Help Us Plan our South Africa Road Trip!

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I am so so excited! We’ve just booked flights to South Africa for the beginning of January and have an epic trip planned. This is a big trip for us—it’s our first time in Africa and we’ll be taking at least a month off work, much of it offline and sometimes even without electricity. 

I may have gone a bit overboard with the planning, but I love planning and the more I do now, the less I have to worry about on the road. We’re currently housesitting for two months in a tiny village in Spain (again) with nothing much to do, so researching South Africa keeps me from getting too restless.

Please let us know your thoughts on our plan and any tips you have for anywhere we’re visiting along the way (vegetarian food, beaches, hikes, off-the-beaten-track activities etc).

We’ll have a total of 90 days in South Africa (the maximum you get on arrival). We’ll start with a few days in Johannesburg where I think we’ll rent an Airbnb in the artsy Maboneng Precinct. A Soweto tour seems like a must—let me know if you have any recommendations for good guides/tours.

We’ll then rent a car for just over a month to road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town. This is our rough itinerary. Other than the first Kruger section we won’t book too much in advance to give ourselves the option to stay places longer. We don’t usually travel at such a quick pace so I’m not sure how we’ll get on.

UPDATE: We’ve completed our trip and here’s our detailed South Africa road trip itinerary

Kruger

  • Graskop 2 nights – Visit Blyde River Canyon and the Panorama Route. 
  • Umlani Bushcamp 2 nights – An all-inclusive lodge in the private Timbavati Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park. This is one of the more affordable lodges and is off-the-grid and eco-friendly. We’re hoping to spend a night in their treehouse!
  • Klaserie Sands River Camp 3 nights – A more luxurious safari lodge in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. This family-run, intimate lodge only has four rooms and looks beautiful. 
  • Kruger National Park 3 nights – We’ll self-drive and stay in bungalows in rest camps (Olifants and Lower Sabie). The budget Kruger experience.

Drakensberg

Drakensberg, South Africa

Drakensberg. Photo by Gareth Williams.

  • Wakkerstroom 1 night – Just to break up the long drive to the Drakensberg mountains.
  • Central Drakensberg 3 nights – Inkosana Lodge looks like a good base for hikes.
  • Southern Drakensberg 2-3 nights – To break up the drive down to the Wild Coast. Possibly stay at Khotso Backpackers for horse riding.

Wild Coast

  • Coffee Bay 2 nights – To hike to the Hole in the Wall.
  • Cintsa 3-5 nights – The sea view rooms at Buccaneers Lodge look gorgeous. Possibly a good place to stay for a while and relax.
  • Hogsback? 2-3 nights – If we have time we’ll take a detour inland to this hippy mountain village. I like the look of eco-friendly Terra Khaya and their natural horsemanship, but I don’t know if we could deal with the lack of electricity/wifi and shared long drop toilets.

Or alternatively we could stop at Addo Elephant Park if we wanted to see more wildlife.

Garden Route

Wilderness, South Africa

Wilderness. Photo by South African Tourism.

  • Nature’s Valley 3 nights – Wild Spirit Backpackers has been recommended to us. Possible activities in the area include hikes, zip lining, and swimming with seals.
  • Wilderness 2 nights
  • Oudtshoorn? 2 nights – If we have time we’ll go inland to the Little Karoo to drive the scenic Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert and possibly do the Meerkat Adventure.

Cape Town

Cape Town. Photo by Werner Bayer.

Cape Town. Photo by Werner Bayer.

Cape Town will be our final stop. We’ll spend just under two months here and it looks like there is tons to do and eat. We’ll probably rent an apartment in advance on Airbnb as it’s easier, even though it’s more expensive. I haven’t found any other way of finding an affordable short-term rental and we don’t want to waste time and energy searching when we arrive. I’m leaning towards the Sea Point neighbourhood as we’d love to be by the sea and the promenade looks like the best and safest place for walking and running.

We’ll also do side trips to wine country and Cape Point.

South Africa Road Trip Map

I figured out this route by entering all the places I was interested in visiting into this custom Google map. We won’t be able to visit everywhere but it helps to have all the options laid out.

Please let us know if you have any thoughts on our route, special places to stay, tips for places to eat and visit along the way, or advice on finding a Cape Town apartment. Thank you and we look forward to sharing details of the trip with you once we’re underway.

Check out our South Africa road trip itinerary for the final route we took and all the details you need to recreate it yourself.

This post is brought to you in collaboration with AccommoDirect.com, a South African company who have over 15,000 accommodation listings across the country with lots of great travel deals. The site is easy to use, all listings are verified, and there are no booking fees. 

Main photo of Cape Point by Nicolas Raymond

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34 Comments

  1. I might bw a bit late, but you must definitely try stop in at One on Hely in Mtunzini. It’s a wonderful bed and breakfast close to game reserves, a short distance from the beach and with great little adventures around the town (walks through mangroves and forests, bird watching, cycling etc)

    Reply

  2. I’m a little late seeing this and you are no doubt already there – but don’t miss Oudtshoorn or the drive over the Swartberg pass to Prince Albert. We spent 3 months in the Cape region earlier this year and it was just fantastic, just the most beautiful region in the world as far as I’m concerned.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    Reply

  3. hey,
    well i dont have alot to offer in the way of advice ( looks like you have that covered ) but just wanted to say it looks like a great trip im sure you should enjoy it. SA looks like a great place.
    hope your both well as i havent spoke to you in along time.
    enjoy and stay safe.
    lots of love
    your amazing brother ?

    Reply

  4. Wow!!! You guys are finally coming to Africa.
    I am a proud South African, born in Jhb, raised in CT and have travelled a large portion of our beautiful country. We South African’s are truly blessed, we have forests, plains and deserts. We have sun and sea and mountains. We have quiet coutryside and busy cities. We have multi-nations, 11 national languages and a love for all cultures. Yes we have crime, but no more than other places in the world. But best of all, we have a love for music, for friends and companionship, for story-telling, amazing food and delectable wines and of course we own the braai.
    Our history is short compared with Europe, but it is as varied as can be.
    One place I can highly recommend whilst in Jhb is a trip to Gold Reef City – it is a theme park – but you can also go underground into a working gold mine! South Africa has been built on the back of gold mining and we boast the worlds deepest at 3.8km below surface. We have world class deposits of gold, platinum, iron-ore, vanadium, manganese and diamonds to name but a few. (I’m a geologist – hence all the talk about rocks).
    We would love to meet you so let us know when you’re in Jhb and perhaps we can show you a glimpse of our amazing country.
    Thanks for all the travel inspiration.

    Reply

  5. Part 2.

    Hi Erin & Simon,

    A few more bits of advice/tips from my journey….I’ve had a look at the map you’ve got on here and where you’re going. The road trip I did was from Pretoria across to Durban taking in the battlefelds – Rorkes drift, Blood river, Isandlwane – then all the way down the east coast back to Cape Town. The one thing I hadn’t really factored in was just the sheer size of the country and how far I was having to drive and the time it took…not all the roads are good roads…..and some just aren’t roads!! You have to factor in a lot more time to get from A to B than you normally would if you were in Europe say. I’m just wondering looking at your plans whether you may have to cut a couple of days here and there as you go along because of the miles.

    I flew from Cape Town to Joburg to go and see the 4th test SA v Eng at Centurian in Pretoria. I used the Gautrain to get from the airport to Pretoria…very easy, modern and safe. I then used Uber taxis to get to my hotel and about. I stayed in the Lynwood area and there was a whole cluster of restaurants and bars opposite the hotel so I didn’t really move from that area at night. I went a couple of times to a bar called Eastmans which is near the rugby stadium. Its a good bar used by a lot of the embassy staff (The British embassy is nearby) as well as locals so safe to drink and the area is quite safe as well…it felt it anyway.

    I didn’t go to Kruger so can’t offer any tips there..I did do some safari though…I went to a private reserve called Cheetah Ridge which is part of the Nambiti game reserve near Dundee/Rorkes drift area. Check out the website. It was a great place and has the big 5. Make sure you have some good Binos for safari…you’ll need them.

    The drive from Pretoria to Dundee took me about 6 hours and I stayed at a place called the Last Post which was ok. I had a small separate thatched cottage to sleep in, but there are plenty of other places. If you are in to your military history then Rorkes drift (as in the film Zulu), Isandlwana, blood river memorials and battlefields are a must. If I did it again though I would stay at the Rorkes drift hotel just outside Rorkes drift. It is run by an old English couple and is just a stunning place to stay, right on the Buffalo river. Or there is another private reserve nearby called Fugitives drift which is highly recommended. It also has the gravestones of the first 2 posthumous recipients of the Victoria Cross – an amazing story in itself.

    The roads to Rorkes drift are just mud roads but I managed it in my hire car. I took out extra tyre and windscreen insurance on the advice of friends but wondered why…until I was on these roads and was glad I had…although I didn’t need it in the end. Once I’d finished on the battlefields I headed to Durban and then down the coast. Great curries in Durban..but I don’t think you’re going there.

    From Durban my next stop was Port St John. That was a long drive I seem to remember. I stopped for lunch at a really pretty town called Southbroom. I wish I could have stayed longer and it looked well worth a stop. Well signposted off the main drag and near to Margate and Ramsgate…just like being back in blighty haha.

    In Port st John I stayed at Amapondo back packers. It’s an eco friendly place and you can get free board and lodge if you are accepted as a volunteer to help run the place and look after it. Great atmosphere in the bar at night which is used by locals as well. Monkeys running over the roof at night may keep you awake but otherwise ok. Lots of pets there and when I was there even a foul wandering around that they were looking after as it had been abandoned by its mother…strange when it wanders into the shower block though!!

    Coffee bay is a couple of towns down. I would point out though…don’t be deceived by your map. Port St Johns, Coffee bay, hole in the wall….they are all reached by spur roads from the main road running parallel with the coast. It doesn’t look much on the map…but most are around 100 miles long (To Port St John was 110 from the turn off)..so my thoughts of a quick stop off in Coffee bay when I left Port St John were quickly dashed as it was about a 200 mile round trip from the main road!!

    Port Alfred was my next stop. Stayed at Villa Del Mar which is right on the west beach road – lovely place and picked it up for £30/night from Booking.com. Its a quiet town but I had a couple of good nights there. Theres a good local museum, great micro brewery in the centre with good food as well. The main reason for me going there was that my uncle learnt to fly Spitfires there during the war so I was able to go to the airfield and museum out side the town to have a look.

    Port Elizabeth next stop – Again this was cricket for me Eng v SA. Enjoyed my nights out there though. Stayed at Cape flame guest house. It was a steal on Booking.com at £32/night..fantastic place and great value for money for the executive room I had. I didn’t do Addo but a mate went last month and said they enjoyed it.

    Knysna – Quiet but cute. Some good places around the marina/quay. I found a good eating place in the centre on Gray St…. loads of vinyl on the ceiling, good music selection and great steak – can’t remember the name, sorry.

    Gansbaii – Cage diving. Well the first thing I learnt was that Feb is a bad time to do this as there are not many great whites about in Jan/Feb. They hadn’t seen any for over 2 weeks when I went but thought I’d give it a try… I stayed there overnight so didn’t have the half 3 start that those coming from Cape Town do. It was 7.30 at the boat. We went out…4 hours of watching a guy throw chum in the water…and not one shark!! But thats nature. I will be trying again this time as my ticket was valid for a return within 2 years if no sharks were seen..

    When you come of the main road to drive down to Hermanus/Gansbaii you’ll pass a couple of vinyards. Both well worth a stop…can’t remember the names, sorry.

    One of the best drives I did was the drive along the coast road from Hermanus back to Cape Town via Bettys bay, Cape Hangklip to Gordans Bay….and you must do it in this direction as you will be on the side closest to the sea. It was just stunning. I saw whales and dolphins, amazing scenary…it was just beautiful and a must do with plenty of places to stop, take pics, have a swim… And a stop in Gordans bay at the end for a wine by the beach is worth doing to.

    I’ve probably bored you to death now….but I hope you find something of value from these posts.

    Paul.

    Reply

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