In South Africa, being on the road is a good way of exploring more of our beautiful country. Discovering what is around the next bend and learning something from the people you encounter – whether it is from their way of life or a story they tell you.
Oonagh Shiel, travel expert at Cheapflights.co.za says that those who are seeking a bit of guidance as to where you should stop and satiate your hunger – along with your taste for adventure – should try these lunch spots and route.
1. Ronnie’s Sex Shop, Barrydale, Western Cape, R62
With winding roads and magnificent mountain ranges, the Western Cape is a great place to start or end your road trip, and you will likely find yourself spending a lot of time among the winelands and along the coast, not to mention the Garden Route.
Along Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world – you can’t get away with not enjoying a glass or two. On this road you will find Barrydale, a town situated on the border of the Overberg and Klein Karoo regions. It is famously home to Ronnie’s Sex Shop, where you’ll find plenty to eat and drink, but little in the way of titillating trinkets. The origin of the name is a mischievous one, starting with a man by the name of Ronnie who decided to open a shop, intending to sell fresh produce and fruit.
He duly painted a sign on his cottage, which would serve as the farmstall, simply titling it Ronnie’s Shop – because that’s what is was. His friends decided to liven up the name and added the word sex. Despite being more than a little peeved about it, Ronnie trucked on nevertheless and even invited his roguish friends for several rounds of beer and braai. Perhaps as reparation, or just because it was a blerrie good idea, they suggested he turn it into a bar, and to this day passers-by, particularly bikers, enjoy more braais, beer and bliss in the little town of Barrydale.
2. Victoria Trading Post, Victoria West, Northern Cape, N12
A South African road trip invariably takes you through the Karoo, a semi-arid desert which may look barren and endless, but is filled with diverse flora and fauna.
There is, however, no end to the padstalletjies on the way, selling fruit, honey, Karoo lamb and much more. Victoria Trading Post is just such a rustic relic, offering jam, preserves, biltong, ginger beer, tripe and the ultimate roadie staple: homemade pies.
But be warned: in the Northern Cape the heat in summer is absolutely sweltering, so good luck to you if your car doesn’t have air-conditioning; while winter mornings will turn you into a human icicle.
3. Boar’s Head, Rawdons Hotel, Midlands Meander,KwaZulu-Natal, off the R103
After trucking through the desert when driving through the Karoo, you might want a change of scenery. For the complete opposite to the arid beauty of the Karoo, there is the Midlands Meander.
Dotted with streams, rivers and waterfalls, the Midlands are a verdant slice of South Africa, slow-burning to oranges and reds in the autumn. You can go horse-riding, hiking, swimming, fishing and sailing, as well as visit leatherworkers, shoemakers, potters and weavers.
There are plenty of arts and crafts in this creative corner of KZN as well, and you can pop into flower farms and herb gardens. When it’s time for some grub, and locally-brewed beer, take a seat at the Boar’s Head at Rawdons Hotel, where you can try brews from Nottingham Road Brewery.
4. The Cabin Farmstall and Deli, Clocolan, Free State, R26
In the heart of the country is the Free State province, completely landlocked and quite a mystery – even to many South Africans, who see the capital Bloemfontein as nothing more than a fuel stop when driving to or from Cape Town along the N1.
The province is slowly but surely jostling for position as a getaway; and Clarens, Golden Gate Highlands National Park and Vredefort Dam give you plenty of reasons to visit.
If you pass through Clocolan, make sure to try The Cabin Farmstall and Deli to fill up on curry peach salad, scones and juices in a variety of flavours from watermelon and strawberry to orange and pineapple.
5. Nanaga, near Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, R10-R72-N2 Interchange
Eastern Cape, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Steve Biko, is home to the Addo Elephant National Park, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, some of the best surfing in the world in Jeffrey’s Bay and IRONMAN South Africa.
Fifty kilometres from Port Elizabeth, the province’s biggest city, is Nanaga, featuring a famous farmstall selling roosterkoek (which literally translated means grilled cake, but is actually a type of bread) and pies for the road and a restaurant serving the same pies and roosterkoek, as well as an extensive breakfast and lunch menu.
6. Hekpoort Heksie, Magaliesburg, Gauteng, R24
Gauteng’s urban jungles may drive the country’s economy, but it is also full of natural nooks and crannies which provide escape from city life, such as the Magaliesberg region.
Merely 65km from Joburg’s traffic-choked roads, it is a haven of mountains, valleys and rivers filled with wildlife. It’s a great place to go hiking, abseiling, horse riding, fishing or mountain biking.
When it’s time for a lunch break, Hekpoort Heksie in Magliesburg is the perfect place to stock up on chillies, jams, pickles and chicken pies. When you’re in the area, don’t think that people have forgotten to spell: Magaliesberg refers to the mountain range, and Magliesburg is the town at its foot.
7. Jasmyn Plaasprodukte, Hartebeespoort, North West, Corner R511 & Jan Smuts Avenue
An hour from Pretoria, the country’s capital, lies Hartebeespoort Dam – another quick getaway for city folk set against the backdrop of the Magaliesberg Mountains. With the Harties Cableway, Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary, Elephant Sanctuary, Hartebeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park, ziplinig, cruises and balloon rides over the dam, archery, quad-biking, paintball, go-karting and mountain biking you’ll find there’s more than one reason to stop.
To waylay those hunger pains, there’s Jasmyn Plaasprodukte where you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, rusks, biltong, nuts and dried fruit – ideal for padkos. If your appetite is somewhat bigger, you can eat at The Windmill, which is a restaurant next door to the farmstall.
8. Milly’s, en route to Mbombela, Mpumalanga, N4
On the way to the Kruger National Park, or wherever you happen to be going, if you find yourself in Mpumalanga, a popular pit stop is Milly’s. At the restaurant you can find all the usual farmstall fare, and all your favourites too (from burgers and wraps to salads and shakes); but it’s the trout you have to try – whether it’s a trout sandwich, a cheese platter with trout pate, or the absolute winner: trout pie.
Make sure they serve it to you with their famous mustard or mushroom sauce. If you can’t get enough of the pies, pop into their farmstall and buy frozen ones to take home with you – it’s real value for your money, even if the rest of the goods are a bit overpriced.
9. Coach House Confectionery, Tzaneen, Limpopo, off the R36
Home to Modjadji, the Rain Queen, Tzaneen is truly one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa. If you are averse to making any plans for your road trip and just taking it as it comes, make an exception for this beautiful corner of the country. A lush and unspoilt haven of nature reserves, baobabs and cycads, nicknames such as “Tropical Garden Town “ and “Land of Silver Mist” give you an idea of its infinite beauty.
Visiting the Coach House Confectionary is a good way to indulge your sweet tooth with a selection of brittles, biscuits, shortbreads, nougats and chocolates. But make sure to hit other shops and stores to stock up on tomatoes, mangoes, bananas, oranges and avocadoes as the region is famous for producing them, thanks to the fertile lands watered by the heavy rains.