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Road-tripping is by far one of the best ways to truly experience a country in all of its beauty. The freedom of the open road, the ability to go off the beaten track and experience a journey that is truly unique and unforgettable.
Road trip travel is continuing to increase in popularity. A recent study1 showed 80% of travellers were planning to take a road trip this year, and it’s no surprise as to why.
If you’re new to driving abroad, South Africa is one of the best places to start, especially for Brits. Voted2 the ‘greatest country on earth’ in 2023, there is little this ‘Rainbow Nation’ doesn’t provide. With everything from stunning white sandy beaches, captivating wildlife, incredible vineyards, epic mountain ranges and glorious driving routes, what’s not to love?
Andre Van Kets, director at Drive South Africa comments: “Getting behind the wheel is absolutely the best way to experience South Africa and all of its wonders. Driving through the country means you see something new at every twist and turn, and you definitely don’t get that with any other mode of transport.
“It also gives you the freedom to take as many breaks as you like for a picnic or a photo opportunity. There is over 700km of open road to cover, which means there are endless possibilities when it comes to road trips you can take.”
To help whittle down the best driving routes in this wondrous country, the Drive South Africa team has shared a few of their favourite routes on TikTok, as well as some of Andre’s top tips to fuel your imagination when it comes to planning the ultimate South African road trip…
The Garden Route
Video credit @baileyturvey
There is good reason why this is one of the most popular driving routes in South Africa. Driven along the N2 between Mossel Bay and Storms River, this route along the south-eastern coast of the country gets its name from its lush vegetation, forests, and nature reserves.
The full route can be completed in around 14 days, and it’s one of the best ways to experience South Africa’s diverse scenery. Packed with beautiful beaches, lakes, rolling hills, inland lagoons, and the mountains of the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua, the route creates a photogenic backdrop that’s second-to-none.
Andre’s top tip: “Take the Seven Passes Road for an exceptional drive. It is the oldest direct road link between George and Knysna in the Western Cape. The 75km road traverses ‘seven passes’, which provide outstanding views and make for an absolutely stunning ride. Pack up a picnic and soak up the jaw-dropping scenery.”
West Coast Flower Route
Video credit: @love_capetown
Known by locals as the Daisy Route, the sprawling beds of Cape wild flowers attract thousands of visitors every year. Whether you’re a flower enthusiast or not, the skyline popping in bursts of yellows, pinks and oranges is a marvel not to be missed.
Located in the semi-desert of the Namaqualand, the landscape comes to life with hundreds of thousands of blooming flowers after the first rains of the season, while dry grey scrub turns immaculate green.
Andre’s top tip: “Visit in early to late August to have the best chance of witnessing the flowers in full bloom.”
Video credit: @TheInsiderSA
Wine lovers, this one’s for you. Famous for being the longest wine route in the world, this 850km route starts in Cape Town and winds its way all the way to Port Elizabeth, passing through some of the best wine farms in the entire world.
Image credit: Drive South Africa
Meandering through the wine villages of the Karoo, this route includes rivers, orchards, vineyards and a selection of valleys and mountain passes, many of which were built by Andrew and Thomas Baine – the engineers who first pioneered South Africa’s road infrastructure in the 1800’s.
Andre’s top tip: “You don’t have to do the whole route for an impressive drive.
“If you’re pushed for time, simply drive from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn and back (around 4-5 hours each way). Stop for a long lunch and a tasting at the Almenkerk Wine Estate (and carefully select the designated driver for the onward journey!).”
The Panorama Route
Video credit @_mariska_k
The Panorama Route offers a taste of everything from mountains, waterfalls, forests, and the astonishing Blyde River Canyon.
The route connects the glorious Mac Mac Pools and Falls – an amazing spot for wild swimming. It also passes through the Sabie river, the gold mining and museum town of Pilgrim’s Rest, and the Three Rondavels – a trio of portly shaped peaks shaped like bee huts, they are definitely wonders not to be missed.
Andre’s top tip: “Whilst the route can be driven in a day, it can be a good idea to break it up into three or four days with overnight stays, so you can take the time to properly explore the multiple stop offs and soak it all in.
“This is one of the most diverse road trip routes in the country, so be sure not to miss out and take your time if you can.”
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Video credit: @secretcapetown
Although it’s only 9 km long, this incredible drive is packed with views guaranteed to take your breath away. Known to locals as ‘the chappies’, the route starts in the charming seaside town of Hout Bay with its working harbour, before winding along the rocky coastline on the M6 all the way to Noordhoek on the Atlantic Ocean.
The road itself is a massive feat of modern engineering with constructed overhangs that have been put in place to deflect rockfalls.
Image credit: Drive South Africa
Andre’s top tip: “As it’s so close-by to the country’s capital, Cape Town, it can get pretty busy, especially during rush hour on weekdays. Consider taking this route on a weekend, later in the day or earlier in the morning.”
Video credit: @janellebasson
This delightful coastal route between Gordons Bay and Betty’s Bay is possibly one of the most epic roads in the Western Cape. It’s definitely worth taking your time as you drive through, as there’s so much to see and do.
Along the drive, you can enjoy everything from picturesque blue skies, blue seas, whales, penguins, nature reserves, botanical gardens, hiking trails, mountain peaks, and coastal caves. There are also plenty of spots to pull off and admire the gobsmacking views.
Andre’s top tip: “Stop at Spark’s Bay, a little coastal haven that is known as one of the country’s best and most tranquil whale-watching and braai (barbeque) spots.
“Stop over at the nearby Spark’s Bay Beach where you can braai, picnic and fish.”
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