The Ultimate South Africa Road Trip Itinerary

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I cannot stop raving about my South Africa road trip.  This road trip along the Garden Route and Eastern Cape was, hands down, one of the best trips of my life.

A lot of you have written me asking how you can do the same trip.  You absolutely can.  The great thing about this trip is that it’s easily replicable — and incredibly affordable!  I have included every detail here to help you plan your trip.

WARNING: This is a monster post.  Normally I don’t write posts this long, but I thought it was important to have all the information in one place because I believe you would enjoy this itinerary as much as I did! Save it, bookmark it, send it to your friends.  It’s long but filled with a LOT of good stuff.

Table Mountain Bench

Day One: Cape Town to Swellendam

Originally we were supposed to go shark cage diving, but high waves prevented us from doing so. Instead, Simon gave us two options: we could do a tour of the Cape Peninsula (which I did in November), or we could drive down the coast and stop anywhere we felt like.  We chose the latter.

Our first stop was Gordon’s Bay, a dinky little beach town where we stopped for an early morning ice cream.  Then the coast went from pretty to stunning.  In my opinion, South Africa has the world’s best coastline.  We talked to a professional “shark spotter” and took pictures everywhere we could.

The view of all views was found in Koolbaai.

Koolbaai

Next, we stopped in Hermanus, a lovely little town and the easiest place in the world to spot whales from land (from July to January, that is!).

Hermanus

We got back on the road and headed to Birkenhead Brewery for our lunch: wine and beer tasting.  If ice cream for breakfast appealed to the kid in us, wine for lunch definitely appealed to our inner adult!

Wine Tasting at Birkenhead Brewery

After sipping delicious wines and enjoying that fabulous view, we piled back into the car and stopped for springbok pies.  I love Africa.

In the afternoon, we arrived in Swellendam, a pretty and sleepy inland town at the base of the mountains.

Autumn in Swellendam

After checking in at Swellendam Backpackers Lodge, Stephanie, the friendly owner, took me, Nadine, and  Jeremy horseback riding in the mountains as the sun dipped below the horizon.  Meanwhile, Diego and Simon hiked to a nearby waterfall.

Horseback Riding in Swellendam

After a steak braai (barbecue) in the lodge, a few of us went out to explore the nightlife.  Swellendam isn’t exactly a hoppin’ place — but that was all right.

Where We Stayed: Swellendam Backpackers Lodge.  This is a very cozy and comfortable hostel — it felt far more like a small hotel, only for a fraction of the price.  The free unlimited wifi (rare in South Africa) was deeply appreciated, and it was so nice curling up near the fireplace.  I had a private room with twin beds and my own bathroom, complete with a sink and tub made from steel barrels!   The one caveat? Rooms aren’t heated (or perhaps they aren’t in May), and it got a bit cold at night.

The room I had costs 300 rand ($30) for 1 person, 380 rand ($39.50) for 2.

Swellendam Backpackers

Day One Essential Info: At Birkenhead Brewery, you can taste four wines for an absurdly low 20 rand ($2).  You can taste six beers for 60 rand ($6). I’m not a chardonnay fan at all, but I LOVED their chardonnay — make sure you try it.

Horseback riding is available at Swellendam Backpackers Lodge for an equally absurd 200 rand ($21) for one hour.  You can also do a four-hour, half-day trip with a picnic lunch included for 850 rand ($88).  If you do the hike, know that the waterfall is more like a trickle during May.

In low season at Swellendam Backpackers Lodge, dorms start at 120 rand ($12), private rooms start at 300 rand ($30) for singles and 410 ($43) for doubles, and camping starts at 80 rand ($8).  Wifi is free and unlimited.

More hotels in Swellendam can be found here.

Mountains on the Garden Route

Day Two: Swellendam to Sedgefield

Day two was one of our busiest days, and looking back, I’d easily say that it was my favorite!

After a delicious breakfast, we said goodbye to Stephanie and piled into the car to cross the mountains. By the time we came out the other side, the environment had changed to desert.  We were in the heart of the Karoo and on famous Route 62.

After stopping to photograph the church in the town of Barrydale, we made our first major stop: Ronnie’s Sex Shop!

Ronnie's Sex Shop

This weird little desert shop had the word SEX painted between Ronnie’s and Shop as a joke — and it brought it a lot of customers, so it stayed.  The shop is something to behold — it’s covered in graffiti and filled with people’s underwear!

Ronnie's Sex Shop

We got to meet Ronnie himself, who looked like a cross between Santa and Willie Nelson.  He warned us not to be good.

Stephanie had told us that there were great hot springs nearby, so we stopped at Warmwaterberg Spa for a dip in the 40C (104F) waters.  Nadine, Diego, and I had a nice soak and chatted up the South Africans on holiday.

Warmwaterberg Spa

Our main stop was Oudtshoorn, the wacky town of ostriches.  We visited Cango Wildlife Ranch, a zoo filled with everything from giant bats to lemurs.

Lemurs in Oudtshoorn

Then we suited up for two of their animal encounters: first, leopards!

Playing with a Leopard in Oudtshoorn

(These leopards were not sedated — they were just sleeping.  They’re unable to survive in the wild, so they live here.)

Second, crocodile cage diving!

Croc Diving in Oudtshoorn

Croc cage diving was incredibly fun and one of the craziest things I have ever done.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find this experience elsewhere.  The crocs get right up into the cage and Nadine and I screamed the entire time — I can’t wait to see the video of that

After toweling off, we visited Cango Ostrich Show Farm.

Ostriches in Oudtshoorn

I couldn’t hide any longer — it was time for me to face my fear of birds.  I put my arm around an ostrich and it didn’t eat me — but that wasn’t enough to get me riding one later, as Nadine and Simon did.

So then, just before we left, I held a bucket and had them peck all around me.  It was terrifying.

Kate and the Ostriches

We then had ostrich for lunch.  Sweet revenge.

After gunning through the mountains for the second time that day, we arrived in Sedgefield just in the nick of time to catch the sunset and a beer with the Afrovibe crew.

Sunset in Sedgefield

Dinner was a chicken and vegetable stew at the hostel.  And then it may have been time for a beer pong tournament…

Where We Stayed: Afrovibe Adventure Lodge and Backpackers.  This is a party hostel in an incredible location, right on Myoli Beach.  Sedgefield has historically been a town for retirees, but this hostel has made Sedgefield cool.  It’s also home to Chuck, probably the best hostel dog ever!

I gasped when I saw my room, beautifully decorated with a double bed and a private bathroom — and at a PARTY HOSTEL.  I can’t believe a room this nice was at a hostel — literally on top of the bar!  And once I woke up, I saw that it actually had a view of the beach.  Again, the free unlimited wifi, though it wasn’t the strongest, was appreciated.

Had I had more time, I could see myself putting down roots here and hanging out for weeks.

This room starts at 450 rand ($47) per night.

Room at Afrovibe Lodge

Day Two Essential Info: Ronnie’s Sex Shop is free to visit, but stay for a cup of coffee or a drink.

Visiting Warmwaterberg Spa costs 30 rand ($3) per person.  They also have a variety of accommodation if you want to stay overnight.

Visiting Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn costs 120 rand ($13) for adults and 80 rand ($9) for children.  The cheetah encounter costs 190 rand ($20) and crocodile cage diving costs 320 rand ($34), but there are discounts if you book more than one encounter.

Cango Ostrich Show Farm offers 45-minute tours for 75 rand ($8) for adults and 40 rand ($4) for children.  The tours include ostrich rides.

In low season at Afrovibe Adventure Lodge and Backpackers, dorms start at 120 rand ($12), private rooms start at 450 rand ($47), and four-bed family rooms start at 660 rand ($69). Dinner costs vary from 45-85 rand ($5-9).  Wifi is free and unlimited, though not the strongest.

More hotels in Sedgefield can be found here.

Myoli Beach, Sedgefield

Day Three: Sedgefield to Plettenberg Bay

That morning, I discovered the beauty of Myoli Beach — and it was absolutely deserted.  What a spot for a hostel!


READ MORE: How to Protect Your Belongings on the Beach


After breakfast, Nadine and I went paddleboarding and kayaking on the lagoon, which was an incredibly peaceful and fun experience that I hope to continue as much as possible.

Nadine and Kate at Sedgefield Lagoon

Jeremy was going to go paragliding from where we saw the sunset the night before, but it was too windy, so he went mountain biking instead.

We then stopped at the Riverdeck Restaurant in Buffalo Bay for a snack of boerewors roosterkoek with sous (sausages sandwiches with a great spicy tomato sauce), some relaxing in the sun, and a ride on the bike boats.

Kate on a Bike Boat

They also had little Shetland ponies that nuzzled each other and rolled on the ground like dogs!

Shetland Ponies in Buffalo Bay

And then we went to Knysna, where I spent a few days last fall.  We wandered the town and tried out some beautiful fresh oysters at 34 Tapas and Oysters.

That day, we heard from Lyle and the Afrovibe crew that there was a cool Rastafarian village in Knysna.  As soon as we heard about it, we had to go!  We called up a great guide, Mawande from Wandu Tours, and we visited the township that happens to have a million-dollar view.

View of Knysna from the Townships

Next was the Rastafarian village, Judah Square, and it was fascinating.  A man named Brother Paul gave us a tour and taught us so much about Rastafarianism and its tenets of peace, helping the local community, and respecting women.

Brother Paul in Judah Square

I never dreamed a place like this existed in South Africa.

Judah Square

Mawande also has a beautifully designed B&B in the middle of the township which he rents out to visitors.  How cool is this place?

Knysna Township B&B

That afternoon while we were at the village, Diego and Jeremy went bungee jumping off the highest bridge in the world in Storms River.  They came back ecstatic, having enjoyed their adrenaline rush!

And then we arrived in Plettenberg Bay, the town that I had wanted to visit the most.  We arrived just in time for a beautiful pink sunset.

Sunset in Plettenberg Bay

Where We Stayed: Nothando Backpackers Lodge.  This is a quiet, comfy place — it feels like you’re staying in someone’s home more than a hostel.  The common room is a great place to curl up with a glass of Pinotage by the fireplace — which is exactly what we did.  The next morning, we were greeted with a fabulous breakfast with delicious cinnamon crepes.  It was definitely the best breakfast of all the places where we stayed.

Wifi here is paid, not free, and while the hostel comped us free wifi, I’d really like to see it become free and available to all guests.

I had a double room with my own bathroom, which starts at 430 rand ($45).

Nothando Backpackers

Day Three Essential Info: Paddleboarding costs 300 rand ($31) for a half day at Afrovibe Lodge.

We visited the township in Knysna through Wandu Tours with Mawande, and he then took us on to Judah Square, the Rastafarian community.  His tours cost 300-480 rand ($31-50) per person with discounts for group rates.  There are also tours of Judah Square available from 60 rand ($6) with Knysna Local Living.

Diego and Jeremy went bungee jumping in Storms River through Face Adrenalin.  Rates start at 750 rand ($78).

In low season at Nothando Backpackers Lodge, dorms start at 120 rand ($12), doubles start at 350 rand ($36), triples start at 550 rand ($57), and quads start at 670 rand ($670).  Wifi is available but not free.

Other hotels in Plettenberg Bay can be found here.

Ocean Adventure

Image: Simon Lewis

Day Four: Plettenberg Bay to Jeffreys Bay

The day began with us suiting up in bright orange life jackets (first time since my shipwreck, so that was interesting) and we jumped on board an ocean safari in Plettenberg Bay.  First on the agenda?  Dolphins!

Dolphins in Plettenberg Bay

They were so beautiful and graceful — I could have watched them all day.

After the dolphins, we went to a cove where there were hundreds of seals.

Seals in Plettenberg Bay

After a wild landing, gunning the boat straight onto the shore, we left Plette and drove to Storms River — passing the bridge where the boys jumped off the day before.  Could you imagine jumping off this?!

Storms River Bridge

And then we went on a Segway ride through the Tsitsikamma Forest!

Segway Ride, Tsitsikamma Forest

I found it a bit scary at first and was terrified of falling, then I relaxed and really began to enjoy it — especially the fresh smell of the forest.

Storms River is a wacky place.  In addition to the forest, it’s home to a lot of Elvis stuff — and Elvis impersonators, both male and female..  We grabbed burgers in a fifties diner.

Fifties Diner, Storms River

By the afternoon, we made it to our final destination: Island Vibe Backpackers in Jeffreys Bay.  There’s not a lot to do in this town, but if you like to surf, you’ll be in heaven.

Jeffreys Bay

Our plans got messed up by the hostel — while people were supposed to be waiting to take us sandboarding and surfing, nobody was there.  However, a surf instructor named Tom offered to give Nadine and me an abbreviated 45-minute surf lesson.  We did — as the pink sunset swirled around us — and though we were far from the best surfers in the world, it was an incredibly beautiful experience.

Surfing in Jeffreys Bay

Where We Stayed: Island Vibe Backpackers.  This is a chill surfer lodge through and through — expect nothing but surfers and beach lovers.  And while most people stay chilled out, there is a bit of a party atmosphere in the bar.  We were housed in a very cool beach house with private rooms and insane views of the beach.

The staff here was so friendly and we had a great time getting to know them.  We also had a dance performance by some very talented kids.

Kids at Island Vibe Backpackers

Wifi was not included — but they’re not super-strict about it, giving out vouchers at the front like crazy.  The beach house has no wifi access whatsoever, and I’d like to see that change.

The room I had, with a double bed, private bathroom, and balcony with a view of the ocean, starts at 450 rand ($47).

Beach Lodge, Island Vibe Backpackers

Day Four Essential Info: Our aquatic safari was the dolphin encounter from Ocean Blue.  It lasts 1.5-2 hours and costs 400 rand ($42) for adults and 200 rand ($21) for children.

Segway tours through the Tsitsikamma Forest with Eco-Discovery start at 285 rand ($30) for a one-hour tour through the forest.

Surfing lessons are available at a variety of levels and durations at Island Vibe Backpackers.  Contact them for more details.

In low season at Island Vibe Backpackers, dorms start at 120 rand ($12), private rooms start at 300 rand ($31), and beach house rooms start at 450 rand ($47).  Wifi is available but not free — if you’re crafty, grab some vouchers at the front reception.

More hotels in Jeffrey’s Bay can be found here.

Addo Elephant Park

Day Five: Jeffreys Bay to Cintsa

Our final full day was our longest day and began with a 6:00 AM departure to Addo Elephant Park.  Addo is famous because of the sheer number of elephants — I’ve never seen so many in my life!  Little babies, families with mothers, and solitary males.  There were also zebras, Cape Buffalo and warthogs.

Addo Elephant Park

Honestly, as much as I loved seeing all those elephants, I was not impressed with the safari itself.  Our guide didn’t appear very knowledgeable and we weren’t able to get off-road at all.  It didn’t remotely hold a candle to my Kruger safari in October.  Granted, that was a very high-end safari, but I think the Addo experience could have been a lot better.

After our safari, we gunned it straight through to Cintsa on the Wild Coast, stopping for a monkey gland pie en route (hehehe!).  Once arriving at Buccaneers Lodge and Backpackers, we were welcomed by the ultimate view.

View over Cintsa

We joined the hostel attendees at Emerald Vale, a local organic brewery (with no running water!) and finished by watching the sky grow dark (as opposed to a sunset — this was our one overcast day) on the sand dunes.  The six of us toasted our beers.  From Cape Town to the mountains to the desert and back to the ocean again, finishing on the Wild Coast — we had made it.

Our awesome group in Cintsa

And then Nadine and I joined a few of the hostel guys for what should have been a thirty-minute walk back along the beach and turned into an hourlong walk back and a wade through a river while holding our electronics over our head to keep them dry…

That night, an Afrikaans band, Glaskas, performed a concert in the bar.  They were traveling through and the hostel offered them free accommodation in exchange for music, which I thought was great and something more hostels should do.  They were a fun band and their songs were really sweet with shy introductions like, “This is a song about a guy in love with a superhero.”

Glaskas

The night concluded with some “Soweto toilet” shots.

Shots at Buccaneers Lodge

Where We Stayed: Buccaneers Lodge and Backpackers.  This place is absolutely enormous, sprawling over 18 acres, with the best view in town.  Everyone was kind and welcoming, and all of the food that we ate was delicious.

It’s definitely a bit of a party place, but parts feel like a hotel.  This was the best room out of all the places where we stayed.  It had a double bed, day bed, and private bathroom.  The decor was fabulous.  But best of all, it had huge glass doors where you could see the view!

Buccaneer Backpackers Lodge Room

I left the curtains open overnight and woke up to a beautiful sunrise without even having to leave my bed.

And this room costs 480 rand ($50) per night.  Can you believe this is a hostel?  Can you imagine what a hotel would try to charge for the same room?

Room at Buccaneers Lodge

Wifi was only available for pay here as well.  If only they had free wifi — and especially free in-room wifi — this place would be perfect.  I want to go back!

Day Five Essential Info: Safaris at Addo Elephant Park take 1.5-2 hours and cost 240 rand ($25) per person.  You can also self-drive.

Buccaneers Lodge and Backpackers offers tours to Emerald Vale brewery followed by sundowners on the sand dunes for 250-295 rand ($26-31) per person.

Dorms at Buccaneers Lodge and Backpackers start at 120 rand ($12), safari tents start at 275 rand ($29), doubles and twins start at 280 rand ($29), river- and bay-view en suites start at 480 rand ($50), suites start at 520 rand ($54), and cottages start at 695 rand ($72).  Wifi is available but not free.

More hotels in Cintsa can be found here.

Sunrise in Cintsa

Day Six: More Cintsa

On our final morning, we met the most memorable South African of all — Mama Tofu!  At 93 years old, she’s the oldest tour guide in South Africa, and she taught us about Xhosa life, letting off zingers like, “If you stand there ten minutes, you’ll get pregnant.”  Then Diego kissed her on the cheek (he’s Spanish, it’s what he does) and she let out a bloodcurdling scream.

Mama Tofu

She was a riot, and I hope to be as feisty as her when I’m 93.

We then made our way to Cintsa East, a school, and saw some of their educational initiatives, like the Big Green E-Machine, a solar-powered mobile computer lab.  The kids were all working on Powerpoint presentations about their favorite sports.

The Big Green E-Machine

And then we had a bit of extra time, so we visited the local creche.  The adorable kids loved posing for photos.  How much do these two look like a little old couple?

Little Old Couple Kids in Cintsa

And with that, our road trip was concluded.  Early in the afternoon, we made our way to nearby East London Airport and caught our hourlong flight to Durban.

On the plane in East London

Image: Jeremy Kunz

Day Five Essential Info: You can visit Mama Tofu through Buccaneers Lodge and Backpackers.  The Xhosa Experience tour takes three hours and costs 250-295 rand ($26-31) per person.

You can find information about volunteering at Cintsa East both short-term and long-term through Volunteer Africa 32 South.

Buccaneers offers an opportunity to volunteer at the local creche for half a day for 200 rand ($21).  They are constantly in need of extra hands, and 50% of the proceeds is donated to the creche.

Kate in Plettenberg Bay

What I Would Have Done Differently

I have to admit that when I first saw this itinerary, I blanched.  I thought it was too hectic, too fast, too ambitious.  But it turns out that I LOVED IT, crazy pace and all!  I was on such an adrenaline high the entire time that I craved new adventures at every minute.  And for the first time in my life, I’d set my alarm super-early every morning so I could see the sunrise!

In total honesty, there isn’t much that I’d do differently.  But here are a few things to keep in mind:

I would have spent a night in Oudtshoorn.  Our day from Swellendam to Sedgefield was a LONG one, and Oudtshoorn is a weird town with a lot of things to do.  We were a bit rushed on that day.  There are also some cool towns nearby close to Route 62 that we could have visited had we had more time.

I would have skipped Addo.  Yikes!  It’s hard to admit that, but that’s how I feel.  Go to Addo if you’ve never been on safari before, if it’s your only chance, or if you REALLY love elephants.  Otherwise, I’d skip it.

I would have bought a SIM card for my iPhone.  Internet access in South Africa is far from ideal, and most places charge you by the amount of internet you use.  This would have saved me a lot of grief.

I might have added more time in Plettenberg Bay or Knysna.  These towns are next door to each other and both have tons of stuff to do — we barely scraped the surface.  If you’d rather be based in one place on the Garden Route than road tripping, I’d recommend Plettenberg Bay if you love the ocean or Knysna if you love the forest.  Alternatively, Afrovibe in Sedgefield is great if you want a fun hostel experience in the region.

I would have ridden an ostrich.  I chickened out, and I regret it.  Next time, for sure.

Regrets aside, I absolutely loved this trip, and I hope this itinerary helps you plan your dream trip to South Africa.

And while I think this is one of the best road trips you can possibly take, there are plenty more on my list. Iconic road trips like the down California coast, through the outback of Australia, and from Chicago to New Orleans are some trips I hope to take in the near future.

Tell me — would you go on this South African road trip?The Ultimate South Africa Road Trip Itinerary

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134 thoughts on “The Ultimate South Africa Road Trip Itinerary”

  1. Hi Kate
    Loved reading about your road trip so much that even I now want to do exactly the same trip (and stay in hostels, would you believe!) – and I’m South African!

    The Garden Route is exquisitely beautiful, and next time you ought to spend more time there, especially, as you say, in Knysna/Plett. But, as you know, SA is a big country and there is so much more to see. The Karoo is fascinating, for those who like wide-open spaces. As you are rather adventurous you might want to plan a mountain-biking holiday.

    I still need to read further, but did you get to the Drakensberg? For hikers the ‘Berg is the ultimate place, and then there is the Fish River Canyon Hike (2nd largest Canyon after the Grand) in Namibia.

    Anyway, Kate, I love what you are doing – living the ultimate life – travel, adventure, meeting people, absorbing, sharing, inspiring. Happy that you enjoyed your stay in SA and do come back!

    Wishing you safe travels and happy times wherever you find yourself next.

    My dream destination is Antarctica!

  2. Hi Kate
    Just need to mention (with humble apologies) that the picture with you petting the “leopard” is actually you with cheetahs. Doubt whether the public would ever be allowed to pet large leopards as they are very dangerous. For those who would like to spot (ha!) the difference, cheetahs are smaller and more slender in stature, have smaller heads, singular spots and a tear line running down from the eyes. They also have a softer, more “gentle” look to the face and eyes. Leopards have a larger, more muscular body and grouped spots (rosettes) and a fiercer, piercing stare. Beware the leopard, both day-time and night-time.

    Sorry to have to correct you on this minor and innocent “error”, which many people make.

    I love how you got all the Afrikaans terminology and place names so perfect! Not easy in a country with so many languages … not to mention odd-sounding place names.

    Excellent blog that is extremely entertaining and inspiring to read, and I shall keep being inspired.
    Congratulations!

  3. Hi Kate

    I, just like Laura, also spotted the fact that it was cheetah you were touching, instead of leopard. We have actually also done that cheetah encounter in Outshoorn and have since done similar encounters at Spier Wine Estate and a Sanctuary in Hluhluwe.

    As for the Addo safari, I must mention that I find Addo absolutely amazing. Being South African, we have visited a large number of game reserves on many occassions, both private reserves, as well as places like Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe Game Reserve, but my best experience so far was in Addo. We slept over in the park and could hear the lions, black backed jackals and a variety of other animals from our campsite at night, which was beyond amazing. The camp has a viewing deck overlooking a waterhole, from which we witnessed an amazing scene involving black-backed jackal and hyena competing over the carcass of a buffalo, while a big elephant and black rhino (very rare sighting) was having it out on the other side of the watering hole. The next morning we were out early and were lucky enough to spot lion and two caracal (also very rare sighting). We also saw plenty other game.

    You might also just have been unlucky that you got a less-experienced guide, but ours was a self-drive safari and we were super-impressed with the park. As for not being able to go off-road, the reason for that is the fact that it is decremental for the wildlife. There are a number of small animals that live in burrows and off-road driving could endanger them. Then there is the specific species of dung beetle which is found only in that region, as well as a some bird that nest on the ground. All these animals could be injured or killed by vehicles, which is why no vehicles are allowed to leave the roads in the park.

    We love travelling through South Africa and hope to one day be able to go further afield.

  4. Great’s blog Kate.Thanks to you for this nice post of tour to South Africa wildlife. And I really inspired to your nice post. So I came to last year with my family to bring enjoyment of every moment.Thanks for sharing this valuable article.

  5. I read it ALL and plan on doing some of the things mentioned PLUS more SCUBA diving /shark diving….this help me to understand the garden route beter

  6. A great itinerary but I’m always very sad when Port Elizabeth, my home town, is skipped. I agree with you on needing a night in Oudtshoorn and more time in Knysna is always advisable.

    Addo is so much more than elephants so there I have to disagree with you. I think they rushed you through Addo and that is why you didn’t enjoy it.

    One correction. Those are cheetah, not leopards. LOL!

    But regardless, a great experience with beautiful pictures to show it off.

  7. Hi Kate

    I’m a South African who travels a lot – but I usually stay in hotels . I’ve never been brave enough to stay in backpacker’s lodges and hostels before but looking at your pictures, it seems that I’ve been missing out – and spending more than I should have. Thanks for the informative post. Happy travels!

    Sara – http://inafricaandbeyond.com/

  8. Hey Kate!
    Stumbled upon this post and i loved it..
    we did the same trip a year ago following cape town- stellenbosch-Monatgu-Mossel Bay-Plettenberg Bay- Knysna- Tsitsikamma – Port Elizabeth and it was fabulous.
    Though i wish i had read this blog post before going. I would have loved to include Cintsa in our trip!

  9. The Garden route in South Africa has been one of my favourite trips of my life too. I took the old steam train from Wildernis to Knysna and love every kilometer of it!

  10. Hi Kate,
    I love reading your blogs. I do google search for various destinations and often land on your blog 🙂
    I have been to South Africa and have planned for many!!
    Just one thing I would like to point out – In Cango Wild Ranch, Oudtshoorn you must have done Cheetah encounter instead of Leopard because if you had done Leopard encounter you would not be writing this blog 🙂
    Going Off road is not allowed in Addo as it is national park. It is allowed only private reserve. However Kruger is Kruger, no comparison between the 2!!

  11. What a fantastic post – it’s brought back so many treasured memories of my trip to SA. Even though we went 12 years ago we followed a very similar itinerary but spread over a longer time, and we stayed in many of the same places you did. It’s wonderful to see them again through your eyes and see how little they’ve changed over that time (although the croc cage diving is new!). I’d love to go back some day – SA is such a magical country.

    (On a tiny, nit-picky note, we met and stroked cheetahs, and the animals in your photo also look a lot like cheetahs, not leopards – I can see the black ‘tear streak’)

  12. Lovely blog- really enjoyed reading it especially cause I love travel diaries 🙂 I live in Johannesburg South Africa and mostly just go to the Wild Coast and East London when I feel like beach vibes. There are so many places that you visited that are in my backyard, but I am ashamed to say I have never set foot on them. I went to Oudtshoorn for a highschoolcamp – but thats just about it from your list. My sister is also teriffied of birds – will recommend she tries the Ostrich farm to overcome it too(the sweet revenge at dinner had me in stitches). My boyfriend is taking a break from work soon and shared your blog for some ideas. Its amazeballs! Its time we both took some time to enjoy and appreciate home.

    Thank you
    Viwe

  13. Hi Kate,

    I’m driving the Garden Route next week and will be making many of the stops on your itinerary. Thanks for posting! Question – how much of this stuff did you book in advance? Do you think I could get away with just showing up and booking tours/hotel rooms on the spot? Tips appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Elizabeth

    1. I think it’s smart to book hotels at least a few days out, especially if you’re going during high season. I personally hate searching for hotels so I prefer to book them in advance.

  14. Looks like you had an amazing time in South Africa, absolutely can’t believe the pictures of where you stayed are hostels, they look so nice!

  15. Thank you for a lovely piece about SA I passionately love my country, and am very proud of it. One thing Kate – driving off road in a game park is really not cool. It destroys the vegetation and makes ruts, so when it rains, erosion takes place. If you fly over some game parks, you will be shocked to see the destruction. Addo is a great place to self drive.

  16. I really enjoyed your post! Its so interesting to hear about your country through the eyes of another. I’m a student in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape and often alternate between the Garden Route and Route 62 on my way home to the Western Cape. My parents worked for the annual Karoo arts festival that takes place in Oudshoorn. If you ever come back, here are a few activities I would recommend for your itinerary (a bit more off the beaten track):

    In Cape Town:
    -Every Thursday evening there is an initiative known as ‘First Thursdays’, where everyone is out and about the town visiting all the art galleries, showing the best and most thought provoking of contemporary SA art (free)
    -Visit the Company Gardens, and Planetarium, its awesome – you get so contemplate the universe
    -If you love ethnic food, visit the Eastern Food Bazaar, in the CBD near the Grand Parade ( about R45 for a TRAY of amazing Indian, Thai, Turkish and Lebanese food, cooked by Chefs from the distinctive countries…AMAZING
    – if you still have space and crave a bit of sweetness, Charlie’s Bakery is a MUST.
    – You can spend an entire day walking/driving around town to just take pictures of the INCREDIBLE street art everywhere, giving a lot of insight into the political and national discourses and debates

    Near Cape Town:
    -take the metrotrain to Simon’s Town from the main station. You get the best view of the ocaen from the train. After visiting the gorgeous penguins at Boulders Beach, there is an amazing place called the Tibetan Tea house, well worth visit.
    – visit Stellenbosh. About a 40 Min drive from Cape Town, it is probably one of the most Beautiful towns in the country. Just outside of Stellenbosch is Franschoek, the Gourmet Capital of the country…EVERYTHING is FRENCH, they even have an annual Bastille Festival.

    On route 62:
    – Near Oudshoorn is the Cango Caves, quite an adventure to visit. If you drive past the Cango Caves you will get to the Swartberg pass en route to Prins Albert. It is a challenging and beautiful drive, well worth the views. The pass is not accessible during winter, however, due to heavy snow. Prins Albert is also a sleepy, but BEAUTIFUL Karoo town.

    – At Barrydale, where you stopped to photograph the church, there is a coffee shop called the Blue Cow coffee shop – they make the best lemon meringue pie I have ever tasted.

    – Ronnie’s Sex Shop is AWESOME, so is Ronnie. If you are en route and in want of accommodation, and you happen to have a tent, he will gladly let you camp there free of charge.

    -Just before Sedgefield, is Wilderness…. a much more beautiful town, but the same beach. A perfect blend of the forest, lagoon and beach vibes.

    – Just outside of Knysna there is a forest boardwalk called ‘garden of Eden’. It is truly beautiful, and free of charge.

    – Another little spot of magic in the Tsitsikamma area is called ‘the crags’, its the closest to the Storms River Bridge where your friend Bungee jumped. Just past the crags, you find Nature’s Valley, which is amazing to see if you are a South African used to seeing ‘gated communities’ in almost all towns. houses in Nature’s Valley are not separated with walls and fences and all the houses are almost hidden in the trees. If you are a fan of hikes, there are many lovely hikes that start in Nature’s Valley (most day hikes, are free of charge)

    – If you are in the Eastern Cape and want to witness the Great Karoo (Oudshoorn area is the Little Karoo), visit Graaff Reinet, and Nieu Bethesda. Near Graaff Reinett is the ‘Valley of Desolation’, well worth to see, and in Nieu-Bethesda is a strange little place known as the Owl House, a visit to this place will haunt you for a long time.

    – in the Eastern Cape, there is also a SMALL but incredibly quirky town known as Hogsback. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, this is the place to go. JRR Tolkien used to come here on holidays as a child and based his description of the ‘shire’ on this place. Everything is LOTR and Fairy/Magic themed in this town. You could go on a Fairy Meander, or a Day hike with 5 waterfalls en route, and finish with the most amazing outdoor bath at ‘away with the fairies’ backpackers (a little run down, but it has charm) . You can also do horseback rides, mountain biking etc, or just enjoy the amazing view.

    – if you are a history and architecture junky, Grahamstown is worth a quick visit (cute architecture, and an observatory museum with a Victorian camera obscura. There are two of these in the world, one is in Grahamstown, the other in Bath, England). Grahamstown is also where the first British settlers settled, so it gives a fascinating glimpse into the history of Colonialism in this country. It is interesting to visit the Cathedral, because the walls are covered with memorial plaques from the colonial Frontier wars between the British and isiXhosa. The plaques have since been partly censored, as they contiain derogatory terms for the indigenous peoples deemed politically incorrect by the new government. It is such a interesting sense of time and history…also eery. There is also a wonderful little ‘Red Cafe’ where you can have a peanut butter or chai milkshake…both are divine.

    – Just outside of Grahamstown is a little quirky town called Bathurst. They have the biggest pineapple in the world, and you can also visit the ‘pig and whistle’, the oldest pub in SA.

    Sidenote: if you are ever in Kwazulu-Natal and do a four by four drive up the Sani Pass on theDrakensburg, you will get to Lesotho, which hosts the highest pub in Africa 🙂

    Also, if you ever come to SA again, the vast Namibia is well worth a visit 🙂 (Its probably the safest country in Africa…with its sparse population of 4 million… You can literally camp next to the road there without any worries of being bothered)

    Best of luck and blessings for the Rest of your travels,
    Kind Regards 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave these wonderful suggestions, Marleen!

      I’ve got so much on my South Africa list for future visits. Stellenbosch and more of the winelands. The Drakensburg and a pony trek to Lesotho. More of the Wild Coast (Cintsa was amazing). I love that country SO MUCH.

  17. Awesome!! Clear!! Informative.. I am traveling next Month with 9 Month Toddler..

    I have 15 Days to spend in SA. If i land in joberg, Is it possible to include kruger Game viewing for 1 Day (or more). Fly to Cape Town and continue with your itinerary ?

    Thanks

  18. Hey Kate, this might be a silly question, but did you rent a car and drive yourself through South Africa? How did you feel about safety and the roads? I’m planning a trip out there in March with my friend and would love some advice!

    Thanks!

    1. I had a driver — this was an organized press trip. I will say that the roads were in great condition for the most part. They were in the worst condition around Cintsa and the Wild Coast. I have an article on travel safety in South Africa and one thing that people say here is to avoid driving in the major cities at night if possible.

  19. Hey there

    Please can you tell me if you had a consultant to plan your trip or you told them you wanted to go to certain places and they found it for you, reason being that my family and I are going on a road trip this year not sure when or which date because we don’t know much about cape town.Judging from your awesome post I would really like to follow in your journey that you embarked cause it sounds awesome…also can you give me some insight as to the – weather or month to go in??

    if you don’t mind sorry for asking a lot but I really need all the feed back I can get,wana make this trip memorable!..

    Hope to hear from you soon:-)

    Thanks so much

  20. Hi Kate , i’m currently an 18 year old female in matric . My friends & i would really like to take a road trip at the end of the year instead of going to Matric Rage where everyone will just be drinking & repeatedly causing mayhem. We are interested in a road trip around south africa in which we would like take part in a number of different activities that are fun & affordable. I stumbled upon your article & that’s exactly what i got .
    My e-mail address is :[email protected] . I would really appreciate it if u could send me information on how i could organise a road trip similair to yours , for my friends & i
    Regards ,
    Rebone

  21. I just stumbled across your blog by complete accident. Decided to have a look at where you went in South Africa as I had recently spent a week in Knysna visiting my Grandparents and I was delighted to see you also visited Mwande – fantastic man and business! xxx

  22. Hiya.

    I’m originally from Cape Town myself so glad to see more exposure of it. BTW, your picture of the ‘leopards’ sleeping are in fact cheetahs!

    Regardsm
    Darren

  23. I was looking at your post on ZA. I was a little confused actually- Why did you say that the cheetahs you were looking at (with the photo) are leopards, when they are in fact cheetah? There is quite a difference between the 2 cats. The spots are a tell tail difference, as is the color, size and the signature tear drop marker that runs down the cheetahs face. Just wanted you to know that they are infact Cheetah not Leopard.

  24. Howzit. As a South African, planning a “BroTrip” with my brother, I really enjoyed reading this. I’ve done a lot of traveling within South Africa, done some stopping, but nothing really as an adult. I was planning on leaving the day before meeting my brother in Port Elizabeth (I live in Johannesburg). Maybe I should split it into three days and see the sites on the way. It’s not exactly the most riveting of drives, but perhaps something fun will happen. I want a “loose” drive, but planning it is probably best. It will be peak season (December), so places will be expensive. Don’t normally do backpackers or hostels, maybe give it a try!

    Thanks for the awesome “review” of my country, awesome reading and glad you enjoyed it!

  25. Looks awesome. We’re starting to think about a South African road trip from Cape Town all the way to Kruger. Will definitely plan on adding some of these stops to the itinerary.

  26. Hi Kate, I’ve just read your itinerary, and it sounds amazing and dun, so much so that me and my partner are now changing from our Europe trip to recreate your trip, is there any other pointers or helpful advice you can give that would be much appreciated.

  27. I am glad I found ur piece. Bookmarking it. Am planning to do this trip later this year sometime.

    Could I bother you with my questions?

    Or atleast tell me what vehicle did you rent, did you self drive and what are the costs?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. This was a business trip for me and the car was taken care of (in our case, a driver and van that could fit us all). You can find sample rates by searching car rental sites.

  28. Hi Kate.
    What a well written post. Incredible journey and enlightening. The only thing is I feel this is not the ultimate Road trip of South Africa as you basically covered only the one side of South Africa. There is much more to see and do if you travelled all the way up north.

    Good luck for future Trips.

  29. Hi, i’m planing to have a road trip at SA. I found your itinerary are really great . Thanks for sharing . I may wish to ask . Is SA safe ? Since i hear alot people saying that is not safe to drive

    1. I’m not an expert on traveling with kids, and I don’t know how old your kids are, so I would contact each property directly and ask. AfroVibe was very much a party hostel, though.

  30. Thank you for sharing your amazing trip! I am a South African but I am helping my European friends plan their road trip. I am so glad I came across your blog as I was in need of some inspiration, but it was very insightful and good to see that some of the things I have already booked your found to be amazing like Afrovibe! I am glad to hear you enjoyed SA!
    Thanx again!

  31. Hello, Kate, I am also a solo female traveller, going from Johannesburg to Cape Town this November. Hopefully, 3 weeks will allow me to explore and experience South Africa. My main concern is getting to certain locations without a car. I would drive myself, but all the advice I have been reading discourages me from doing so. What would you suggest? For example, I really want to go to St Lucia, but the hop on off bus only gets me to Durban. My ultimate plan is using the hop on off bus for the bigger stretches and renting a car for going here and there and everywhere. I am planning to drive from Port Elisabeth to Cape Town, driving the garden route is somewhat of a dream of mine. Is this doable? Safe? Other suggestions? Thanks, Soraia

  32. come to botswana its just as good. we have chalets in the middle of swamps . its a bit on the expensive side but would be worth it

  33. Can you suggest me any self driven cars operators available in this region. Do you advice taking a self driven car the best bet on this route or a hired vehicle?

    Thanks

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