By comparison with other countries, South Africa has an excellent infrastructure. Most of our major routes are pothole-less and easy to follow, and self-drive holidays are a great way to see the country, and save money. Load the car with camping gear, add a map, and you’re on your way.
For those after a more lavish version of the road trip, refer to SA Venues’ accommodation guide to find more luxurious accommodation along the way …
Road tripping Western Cape – 3 great self drives in the Western Cape
OVERBERG – THE WHALE COAST
Overview: The coming of the whales to our shores during their annual migration is an experience for which people travel from across the world. Landbased and shore-based whale watching along the strip of coast between Hermanus and Witsand is unsurpassable.
Route: Take Clarence Drive (R44) via Rooi Els and Betty’s Bay to just outside Kleinmond (this coastal strip is well known for whale spotting). Head briefly inland around Botrivier Lagoon before joining the R43 returning to the shoreline, via Vermont and Onrus to Hermanus, where landbased whale watching is of the best in the world.
Head briefly inland to the beautiful village of Stanford (worth a stopover if you can), back down to the coast at De Kelders and Gansbaai, both famed for their whale spotting (Gansbaai is the big 2 town, with boat trips out to see whales and great white sharks). Reaching Agulhas is a detour taking the R317 and R319 via Bredasdorp, or take the R316 from Bredasdorp to Arniston. If you have time, do both. Don’t be tempted to leave De Hoop off the route.
How long: roughly 360km
Best time: August and September
Hot tips: picnic on the beaches of De Hoop Nature Reserve, book accommodation ahead for it’s a popular time of year
More Info: see Whale Coast or Cape Overberg attractions
Overnight: in cape overberg
THE KLEIN KAROO
Overview: The Little Karoo stretches roughly from Barrydale in the west to De Rust in the east. It is the most southerly and smallest section of the Karoo, or semi-desert region of South Africa, held by the Swartberge to the north and the Langeberge and Outeniqua mountains in the south. In between these mountains lies a magical group of fruit growing, vine cultivating, ostrich producing typical Karoo dorpies (towns).
Route: the Klein Karoo towns all lie on Route 62, the longest wine route in the world. The Klein Karoo portion isn’t a long route, but it is to be savoured, driven slowly and explored at leisure. Start at Barrydale, where Route 62 meets R324 via Suurbraak. Barrydale’s main road is small but vibrant, the restaurants worth supporting and the people worth talking to. Ladismith is essentially an adventurer’s paradise awash with hikes, day drives, mountaineering, nature reserves and cheese factories. You’ll need more than a couple of days to do it justice.
Head from there via Zoar, the former mission town, to Calitzdorp, home of the country’s best port and English-influenced Karoo style architecture. Oudtshoorn, the ‘ostrich feather capital’, sells brightly coloured ostrich feather dusters right outside the main Pick n Pay centre, if you need a symbolic ‘relic’ from the town’s history. Two Karoo arts festivals take place in Oudtshoorn during the year and there is plenty to do. De Rust makes a peaceful and colourful stop. Include a trip along Meiringspoort, a visit to the Red Hills and a scour of local artists’ haunts.
How long: roughly 200km
Best time: autumn or spring
Hot tips: visit Barrydale Weavers for 100% homespun cotton rugs, take the R328 to Prince Albert, read The Long Silence of Mario Salviati whilst journeying.
More Info: see Klein Karoo attractions
Overnight: in karoo
THE WEST COAST
Overview: The R27 from Melkbosstrand via Darling, Yzerfontein, Langebaan, Paternoster, and on to Elands Bay has become the weekend delight of Capetonians and visitors alike. There are enough back roads off the R27 to make life really exciting. The added bonus of the nature reserves in Darling, and the presence of the West Coast National Park make this drive during the flower season a must-do on anyone’s itinerary.
Route: take the R27 from Milnerton or Melkbosstrand. The drive only begins to get interesting after Koeberg Nature Reserve. Detour east to Darling, where an overnight that includes Evita’s se Perron is obligatory. If it’s flower season, you’ll need further time to explore the gardens and nature reserves in and around town. Head into the West Coast National Park for a day at least. An overnight here is really worthwhile, and the Postberg section, open only during the spring flowers, is a highlight.
Next overnight in Jacobs Bay or Paternoster, where the white fishermen’s cottages and endless beach will wow you. Velddrif and Dwarskersbos is where you head for wild and low-key weekends, bokkoms and desolate beaches. Verlorensvlei, the beach and the surf for surfers are the highlights of Elands Bay, a quiet and understated seaside town.
How long: 250km without the detours, so give or take an extra 50km
Best time: now
Hot tips: Do Darling’s wine and arts experience, be aware that the train passes just outside Eland’s Bay frequently, so book accommodation away from the railway line. Take your hiking boots.
More Info: see Cape West Coast attractions
Overnight: in west coast