Travel / April 19, 2016

10 Things To Do On A South African Road Trip

After 2.5 months in South Africa and 2 road trips up and down the coast from Stellenbosch to Port Elizabeth the most often heard question in the past weeks was „Till, do you have some recommendations for our road trip and things to do in the Cape Town and Stellenbosch area“

Well here we go. Here is some of my favorite things to do, places to eat and ‚beds to sleep in‘ along the way. This is totally seen from a European point of view and with the acceptance that it is ok to be a tourist from time to time 😉

Step 1 – Half Time B&B Port Elizabeth
We are starting the trip in Port Elizabeth with a stay at one of our favorite hideaways. The Halftime B&B right next to the Ironman South Africa bike course on Sardinia Bay Road. This little gem is tucked into the woods about 250 meters off Sardinia Bay Road and is run by Marizanne and Stephan Ferreira. Marizanne rescues animals. So if you had animals this is not your place but if you like the piece and quiet to of being a bit secluded, like feeding a tame bush buck, goats and dogs – you are in the right place. They offer 3 beautiful little rooms, personally prepared breakfast and hosts that leave it up to you if you wanna join them for dinner and share a game of cards in the evening or want to be left alone. Best thing about the place: Since it is hidden away in the trees there is no propper internet connection and you are guaranteed to find peace and quiet. It is located only a short drive from Sardinia Bay Road, Kragga Gamma Game Park and only about 45 minutes from the South entrance of Addo Elephant park.

If you want to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and farm made breakfast go to the Grassroof Farmstall only 3.5km away.

Step 2 – Addo Elephant Park and Kragga Kamma Port Elizabeth
When in PE don’t be a fool and be a propper tourist. The 2 parks I recommend seeing are Addo Elephant Park and Kragga Kamma. The bigger Addo Park is about 45 minutes from the Half Time B&B and offers you the Big5 though frankly odds to see them all are rather slim. I am not sure the Lion really exists but trust me the Elephants and all other animals will make up for it. It is a park you can drive yourself and you should definitely estimate the whole day. You might get hold up by an Elephant slow walking ahead of you on the gravel road or you wanna spend half an hour or hour just watching 50-60 of them showing up at the big waterhole playing around. Bring your own food though if possible. The park’s restaurant delivers gas station quality food at best.

The smaller Kragga Kamma park located only 15km from the B&B only requires about 2 hours of time, is self driving as well and you pretty much have a giraffe guarantee and odds to see the Rhino are huge. Throw on some water buffaloes, Zebras, cheetah and turtles and those two parks combined give you almost all the animal watching you can hope for without being caged on Safari Truck with a bunch of random strangers you might end up hating 😉

Step 3 – Sardinia Bay Beach Port Elizabeth
We’ve mentioned it before and you’d be a fool to miss you. Only 10 minutes from the B&B is Sardinia Bay Beach with it’s huge sands dunes and great water basins protected by a natural reef. On a flat day it is great for open water swimming with minimized odds of exchanging body parts with a shark and on a windy day it provides the perfect waves for some surfing or body surfing. Often misty on the horizon it’s endless beach looks magical in the sunset and people from all around will gather when the dark sets in to braai (the South African version of a BBQ)  and enjoy and evening with friends on the beach.


Step 4 – Hitting the Road towards Knysna

‚Nough time spent in PE (after all it really isn’t the prettiest city in South Africa) and time to hit the Garden Route towards Knysna. There is a lot of stops along the way. You can stop at Jeffreys Bay for great surfing or at Storms River at the Tsitsikamma National Park but the 2 things I would recommend the most is the highest Bungee Jump in the world in Tsitsikamma right on the N2. A jump with spectacular views for those who seek the thrill and then a little later turn towards Nature’s Valley for those who prefer the beauty and isolation of mother nature. It takes you along beautiful roads on which you might encounter the random baboon and eventually takes you to one of the prettiest and most secluded beaches along the Garden Route. After a dip in the ocean you hit the road again and drive towards Knysna. If you have the time just before Knysna a stop at Birds of Eden can be quite enjoyable but we rather save that time to spend it at the Knysna East Head Cafe.

Step 5 – Time to eat and enjoy in Knysna
Knysna is a magical place located at a lagoon protected by the Knysna Heads where the mountain range almost meets and only laves a small opening out towards the ocean. If you make it in time to Knysna you have to go to the Knysna East Head Cafe. One of my favorite breakfast and lunch places ever. Located at the foot of the East Head rocks you sit just above the water with the perfect view at the ocean, the lagoon and the opposite mountain range. With Deluxe the serve one of the best coffee beans in South Africa and their daily specials will make your stomach happy. If they serve mussels when you are there – go for it. Best mussels we ever had. Careful though: The place closes at 15:30.

Step 6 – Stay in Knysna and explore
If you decide to stay in Knysna you have to try and book accommodation at the Oyster Creek Lodge located at the exit of Knysna. Placed right at the lagoon it is a true jewel made of wood. A charming, luxurious accommodation with the friendliest staff and spectacular views in the middle of nature. A little tub on the deck outside, walks along the lagoon on low tide or the water coming right up to the lodge at high tide – there is no wrong time to stay at this place and it is not far away from our favorite dinner spot in town. The Firefly Eating House. This unique offers fantastic spice inspired, incredibly delicious dishes and offers a unique dining experience. Run by Sanch and Dell (characters of their own) this is the place to go if you want cool with great food and don’t need too fancy with a Star. As a matter of fact: There isn’t many places in South Africa where you should go for fine dining. The quality of food in general is simply outstanding.

Step 7 – The next stage on your way to Cape Town: Hermanus
Hermanus is another jewel on your way to Cape Town and a must see. Riding from there along the coastal road to Stellenbosch will be one of your best drives ever. Guaranteed. (Unless you get too distracted by the beauty and drive your car over the ledge into the ocean but that’s really on you then). Hermanus is a cute little coastal town and perfect for whale watching if the time of year is right. You can take a whale tour or just stand at one of the overlooks and simply enjoy. After a run or hike along some of the most spectacular trails of the Western Cape you have to take a road trip over the hill to the ‚Heaven on Earth Valley‘ (Hemel-en-Aarde). This amazing spot is surrounded by a mountain range that seems to reach the sky (hence the heaven on earth) and offers some of the most stunning vineyards, B&B’s and restaurants in the area. When it comes to this place I recommend to just drive around, get inspired and stop for wine tastings whenever a place really gets your attention. (Don’t drink and drive. Just book a B&B or a room at one of the vineyards)

Step 8 – off you go to Stellenbosch

After enjoying a beautiful final drive from Hermanus to Stellenbosch (Skip Summerset West. No matter what people tell you) you are in paradise. It is the easiest thing in the world to spend weeks in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek alone. Stellenbosch offers the vibe of a beautiful student town with small, pretty buildings, outstanding restaurants and a huge variety of B&Bs. Build at the foot of a beautiful mountain range it is the perfect place to grow wine. No matter if you are here for an active vacation or just relaxation you will love this place. Go to Deluxe, Häzz or the Caveman Cafe for some of the best coffees in the Western Cape, borrow a test MTB at the Specialized Store (also home of the Caveman Cafe) and explore the endless trails, by a day week membership at Suspi if you wanna train yourself or swim (and you are almost guaranteed to see top athletes year round), go out on Dorp street or one of the many side streets for taste bud pleasing dinners, enjoy a hike at Jonkershoek or visit one of the many vineyards around. As a matter of fact: I will write you a separate blog with recommendations for Stellenbosch alone but if I have to describe my perfect day:

Morning swim at the 50 meter outdoor pool at Suspi, breakfast at Meraki, morning coffee at Häzz right next door to it, a hike or mountain bike ride in Jonkershoek Reserve, lunch at Basic Bistro (try the Malay Curry but replace the tacos with rice), after lunch coffee at Deluxe, a ride on G-Spot trail (very cool, flowing trail you will get addicted to) and dinner at Genki Sushi or Hudson Burgers. If you are here on a weekend and book in advance replace Basic with lunch at the Table on the De Meye Vineyard followed by a wine tasting (I am a huge fan of their Chardonnay as it combines the tastes of old world french Chardonnays with the buttery flavor of new world Chardonnays.) – Unfortunately the day is over now and I didn’t even get to do half the things I want on this sample day. (Hence the separate blog coming up)

Step 9 – Go French in Franschhoek
I know, I know. If you ask people in Stellenbosch if it is worth driving to Franschhoek (about 30 min) they answer ‚Not really. It’s like Stellenbosch just a little more French‘. Do NOT listen to them. It’s a beauty of it’s own (and yes it is more French ;-)).

About 3km before hitting Franschhoek stop at the La Motte Vineyard to your left. Make sure to make a reservation for their propper Restaurant for lunch. It is a place you’d want to spend your whole day at. A very clean and amazing vineyards that invites for wine tastings, a stroll and just to enjoy nature. If you can not get a reservation for lunch and they offer you the bar menu – run for your life. While the restaurant is truly fantastic both in setting and food quality their bar menu served in the same spot would even embarrass Ryan Air (and trust me their food is bad ;-)). After your lunch there drive into town and have a stroll around. It is a pretty little town. A bit touristy but beautiful. Before leaving town to explore Franschhoek pass and enjoy spectacular views over the valley don’t forget to stop by the slightly hidden away ‚The Hoek‘ cafe. Don’t give in to the temptation of any of the other cafes. This is where you wanna have your coffee. Hands down.

Step 10 – You made it to Cape Town
Now here is another city that really requires yet another individual blog post. Endless amounts of things to do but if you only have a day here is what you don’t want to miss out on.
Hike up Table Mountain early in the morning on a sunny day, enjoy one of the best views in the world over Cape Town the the Cape and take the cable car back down (the hike up is gonna take you about 1.5-2 hours or around 1 hour if you feel active. Just make sure to definitely bring a warm sweater or wind jacket as you might be soaked by the time you are up there and also weather sometimes changes quickly). Back in Cape Town go to the Food Market and grab some street food right next to the Aquarium at the Waterfront. After lunch it’s time to see cool stuff. I am an open hater of bus tours but the Red Route leaving right at the Aquarium is one you should definitely do. It is a hop on hop off and takes you more around CT rather then through town. Stops at the botanical gardens or Hout Bay are a must. Back from the tour your day is almost over. Get changed and go grab dinner at the Waterfront. It is a bit or a lot touristy but you shouldn’t miss out on it. Now your day is almost over and there is so many things you have not seen yet. What it is that you are missing? We’ll tell you in a separate blog about Cape Town. 🙂

Happy travels and if you need more details recommendations or contacts – feel free to send us a message. Don’t forget to check our Instagram and Facebook for picture galleries and more!

 

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