South Africa's Best Road Trip Routes
If you believe that life is more about the journey than the destination, you’ll appreciate South Africa’s truly unrivaled potential for scenic drives. The Garden Route is the most famous, but this vast nation, with its endless coastline, unearthly landscape, and awe-inspiring views offers virtually endless options for the adventure seeker behind the wheel. There a good chance your starting point will be Johannesburg where there are many options for car hire.
Camp’s Bay to Chapman’s Peak, Cape Town
A triumph of road engineering, Chapman’s Peak Drive plunges from the City Bowl toward the famous Camp’s Bay, delivering panoramic views of the Twelve Apostles (part of the Table Mountain range) and the sea, before clinging to the mountains and winding its way south through Hout Bay. The drive ends at Chapman’s Peak Drive, where stunning, tawny cliffs soar above a turbulent sea.
Above: Chapman’s Peak’s rocky coastline. Photo by: Martie Swart
Swartberg Pass, Klein Karoo
Teetering between Oudtshoorn’s Cango Caves and Prince Albert, an unpaved road clings to the side of the Swartberg mountain, opening up panoramas of the shrub-scattered landscape of Little Karoo far, far below. Running East to West in the Western Cape, the Swartberg Pass dodges and dives its way past canyon rock faces, enormous pink and yellow protea, and countless fynbos. Stop at Prince Albert for lunch and a breather, before returning to the pass and following the signs down toward the Cango Caves. Taking the route in this direction means you are on the safe side of the mountain on the descent.
Above: The view along Swartberg Pass. Photo by: Tim Parkinson
Route 62, Western Cape
The Garden Route, essentially the N2 highway from Cape Town to Tsitsikamma Forest, is probably South Africa’s most celebrated drive, winding more than 595 km along the coast. As an alternative, take Route 62 past lush vineyards, neat estates, and idyllic villages before reaching the arid plains of Karoo between Ashton and Oudtshoorn. This panoramic alternative to the N2 has been called the world’s longest wine route. The heat can become oppressive in the height of summer, but you can always take a detour on one of the many roads leading south towards the sea.
Above: Clouds above Route 62. Photo by: Martin Bartosch
Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga
Any road called the Panorama Route just begs to be driven. Starting at Graskop, the R532 brings you to the Blyde River Canyon, justifying the route’s title with views of the wonderful 25,000-hectare reserve on the Klein Drakensberg escarpment. At either end of the canyon, you’ll find the Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondavels, but the most famous viewpoint is at God’s Window, where you really will have to catch your breath at the sight of the Lowveld, lying almost 900 m beneath you.
Above: View along Panorama Route. Photo by: Celso Flores
The Eight Passes, Eastern Cape Drakensberg
If you rent a 4×4 in South Africa and you want to test your driving skills, then the “Eight Mountain Passes Route” may be the one for you. You start with the Naudés Nek Pass, which, at more than 2,920 metres above sea level, is the highest unpaved road in South Africa. (Seek local advice about weather and driving conditions before attempting it). The other passes are Joubert’s Pass, Volunteershoek, Carlisleshoek, Lundean’s Nek, Bastervoetpad, Barkly Pass, and Otto du Plessis. You can reach all eight passes easily from a central point in the Wartrail & New England district and connect them to create a series of scenic day drives.
Above: The top of Naudes Nek. Photo by: SA-Venues.com
After taking a look at these simply stunning road trip routes, we’re sure that you’ve been inspired to start planning your next road trip.
Guest Post Author
Aoife O’Carroll enjoys spending her time seeking out new and interesting locations for a new adventure. Her love for traveling has led to the creation of a To-Explore bucket list of places she hopes to visit someday. Fittingly, Aoife works for Nova Car Hire as a content writer, where she gets to write about the different places she gets to discover.