South African road trips can introduce the most experienced traveler to outstanding wonders and new adventures at any moment. There are plenty of reliable roads and destinations can include anything from a sandy beach with clear blue seas to snow capped mountains that offer rugged climbing for the more adventurous, with plenty of bush and history in between. With that in mind, here is a look at several South African road trips that offer a single day, a weekend, or a entire holiday full of fun. Perhaps you will discover the African scenic drive that you will want to add to your itinerary.
Follow the Limpopo River
Whether it is your first South African road trip or your millionth, a trip along the Limpopo River is something you must do. Your trip should begin in Crook’s Corner and end somewhere near Pont Drift. As you travel along the borders of Zimbabwe and Botswana, the tarmac practically begs you to stop and explore a perfect example of African bush. The stark, yet beautifully enticing, landscape is dominated by 3,000 year-old baobabs and proud baboons. The trip also takes you between two of the most pristine national parks in Africa. Crook’s Corner sits at the northern tip of Kruger National Park. A winter grazing and hunting ground for the big-five…Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo…Kruger offers safari packages, lodging, and restaurants.
Once you leave Crook’s Corner, you will travel along South Africa’s northern edge, passing the ”Big Tree”, the largest baobab in the country. As you approach Pont Drift, you will be able to access the Mapungubwe National Park. The Mapungubwe park area is 28,000 hectares of unspoiled history, archeology, and tradition. Mapungubwe is a World Heritage Site that contains some of the most important Iron Age relics known. It is also an area where you may see rhino cavorting about. When you enter Pont Drift, you will be on the border with Botswana and at the edge of that country’s Tuli Block wildlife reserve. This is an African scenic drive that gives you access to wildlife, heritage, and breath-taking scenic diversity. It is also a short 160 km trip that could easily turn into a weekend adventure if you take the time to explore its natural wonders.
Travel the Heart of South Africa
South Africa is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world. Where the Limpopo River area offers stark bush, a trip through the heart of the nation will take you from mountains, through farmlands, to amazing beaches. Since no tour of South Africa would be complete without a Durban road trip, this leg starts in Bloemfontein with a side jaunt to Durban thrown in. The capital of the Free State, Bloemfontein is the birthplace of JRR Tolkien. One trip through the area and you will understand where he got the inspiration for his literary works. Your route will take you through sunflower fields complete with rusty tractors. The endless blue skies above slowly melt into the mountains on the horizon. As you head toward the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, you will travel through Ladybrand, a city of sandstone buildings surrounded by mountain peaks. This African scenic drive can feature snow-capped mountains in the winter, dazzling autumn foliage in the fall, and warm-hearted people year-round.
Along the way, you will want to take a day to explore the 20 art galleries in Clarens. Between galleries, you will enjoy the many shops, restaurants, and a micro-brewery. The galleries and other attractions in Clarnes are often too much for a single day, so you may want to make the town a base of operations of sorts. From here, you can recharge yourself with a day trip to the white-sand beaches and blue seas of Durban, returning for a good night’s sleep, waking to tackle the rest of the Clarens area. From Clarens, you can also access Golden Gate Highlands National Park and Royal Natal National Park. The Royal Natal is famous for its 8 km chain ladder up the stone face of the Amphitheatre.
This is a 670 km road trip that offers too many attractions for a weekend. This is a long holiday trip that offers hiking, art, and beachcombing. What else could anyone ask for?
Travel the Coast of the Indian Ocean and Beyond
If you are looking for a holiday trip that will cover beaches, rugged wilderness, and just about anything in between, then the 1,700 kms between Cape Town and Durban are just the ticket. Most South African road trips include a jaunt along the Garden Route that follows the Indian Ocean along the east coast of the country. The Garden Route is so full of lagoons and staggeringly beautiful beaches, that you will struggle to decide on a single destination, so why choose? Take in several so that you can enjoy all of the surfing, easygoing beach-side pubs, and wilderness zipline tours the area has to offer.
For the rugged outdoor tourist, there is the Wild Coast. An area that is more apt to feature broken, potholed roads, than a hotel. The area does have a handful of backpacker lodges as you trek through the former Transkei homeland and the Xhosa heartland. If you are looking for modern comforts, this is not the area for you! Nelson Mandela was born in the region, so there are several Mandela-themed attractions to explore, especially in Mthatha, as well as the eco-friendly camp at Bulungula and the laid back hippie/artist scene at Amapondo.
No matter where you go in South Africa, you will see many stark contrasts. In Cape Town and Pretoria, you can find urban chaos and the modern amenities that accompany it. In the bush, you can find wildlife and ancient history. By carefully planning a South African road trip/s, an adventurous traveler can take in mountains, beaches, unique culture, and history with breath-taking scenery at every turn. The more leisure-minded vacationer can plan a simple Durban road trip to enjoy the white-sand beaches and the seaside pubs that dominate many of them. Whatever you mindset, South Africa awaits you.