. It takes you past the upmarket coastal suburbs of Camps Bay and Clifton and the sands of the Cape Peninsula National Park where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.
Here, baboons and Cape antelope, including bontebok abound, as well as rare marine birds such as black oystercatchers and Cape cormorant. However, most visitors want to see the thousands of charismatic blackfooted or ‘jackass’ penguins at Boulders Beach.
There is a huge variety of places to stay in Cape Town, ranging from tiny boutique B&Bs such as Acorn House to large, top-end international hotels like the Cape Grace.
Head off to the Cape Winelands
Leaving Cape Town, you should drive to the winelands, a short and easy journey of around an hour and a half. The scenery along the route is more mountainous than most people imagine, with the vineyards coating the green and gently sloping valleys.
We recommend spending two to three nights here, depending on how much of a wine connoisseur you are. Once at your accommodation, you can park your car and rely on either the historic wine tram or a private driver guide to get about and sample the wines on offer.
The dining options in the winelands are also incredible, with a huge array of world-class restaurants, many of which are fully booked up to five months in advance.
We recommend staying in Franschhoek at the boutique Akademie Street Guesthouse, which has just six rooms. The owners are art collectors with a real eye for detail and have hung original paintings in each bedroom. The property is also in an excellent location for walking into town for dinner.
Akademie Street Guesthouse
Travel past desert and mountains to the Garden Route
Leave the winelands and drive towards the start of the Garden Route at Mossel Bay. Also known as Route 62, it’s a truly breathtaking drive as youweave between mountains that rear out of the sun-baked surroundings. You can follow one of two routes. The fastest is via the motorway to Swellendam. Although the road is on the ocean side of the mountains, there are no sea views so if you have an extra day you should take the northern route around the mountain range on the R62 to Oudtshoorn instead.
This road gives you a wonderful insight into rural South Africa – with the added bonus of very little traffic. We love stopping at the little roadside coffee shops in the small historic towns and browsing through the antique shops before hopping back on the road. The total drive takes between four and five hours.
Oudtshoorn works well as a two-night stop. During Victorian times, it became the world's hub for ostrich farming to feed the European demand for ostrich feathers. The community became affluent, but as the sales have dwindled, so have the number of farms. Today, most have diversified into guesthouses.
La Plume guest house is our pick because of its quirky character. At daybreak you can head into the desert with a guide and, coffee in hand as the sun rises, spot the meerkat heads popping up out of their dens; well worth the early start.
Driving south from Oudtshoorn, the mountain road reaches the coast at the town of George and joins the Garden Route. At this point the R62 meets the motorway that hugs the coast heading east.
The Garden Route is so named because of the indigenous fynbos flora, which are low lying bushes and heathers that thrive in sandy soil. The coastline from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is the only place this flora occurs in the world and it's at its best in spring when the proteas, or sugarbushes, and other flowers are in bloom.
Spend at least three nights in this area around Plettenberg Bay. The lengthy pristine beaches here are great for swimming and you might be accompanied by one of the resident pods of dolphins.
Robberg Beach is home to thousands of seals and the Robberg Peninsula has marked walks allowing you to really drink in the scenery. You might spot whales and dolphins on these walks or, for closer sightings, you can take a boat trip.
At The Crags to the east of Plettenberg Bay, you can visit animal reserves where you can see elephants and monkeys. There is also Birds of Eden, the largest free-flight aviary in the world.
Emily Moon is where we always try to stay along the Garden Route. The guest house is owned by an antique dealer who has decorated it with items collected from throughout Africa and Asia. Set just outside Plettenberg Bay, the location is superb, overlooking a river which meanders to the ocean.
Culminate your road trip with a safari
Beyond the Garden Route, a number of safari reserves lie within the Eastern Cape. You can choose between the Addo Elephant National Park and one of the many private game reserves, including Kwandwe, Amakhala, Shamwari and Kariega.
Contact Gwen for expert advice about a road trip in South Africa.
Tagged as: Acorn House B&B, Akademie Street Guesthouse, Cape Grace Hotel, Cape Town holiday, Cape Winelands, Cape Winelands tour, Emily Moon, Garden Route South Africa, Holiday in South Africa, La Plume Guesthouse, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay, Road trip in South Africa, Route 62 South Africa, Self-drive tour, Shamwari Game Reserve, Summer in Cape Town, The Crags, What to do in Cape Town
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