The ultimate road trip in South Africa

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South Africa is a big country and there is much to discover in this country. When you do a road trip in South Africa, I recommend you stay at least three weeks. In three weeks, you can already visit a lot. If you have the time and budget, I suggest you stay even longer.

This is a long list and if you are on a tight schedule, I would leave some places out. The best way for a road trip in South Africa is by car because by public transport it will take a while and you need to calculate more time. Besides that, there are some places you can’t do by public transport like the national parks. Then you need to book a guided tour to visit the national parks.

Tip: book separate flights so you can cross the whole country. For example, what we did was landing at Cape Town and we departed from Johannesburg. Make sure you rent a car that is allowed to return in another city (normally you pay a fee for this).

It’s possible to drive by yourself in the national parks and I recommend you do this if you love adventures. However, be aware that the animals are wild, and they can be dangerous. An elephant tried to push over a small tree onto our car. We also heard they sometimes flip over a car. Make sure you have a full insurance, and you lock your doors (for the monkeys).

To know more about South Africa read the blog What to know about South Africa.

Discover penguins, Table Mountain, and lion’s head in Cape Town

Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa. There is much to do in and around Cape Town. You can search for the famous South African penguins, go hiking in the botanical garden, go surfing at Muizenberg beach, visit the city center, hike up the Table Mountain and lion’s head and much more.

When you are in Cape Town, you must visit these places:

  • City center
  • Waterfront
  • Bo-Kaap
  • Lion’s Head
  • Clifton beach
  • Table Mountain
  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
  • Chapman’s Peak
  • Muizenberg beach
  • Boulders Beach
  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Cape Point Nature Reserve

You can read more about the things you should visit in Cape Town in the blog 16 things to visit in Cape Town.

Prison site Robben Island

On this island there is a prison where the last prisoners were released in 1991. In 1997 it was turned into a museum, and it is declared a national monument. Nelson Mandela was one of the prisoners there. The museum is open from Monday to Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm. To get there you will need to take a ferry which departs from the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. You will need around 4 hours to visit this place. Read more about this island on their website.

Tip: book your tickets in front and pick a good day to go because if there is too much wind it can happen that the boot trip is cancelled.

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is a well-known place to go to enjoy some good South African wine. If you love wine, then this is the place to be. Besides drinking wine, you can have a lovely lunch and/or dinner with some stunning views.

Tip: stay overnight here so you don’t need to drive back, and you can fully enjoy this area.

This place is only around a half hour to one hour drive from Cape Town and it’s easily accessible by car, train, or bus. You can book your transfer on Rome2rio.

There are many wine estates you can visit in Stellenbosch. It depends on what your preferences are which winery you want to discover. Below I give some vineyards that you can visit:

  • Spier Wine Estate is a bigger wine estate and it’s possible to spend the night here.
  • Delaire Graff Estate is one of the most beautiful estates. Spending the night here is quite expensive.
  • Picknick at Warwick Wine Estate.
  • Waterford Wine Estate to match the wine with chocolate.

There are many more wine estates, so I suggest you look op wine estates and choose an estate that matches your desires. Some estates even offer an alcohol-free tasting for children or designated driver. There are also many tours available if you prefer to book a tour

More wine in Franschhoek

Franschhoek is another wine area that you can visit. The best way to discover the Franschhoek valley is with the Wine tram which takes you to 8 wine estates. It’s a Hop-on Hop-off experience which means you choose how long you spend at each stop, where you want to eat and if you want to skip a stop. More about this you can read on their website.

Of course, it’s possible to just visit the wine estates by car. There are many good wine estates in this area:

  • An older wine estate is called La Motte Wine Estate.
  • For organic wine you can visit Boschendal Wine Estate.
  • Some amazing views you can get at Plaisir de Merle.
  • Leopard’s Leap is one of the most child friendly wine estates.

There are many more wine estates in this area. I would recommend you discover the area and find the best wine estates that matches your values.

Whale watching at Hermanus

Hermanus is only around one to two hours away from Cape Town by car and it’s a place where you must go. Here you can spot whales which is an incredible experience. The best time to spot whales is from June to October. The Hermanus Whale Festival usually takes place late September or early October.

You can easily book a tour on Get Your Guide to go whale watching.

Nature during the Garden Route

  • Start: Mossel Bay
  • End: Storm River
  • Days needed: 3 to 14 days depending on how many stops you take

You should drive the Garden Route called Tuinroute. This route starts at Mossel Bay and ends near Storm River. The route follows the N4 highway and is in total around 300 kilometers long. It’s a whole route where you pass by some beautiful places:

  • Go skydiving at Mossel Bay.
  • George the city for golfers.
  • Knysna the culinary hotspot. Here you can visit the St Blaize Lighthouse and explore the beaches.
  • Camp, hike, or kayak in the Wilderness National Park.
  • White sands and blue water at Plettenberg Bay. Here it’s also possible to spot some whales, and dolphins. To the South there is Robberg Nature Reserve where you can spot seal colonies. You can easily hike here for half a day. If you’re interested in birds, you should visit Birds of Eden.
  • Storms River village with Tsitsikamma National Park where you can zipline, hike, kayak, snorkel, and even do one of the highest bungee jumps in the world.

Tip: if you love some unique accommodations you can sleep at some special places.

Adventure at the Baviaanskloof

This place is less touristic but perfect if you love adventures. It will take around 7 to 8 hours driving if you want to drive through the Baviaanskloof starting from Willowmore and ending at Patensie. The nature is stunning here, and you will have beautiful views.

If you are planning to do this with your car you need to know that you need a 4×4 car because you will cross rivers, have steep ascents and descents.

Tip: make sure the car has enough fuel and that you have a 4×4 car. You will also have no cellphone reception.

There are some things you must know before you go. Read all the information about this place on their website. If you are planning to visit this place you need to be well prepared!

Wandering in Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is the perfect place to enjoy the sea because it has 40 kilometers of unspoiled coastline. Many people go fishing, scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, and sailing from the coast.

There are three Blue Flag beaches which means they are awarded for meeting strict environmental and water quality. The beaches are King Beach, Humewood Beach, and Hobie Beach. Another nice beach that is well hidden is the Sardinia Bay.

I recommend you wander around and stay at least one night in this city, because there is much to do in and around this city. Here it’s perfect to buy your souvenirs to bring back home. The prices are cheaper because it’s less touristic.

Walk on the Donkin Heritage Trail which is around five kilometers long. Here the first British colonists arrived in the Cape in 1820.

The Broadwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex is a playground and a great place to walk around and to let the kids have some fun. 

There is the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre where they rescue injured marine life and bring them back to the wild.

St Croix Island Marine Reserve is absolutely a must do, it’s a penguin sanctuary. The marine reserve consists of three islands: St. Croix, Jahleel, and Brenton. Boats are not allowed to dock on the island and the island is not open to public! You can go around it by boat. The islands are the breeding ground for the jackass penguin which are an endangered species.  

Tip: for some good food you can wander around the Valley Market where you can find artisanal food.

Wild elephants at Addo National Park

It’s a diverse wildlife park where you are almost sure to spot elephants. Besides that, there are many more other wildlife you can spot. It is possible to drive it yourself but be aware that you need to watch out for the animals. This park will be one of the highlights in your visit to South Africa.

You can always book a tour if you don’t feel like driving this national park yourself. There are many tours available. There are also beautiful accommodations in the National Park which is once in a lifetime.

To read more about Addo National Park you can visit the website of South African National Parks.

Wandering in Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa. It’s nice when you pass by Bloemfontein to wander around for a day or two. Some places you can visit while you are in Bloemfontein:

  • Naval Hill and Franklin Nature Reserve where you can walk around and spot some giraffes, bucks, ostriches and many more animals. They are used to people but keep your distance because they are still wild animals.
  • Oliewenhuis Art Museum
  • Anglo-Boer War Museum
  • National Women’s Memorial
  • Loch Logan Waterfront
  • National Museum

Optional: wildlife at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

More than half of this park is situated in Botswana. The area is 37,256 km2 and is free of human interference. It’s one of the many South African National Parks. If you have the time, you can visit this park with all the wildlife and try to spot the big five.

Hiking at Drakensberg

The Drakensberg is well-known because there are many hiking routes for every level. It also forms the highest mountain range in South Africa. The peaks go up to 3,482 meters high.

If you’re adventurous, you can climb to the top but be aware that there are mountain baboons and birds of prey during the climb. Besides climbing to the top there are also many waterfalls. One of the waterfalls you must visit is the Tugela Falls which is the second highest waterfall in the world.

There are hikes in different lengths, you can hike by yourself or book a tour with a tour operator.

Optional: visit Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho is enclosed by South Africa. The country is known for the scenic views and the mountain range. There is much to do in Lesotho from winter sports to water sports. You can go skiing or snowboarding during the winter at the Afriski Mountain Resort or go hiking in the mountains in summer.

If you like adventures, you should visit Lesotho. There is also a famous 4×4 route called Sani Pass. You can book a tour for this with Sani Pass Tours.

You can even see the Subeng dinosaur footprints which dinosaur footprints are preserved in sandstone that lived around 200 million years ago. For some culture you can visit the Thaba Bosiu which is a national monument and known for the Basotho people birthplace.

To learn more about the country go on the government’s website. The attractions you must see you can read on the Lonely Planet.

Panorama Route in Hazyview

  • Start: Blyde River Canyon
  • End: Mac Mac Falls
  • Days needed: 1 day

You should drive the Panorama Route and stop in different places. This route starts at the Blyde River Canyon and ends at the Mac Mac Falls. You can drive from one place to another like below:

  • The Blyde River Canyon
  • Three Rondavels
  • Lowveld view
  • Bourkes’ Luck Potholes
  • Amber ‘Treur’ Falls
  • Berlin Falls
  • God’s Window
  • The Pinnacle Rock
  • Pilgrim’s rest
  • Forest Falls
  • Mac Max Falls

Spot the big five in Kurger National Park

You can stay many days in this National Park because it’s nearly 2 million hectares filled with wildlife. It’s an experience that you will never forget and a must do when you visit South Africa.

It is possible to drive by yourself in this national park but be aware that there are wild animals so make sure to lock your doors for the monkeys and have the emergency numbers in your phone. You can also book a guided tour. There are many tour operators and many experiences that you can book.

We drove ourselves and we are happy to say that we spotted the Big Five (there are actually six): Lion, Buffalo, Leopard, Black Rhino, White Rhino and Elephant.

Tip: a nice place to spend the night is at Elephant Walk Retreat. It’s right outside the Kruger Park. It is also possible to spend the night in the National Park but make sure to book in advance because a lot of the time it’s already fully booked.

Read more about Kruger National Park on the official website of South African National Park.

Finding gold in Barberton

The Barberton Mines operated for more than 100 years and included the Consort, Fairview, and Sheba Mines. A nice tourist attraction is to visit gold mines and to do gold panning and learn how to find gold.  You can book a tour with Barberton Odyssey.

Wandering in Pretoria

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. I would suggest wandering around the streets and enjoy the city. The city has many colonial buildings, cozy streets, and good restaurants. You should pass by Church Street because most highlights are in this street like the cathedral and the palace of justice where Nelson Mandela was sentenced to lifelong prison.

The Paul Kruger House Museum is a museum of art for the art lovers. If you want to know more about the war in South Africa, you should visit the Military Museum.  

The famous Johannesburg

Johannesburg was once a mining town that was built out to be a destination for many businesses because of the affordability and the quality. In and around Johannesburg there are some places that you must visit:

  • Apartheid museum
  • Lindfield Victorian House Museum
  • Constitution Hill
  • Gold Reef City
  • Soweto
  • Maboneng Precinct
  • Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
  • Pretoria
  • Sun City resort
  • Pilanesberg

To learn more about the places you should visit in Johannesburg you can read the blog 10 things to do in Johannesburg.

Relax at Sun City resort

Sun City is a luxurious resort and casino. It’s the perfect place to relax if you have the budget. There are many activities possible from this location. They have a maze, a water park, golf area, outdoor adventures and much more to offer like safaris, etc. Read more about this place on their website.

Wildlife at Pilanesberg

This is another National Park in South Africa that you can visit. It is 55,000 hectares which is rather small, definitely compared to Kruger National Park. However, it is possible to spot the Big Five here.

As you can see there is a lot to discover in South Africa and of course there is even more to discover than what I mentioned. We hope one day to go back and explore even more.

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