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Cape Town road trip routes in the Western Cape

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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. But there’s much more! 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 Western Cape is to go on a leisurely road trip. Some, such as the Cape Peninsula, can be done in a day 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:


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The Twelve Apostles seen from Victoria Drive near Cape Town





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.


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Simon’s Town on False Bay.

During the whale season, it’s possible to see whales in False Bay and Hout Bay from one of the many viewpoints. 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!


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Penguins at Boulders Beach, just outside Simon’s Town

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.


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The Cape of Good Hope

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Noordhoek Beach

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Hout Bay seen from Chapman’s Peak Drive.

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.

Suggested duration: 1-2 days. Overnight in Simon’s Town or Scarborough (links to accommodations on Booking.com).

 

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.


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A superb Pinotage and jaw-dropping views in Stellenbosch.

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Historic Cape Dutch houses in Stellenbosch.

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 I recommend for a visit include Lanzerac (the birthplace of South Africa’s Pinotage variety), 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.


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The lunch platter at the Lanzerac Deli.

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A Delaire Graff sunset! It’s an incredible experience!

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Barrels of wine in the La Motte cellar.

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Franschhoek Valley in the Cape Winelands.

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!


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The spectacular coastal road from Betty’s Bay to Gordon’s Bay.

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See the penguins at Betty’s Bay.

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).

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.


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Walker Bay with the town of Hermanus in the distance.

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. 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.


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In Hermanus, you can stroll along the cliffs and spot whales during the whale season.

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Fynbos in bloom in the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.




In the fynbos, you’ll find many varieties of protea.

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The seals of Dyer Island.

From Gansbaai, continue along the coast to Cape Agulhas. Don’t miss the historic lighthouse!





The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa (image courtesy of S.Wohlrapp/Unsplash).

Suggested duration: 4-5 days. Search for accommodations in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Hermanus (links to accommodations on Booking.com).

Suggested itinerary

  1. Stellenbosch/Franschhoek (1 night)
  2. Hermanus or Grootbos (2-3 nights, with a day trip to Cape Agulhas)

 

4. The wild Atlantic coast to Cederberg

This route north of Cape Town takes visitors off the beaten path, to a wild and largely untouched region. Discover 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.


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The Cederberg mountains.

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.

Langebaan

Start your road trip by heading 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. 





The Langebaan lagoon

Cederberg

Continue 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.


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San Rock art can be found in various places throughout the Cederberg.




Rock arch in the Cederberg.

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).





The road to Wuppertal in spring.




Spring blossoms in the valleys of the Cederberg.

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.


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Cave rooms at the Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve.

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 and Clanwilliam. Check rates for Bushman’s Kloof and Kagga Kamma (links to Booking.com).

Suggested itinerary

  • Langebaan (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.


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Route 62

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.





Crossing the Hawequas mountains.




Nuy Winery

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.





Driving through the Cogmanskloof




Route 62 in Little Karoo.

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.


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The quirky Karoo Moon Motel

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Diesel and Creme Café

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Ronnie’s Sex Shop




Reddish-orange mountains in the Little Karoo.

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.


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Oudtshoorn




Cango Caves (image via Unsplash).




Prince Albert (image via Wikimedia Commons).

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!





The rugged Swartbergpass (image via Unsplash).




The ‘Wall of Fire’ in the Swartberg Pass (image courtesy of cwawebber/Wikimedia Commons).

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.


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Zebras grazing outside a Kwena Lodge suite at Gondwana Game Reserve.

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Verdant rolling landscapes at the foot of the Langeberg mountains along the N2 Highway.

Suggested duration: 5-9 days. Search for accommodations in Montagu, Oudtshoorn and Hermanus (links to Booking.com).

Suggested itinerary

  1. Cape Town to Robertson or Montagu (1-2 nights)
  2. Oudtshoorn (2 nights)
  3. [Optional] Gondwana Private Game Reserve (2 nights)
  4. 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.





Entrance to the Knysna Lagoon (image courtesy of MGitas/Wikimedia Commons).




Plettenberg Bay Lookout (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

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




Knysna Forest (image courtesy of redcharlie/unsplash)

 





Robberg Nature Reserve (image courtesy of sudarshan/unsplash).

 

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.


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The Kwena Lodge at Gondwana Game Reserve

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An elephant surrounded by wildebeest at Gondwana.

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

Ultimate Garden Route itinerary

  1. Cape Town to Robertson/Montagu (1 night)
  2. Oudtshoorn (1 night)
  3. Knysna (2-3 nights)
  4. Plettenberg Bay (2-3 nights)
  5. Gondwana Game Reserve or Mossel Bay (1-2 nights)
  6. Hermanus (1-2 nights)
  7. [Optional] Stellenbosch/Franschhoek (1-3 nights)



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