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How To Plan The Perfect South African Road Trip

val du charron

Need help to plan the perfect South African road trip? We travelled from Cape Town to the Winelands and along the Garden Route, over sixteen days. Find out where to stay, where to eat and lots more tips and tricks in this post.

South Africa has to be one of the world’s best travel destinations. Where else can you combine one of the world’s most iconic cities with stunning beaches, an abundance of wildlife, adrenaline pumping activities and such diverse landscapes. And let’s not forget the wine – that’s pretty good too 🍷. Our South African road trip took two weeks exploring this amazing country and we only scratched the surface.

 


We decided on the typical tourist trail for a few reasons, to see Cape Town and the Garden Route and also to stick to Malaria free zones. We flew to Cape Town, spent four nights exploring the city before chilling out in a stunning wine estate in Wellington.

We then drove the Garden Route which culminated in a three night safari in Amakhala Game Reserve. I have written posts on some of our individual stays and have added links below to help you plan the perfect South African road trip.

South African Road Trip – Cape Town

Our first stop was Cape Town, which was a great start. We arrived energised and were able to see the highlights in four days. It would have been nice to have one extra day to see Robben Island, but other than that, I think we nailed it 🙂 

I would advise you to stay at the Waterfront. We stayed at the Waterfront Village apartments and they were superb. The Waterfront is safe, central and great for dining out at night time.

south african road trip

No visit to Cape Town would be complete with a trip to Table Mountain. We took the easy route and went by cable car, but if you are feeling energetic you can hike up to the top. However no matter how warm it is in Cape Town, it is a lot colder up there – so bring a jumper with you!

Although you don’t need a car in Cape Town, I would recommend getting one for your last day – if for no other reason that to drive the Cape Peninsula drive. This was one of our highlights.

The scenery is spectacular. We went to Cape Point, swam with penguins and found the coolest beach bar. I also managed to paraglide off Signal Hill during my stay!

Read my blog post to find out all my tips and tricks on Cape Town where to stay, where to eat and safety here.

 

South African Road Tip – Winelands

After an action packed four days, we enjoyed a two night relaxing break in Val du Charron, a magnificent wine estate in Wellington. We explored Franschoek, Stellenbosch and the neighbouring countryside as well as sampling some of South Africa’s best wines.

I wasn’t a fan of Stellenbosch, it was more like a built up holiday resort than a country town. It was not at all what I had imagined. Val du Charron turned out to the be perfect choice.

You can read all about my stay at Val du Charron wine estate here.

south african road trip

The Garden Route

We then drove the Garden Route, which depending on the time of year you travel, can be a tough nut to crack. The drive itself is idyllic, with dramatic mountain passes and magnificent landscapes.

We had no issues with safety along the Garden Route, in fact there were police cars everywhere and we felt at ease throughout our journey. Towns like Hermanus are ideal for whale watching – but make sure you choose the right season!

We decided to drive straight to Oudtshoorn. Although a five hour drive, it was ideal for us as we wanted to stay further along the Eastern Cape. Oudtshoorn is not the prettiest of towns and isn’t somewhere I would recommend staying for longer than a night or two.

It is famous for it’s ostrich farms (which I wasn’t particularly fond of ), and for being the main town of the Klein Karoo area of South Africa’s Western Cape. We stayed in De Zeekoe, a lovely hotel with traditional guest rooms, chalets and cottages.

south african road trip

Pretty towns like Kynsna and Wilderness are definitely worth exploring and for a true South African adventure, I would recommend an overnight stay in the Tenequia Tree Tops.

We decided to go straight to Plettenberg Bay, a famous upmarket seaside town to get some much needed beach time. Although a small town, there is a nice sprinkling of high quality restaurants and bars.

If you do decide to stay here – don’t miss dinner at The Fat Fish! We stayed in the Robberg Beach Lodge, which is ideally situated right on the beach and was the perfect place to catch the sunrise.

The surrounding area is ideal for day trips. We stopped at Tsitsikamma National Park and witnessed people jumping off the highest bungee bridge jump in the world. You can also go white water rafting or visit the famous Addo Elephant National Park.

South African Road Trip – Beach Resort: Cape St Francis

As much as we liked Plettenberg Bay, it was not a patch on our next stop, Cape St Francis Resort. This was like a little piece of heaven and it is somewhere I would love to go back to – I don’t say that very often! We stayed in a stunning beach house with miles of white sand on our doorstep. 

Read all about our family stay in Cape St Francis Resort here.

south african road trip

South African Road Trip: Game Reserve

We were reluctant to leave Cape St Francis but our South African adventure was not over yet. We finished off the trip with a three night stay at Amakhala Game Reserve.

We decided to treat ourselves at the end of our trip and stay at the five star Bush Lodge. We had an incredible family experience. We stayed in a luxurious ‘tent’ (tent does not adequately describe what we were staying in) and saw some amazing wildlife.

You can read all about our luxury safari at Amakhala Game Reserve here.

south african road trip

I learned lots of tips and tricks, where to stay and where to avoid, in our sixteen day adventure. I have advice on travelling with kids, taxis, car minders (yes there is such a thing) and lots more.

I have published my top tips for travelling in South Africa in this post – I hope you will find it useful.

south african road trip

How to get there:

There are numerous airlines flying to South Africa, including Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and KLM  all with one stop from Dublin airport. We booked all our accommodation in Cape Town and throughout South Africa, through a travel agency.

The meet and greet service at the airport was excellent where we received a full travel digest of things to do in Cape Town and in all of our stops. This also contained travel distances, maps with Sat-Nav coordinates and top travel tips – the perfect combination for a South African road trip.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

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Top Tips For Visiting South Africa

Lion Amakhala

Check out my top tips for visiting South Africa, I hope they help you with your travel plans.

 

We visited South Africa on our honeymoon ( many years ago!) and loved it. We decided to go back and bring the kids this time. We spent sixteen days travelling around South Africa, from Cape Town to the Winelands, along the Garden Route and enjoyed a safari on the Eastern Cape at the end. We had an amazing trip, filled with life long memories. Many people assumed we would have safety concerns, but the truth is we didn’t.  Here are my top tips for visiting South Africa!

 

Cape Town

Allow yourself at least four or five nights here. There is so much to do in Cape Town and it is a great city to start off your holiday in South Africa. The Waterfront is very commercialised, but it is a good place to stay. You will feel extremely safe walking around and there are lots of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from.

We stayed in the Waterfront Village apartments  and found them great, they offer the comforts of an apartment, with the service of a hotel. 

Top attractions include Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Visit the colourful houses of Bo-kaap and allow yourself a full day to drive the Cape Peninsula. Read my guide to Cape Town, where to stay, where to eat and safety, here.

 

Attractions:

Unlike most things in South Africa, the tourist attractions can be quite expensive. Make sure you book as much as possible online before hand. Not only will this save you money, but you will skip the queues when you arrive. Trips to Robben Island need to be booked as far in advance as possible, as visitor numbers are restricted each day.

A visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium is a must if travelling with kids. Located on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, you only need to spend a few hours there but the kids will thank you for it! While you are at the Waterfront, don’t bother with the Cape Wheel, it is over priced and the views are much better from Table Mountain!

 

Water shortage

Cape Town has a severe water problem and there are water shortages in many parts of South Africa. Although this varies depending on where you are, some establishments have little or no water in bathrooms. Locals use water very sparingly and you should too. I recommend bringing a small hand sanitiser with you at all times.

tips for visiting south africa

 

Table Mountain

If travelling to Table Mountain (or any of the high peaks, Signal Hill or Lions Head), bear in mind that temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler than in the centre of Cape Town. Wear warm clothes or at least bring a jumper with you. Queues for the cable car to Table Mountain can be two hours in peak season.

Book online, you still may have to queue, but it will be shorter. It only takes about two hours to hike it, so if you don’t fancy queuing, this is a great alternative, weather permitting. It is a strenuous climb though so a certain degree of fitness would be required.

tips for visiting south africa

 

Taxis

Try to use only metered taxis or alternatively download the uber app before you go. Taxis are very cheap so if you are in a restaurant or hotel, ask them to order one for you and you shoudn’t have any price issues then. If you get into a taxi without a meter, make sure to agree a set price before you go. Haggling is expected and don’t be afraid to walk away!

tips for visiting South Africa

 

Winelands

Skip Stellenbosch. It is a big busy city and not exactly the quiet countryside town you might be expecting. Franschhoek is much nicer, although has a Disney type feel to it. We stayed in Val du Charron, just outside Wellington and loved it. Read why I think Val Du Charron is the best place to stay in the Winelands here.

 

Garden Route

Give yourself plenty of time. Drive times from the Winelands to the Garden route are 4 – 5 hours so it is unlikely you will fancy doing anything on your first day. Take that into account and book a minimum of two nights in particular towns if there are activities you are interested in.

Towns like Hermanus are popular for whale watching, but remember the whales are usually only there from June to December. Although it is a nice drive and roads are good, at times it can look very similar to a drive in many parts of Ireland.

If you are short of time, consider flying from Cape Town to George or Port Elizabeth and skipping the 1200km drive. Seaside Resorts such as Cape St Francis Resort where we stayed, is only ninety minutes from Port Elizabeth, and it is a great alternative to Plettenberg Bay. Read all about our family stay in Cape St Francis Resort here.

 

Safaris

There is such a wide choice of safari options to choose from. If you wish to visit Kruger National Park, bear in mind you will need to take malaria tablets before you arrive. Game Reserves along the Eastern Cape, near Port Elizabeth, are usually malaria free.

We stayed in Amakhala Game Reserve and loved it. Most game drives are early morning (ours was 6am) and afternoon so if you want to make the most of your stay, be sure to arrive in time for your afternoon game drive. Many people leave this part of the holiday untill last, if so, book an afternoon flight so you can avail of a morning game drive before you leave.

Despite temperatures of 28 degrees, we found it cold in the open jeep. Bring plenty of warm clothes, particularly for the morning drives. You can read all about our luxury safari in Amakhala Game Reserve here.

tips for visiting South Africa

 

Car Minders

When you park your car at the side of the road, ‘car minders’ will undoubtedly approach you. Locals will offer to mind your car while you go into a shop, restaurant or attraction. This might sound bizarre and is a bit disconcerting, but bear in mind the unemployment rates in South Africa are staggering.

Do your bit to help the local economy and accept graciously. When you return give them a 5 rand coin. It is only about 30 cent, and it’s better to be safe than sorry!

tips for visiting South Africa

 

Keep valuables in your hand luggage.

Unfortunately there are stories reported of suitcases being tampered with in some airports, particularly Johannesburg. We didn’t have any issues, but we were asked in Port Elizabeth if we had locks for our cases at check-in.

When we said we had no locks, we were then asked if we wanted to remove any valuables, before they were checked in! Our luggage arrived safe and sound but it was a nervous wait.

tips for visiting South Africa

 

Money:

Take out cash in the airport when you arrive, the exchange rate is usually better than at home. There are plenty of ATM’s around so just take out as much as you think you may need for a few days, rather than carrying large amounts of cash.

There is a small fee (about €2.50 per €200) in some machines. Some petrol stations and small local shops / restaurants don’t take credit cards so make sure you have cash available.

tips for visiting South Africa

 

Do something you have never done before!

South Africa is full of extraordinary sights and has adventure on every corner. From shark-cage diving to bungy jumping, river rafting to paragliding, face your fears in South Africa and try something new! I paraglided off Signal Hill in Cape Town and it was amazing!

 

Before you go – travelling with children:

If travelling with children make sure you bring their original birth certificates with you. You will not be allowed enter the South Africa without them. Photocopies will not suffice. If a single parent is travelling alone with one of their children or if you are travelling with a child that is not your own, there are further legal requirements – see more here.

 

Book with a specialist

There are so many things to do in South Africa, it is impossible to see it all! Talk to a specialist and let them know what you want from your holiday. Whether you want quiet romantic hotels or family friendly options, they will recommend the right one for you. The meet and greet service at the airport was superb. We received a travel digest with detailed maps, travel distances and a list of things to do in each resort. You also have the advantage of having someone at the end of the phone if you need any assistance.

 

Planning a trip to South Africa? Check out all my posts from our South Africa adventures here.

Cape Town – What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat & Safety

Val du Charron Wine Estate – The Best Place to Stay in South Africa’s Winelands

Our Family Stay at Cape St Francis Resort, South Africa

A Luxury Safari at Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa – The Ultimate Travel Experience

How To Plan The Perfect South African Road Trip

Sarah

The Travel Expert

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