Top 5 Road Trips to Take in South Africa

Your petrol tank is full, your car finance is in order (which is a weight off your shoulders), and the weather is good. What we have here is a recipe for a road trip!

But with South Africa being such a vastly beautiful and scenic country, the question is – where should your four wheels take you?

From sunny and vibrant coastlines to majestic mountain trails and “Big 5” territories, South Africa is nothing short of magnificent. And lest we forget the rich history and culture that infuse the 9 provinces. To say that you’ll be in for the ride of a lifetime isn’t an exaggeration.

With so many fascinating routes and destinations to choose from, planning the perfect trip can be overwhelming. But there’s no need to fret. In this article, we’ll help you narrow down your choices. These routes have something for everyone. They feature safe roads, breath-taking views, comfortable roadside accommodation options, and plenty to do so that you can stretch your legs along the way.

Here are our top 5 suggestions (in no particular order): 

1. The Panorama Route 

The Panorama journey is one of a kind and will best suit those who have solace and reverence for nature in mind. Located near to Johannesburg, this is an easy trip for the nearby city dwellers. It’s an ideal spot to get away from the tenacity of urban chaos. While there’s not much to do beyond taking in the natural scenery, travellers seem to draw inspiration from the calmness and tranquillity of the place.

If you decide to follow the entire route from Johannesburg to Mpumalanga, expect a good 5 hours of driving time. Along the way, you can stop to take in the world’s third-largest canyon (Blyde River Canyon). If you’re lucky enough, you’ll also get to experience low-level clouds that envelope tourists with a sense of magical delight. 

The best time of year to enjoy this route is in the dry winter when the roads are clear of mist or in summer when the roadsides are awash with wild pink and white lilies.

2. The Garden Route

The Garden Route spans over 200 kilometres of South Africa’s most interesting land. Along this road, you’ll be able to witness soft sandy beaches, dense mountain forests, and lagoons – all in one stretch. There is also a ton of things to do along the way, making it a perfect choice for those who want to take a more active approach when it comes to hitting the road.

Located in the Western Cape, the Garden Route finds itself nestled between Mossel Bay and Storms River Mouth. The picturesque surrounds welcome explorers and the experiences are endless. You can hike and camp out at the Knysna Forest, zipline through Tsitsikamma, or you can change modes of transport and hop on a boat for whale and dolphin watching in Plettenberg Bay.

The Garden route experiences rain throughout the year, so planning a dry and sunny trip may be tricky. However, the temperatures are highest from November to April and it’s during this time that you’ll get the best out of the beaches. 

3. The Kruger National Park 

If you want to enjoy a road trip that guarantees sightings of the most spectacular wildlife along the way, then The Kruger National Park won’t disappoint. The great thing about this kind of trip is that there are many routes to choose from. You can travel from the north to the south of the park (or vice versa), you can meander in from Sun City, or you can take a few detours through to Sabie and Dullstroom.

Apart from indulging in a safari that promises sightings of South Africa’s Big 5, you’ll also bear witness to monumental waterfalls, natural rivers, and a horizon that plays host to the most brilliant sunsets. You can have your pick of accommodation too. There are both rustic and luxury campsites aplenty or if you prefer a more solid roof over your head, then pop into one of the many 5-star hotels.

The dry winter season from May to October is the best window of opportunity for this route. During this time, the animals are more active as they look for water and you’re also less likely to experience days of rain.

4. The Wild Coast

Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Wild Coast offers travellers an eventful 350 kilometres of coastal scenery. The stretch starts in East London and carries on all the way to the border of KZN. This is a trip that’s laden with lush tropical greenery, expansive farmlands, and beaches that can only be defined as exquisite.

This route also promises a unique cultural experience. Break your trip and indulge in an overnight stay in a rural hut – or visit a cultural village to discover more about the nation’s diversity. If you want to keep your eyes on the road, that’s OK too! This laid-back trip is more than willing to please!

The Wild Coast is the perfect summertime destination. With temperatures that can easily exceed 30 degrees Celsius, you’ll want to pack your swimming gear for this excursion.

5. Route 62

If you’re financing a car that enjoys a smooth and easy road, then Route 62 is a “must”. This stretch of utter bliss takes you through the vineyards of the Cape Winelands. But there’s more to this journey than good wine and a dose of peace and quiet.

Route 62 opens up to the Karoo, which is an open scrubland that houses some of the best farms and livestock in South Africa. Tourists enjoy the area for its “ruralness”, it’s interesting rock formations, and a landscape that can alter dramatically with the shifting seasons.

This road trip provides travellers with fascinating scenery throughout the seasons. From snow-capped mountains in winter to tumbleweeds in summer, this is a journey that should be marked on your map.