Words: Shaina Herman
South Africa’s most epic byways, highways, and beautiful drives (just add playlist)
Every stop is more impressive than the next on the 9 kilometer Chapman’s Peak drive. Short in distance but big in views, Chappies is ideal for sunglasses, convertibles, and a hand out the window catching air waves. From the blue choppy waters and harbour of Hout Bay to the laidback village and long beaches of Noordhoek, this Cape Town coastal route absolutely shimmers.
Only those with rugged vehicles can make it through the heart of the Sani Pass and into the Kingdom of Lesotho. Over the Drakensberg mountains, the route snakes down a windy path of hairpin twists and turns. Climbing to a height of nearly 3000 meters, the pass can be treacherous in bad weather with snow and ice on the roads. Despite the danger, since the 1950’s, the ultimate adventurers continue to drive with caution reaping the rewards of breathtaking mountain views and a major adrenaline rush.
The Wild Coast
Untamed and untouched beauty lines the shore of the Eastern Cape. But, don’t let the promise of the warm Indian Ocean fool you, this coastline happens to be the opposite of tropical beaches offering a more jagged, dramatic beauty instead. A hikers dream, the payoffs and rewards of the natural wilderness stretch over 500 kilometers from Mtamvuna River to the Great Kei River.
The Garden Route
One of the world’s most famous drives, the easy cruisin’ Garden Route is quaint stop after quaint stop at lush seaside towns. While Knysna usually wins awards for being one of the best places for living in South Africa, there are quite a few gorgeous little others dotted along the way. Wilderness is a quiet forest retreat, with hikes and lagoons, while Plettenberg Bay can pump. Each small town has its own charismatic charm with cottages and hotels to cozy up in.
The Franschhoek Winelands
Franschhoek’s French flair and elegance, invite you into your car to road trip to the world’s best wine farms (with a driver if you are drinking). Sweet local shops line the main road leading out to a land of well manicured enchantment from La Motte to Holden Manz, through a valley of grapes. Start with the gardens of Babylonstoren, stop at Terbodore for a bold coffee, and go charcuterie and bubbly wild at Moreson next door. Then, end with the best meal of your life at Margot Janse’s, The Tasting Room.
Meandering the Midlands
A slow route just outside of Durban, (and a few hours from Joburg) the Midlands require very little planning and a lot of local impromptu stops. Designed for visitors to slow down, relax, and eat delicious honest country food, the route has many different paths that lead to markets, cafes, wildlife, and history. Choose from 5 different drives that will take you into the heart of South Africa.
The Cape Epic
Not your normal road trip, this off-roading adventure takes place completely by cycling. Unforgiving, tough, and hardcore, The Cape Epic is a premier mountain biking race that invites amateurs and professionals to ride out 700km across the Western Cape through majestic terrain otherwise inaccessible. Eight days, a new route every year, and the most unspoilt landscape makes this trip undoubtedly unique.
The Panorama Route
Easy to drive with natural landmarks along the way, The Panorama Route is a long trip from the mountains of the Drakensberg to the interior’s Lowveld. Drive from waterfall to waterfall ending up at the impressive Blyde River Canyon, one of the biggest on earth, and see how nature has sculpted its own impressive works of art at other well marked destinations. Mountain passes and historic towns founded over 200 years ago in search of gold have carved out a route that’s easy to drive, stretching from Limpopo through Mpumalanga.