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Johannesburg to Cape Town road trip: route suggestions

South Africa has the world’s 10th largest road network (746 978km gravel and paved) with a total of 158128km being paved, and 21946km being national roads (maintained by SANRAL).

If you’re doing a road trip between Johannesburg and Cape Town there are plenty of options to choose from, with dozens of destinations en-route to explore, depending on how much time you have and what types of destinations you’re interested in.

I drove from Johannesburg to Cape Town for the first time in 2017 and sought feedback from my friends on Facebook as I had no idea about the route or options.

I’m driving to Cape Town from JHB tomorrow. Where should I stop for lunch and spend the night? Plan to visit a CPT factory on Thursday afternoon.

Most advised that I take the N1 directly from JHB to CPT, with an overnight stop at Gariep Dam, Colesberg or Richmond which is nearly half-way.

You can also travel via Kimberley (which has the famous Big Hole to view) or Upington (120km east of Augrabies Falls if you’re planning a visit there).

I decided to take the N1 via Bloemfentein to Colesberg. During a late lunch at the KFC in Colesberg I felt like I still had energy to drive a little further and booked overnight accommodation in Richmond (in the Great Karoo).

Driven 760km from JHB to Richmond. 640km to go tomorrow.

Since I was in a rush to meet with a factory in CPT I proceeded directly on the N1 with haste.

Left Richmond at 0730 am, great driving through the Karoo and Western Cape. Got some caffeine at the final service…

I reached CPT with enough time to do some work before sunset.

On my return trip, I had a few days to spare and decided to take more of a scenic route along part of the east coast back to Johannesburg.

Bags packed. Solution collected (the aluminium segments fitted nicely!). Planning my return trip to Johannesburg now…

Avoiding the inland-only routes, at a high level you can travel part of the Whale Coast Route towards Hermanus and then get on the Garden Route towards George, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Umtata, Durban, and then head inland on the N3 passing the Drakensberg to Johannesburg.

I decided to make an afternoon stopover in Hermanus before spending the night in Swellendam.

The next day I made a short stopover in Mosselbay and Diaz.

I then drove through George to Wilderness for 2 nights where I visited some of the local attractions like the Map of Africa.

From Wilderness I decided that it was time to head back inland to Johannesburg, and there were still 3 options to choose from.

I’m heading inland again towards Jhb tomorrow. Want to spend 2 nights on the route home. Which route should I take an…
Wednesday, 15 February 2017

I drove through George and the Outeniqua pass and pulled over at the N12 (towards Oudtshoorn) / N9 (towards Graaff-Reinet) intersection to decide which route to take and where to spend the night.

The Outeniqua Pass outside George on the N12.

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I decided to take the N9 route and check out Graaff-Reinet, via the Potjiesberg Pass.

The Potjiesberg Pass

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I also stopped at the empty Beervlei Dam in the Klein Karoo.

The Beervlei Dam in the Eastern Cape. Empty!

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Graaff-Reinet has the Camdeboo National Park and Valley of Desolation to explore nearby.

From Graaff-Reinet I then decided to head towards Colesberg (via the Lootsberg Pass and Middelburg) for the night.

When you’re near Colesberg, it’s great idea to check out Gariep Dam. This is the largest dam in South Africa, which is fed by the mighty Orange River.

From Colesberg to Johannesburg there are still at least 3 route options back to Johannesburg.
Travel direct on the N1 via Bloemfentein, via Kimberley on the R59 or via Orania and Kimberley on the R369.

Need to decide a route back to Jhb.

Colesberg to JHB via Bloemfontein: 624km (not keen on another full day…

Since cyclone Dineo was expected to create some hazardous conditions to drive in the next day, I headed straight for Johannesburg with a 30 minute stop in Bloemfentein.

We’ve got a national road network in great condition passing through amazing scenery and many unique towns. I had the opportunity to see what urban life out of the major metros was like by choosing routes via many smaller towns.

It was disheartening to see the high amount of unemployment and life centered around the local bottle-stores at these inland towns. I don’t believe there are any Woolworths stores in any town between George and Bloemfentein. A sign that there’s no market that can afford it in such a large expanse? Quite an eye-opener.

I see so many tourism opportunities in these towns, from water-sports, fishing and climbing to craft, cuisine and hospitality. I’m hoping more of these (dare I say) off-the-beaten-path routes are promoted by our tourism industry to create more economic activities in these towns.

It wouldn’t be a South Africa road trip without some good padkos (travel snacks) so here are some ideas on what to carry. No matter which route you choose, drive safely; don’t speed; pullover and take a break whenever you need to; and enjoy the journey.

About Zaid

Zaid is an intrepid traveler from South Africa that has traveled to all 7 continents. He loves to explore new destinations, experience new activities and go off the beaten path.
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