It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us, cars are loaded to the gills with surfboards, suitcases, golf clubs and bikes, and you are gearing up to head off on your annual road trip. Rather than attempt the arduous journey all in one day, why not break it up over a few days? After all, it’s not about the destination, but the journey, right? We’ve compiled a list of cool overnight stays along some of the popular South African road trip routes that you are missing out on by driving by. Who knows, your pit stop might turn into an adventure of its own…
Road Trip: Joburg to Durban | Overnight Stay: Midlands
Major Route: N3
Approximately four hours after leaving Joburg, along the N3 is the scenic town of Estcourt. The town officially marks the start of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, which continues until just north of Pietermaritzburg. An overnight stay in the area to take in the breathtaking landscapes, lush rolling hills and serene countryside is highly recommended. With charming boutique hotels, quaint bed and breakfasts, and picturesque lodges, the Midlands offers a perfect escape for a peaceful overnight stay. You can indulge in local delicacies, explore artisanal markets (it’s also known as the arts and crafts route) and, if time allows, enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking in the Karkloof Nature Reserve, horse riding and trout fishing. We can almost guarantee that if you don’t extend your stay, you will be back another time.
Road Trip: Durban to Mpumalanga | Overnight Stay: Zululand
Major Route: N2/R66
If you’re headed to Mpumalanga for the holidays, consider a detour from the N2. Branch off onto the R66, known as the Zululand Heritage Route, and spend a day or two in historic Zululand. With its rich cultural tapestry and natural wonders, Zululand makes for an enticing stopover. Its diverse attractions promise a unique blend of history, adventure and relaxation, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant traditions of the Zulu people, experiencing their dance, music and hospitality.
Road Trip: Gauteng to the Eastern Cape | Overnight Stay: Colesberg
Major route: N1
Six hours down the drag of the N1 from Johannesburg lies Colesberg, often treated as a quick stop en route to the Eastern Cape. But there is more to this charming town than a fuel and food stop. The old roads and historic vibe give the town a special atmosphere. Walk through the streets filled with old buildings, each with its own story from the past. Chat with locals at the roadside cafe, where stories are shared just as easily as the coffee. Life here moves at a slower pace compared to the busy highway, giving tired travellers a chance to recharge before continuing on their journey.
Road Trip: Gauteng to Cape Town | Overnight Stay: The Karoo
Major route: N1 (with a detour via the N9)
Travel along the N1 south for long enough and you’ll eventually reach the semi-desert region of the Great Karoo. It’s a vast expanse and spans several provinces, so to simply overnight will not do it justice. We recommend spending a few days exploring the unique towns and the fascinating landscape, and flora and fauna of the region. It’s geographically located approximately halfway between Gauteng and Cape Town, which makes it a convenient stopover to break the long journey.
Road Trip: Cape Town to Namibia | Overnight Stay: Anywhere Along the Way
Major route: N7
The journey from Cape Town to Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, will take you approximately 14 hours by car, so a stopover is essential to rest the legs and get some shut-eye. Fortunately, this route up the West Coast is famed for its wonders. There are plenty of fascinating places to stop over along the way, with a variety of diverse attractions and landscapes to explore. Best of all, you’ll experience the wonderful small-town hospitality this region is known for in towns such as Piketberg, Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Wupperthal and Vanrhynsdorp.
Road Trip: Cape Town to the Eastern Cape | The Garden Route
Major route: N2
With so much on offer, the Garden Route is a destination in itself. It is also the ideal stopover on your way from the Cape to the Eastern Cape. It has everything from the best beaches to indigenous forests, rugged mountains and even game viewing. You might even be lucky and spot an elusive Knysna elephant! There’s bungee jumping, skydiving, zip-lining, white-water rafting and more for the adrenaline junkies. Nature lovers can explore the Tsitsikamma National Park, Robberg Nature Reserve and Knysna Forests, and the kids will love Adventure Land water park, Acrobranch and Monkeyland.