The Western Cape of South Africa is one of my favourite regions in the world. It has everything I look for in a holiday: diverse landscapes, a vibrant urban scene, great food (and wines) and beautiful accommodations. Venture outside of Cape Town, the arrival point for most travellers, and you’ll find awe-inspiring mountains, fascinating rock formations, sandy beaches, quaint towns, vineyards, whales, penguins and many more natural highlights. The best way to discover the many beautiful places near Cape Town is to go on a leisurely road trip. Some, such as the Cape Peninsula, can be done as a day trip from Cape Town whilst others, such as Route 62 or the Garden Route, require more time. Here are six of my favourite road trips from Cape Town, including suggested routes, things to do and see, and where to stay:
A few notes: in South Africa, cars drive on the left side of the road. Drive carefully and try to avoid driving after dark, especially in/around Cape Town and its airport – I recommend taking a taxi instead. In addition, parts of the routes described below require a sturdy car due to unpaved roads.
1. Cape Peninsula
This route from Cape Town around the Cape Peninsula is arguably one of the most spectacular road trips in the world. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking: from the bright blue expanse of False Bay framed by dark, brooding mountains, to the cute penguins at Boulder’s Beach, the dramatic shoreline of Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, and the awe-inspiring Chapman’s Peak Drive along the edges of Hout Bay. This drive is on my list of the best things to do in Cape Town!
It’s possible to see whales in False Bay and Hout Bay from the shore during the whale season (May to November). Keep your eyes peeled! In addition, you can hop on a boat tour from Simon’s Town to Seal Island or Cape Point. On either of these tours, if you’re lucky, you could spot whales and even Great White sharks!
On this route, don’t miss the turn off to the Cape of Good Hope. This wilderness area is the most southwesterly point of the African continent. Tip: keep your car windows up, especially if you see baboons around.
This route can quite easily be done in a day but consider overnighting at False Bay or near Hout Bay for a more leisurely trip. Read more about this Cape Peninsula drive.
2. Cape Winelands
Less than an hour away from Cape Town lie the winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Surrounded by dramatic mountains, the winelands are home to countless wineries, excellent restaurants and luxurious accommodations.
I recommend spending 1-2 nights in this region to truly enjoy the spectacular scenery, gorgeous wines and food. Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, with their charming historic monuments and art galleries, are lovely towns to visit or stay at. For the active ones, the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Cape Floral region, is a haven for hikers.
Wineries to visit
Wineries I recommend for a visit include Lanzerac (the birthplace of South Africa’s Pinotage variety, and also a fabulous place to stay), Middelvlei (a lovely wine farm where you can blend your own wine), Delaire Graff (for its stunning views), Vergenoegd (don’t miss its daily duck parades), Warwick (which offers a terrific wine safari) and classy La Motte. Read more about my favourite Stellenbosch wineries to visit.
Accommodations in Stellenbosch
Accommodations I can recommend include Lanzerac Hotel and Spa, Delaire Graff Lodges and Spier; Majeka House (read about my stay at Majeka House); and in the centre of Stellenbosch, Oude Werf Hotel and Coopmanhuijs.
The coastal route to Betty’s Bay and Gordon’s Bay
This route can be easily combined with a stunning drive along the coast to Betty’s Bay. The coastal scenery is absolutely mind-blowing and you’ll get to see penguins!
Read more about this Cape Town wine route and things to do in Stellenbosch. If you’re touring the wine estates and indulging in the region’s fabulous wines, I recommend using Uber or hiring a taxi for a day.
Suggested duration: 2-3 days. Overnight in Stellenbosch and/or Franschhoek (links to accommodations on Booking.com). Driving times: Cape Town to Stellenbosch (±50 minutes); Stellenbosch to Betty’s Bay via Grabouw (1 hour 40 minutes); Betty’s Bay to Strand (40 minutes).
3. The southernmost tip of Africa
Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of the African continent and the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, is a fantastic go-to point for a road trip from Cape Town! I recommend spending a few days to make your way there. Extend the Cape Winelands route to Cape Agulhas (see map above) to see pristine nature parks and have more opportunities to experience the wondrous Western Cape marine life.
Along the way, you’ll pass Hermanus, the whale-watching capital of South Africa, the vast Walker Bay, the town of Gansbaai or Gans Bay (famous for its boat excursions to Walker Bay and Dyer Island/Shark Alley) and Cape Floral nature reserves. The whale-watching season lasts from May through to November. Hermanus, with its stunning oceanfront and great restaurants, is perfect as a base. I can also recommend Grootbos, a private nature reserve near Gansbaai with gorgeous accommodations.
From Gansbaai, continue along the coast to Cape Agulhas. Don’t miss the historic lighthouse!
Suggested duration: 4-5 days. Search for accommodations in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Hermanus (links to accommodations on Booking.com). Driving times: Cape Town/Stellenbosch to Hermanus (1 hour 45 minutes); Hermanus to Cape Agulhas via Gansbaai (2 hours).
- Stellenbosch/Franschhoek (1 night)
- Hermanus or Grootbos (2-3 nights, with a day trip to Cape Agulhas)
4. The West Coast to Cederberg
This route north of Cape Town takes visitors off the beaten path, to a wild and largely untouched region. Discover the wild West Coast, five-million-year-old fossils, spectacular mountain passes, dusty plains, unique rock formations and fascinating San rock art. During the spring months (August/September), the Cederberg becomes a rich tapestry of colour as it’s covered with countless wildflowers. At night, sip on a Pinotage and look up to gaze at the amazing star-strewn sky.
This road trip can be done in several days, and is perfect for nature enthusiasts and hikers. A sturdy car is recommended as not all roads on this route are paved. In addition, bring food and water when crossing the desolate Cederberg.
An iconic Cape Town view
As you head north to Langebaan, plan a photo-stop at Bloubergstrand (Blouberg beach) for an iconic view of Cape Town.
Continue north to Langebaan. The Langebaan lagoon is a salt-water lagoon that’s famous for its bird life and water sports (kite-surfing, kayaking and sailing). In October and November, whales can often be spotted. In addition, if you love oysters, Langebaan is the place to be! Some of the top-rated places for oysters include The Oystercatcher and Kokomo Beach Bar & Restaurant. Accommodations in Langebaan I can recommend include Tortoise Trail Lodge and The Farmhouse Hotel.
Just outside Langebaan, you’ll find the West Coast Fossil Park. A national heritage site, the West Coast Fossil Park is one of the few places in the world where visitors can view fossil remains on-site. There are amazingly well-preserved fossils of sabre-tooth cats, short-necked giraffes and other animals which roamed this area five million years ago!
Another place that’s absolutely worth a visit is Paternoster, with its picturesque whitewashed houses and endless beaches. One of the oldest fishing villages in South Africa, Paternoster is a popular holiday destination for locals and boasts a terrific culinary scene (featuring its fantastic seafood)! In fact, one of the world’s top-50 best restaurants (and Africa’s #1), Wolfgat, is located in Paternoster.
The route continues north to Clanwilliam, a historic town on the slopes of the Cederberg mountains. Famous for its rooibos tea (a visit to the Rooibos Teahouse is a must for tea lovers), Clanwilliam is also the gateway to the Cederberg mountains.
There are various trails in the Cederberg mountains near Clanwilliam where hikers can see fascinating geological formations and rock art. One of the most famous is the Sevilla Rock Art Trail, which takes hikers past hundreds of San rock art. San or Bushman rock paintings are one of South Africa’s greatest cultural treasures. Discovered some 350 years ago, there are more than 20,000 San rock art sites scattered throughout the country; some of which date back to the Stone Ages.
From Clanwilliam, drive across the Cederberg, an unforgettable drive across three thrilling mountain passes (Pakhuis Pass, Hoek Se Berg and Kouberg Pass) to Wuppertal, an isolated Moravian mission station. You’ll also pass the stunning Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve (consider a stay here).
Continue across the Cederberg and the barren plains – look out for Tafelberg, the lesser-known twin of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Turn off to the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve, a unique nature reserve which combines safaris and San rock art with accommodations carved out of the rocky outcrops.
On the way back to Cape Town, you’ll pass Ceres, the citrus capital of South Africa, as well as several more awe-inspiring mountain passes. You can also extend this road trip to include the Cape Winelands route (see above).
Suggested duration: 5-7 days. Search for accommodations in Langebaan or Paternoster, and Clanwilliam. Check rates for Bushman’s Kloof and Kagga Kamma (links to Booking.com). Driving times: Cape Town to Langebaan via Bloubergstrand (1 hour 40 minutes); Langebaan to Paternoster (±35 minutes); Langebaan to Clanwilliam (2 hours); Clanwilliam to Kagga Kamma via Wuppertal (±4 hours); Kagga Kamma to Stellenbosch (3 hours 20 minutes).
- Langebaan or Paternoster (1 night)
- Clanwilliam or Bushman’s Kloof (1-2 nights)
- Kagga Kamma (1-2 nights)
- Stellenbosch or Franschhoek (1-2 nights)
5. Route 62
The iconic Route 62 is the traditional inland route from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn and through to Port Elizabeth (renamed Gqeberha in 2021). Along the way, it offers outstanding mountain scenery, charming winelands, quirky attractions and historic towns. Route 62 is also known as the longest wine route in the world as it passes many wine-producing areas, such as around Robertson.
From Cape Town, follow the N1 highway past Paarl and across the Hawequas mountains, and continue to Robertson – you can opt to stop for a meal at Nuy Winery along Route 62.
The stunning Robertson area, at the foot of the imposing Langeberg mountains, begs to be explored. Don’t miss a visit to one of the wine farms such as Graham Beck, Springfield or Zandvliet. Route 62 continues through the Cogmanskloof (gorge) where you can gawk at the towering, layered rock surfaces. As you pass the gorge, you’ll leave the verdant Robertson Valley behind and enter the reddish-orange, rocky landscapes of the Little Karoo. Overnight in Robertson or Montagu, a charming town with tree-lined streets and lovely Victorian houses. There are also hot springs and hiking trails to explore.
Continue past Barrydale, Ladismith and Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn. Along the way, drop by at two famous cafés on Route 62: Diesel & Creme and Ronnie’s Sex Shop.
Oudtshoorn and the Swartberg loop
Oudtshoorn, also known as the Ostrich Capital of South Africa, is a historic town with numerous hotels and restaurants. Don’t miss a visit to one of the ostrich farms and the beautiful Cango Caves. I also recommend taking a day to drive the Swartberg loop, an incredibly scenic route! From Oudtshoorn, head to De Rust and on to Prince Albert, the perfect place for lunch and a stroll.
From there, head back to Oudtshoorn along the Swartberg Pass through the spectacular Swartberg mountains, with its towering reddish stone cliffs and awe-inspiring stone formations. This is a largely unpaved road with numerous hairpin bends so make sure you have a sturdy car and drive carefully. You’ll want to drive slowly to take in the jaw-dropping scenery!
Back to Cape Town
From Oudtshoorn, you can choose to continue your road trip along the famous Garden Route (see below), or head back to Cape Town via Mossel Bay, Swellendam and Hermanus on the N2 Highway. I also recommend a stay at the amazing Gondwana Private Game Reserve, a Big Five game reserve near Mossel Bay. Read more about my stay at Gondwana Private Game Reserve.
Suggested duration: 5-9 days. Search for accommodations in Montagu, Oudtshoorn and Hermanus (links to Booking.com). Driving times: Cape Town to Montagu (2 hours 30 minutes); Montagu to Oudtshoorn (2 hours 30 minutes); Swartberg loop via Prince Albert (3-4 hours); Oudtshoorn to Hermanus via Mossel Bay and Swellendam (4 hours 40 minutes).
- Cape Town to Robertson or Montagu (1-2 nights)
- Oudtshoorn (2 nights)
- [Optional] Gondwana Private Game Reserve (2 nights)
- Hermanus (1-2 nights)
6. Garden Route
The Garden Route is the most popular touristic road trip in South Africa. It officially starts in Mossel Bay and ends in Stormsrivier, approximately 300 kilometers away in the Eastern Cape. The spectacular coast, with its indigenous forests, pristine lagoons, endless sandy beaches and picturesque towns, is absolutely breathtaking.
Places to visit along the Garden Route
There are many interesting places to visit along the Garden Route. I recommend choosing two places to base yourself for 2-3 nights: Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. From here, recommended places to visit along the Garden Route include:
- Near Knysna: Knysna Heads, Knysna Forest and Garden of Eden
- Between Plettenberg Bay and Stormsrivier: Tsitsikamma National Park, Robberg Nature Reserve, Bloukrans Bridge and Storms River Bridge
The ultimate Garden Route road trip
There are three ways to embark on a Garden Route road trip. If you’re short on time, you can join a group tour from Cape Town. If you’d like to go on your own but only have a few days, you can fly into George (from Cape Town or Johannesburg) and hire a car at the airport for a few days to explore the Garden Route.
The third option requires more time but you’ll see the best of the Western Cape. Start the trip in Cape Town along the N1 Highway and continue along Route 62 to Oudtshoorn (see Route 62 above). From Oudtshoorn, join the Garden Route at Mossel Bay. Consider a safari stay at the amazing Gondwana Private Game Reserve near Mossel Bay. From here, drive the Garden Route to Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Stormsrivier.
Drive back to Cape Town along the N2 Highway via Swellendam and Hermanus. Before getting back to Cape Town, you can opt to spend a few nights in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek to recover from this epic road trip!
Suggested duration: 10-15 days. Driving times: Cape Town to Montagu (2 hours 30 minutes); Montagu to Oudtshoorn (2 hours 30 minutes); Oudtshoorn to Knysna (1 hour 45 minutes); Knysna to Plettenberg Bay (35 minutes); Plettenberg Bay to Hermanus (5 hours).
Ultimate Garden Route itinerary
- Cape Town to Robertson/Montagu (1 night)
- Oudtshoorn (1 night)
- Knysna (2-3 nights)
- Plettenberg Bay (2-3 nights)
- Gondwana Game Reserve or Mossel Bay (1-2 nights)
- Hermanus (1-2 nights)
- [Optional] Stellenbosch/Franschhoek (1-3 nights)