My South African Road Trip

23 May 2022
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By Adele Liebenberg – National Training Manager at Pentravel 

1 Country. 6 Provinces. 75000kms covered in 4 and a half weeks… 

We recently embarked on a special and different type of local holiday (well for me at least!)   We had no idea what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go, but we had time and we had a vehicle and a bike, so we started the best 4 and half weeks of travelling our own beautiful Rainbow Nation. 

Setting off on our holiday from Cape Town, we wanted to stay off the main roads and explore a bit more of the smaller towns and areas where we could.  In a nutshell, our basic itinerary ended up being Cape Town – Victoria West – Bloemfontein – Gold Gate National Park – Royal Natal National Park – Nelspruit – Kruger National Park – Hoedspruit – Standerton – Kimberley – Augrabies National Park – Garies – Cape Town. 

Fairy land in the Sudwala Caves in Nelspruit - My South African Road Trip

Fairy land in the Sudwala Caves in Nelspruit

We made loads of stops on our way and here are the places and things we would recommend you see and do on your way: 

Ficksburg – This is the Cherry capital of South Africa.  Definitely stop at the famous Constantia cherry farm and enjoy all things cherries! I can definitely recommend the Cherry Milkshake, it’s a must try. 

Clarens – A must-stop quaint little town that has everything to offer, from shopping to outdoor activities.  Great alternative to stay at should you not want to stay in the Golden Gate National Park, as Clarens is about 20km from the park. 

Golden Gate National Park – If you are in the area, it is worth stopping for a visit here. The park offers some great holiday accommodation options should you want to overnight from camping to a hotel. Great hiking routes if you love hiking! Keep an eye out for grey rhebok, eland, zebra, blesbok and black wildebeest. Recommended stay would be 2 nights. 

Golden Gate National Park - My South African Road Trip

Golden Gate National Park

Royal Natal National Park – All I can say is WOW. This national park is nestled in the Drakensberg just below the famous Amphitheatre and has loads of amazing hiking routes to choose from, including overnight hikes! You can also do amazing flyfishing here and the national park is close to unbelievably cute towns like Winterton and Bergville. Recommended stay would be 3 – 5 nights. 

Royal Natal National Park

Royal Natal National Park

Nelspruit – Loads of amazing restaurants, day excursions to Sabie and Graskop is very popular. The Sudwala caves is a must do! This is also the gateway town to the Kruger National Park.  Recommended stay would be 3 nights if you want to explore the surrounding area. 

Sabie – Great for fly fishing, or why not visit the Sabie falls, Bridal Veil falls, and Lone Creek Falls. 

The Panorama Route – If you are in this area this is a MUST do. Nature really shows off with the most beautiful views when you visit God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Blyde River Canyon, and the Three Rondavels – all of which are a view of the amazing sites to visit on this route. 

Blyde River Canyon - My South African Road Trip

Blyde River Canyon

Kruger National Park – If you are in the area of Nelspruit visiting the Kruger National Park is a definite. This was the highlight of our holiday, and we would recommend at least 10 days or more in the park. But you can also just do day visits. The best time to travel to the park is during our winter months, as the days are warm and sunny. Bring warm clothes though for the evenings as the winter bite here is quite something. Be prepared to drive a lot when you are in the park and to be patient – finding animals can sometimes be hard work! 

We were out every day to explore and in our 12 days in the park we drove about 2200km. We were lucky enough to see the Big 5 during our time here!  You have endless safari style accommodation options in the park, and we would recommend staying at the camps inside the park rather than outside the park. You can even do guided overnight, and day hikes and they also offer game drives at all of the camps. Our favourite breakfast spot was Tshokwane restaurant, but it is great to pack your food and drinks for the day and find a picnic spot or a waterhole to enjoy your lunch or snacks while watching the animals. Life doesn’t get much better than this! The nice thing about visiting the park is that you can drive with any type of vehicle as there are tarred as well as dirt roads.  

Lion Sighting in the Kruger - My South African Road Trip

Lion Sighting in the Kruger

Most amazing bird life in the Kruger- - My South African Road Trip

Saddle-billed stork – Most amazing bird life in the Kruger

Pilgrims Rest – We had such a fun day at this little living museum town, and it is protected as a provincial heritage site. Take a trip down memory lane to the days of the Gold Rush, as this town has been preserved and most of the old houses, pubs and shops are still the same look and feel as it was back in the 1800’s.  

Pilgrims Rest - My South African Road Trip

Pilgrims Rest

Kakamas – I have always had a soft spot for the Northern Cape because of the area, the people and just everything it has to offer. A definite stop should be Die Pienk Padstal. Jip, almost everything is Pink. Amazing home-made baked goods and the best dates and coffee! 

Augrabies Falls National Park – Here you will find the beautiful Augrabies Waterfall.  The best time to view the falls is in our summertime as this region mostly gets summer rain, but the falls was equally beautiful during winter.  There are some really nice look out points where you are able to see the falls from almost any angle, and some inspiring spots for sunsets.  They also have some really fantastic overnight and day hiking options at the park.  Recommended stay would be 2/3 nights. 

Enjoying the view at Royal Natal National Park - My South African Road Trip

Enjoying the view at Royal Natal National Park

Our South African Road Travel Tips: 

  • Some of our roads are not always that well maintained, so keep an eye out for potholes. 
  • Google Maps loves to send you on the shortest route that might include gravel roads – some of the roads you cannot drive on with a normal car, so try and avoid these if you can! 
  • When in the Kruger Park, get a Kruger Park map – it is the best way to explore the park and get inside info on viewing the animals. 
  • When camping in the Kruger, try and get a spot next to the camp fence – animals often roam along the fence during the night. Some camps also have huts available next to the fence should you not be so keen on camping. 
  • Get a Wild Card – at all the parks you need to pay a conservation fee, but this is free if you have a Wild Card – it is totally worth it. 
  • Budget for toll gates or try and avoid taking roads where there are tolls. They can add up! 
  • When you do the Panorama Route as well as visit all the beautiful waterfalls in the Sabie area, you will need to pay an entrance fee for each.  They range from about R15 – R200, so start early in the morning to make it worth your while should you want to visit them all, as most of the entrances to these sites close at 17:00. 
  • If you are planning on hiking at the Augrabies Waterfalls National Park, be prepared for loads of gnats.  They are quite hectic and love to be around your face when walking, so our top tip here is to attach a branch (as tall as you can) to your hat, and they will be out of your face! 

We live in a beautiful country with so many options and opportunities, we need to go out and experience it. For incredible road trip ideas check out our self-drive holiday and get planning. 

One Life, Live It 

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