Road Trip

South African Road Trips: Driving Out Of Cape Town - East Coast vs. West Coast

For most visitors to Cape Town, making the long-haul trip to the southernmost tip of the African continent is just the beginning of a much bigger adventure. Having exhausted the sights and sounds that dwell underneath the proud slopes of Table Mountain, the more intrepid journeymen will cast their eyes over a road map of South Africa’s main arteries. They will find themselves with a choice. They could head east along the much-revered Garden Route towards Durban. Or west, in the direction of the Namib desert. Here’s a closer look at your options...

Road Trip Map

Drive Towards The Namib Desert

Departing from and ending in Cape Town, the best time of year for this 5-7 day drive is between August and September, when the wildflower landscapes explode into color. Scenic is probably an overused phrase, but this drive truly warrants it, as you take in quaint fishing villages, the dramatic Cederberg mountains, historical town Clanwilliam and, on the return stretch, the exquisite wines of Paarl Valley. Visually, this route carves a spectacular path between the magnificent South Atlantic ocean and the inland wilderness with dramatic flora and fauna, roaming antelope and unspoilt beauty for you and your camera lens to take full advantage of.

As you’d expect with a trip of some 700km, your eating and sleeping options are plentiful, but we can point you in the direction of a few places to start your inquiries: Club Mykonos in the beautiful Langebaan Lagoon, the Blommenberg Guest House in Clanwilliam and the Cascade Manor in Paarl Valley are all highly reputable places to bed down on your way around. Other than that, we suggest combining the best use of local knowledge and your own sense of smell to hunt down your meals. You can eat wonderful seafood on your way up the coast and on your way back down inland, there’ll be no shortage of grilled game and spicy stews.

The Garden Route Towards Durban

Africa’s southernmost roads are sandwiched between Outeniqua mountains and the Indian Ocean, providing a rich playground for eco-lovers, adventure sports enthusiasts, hikers, bird lovers and foodies. Unlike the West Coast, which is best visited between August and September, South Africa’s 250km stretch of indigenous forests, crisp lagoons and natural shrubland (known as ‘fynbos’) is equally attractive throughout the seasons with its more Mediterranean climate. In fact, it’s got the second mildest climate in the world after Hawaii. The main towns on route bristle and bustle with markets, while the more extreme visitor can detour to Gans Bay for shark diving and the popular surf spots of Victoria and Buffalo Bay.

Along the way, don’t miss the Wilderness National Park, dolphin watching in Plettenberg Bay (where you can stay at the extremely stylish The Lodge), the idyllic Bramon Wine Estate or, for the kids, a ride on South Africa’s only remaining scheduled steam train, the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe. Safari and game reserves are not hard to come by, but as with any significant expenditure, it’s worth doing your research ahead of time. One detail that can’t go unmentioned is the Garden Route’s reputation for oysters between May and September, and the annual Knysna Oyster Festival takes place mid-July. Marvel at the scenery, soak up the views and don’t hit the sack without sampling either a mampoer (a citrus-fruit liqueur) or a witblits (a powerful but brilliant brandy).

See Route at Google Maps

Road Trip Photos

Image Credits: Under Licence from Shutterstock:
Beautiful vineyard along the wine route in Western Cape, South Africa. Mountains in background., Image ID: 39534745, Copyright: Schalke fotografie | Melissa Schalke
Rapeseed fields along the Garden Route, N2, South Africa. Rapeseed is used to produce canola oil., Image ID: 147257207, Copyright: Andrea Willmore
and also Stringer Bel, Dietmar Temps and Roaming The Planet