Summer Road Trip Ideas around South Africa

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After an extraordinary year, and with the summer holidays here, we certainly need and deserve a good break. Taking to the open road has long been an ultimate expression of freedom, and so even if you haven’t planned one yet, why not take an impromptu road trip over these summer holidays and see where you end up?.

It’s not just the urge to feel free from restrictions that make a road trip a good idea at this time of the year; it makes sense too. Ongoing Covid rules, especially when it comes to international travel, are curbing our options, so plan your route (or don’t!), gather your nearest and dearest in the safe bubble of your vehicle, and set out to discover all that SA has to offer.

The incredible diversity of scenic landscapes and the sheer abundance of places of interest and stunning holiday destinations across the length and breadth of our country makes SA a road-tripper’s heaven. In just one day you can drive from breath-taking mountains and valleys to world-class beaches or bushveld.

And, as hotels and guest houses welcome travellers back, you will find some incredible accommodation deals throughout the country. This means the rigours of the road can be perfectly balanced with hospitable comforts and modern conveniences wherever you go.  

So, set out on one of these routes:

Gauteng-Durban

This traditional SA holiday route is often done in one sprint but there’s so much to discover if you rather stop along the way. The centrepiece of the road trip is the magnificent Drakensberg mountain range which can be accessed first through the town of Harrismith. Take a diversion to the charming Free State town of Clarens and visit the spectacular Golden Gate National Park. Slow down along the Midlands Meander before heading into Durban. Places to stay include Harrismith, Clarens, Ladysmith, Escourt, Mooi River, Howick, Hilton and, of course, Durban.

Gauteng-Mombela-Kruger

It’s hard to beat summertime in the iconic Kruger National Park, but don’t rush to get in there. Situating yourself just outside the Park gives you easy access, as well as the opportunity to explore many other Mpumalanga attractions such as God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon, Pilgrim’s Rest and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Places to stay include Dullstroom, Mombela, Hazyview and White River – or just outside the park itself.

Gauteng-Polokwane-Kruger 

There’s so much to discover when you travel the Great North Road in a leisurely fashion. Visit the warm baths of Bela Bela, discover the Waterberg game reserves before making your way to Polokwane. This is a comfortable base to explore picturesque Magoebaskloof and Tzaneen; the Soutpansberg Mountains and Venda. You also have easy access to the central and northern regions of the Kruger National Park. Places to stay include Modimolle, Polokwane, Tzaneen and Louis Trichardt.

Gauteng-Cape Town

Many travellers on the N1 route do break the long haul with the Karoo overnight stay, especially families with children. However, there’s a lot more to take in by turning the journey into a real road trip with more stopovers. You can also explore the alternative route via Kimberley to Beaufort West, and then choose the road to Oudtshoorn which then leads you to Cape Town through the Garden Route town of George. Places to stay on the N1 route include Bloemfontein, Colesberg, Richmond and Beaufort West before entering the Cape Winelands; alternatively Kimberley, Beaufort West and Oudtshoorn, before traversing the Overberg en route to Cape Town.

Cape Town-Garden Route

Journey along 300km of the beautiful south-eastern SA coast with frequent overnight stays so that you can explore the many top holiday towns and attractions along the way. You will experience stunning mountains and forests, lakes, and lagoons, as well as many of SA’s finest beaches. Places to stay include Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Cape Town-West Coast

Explore one of the most evocative areas of SA where the wild, cold Atlantic Ocean washes the shores of the Strandveld. Enjoy excellent wineries and seafood, the West Coast National Park, Langebaan lagoon and charming small towns expressing the uniqueness of West Coast culture. Places to stay include Darling, Yzerfontein, Paternoster and Saldanha Bay.

Cape Town–Winelands-Overberg

An ideal road trip for those who want short daily drives and frequent stops where there are lots to see and do, with plenty of great food and wine. Explore the acclaimed Cape Winelands before traversing the mountains to the Overberg destination holiday towns offering boutique wineries, whale-watching, fishing, shark-cage diving and much more. Places to stay include Stellenbosch, Elgin, Hermanus, Stanford, Gansbaai and Cape Agulhas.

Port Elizabeth-Route 62-Cape Town

Route 62 takes you on a coast to coast journey of incredible diversity through the craggy mountains and plains of the Karoo and the Cape Winelands. Visit historic farming towns and enjoy the attractions including the stunning Cango Caves and boutique wineries. Places to stay include Jeffrey’s Bay, Uniondale, DeRust, Prince Albert, Calitzdorp, Barrydale, Montagu, Bonnievale, Ceres, Tulbagh, Paarl and Cape Town.

Durban-Route 66-Zululand

Journey into the heartland of KwaZulu-Natal, rich in Zulu heritage and culture. Travelling up the North Coast opens up some of the best wildlife and bird-watching adventures at reserves such as Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, St Lucia Wetlands, Mkuzi, Phinda, Ndumu, Lake Sibaya and Pongola. Places to stay include Richard’s Bay, Ulundi, Nongoma and Umfolozi.

Durban-Wild Coast-East London

Due to rural road conditions, this is a more rugged road trip to be taken at an easy pace. The rewards for the wild-at-heart is some of the most spectacular unspoilt scenery and beautiful off-the-beaten-track spots, as well as unforgettable adventure activities. Places to stay include Port Edward, Port St Johns, Coffee Bay, Mazeppa Bay, Cintsa and East London.

Prepare well for your hours on the road with a great playlist and healthy snacks. If you’re travelling with children, it helps to have some family-friendly ideas for fun group games that not only help pass the time but promote bonding. There are plenty of variations of the alphabet, mental maths, riddle, rhyming and story games that are not just entertaining, but also great for developing brains. Test the family’s general knowledge with the alphabet animal game, where each person gets a turn to name an animal beginning with ‘a’, and so on. ‘Hypotheticals’ presents different scenarios, and each person needs to explain how they would react in the given situation. Team games such as ‘Tall Tales’ starts with an amazing story prompt, and then each person adds a line to spin a fantastic yarn together. These are the seemingly small ways that lasting happy memories are made on the road. 

With so much to discover and experience, make your plans and set out on an unforgettable SA road trip!


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