Self Drive 1 Route from Cape Town to PE via Garden Route
From winter to early summer the direct route on the N2 from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth through the famous Garden Route must be right up there with the most scenic landscape in the world. Rolling fields of canola and wheat set in a fynbos-laden mountain backdrop, cover the landscape as far as the eye can see.
“A brilliant drive through the Overberg to the ‘Garden Route’ where you will experience nature’s best
We steer you through the most amazing scenery and unrivalled bio-diversity of this route, and point out the “not to be missed” local experiences including the world’s highest bungy, whales & dolphins, canopy tours, animal & bird sanctuaries, hiking, cycling, canoeing, vineyards, local culture and many other “special” attractions.
Take your time – a jam packed 7 to 10 days for the best holiday!
Yes, you could drive the 745 kms direct route in 1 day, but we want you to have a holiday filled with special memories. So, to see the sights that you would most enjoy, we have given you a selection of superb detours from which to choose, and customise your trip.
Make every day your kind of day!
As the basic route is the N2, each detour takes you off the N2, only to re-join it later. To take in the vibe of the small towns along the way and participate in the best on offer, we recommend 7 to 10 days. This route can be a wonderful honeymoon, a family holiday, a lazy week, an explorer’s challenge, a photographer’s dream, the adrenalin junkies fix…. it’s up to you!
If you are one of those very lucky people who can take an extra week then you can enjoy the incredible Route 62 back to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth.
Now, pack your sunglasses, hat, trainers, flip flops, camera, binoculars and a good book and let’s hit the road!
Road Trip Map from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth via Garden Route
Main Route on the N2
Cape Town – Somerset West – Sir Lowry’s Pass, Grabouw & Elgin – Caledon, Riversonderend & Swellendam – Heidelberg, Riversdale & Albertinia – Mossel Bay – George – Victoria Bay – Wilderness – Sedgefield & Buffalo Bay – Knysna – Harkerville – Plettenberg Bay – Tsitsikamma – Jeffrey’s Bay – Port Elizabeth
Route 1 – Detailed Route Information
Drive from Cape Town to Somerset West on the N2
Or do Detour 1A where you drive from Cape Town on the N1 to Grabouw via Franschoek.
Exit at the R44 if you are doing Detour 1B
Somerset West boasts the Vergelegen historic wine estate, where you can lunch al fresco, looking onto the magnificent gardens centered on the oldest camphor trees in South Africa. The gardens, with the mountain backdrop, are well known, and make the perfect setting for the historic homestead. The wine cellars are certainly worth a visit!
The nearby Helderberg Reserve Bird Sanctuary has won many awards for the best bird sanctuary in a reserve and is home to many Cape “specials”.
Directions: Turn left off the N2 in Somerset West at Victoria Street, drive up to the T-junction with Main Street, and turn right a few blocks up, into Lourensford Rd.
The Helderberg Reserve Bird Sanctuary is left off Lourensford Road into Landroskop Drive, and left again into Verster Ave.
Vergelegen Wine Estate is just further on in Lourensford Road, on your right. For bookings: +27(0)21 847 1334/1346 (Restaurant/Picnic) +27(0)21 847 1337 Wine tasting/Cellar tours
For detailed information on the Helderberg Area including Somerset West, Strand and Gordons Bay, visit ShowMe Helderberg.
Continue on the N2 to:
Drive over the dramatic Sir Lowry’s Pass, (there’s a spectacular viewpoint on the right near the top of the pass) and then through the Grabouw/Elgin apple-growing region. In spring the fruit trees are all in bloom.
“Pull over for a cup of tea or some local deli treats at one of the interesting farm stalls”
Stop for a wine tasting (if you have a designated driver, that is!) at the Paul Cluver Wine Estate or the empowerment project Thandi Wine Estate – both are signposted on the N2.
Choose from the Orchard, Dassiesfontein Farm, Peregrine and Houw Hoek farm stalls (the Houw Hoek is oldest licensed hotel in SA) – all along the N2.
In November, don’t miss the superb annual Rose and Garden Festival – with more than 10 000 blooms on display at the Elgin Country Club with plenty of entertainment. For more information, call them on +27(0)21 859 5012.
Just before arriving at Caledon, take the R406 if you wish to follow Detour 1C
Continue on the N2 to:
The Overberg landscape is the stuff of dreams…
Enjoy the sweeping rural views: rivers, wild flowers and wide plains. Spot the endangered Blue Crane in the wheat fields along the N2.
Caledon is known for its hot mineral springs; you can enjoy world class treatments at the Caledon Spa, right next to the N2 – Tel: +27 (0)21 782-9754.
In September, the Caledon Wild Flower Show, the largest wild flower show in South Africa, is held in the Victoria Hall. For more information call +27 (0) 28 214 1016
In Swellendam, the historical areas of Voortrek Street, Van Oudtshoorn Street and Swellengrebel Street all lead to the Drostdy Museum and the old goal restaurant, where you can enjoy ‘moer’ coffee, fresh traditional bread and roosterkoek. Here you can enjoy the excellent examples of Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture set in oak lined streets.
Visit the Sulina Fairie Sanctuary- a magical fairy garden and a must for all fantasy lovers at 37 Buitekant St, Swellendam.
Swellendam Art Gallery: The gallery is situated in the historic building of Morgenson. Here not only is local artists’ work offered, but also young up-coming artists are given the chance to learn and grow in a creative environment. This is the second oldest building in Swellendam.
Swellendam is the largest youngberry growing area in the country.
Farms just 3km out of town may be visited for liqueur tasting and berry picking.
To visit Wildebraam Liqueurs, with lots of interesting goodies, take Andrew Whyte Street and drive past the golf course. Continue along the gravel road and the hermitage will be on your right.
Visit the Bontebok National Park - with 197 bird species, including the rare Black Harrier and Denham Bustard and besides the Bontebok, the park is home to zebra, red hartebeest and grey rhebok. It is sign posted off the N2 just after Swellendam. For more info call +27 (0)28 514 2736
Stormsvlei Farm Stall and Restaurant. This is a great stop for tea or lunch and a walk through the gardens from which dried flowers are exported all over the world. 19.6kms past Riviersonderend, turnoff left onto the R317.
Visit the historic mission village of Suurbraak where skilled carpenters handcraft furniture. (Turn left off N2 onto R324 – 9kms after Swellendam – and drive 10.4kms)
Continue on N2 to:
Just before Heidelberg, the quaint Blue Crane Farm Stall has plenty of homely offerings – jams, pickles, rusks or even just a good old spot for tea and lunch.
Then, on to Riversdale, where, if you’re into art and antiques, the Julius Gordon Africana Centre houses a private collection of antiques and the second largest collection of art by Thomas Bowler. Have a look – it’s in the Versveld House in Long Street.
Albertinia is known for its aloes. There are two aloe vera factories and shops just off the N2; both sell a wide range of skin, beauty and health products made with aloe vera.
Continue on N2 to:
Take the 12 km Vlees Baai 4×4 Dune Route, (turnoff right 9.5kms past the Gouritz River Bridge) which is excellent for learning sand driving skills for drivers of all skill levels. For info, phone +27(0)44 691107 or +27(0)82 784 8238
Mossel Bay is a charming harbour town that boasts 300 days of sunshine a year!
You can enjoy whale and dolphin watching, walk the long stretches of sandy beaches and swim in the warm seas. Although there are many attractions in Mossel Bay, the pace of the town really invites you to relax and re-energize.
Visit Seal Island by boat – there are more than 4000 seals. Call the Tourist Office for information on Boat Trips +27(0) 44 691 2202.
There are plenty of great white sharks in these seas!
Go shark cage diving with White Shark Africa. They launch 9am daily from Quay 4 at the harbor. To book, phone +27(0) 44 691 3796
Take the 13.5 km St. Blaize Hiking Trail. It is a spectacular cliff walk that leaves from the Cape St. Blaize lighthouse and takes about 5 hours of easy one-way walking. Just make sure to arrange your transport back from Dana Bay. This walk is excellent for whale viewing in season and you can swim in a tidal pool near the lighthouse. The lighthouse is in Montagu Street.
Experience township culture- go on a township tour, visit a shebeen, see a witchdoctor. Book your tour with the Mossel Bay Tourism Office, Corner of Market & Church Streets. Tel =27(0) 44 691 2202
And then, some of SA’s earliest settler history is to be found at the Museum Complex including the Post Office Tree, a replica of Barthomew Diaz’s ship and a shell collection. The Museum Complex is off Church Street.
For detailed information on Mossel Bay, Visit ShowMe Mossel Bay.
Return to the N2 to George.
If you would like to do the George Detour 1D , turnoff the N2 onto the R404 and follow the Detour Instructions.
Continue on the N2 to:
George is the capital of the Southern Cape. With a rich infrastructure for business, pleasure and sport, it still has a peaceful small town atmosphere.
George is also the golf mecca of South Africa; golf courses are abundant – from the renowned Fancourt Country Club, to Oubaai, Kingswood and George Golf Club. For non- members, the best bets for a club where you can book a game are George Golf Club, Tel:+27(0)44 873 6116, or Kingswood Golf Estate, Tel: +27(0)44 802 0700
In December, get tickets to go watch a Rugby Sevens game at Outeniqua Park. George hosts the IRB 7’s World Series. Outeniqua Park is on CJ Langenhoven Street.
Visit the annual George Old Motor Show in February, where a large variety of veteran and vintage cars are on display. It is held at PW Botha College off York Street in Union St. Tel: +27 (0)82 491 5245
For detailed information on George, Visit ShowMe George.
From George, take the N9 towards Knysna or continue on the N2. You will see a sign to Victoria Bay on your right.
Victoria Bay, a hidden gem of a beach, with a tidal pool and fishing jetty, is a local surfing hotspot and well worth a visit.
The road from George to Knysna is a truly beautiful one, full of mountains, lagoons and ocean vistas as you pass through Wilderness and Sedgefield. Take heed of the speed limits when you drive over the Kaaiman’s Pass (there are many speed traps here!)
Shortly after the bridge, you can turn right onto a gravel road which runs alongside the lagoon and leads to a parking spot. Look around carefully for the African Finfoot swimming in the vegetation.
If you have a picnic lunch, this is a good little spot to stop.
Pull over at the Dolphins Point viewpoint to the left of the road – this will take you above the road to a lookout point over one of the most spectacular beaches in South Africa. This area is very popular with paragliders.
The Map of Africa is the take off point for the most spectacular paragliding flight over the beaches. It is also a viewpoint of note. To access the site, turn left at the Wilderness Village and continue on the road to a T-junction. Turn left, and left again onto Remskoen St. For info on paragliding, call +27(0)44 877 0045
The Wilderness National Park protects a RAMSAR site. Here are many bird-viewing hides, where you can see birds like the Osprey, Malachite Kingfisher and African Fish Eagle. The Rest Camp has cabins and a caravan park in well kept, beautiful surroundings, packed with birds. Turn left off the N2 at the Wilderness Village to the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp. There are interesting walks around the park, some on boardwalks. Get the info at the Rest Camp on the four trails that are great for birding.
At this point, if you wish to do the 7 Passes Route, turn off at the Wilderness Village and follow the road to the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp. Continue with the instructions for Detour 1E
Continue on the N2 to:
Take one of the many hiking or walking trails. The Moonlight Meander or Starlight Stroll are guided ecological walks by the light of full or new moon, and leave from the Swartvlei parking lot on specific days of the month. There is also a beautiful hike to Gericke’s Point along the beach. For info on these guided hikes, call Mark Dixon +27(0)73 093 5444.
The lagoon is ideal for water sport and a good place for the children to play.
Bass fishing in the Swartvlei is amongst the best in SA. On Saturdays, don’t miss the town’s Farmer’s Market, next to Engen on the N2. It has a warm, local atmosphere and there is plenty of organic fare to buy. In the same area, you will find Scarab Village for interesting goodies and the Cheeseman Shop.
Buffalo Bay (Buffelsbaai)
On to Knysna – stay on the N2. You’ll pass the turn-off to Buffalo Bay, a small and pristine resort in the Goukamma Reserve. This little gem is well worth a visit. Buffalo Bay has a beautiful beach and river estuary.
There is a campsite at the seaside and birding spots along the river – you can hire a canoe too!
The locals enjoy surfing here. For the hiker, there are a number of trails through the park. The fishing is good, but remember to get a permit.
In whale season, whales and dolphins enjoy this unspoilt, serene stretch of the ocean.
Continue on the N2 until you have crossed the Knysna Lagoon and at the first robot turn right into Waterfront Drive.
The Knysna lagoon is a peaceful estuary that’s surrounded by mountain and forest scenes. Ideally suited to boating and estuarine fishing – the outdoor lifestyle is top dog here!
The tidal lagoon and open estuary of the Knysna River provides an excellent place to view waders in the summer months. Many birds can be seen on the road to the Knysna Heads.
Grey Plover, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel are prominent. In winter the lagoon harbors some non-migratory larger species (egrets, gulls, cormorants, ibises). The threatened African Black Oystercatcher is present all year, but their numbers increase in winter to what is regarded as a globally significant population. Cape Shoveller, Avocet and Blackwinged Stilt are also present in good numbers.
Canoe the lagoon or take a ferry trip to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. For more information, call +27(0)44 382 1693 or enquire from the Featherbed info office in Waterfront Drive.
Visit the Knysna Waterfront and enjoy a meal overlooking the Quays and then browse the interesting shops.
Just a little further on along Waterfront Drive is the entrance to Thesens Island. This is another interesting shopping and munching area. Thesens Island has an incredibly successful marina development that attracts local and foreign investors.
The stunning beauty of Knysna Heads is one of our favourite places in South Africa. After driving through Knysna, turn right at The Heads signpost. Leisure Island is on the way to the Heads and is worth a visit with its wonderful wave-free estuarine beaches.
Knysna has the best indigenous forests in SA. Although the Knysna Elephant is struggling to survive with only a few animals left, there are magnificent walks and picnic sites in the forest. Look out for all the small flora and fauna on your forest walks!
The well-known Elephant Walk at Diepwalle starts and ends at the Diepwalle Forest Station, the “Mecca” of the Knysna forests. The three routes are color-coded: Red: 7 km. White: 8 km. Black; 9 km. Follow the N2 for 6 km east of Knysna, take the Uniondale turn-off to the left (R339) and drive another 16 km to Diepwalle forest. Visit the King Edward VII Tree en route on your left.
Knysna offers excellent fishing spots and opportunities – from deep sea fishing, to fishing in the lagoon, as well as rock and surf fishing at Brenton on Sea. The well stocked local fishing shop, Breezes, in Grey Street, opposite Cabooses, will give you all the local tips.
There are some world-class golf courses in Knysna, including Simola, Pezula and Sparrebosch.
In July, don’t miss the vibrant, 10-day Oyster Festival. It’s a feast of food and wine, excellent live entertainment, sport tournaments and all round good times.
The centre of town has many interesting shops, a curio and flea market, the Old Gaol Art Gallery in Queen St, just off the main road.
Another breathtaking spot, popular for a wedding, is Noetzie. Both magical and off the beaten track, Noetzie, a few miles outside Knysna, has a half dozen stone castles dating from the 1930s located next to the Noetzie River mouth. Situated on a beautiful unspoilt beach, the walk down is well worth the effort. Watch out for the signs to your right as you exit Knysna en route to Plettenberg Bay or do our Detour 1F which includes Noetzie and Spitzkop. The local tourist office contact number is +27(0)44 382 5510.
Directions: If you wish to visit Brenton-on-Sea, turn left off the N2, at the signpost, before crossing the lagoon. Return to the N2.
As you hit the first robot once over the lagoon, you turn right into Waterfront Drive. Leading off Waterfront Drive, you can visit the featherbed ferry, the waterfront complex, and then, a little further along Waterfront Drive, turn right for Thesens Island.
Return from Thesens Island and drive straight across Waterfront Drive up to the Main Road for the town. There is a flea market and many interesting shops in and around the main street.
Later, drive out of town on the N2 (Main Road) towards Plettenberg Bay and turn right onto the road to Leisure Island and the Knysna Heads.
For detailed information on Knysna, visit ShowMe Knysna.
Continue on the N2 and you will see a sign to:
Have a sundowner at Kranshoek picnic spot, where you can just relax and take in the spectacular view. Or do the rugged downhill-then-uphill
Kranshoek Coastal hike which starts at the picnic site (2 hrs). The Kranshoek turnoff is between Knysna and Plett at the Sasol garage – Kranshoek is signposted off the N2.
Further along, watch out for:
- Elephant Walk Farm Stall
- Adventure Land for the kids
- Wolf Sanctuary
- Knysna Elephant Park
- Raptor Centre
- Pottery Shops
- Furniture Manufacturers
Continue on the N2 towards Plettenberg Bay and signposted on your left is:
Garden of Eden
Take the gentle Garden of Eden forest walk. A must for all Dalene Matthee and Fiela se Kind lovers! There are plenty of renowned biking trails through the forest and coastal fynbos that start here, though you need to get a permit from the Garden of Eden office first. It’s signposted left off the N2, between Knysna and Plett after Kranshoek.
You will never forget the first time you see this awesome bay. Surrounded by a mountain backdrop as far as the eye can see, Plettenberg Bay offers the best of nature and wildlife experiences, along with excellent dining, shopping and accommodation.
International interest in Plettenberg Bay earmarks this resort as the “Riviera of South Africa”.
Plett is the ideal place to relax on the beach. From the blue flag Robberg Beach, to the vibey central beach and the out of the way quieter Keurbooms Beach, the sun worshipper can choose from so many options. Central beach and the Lagoon are especially suited to the littler visitors.
Here there are great sundowner watering holes as well as many top notch restaurants to enjoy lazy lunches or great evening outings.
The accommodation on offer ranges from 5 star ultra luxury to camping so staying over is easy.
When you are fully re-charged, Plettenberg Bay is the ideal base from which to explore the Crags, Tsitsikamma, Spitskop, Kranshoek, Natures Valley and Knysna – see the Day Trips.
Have a look at the Plett Hiking Trails and Mountain Bike Trails – you will never be able to pursue these activities in more scenic surrounding.
If you are a social or sports fisherman, or simply a Dad wanting to spend some quality time with the kids, Plett is a good fishing location. Our local fishing guys have pooled their knowledge to make you feel right at home. See our articles on the local fishing scene.
There are a number of birding venues in Plettenberg Bay. For full details and checklists, read Birding in Plettenberg Bay
Plett is the ideal place for a ride in the sky. One of the best options is a scenic flight over Plettenberg Bay to the Knysna Heads. This relatively short trip is incredibly scenic and provides passengers with a bird’s eye view of some of the Garden Route’s most scenic coastline.
Helicopter Flights Contact Glen: Mobile: +27(0) 072 039 0969. The airstrip on the N2 on the Plett side of “The Heath”.
Sky Dive Plett – Live life to the full! Experience the thrill of free fall over one of the most scenic drop zones in the world. Tim – Mobile: +27 (0)82 905 7440. Go to the Plett Airport, and Skydive is on the right, just before the airport building.
Play golf at the Country Club or Goose Valley.
Go sea kayaking off Central Beach, take a cruise to watch the marine life playing in the bay or sip your drink whilst watching the bathers, body boarders and sun worshippers. Take a swim or let the kids play in the surf or river.
Plett is a veritable paradise for dolphin and whale watching
Orca and Bryde’s whales, Humpback and Southern Right whales and the only place where the rare Tropical Beaked whales have been filmed.
See vast schools of the common dolphin and pods of the endangered Bottle nose dolphins from the land or on boat safaris. See our article on Marine Life.
A walk on any of the beaches should provide good viewing of these animals.
At Beacon Isle visit the hotel for a spectacular view over the ocean, fish off the rocks or take a walk on the famous Robberg Beach.
Beachy Head Drive is the premier seaside turf in SA. Robberg Beach 5 is a good spot for whale and dolphin watching whether from the car or whilst walking on this world class beach.
The Robberg Nature Reserve – one of the most beautiful in the world – is another favourite with hikers, birders, fishermen, and general nature lovers. Here you will also find the Nelson’s Bay Cave, where humans inhabited this area 120000 years ago. Follow the airport road (Robberg Road) from town and look for the turnoff to the left.
Robberg is also a popular fishing spot with a large number of places that are good for fishing. Be on the lookout for birds and seals, and remember to have your camera ready for the beautiful views. For info: call +27(0)44 533 2125
The Lagoon is a wonderful place to walk, canoe and boat, or let the kiddies play in the shallow warm water. It is best visited at low tide.
Visit the Old Nick craft complex, on the N2, just outside the town on the way to Port Elizabeth. Browse the unusual selection of shops, and then enjoy tea or lunch.
Directions: The best way to explore Plett is to take Marine Way into town off the N2 at the Shell Garage. You will drive down until you reach the dolphin circle. To go to Central Beach, Robberg Beach and Robberg Reserve, continue straight over the circle.
Central Beach is a turnoff to your left at the bottom of the hill. Beacon Isle and Robberg Beach are further along. Turn left just after the bridge and left again at the T-junction and drive to the parking spot at Beacon Isle. Retrace your steps a short distance and turn first left into Beachy Head Drive to go to Robberg 5 Beach.
Return to the roundabout. Go straight over and turn left into Robberg Road. The turnoff to the Robberg Nature Reserve is at the end of Robberg Road on the way to the airport.
Return to the dolphin circle to see town and if you want to see the viewpoint, then turn into Church Street from Main Street and follow the signposts.
Continue on Main Street (it becomes Beacon Way), down the hill, and before you reach the Market Square shopping centre, turn right onto Zenon Street to reach the Lagoon.
Return to Beacon Way, pass Market Square, and turn right onto the N2 for the other attractions.
Just a little further along the N2 is the signpost for Keurbooms Beach to your right.
This beach is a favourite spot for enjoying a beach walk, watching dolphins and whales, and for fishing.
Black oyster catchers and other seabirds share the beach too!
Drive along the road and you will find the first beach. Continue to the stop street, turn right and at the parking you will find the second beach and restaurant.
Canoe the Keurbooms River and feel part of nature.
Swim, bird watch, fish or picnic, it’s up to you!
You can hire a canoe from the Angling Club just off the N2 to your right before the Keurbooms Bridge.
Continue on the N2 from Plett and just after the Kurland Polo Fields, you will reach a turnoff to the right, signposted to Kurland Village. Along this road, and conveniently close together, are many fine animal sanctuaries which include monkeys, birds, big cats and elephant.
This is where the whole family can enjoy the conservation and rehabilitation efforts of the local businesses.
Help feed the elephants, go on a tour to see the primates, walk around amongst the birds and become involved the big cats.
And then, have lunch or visit the Old Mill, where you can walk around the gallery and factory of Porcupine Ceramics and see the amazing art on Raku figurines, animals, plates, lamps, basins and many other interesting products which are exported internationally.
From Plettenberg Bay, you can take the beautiful detour to Natures Valley, through old growth indigenous forest, where you can enjoy baboons strolling on the road, an amazing lagoon, hiking, canoeing and birding. You will re-join the N2 near Tsitsikamma. See Detour 1G.
For detailed information on Plettenberg Bay, visit ShowMe Plett.
From Plettenberg Bay, you will continue on the N2, and go through a toll gate. Three kms after the toll gate, you’ll drive over Bloukrans Bridge – the highest bridge in Africa, and the highest bungee jump in the world.
Take the leap off the terrifying 216 meters Bloukrans Bungee bridge, and boast afterward about taking the highest commercial bungee jump in the world!
You can even buy a DVD of your jump. Also offered are Bridge Walks (where you walk underneath the bridge on a suspended catwalk – still pretty grizzly if you’re scared of heights!) and the “Flying Fox”, a 200m cable slide to the middle of the bridge. This bungee site operates daily from 9am to 5pm – take the turn-off immediately to your left after driving over the bridge towards Port Elizabeth. Contact details are +27(0)42 281 1458
Go on a Canopy Tour – consisting of ten platforms high up in a yellowwood forest, you slide down ten long “fufi” or cable slides. It’s safe and secure, and will take you on an exciting and really unique ecological journey. Call Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours on +27(0)42 281 1836. Their office is in the small village of Storms River, a few kms further along the N2 past Tsitsikamma National Park turnoff, on your right.
After the bungee jump, the next turnoff to the right will take you to the Tsitsikamma National Park. There is a lovely walk to the Storms River Mouth after which you can cool off and soak up the surroundings at the restaurant. This is also where the famous 42-kilometre Otter Trail starts. For reservations or more info, call them on +27(0)42 281 1607
It is home to the best right hand point break in the world!
According to locals the Supertubes are best in the winter months, but there are other surfing spots in JBay for year round surfing.
Turn off the N2 at the Jeffreys Bay signpost.
The seaport city of Port Elizabeth boasts 40 kilometers of magnificent beaches. Also known as PE, or “the friendly city”, it forms part of the bigger Nelson Mandela Bay metro with the towns Uitenhage and Despatch, and marks the gateway to the Eastern Cape.
Take a stroll down Kings Beach, stretching from the harbour wall to Humewood, which has Blue Flag status.
Kids can whizz down the super tube or explore the rock pools at Hobie Beach.
Go watch the dolphins show off at the Bayworld Oceanarium and Snake Park. It’s on Beach Road in Humewood. Tel: +27(0)41 584 0650
Visit the Seaview Lion Park – take the N2 off-ramp 730 to Greenbushes/Seaview onto the Seaview Road, taking the Seaview direction for 3km and take a fork left into Lower Seaview Road. The Lion Park entrance is on the left. The park is unique in that it offers you a self-drive option, where you can drive up close to wild animals in their natural environment. You can also choose to interact with lion cubs, watch the daily feeding of the lions at midday, or walk along the boardwalk to view the sanctuary animals. For Info, call +27(0) 41 378 1702
Walk the Sacramento Trail – an 8km walk starting at the west end of Schoenmakerskop and following the coast to Sardinia Bay or try out the 9km Roseate Tern Trail at Cape Recife Nature Reserve. Look out for the lighthouse, built in 1851. Leave your vehicles outside the gate.
Nelson Mandela Bay has been called South Africa’s water sports capital. It has excellent conditions for wind surfing, kite surfing, and wave jumping. The many shipwrecks, coral fish and reefs provide for some top notch scuba diving sites too.
The dependable wind at Noordhoek creates some of the best conditions for experienced wave-jumpers. This spot is 8 km from Hobie beach along Marine Drive and is generally free of crowds. Call the PE Tourism Bureau for more info on all water sports: + (27) 41 582 2575
Visit 47 historical Settler sights on the 5km Donkin Heritage Trail through Central Town. Buy a booklet from the Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism office at the Donkin Reserve in the historical lighthouse building, and then simply follow the painted blue line.
No 7 Castle Hill was completed in 1830 and is now regarded as one of the oldest surviving settler cottages in Port Elizabeth. The interior presents a picture of domestic life in mid-19th century Port Elizabeth. This picturesque family dwelling has yellowwood floors and beams, and a restored slate roof. The dollhouse, lace displays and kitchen is particularly impressive.
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum houses collections in two buildings at the entrance to St George’s Park, and consist of South African art (particularly that of the Eastern Cape), British art, international printmaking and Oriental art (including Indian miniatures and Chinese textiles). 1 Park Drive Tel:+27 (0)41 5062000
For detailed information on Port Elizabeth, visit ShowMe Port Elizabeth.
This is the end of Route 1. If you have the time, and want to drive back to Cape Town on an equally stunning route, see Route 62
Choose from our detours to customize your holiday. With these exciting options, you can plan to make every day your kind of day!
Trip Map for the Cape Town to Franschoek Detour
Our first scenic route takes you from Cape Town to the Grabouw & Elgin regions via Franschoek.Vineyards, wine estates, glorious valleys, mountain passes, wild flowers, and historic Franschoek are the temptations along this route.
This Route is a must if you have done Sir Lowry’s Pass before, because it is very different, and in its own way is stunningly beautiful.
It also is a wine route of note. One of the most amazing sights, in spring, is the fields of red watsonia near the Theewaters Dam.
As you turn off the N1, onto the R44 at Klapmuts, lookout for Butterfly World.
The Franschoek valley produces some of the world’s truly great wines and has a comprehensive wine route. You will pass the Backsberg Cellars, Vrede & Lust, Graham Beck, Eikehof, La Motte and many wine estates en-route to Franschoek. For a map of the wine route, or more information about the local vineyards, phone the Franschoek Wine Valley & Tourist Association +27(0)21 876 3603.
If you’re a foodie, this is your type of place!
Franschoek is South Africa’s gourmet capital. Here top chefs have created some highly sought after eating spots. A smorgasbord of culture and quirks – from antique shops and art and craft galleries to cheese, chocolate and coffee shops.
Visit the Huguenot Museum on Lambrecht Street – you’ll get an idea of the rich French heritage that floods this beautiful corner of South Africa.
Join in the fun on Bastille Day – annual gourmet fair (weekend closest to July 14)
In late October, Franschoek presents the Fete de la Musique for classical music lovers. A range of classical music events at some of Franschhoek’s finest eateries & the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church, with all proceeds donated to local charities.
Directions: Take the N1 from Cape Town, turn right onto the R44 (Klapmuts off ramp) and drive to the R45. Turn left onto the R45. Continue with the R45 through Franschoek to the T-junction with the R321 and R43. Turn right onto the R43 to Elgin and re-join the N2 at Grabouw.
This would be instead of detour 1A as they are in opposite directions.
Road Trip Map from Cape Town via Hermanus to Caledon
Drive this amazing coastline – we have not seen better anywhere in the world!
Allow at least 2 days to explore this area. If you have driven directly from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth on the N2 before, this detour is a magnificent alternative.
This is one of the most scenic coastal drives in South Africa and well worth the effort. It is the also the first part of the Whale Route 3 and features dramatic coast line and beaches, fynbos biosphere, Jackass Penguin colony, baboons, whale watching, birding, shark cage diving and hiking and then …….we throw in some wine estates, just to round things off.
After taking the N2 from Cape Town, take the R44 offramp and turn right to the Strand. Turn right onto Beach Road and stop at the beach. Beach Road will rejoin the R44 to Gordon’s Bay, which has a small harbour.
Continue on the R44 until you see the signpost on your right to Stony Point Penguin Colony. If you reach Betty’s Bay, you have gone too far!
This really is a must – one of only three breeding colonies of jackass penguins on mainland South Africa.
Enjoy getting up close to these birds to get some pics of their comical swagger to the water or the many nests that cover the area. The kids will really love this too!
Rejoin the R44 and not much further on you will see the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens (+27 (0)28 272 9311) on your left. You can have tea, lunch or pack your own picnic and walk around the cultivated fynbos gardens. Maybe take a hike on one of the nature trails – really beautiful.
Have your binoculars ready if you are a birdwatcher. With over 96 species recorded at Harold Porter, some specials include Verreaux’s Eagle, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Victorin’s Scrub-Warbler, Cape Siskin, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Rock-Thrush, Ground Woodpecker and the rare Protea Seedeater.
Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond and Onrus
Betty’s Bay is well known for its beautiful, lonely beach, which is backed by flower covered dunes in the spring.
The Kleinmond area is renowned for whale sightings during whale season (August to November). To reach the view sites, turn right onto 13th Street, and drive down to Beach Rd .
The picnic area at the lagoon wetland is also pretty. To get there, continue on Beach Rd and rejoin the R44, turn right, and the next turnoff to the right should be to the wetland park. The site supports over 163 bird species, at least 62 of which are water birds. The wetland regularly supports an average of 25,000 individual birds and on occasion it can hold over 40,000.
After Kleinmond, the R44 will merge with the R43 – turn right towards Hermanus.
You will pass the sign for Onrus, a small town on your right. The beach at Onrus is ideal for the family. Flanked by a lagoon it provides an ideal playground for children. The Onrus beach is also a favorite place for local surfers. The Milkwood Restaurant overlooks the beach and has been cited as the best seafood restaurant in Hermanus. Phone the area tourism office +27(0) 28 271 5657
Originally a fishing village, Hermanus is now a cosmopolitan town and a popular tourist destination. It is known for its “whale crier” who blows his kelp horn when a whale is spotted. Between July and October you can experience great land-based whale watching from the cliff tops, or the old harbor. In September, Hermanus hosts the Whale Festival.
- If you’re into adventure activities like canoeing, the Kleinrivier vlei is one of the best places in SA and is only 6kms outside Hermanus towards Gansbaai. Sea kayaking, sand boarding, paragliding, quad bikingand guided fresh and salt water fly fishing trips – you’ll find plenty of opportunities to indulge in them here. Contact the Tourism office on +27(0) 28 312 2629
- Have fun on the famous Grotto Beach at the mouth of the Kleinrivier lagoon. Nearby, De Plaat is a well known fishing spot
- Take the Rotary Drive for spectacular views of Walker Bay – drive out of Hermanus towards the N2. Rotary drive is sign posted to the right
- Have a meal at Bientang’s Cave, a seafood restaurant that’s carved into a deep old cave that overlooks the Old Harbor. We recommend the bouillabaisse!
- Hermanus has the most comprehensive collection of internationally acclaimed white and red South African wines in the largest wine shop in South Africa. Found in the Wine Village on the corner of the R43 and R320 en route to the N2
- The nearby Fernkloof Nature Reserve has about 50km of well-maintained hiking trails, surrounded by the beautiful coastal fynbos indigenous to the area. The area is considered one of the world’s richest floral kingdoms. This is also a good birding spot. If you visit Fernkloof in September you will experience a great wild flower show. To get there, take the R43 towards Gansbaai, turn left into Fir Ave, just past the Hermanus Golf Club
- The Cliff Path that stretches from the New Harbour in Westcliff all along the coastline to Grotto beach is 10-12km long and has made Hermanus famous for its land-based Whale watching potential. Accessible from many points along the route, it has benches at strategic points along the way to give hikers a rest or just to provide a place to sit and watch the whales or appreciate the beauty of Walker Bay
At this point, you return to the N2 on the R320 via Caledon to Port Elizabeth.
The R320 passes through the fertile Hemel and Aarde Valley where you can stop at a number of well known vineyards – wine tasting with amazing views! The terroir in this valley provides for some unique touches to these award-winning wines. The sea breezes, slopes and clay soil have helped wine-makers produce distinctive Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
The Bouchard Finlayson estate, Whalehaven Wines, Hamilton Russel Vineyards, Cape Bay and Sumaridge are all open to the public for wine tastings. We hope you find just the right wines to have sent or taken home!
Caledon has one of the best spring wild flower shows in SA which takes place in Victoria Hall in September. For more information call +27 (0) 28 214 1016
And a little extra……
If you would like to go shark cage diving or make a boat trip to Dyer and Bird Islands, you would continue on the R43 to Stanford, De Kelders and Gansbaai and then return to the N2 on the R326.
For detailed information on Hermanus, visit ShowMe Hermanus.
Stanford, De Kelders and Gansbaai
These villages have a lovely, peaceful sense of being away from it all. Whale watch and drink tea at De Kelders, overlooking the bay.
Continue on R44. Turn right off the R44 to Kleinbaai just before Gansbaai. Take the kids swimming in the tidal pool at Kleinbaai, which is a gem of a village, complete with scenic golf course and plenty of hikes, just a few km from Gansbaai closer to Hermanus.
Gansbaai is known as the great white shark capital of the world; it’s attracted marine biologists, photographers and adrenalin junkies alike from all over the globe. Face your fear and go shark cage diving yourself or take a boat trip to Dyer and Bird Islands and see whales, dolphins, seals, penguins and other marine wonders.
Gansbaai also has water sport opportunities – from scuba diving to shore and boat angling. Call Gansbaai tourism at +27 (0) 28 384 1439
From Gansbaai, take the R326.
At Stanford, turn right onto the R326 and you will find some more suprises:
- Walk along or paddle down the Klein River at Stanford to the bird sanctuary with its more than 220 species of birds.
- Visit the Birkenhead brewery, the first brewing estate in the Southern hemisphere, and enjoy one of their many premium beers on tap at the pub. It’s situated just outside Stanford on the R326.
- The Klein River Cheese farm just outside Stanford on the R326 is perfect for a picnic outing – sit and enjoy your prepared deli picnic hamper on the banks of the Klein River, while the kids can play in the large playground area. For info, call them on +27 (0) 28 341 0693.
Detour 1C does a 65km loop from the N2 on the R406 just before Caledon and back to the N2 near Riviersonderend via the historic town of Genadendal, and the idyllic hideaway in the mountains, Greyton. Much of the route is unpaved, and has the slow feel of country life and unhurried meandering.
Trip Map for the Caledon to Genadendal and Greyton Detour
Genadendal is one of the top 10 historic sites in South Africa, and the oldest mission station in SA. A Moravian Mission was established here in 1737. The village is steeped in significant South African history. Visit the Genadendal Church Square, where 24 tourist attractions, including the Mission Museum, can be seen.
Greyton lies between two rivers; a beautiful mountain setting with coffee shops, fine dining and oak-lined lanes. It is the home of Von Geusau Chocolates, a number of excellent wellness retreats, art galleries for any taste and offers some terrific hiking opportunities. Greyton is a good place to spend the night. For more information, visit their Tourism office at 29 Main Road, or call them on +27 (0) 28 254 9564/0414
Trip Map for an exciting route around George
This detour to George is for those self drive enthusiasts who do not mind throwing some gravel roads into the mix to experience an unbelievable trip over two of South Africa’s most dramatic passes. Partly off the beaten track, you can still enjoy the sophistication of Fancourt Golf Estate, the history of George and throw in some berry picking and cheese making just to round things off. Depending on what you do, this route could take a whole day. The road through the Montagu Pass is gravel, but unless it has been raining, is quite passable with a normal car.
From the N2, take the R404 past the airport. This is the country hop route.
Cross the R102 and take the road to the left to the Silver Lily Cheese Farm. This is an aromatic cheese taste adventure where you can get your taste buds around 10 flavors of handmade Dutch style farm cheese.
Learn how the cheese is made, or just enjoy a glass of wine whilst tasting the cheese in tranquil surroundings.
Continue with the R404, and the next turn to the left will take you strawberry picking at the Red Berry Farm. Berry picking is great fun for all the family from September until February.
Continue on the R404 past Fancourt Golf Estate – pop in for lunch on the hotel verandah and get the vibe! The R404 becomes the Outeniqua Pass Road. You will soon see the turnoff on the right to the Montagu Pass. Take this gravel road for a fabulous scenic drive. Pass the old Tolhuis and tunnel and you will eventually join the N9. Turn left and follow the N9 over the Outeniqua Pass back to George.
If you would like to see Oudtshoorn, and return to this route, the Oudtshoorn signpost is on the N9 at the junction with the N12. Turn right onto the N12, visit Oudtshoorn, and then return to this route. Oudtshoorn details are on our Route 62.
Stay on the N9 which becomes CJ Langenhoven Rd. At the George Golf Club, bear left onto Davidson Rd.
Visit the Transport Museum at the junction with York St, on the left. Continue with the N9 till you get to Mission Rd, and then turn right. Here you book for the scenic Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe to Mossel Bay and back and you can also visit the Transport Museum where you’ll see steam locomotives from South Africa’s past. There are plenty of tourism activities, souvenir shops, a coffee shop, a restaurant and an information centre. For a booking on the Choo-Tjoe, which runs on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, phone +27(0)44 801 8288
For detailed information on George, Visit ShowMe George.
Continue on the same road to re-join the N2.
Map of the 7 passes road trip
The 7 Passes Route from Wilderness to Knysna is definitely an interesting (gravel) alternative for those who have done the N2 route before, or for those who like the out of the way country feel – green fields, cows and tractors. Get taken into the heart of our indigenous forest, and do a comfortable hike or an amazing mountain bike trail. Picnic at Chrisjans Nek or Jubilee Creek Picnic Spots in the Goudveld Forest or visit the mining museum at Milwood.
After George, return to the N2. Go over the Kaaimans Pass (be careful of speed traps) and at the bottom of the hill, look out for the entrance into the Wilderness Village.
Follow the signs to the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp of the Wilderness National Park. (You could first follow the signs to the Map of Africa Paragliding Launch Pad if you see paragliders in the sky and want see them launching and take in the beautiful view). Go past Ebb and Flow, or if you enjoy hiking or birdwatching, stop off at the camp to do a hike or to get info about the bird hides.
Continue with the road towards Hoekwil and the Big Tree in Woodville. Along the road, you will see bridges over rust colored rivers, forest and farms. Nip up to Beervlei on the left, if you are a birder. Pass through Karatara and on to the Bibby’s Hoek turnoff to the left.
This road takes you to the Goudveld Forest for the well known Homtini Cycle Trail, the early goldrush history of Milwood, picnic spots and forest trails. A small museum and tearoom is at Milwood.
The picnic spot at Chrisjan se Nek is the place that Dalene Mathee used to go for spiritual rest and inspiration for her books about the Knysna Forest.
Her grave is in the shade of this majestic tree. Return to the 7 Passes road, and go through Rheenendal and join the N2 just before Knysna.
This is a real “off the beaten track” experience, from the serenity of the castles and beach in Noetzie, to the incredible scenery of forest, ferns and fynbos. From the viewpoint, the whole area from Knysna to Plettenberg bay is served up with a mountain backdrop covered in fynbos. Although on gravel, it is quite passable with a normal car in dry weather.
Stop at the King Edward VII Tree, do one of the forest trails, take a picnic to have at Spitskop or at the Valley of Ferns Picnic area, just after the Spitskop turnoff.
From Knysna, drive towards Port Elizabeth. As you reach the top of the hill out of Knysna on the N2, the signpost for Noetzie will be on your right and the R339 to Uniondale will be on your left. First take the road to Noetzie on the right. Follow the road to the parking area.
Both magical and off the beaten track, Noetzie, has a half dozen stone castles dating from the 1930s, located next to the Noetzie River mouth. Situated on a beautiful unspoilt beach, the steep walk down is well worth the effort. If you have not seen the beach and castles, it is really worthwhile doing the 5km detour.
No wonder brides choose this place as their location!
Return to the N2, drive straight across the road to the R339. First port of call is the Edward VII tree. Some time later, the entrance to the Spitskop viewpoint will come up on the left. A short distance further is the Valley of Ferns picnic spot. Venture into the area surrounding the Valley of Ferns to experience the wonderful vegetation. About 7.3 kms further on the R339 joins the R340. Take the R340 to the right to get to the N2 and Plettenberg Bay. At the N2 turn right for Plettenberg Bay or left for Port Elizabeth. If you had to continue on the R339, you would go over the Prince Alfred Pass to Uniondale.
Drive through real old growth indigenous forest, and the Grootrivier Pass and maybe you will see the resident baboons. Visit the unspoilt village of Natures Valley, where the natural vegetation takes precedence.
Enjoy a beautiful hike or just walk along the magnificent beach. The lagoon at Nature’s Valley, one of SA’s finest, is a perfect place to relax, swim or have a picnic lunch. This detour is not much longer than driving directly on the N2.
The lagoon is ideal for the children to play or for canoeing and the beach is magnificent.
There is a network of hikes through forest, rivers, along the beach and over rocks through stunning scenery which also produces good results for the birder. Hiking permits are obtained from the De Vasselot Camp, off the N2, just after the Nature’s Valley turnoff.
Directions: Continue on the N2 from Plettenberg Bay, pass the Crags and the Kurland Hotel and drive until you reach the R102 on the right. Turn onto the R102 and drive along a plateau and then down the pass to find the entrance to Nature’s Valley on the right. After Nature’s Valley, continue with the R102 up the pass. Stop at the view site at the top. Carry on until you reach the N2.
Please tell us about your trip and share your pics!
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