Self Drive Route 4 – Johannesburg to the Garden Route
This route winds through farms at the foothills of the Drakensberg, the beautiful Golden Gate National Park, small scenic villages like Clarens and Ficksburg and borders the rugged Maluti Mountains.
If you are a photographer, you will love all the foto opportunities; a browser will have lots of fun and a foodie will be equally satisfied.
Depending on which route option you choose, you can either experience the elephants at Addo Elephant Park arriving in Port Elizabeth or you can see the sculptures in Nieu Bethesda, the history, geology and wildlife in Graaf Reinet and arrive in George.
Driving from Johannesburg to the Garden Route is a long trip in anyone’s book. Our route to George is 1410 kms and the route to Port Elizabeth is 1237 kms. But, these routes are so beautiful you can make them part of your holiday.
So, take your time – a relaxed 3 to 5 days for the best holiday!
This route takes your from Johannesburg to either George or Port Elizabeth. The decision point is where you take the route to your particular destination of choice.
Map of route from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth via Addo
Map of route from Johannesburg to George via Graaff-Reinet
Route 4 – Detailed Route Information
Take the N3 from Johannesburg and drive to Harrismith.
This open countryside is typical of large scale farming in S.A. As one moves away from Johannesburg towards the Maluti Mountains, the winters can be very cold and snow is common.
Afri-Ski in the Maluti’s in Lesotho is a small but popular destination for ski-ing in midwinter…
At Harrismith, turn onto Warden Street (N5) and follow to R712 where you turn off to Golden Gate National Park.
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp.
This 11 600 hectares of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a variety of mammals– black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra – and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs. Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening.
Short nature trails (varying from 1 hour to 5 hours): no bookings required – enquire at the Park Office
Game viewing at leisure from your own vehicle or stopping to take photos will keep you busy. It is nice to have a picnic lunch you can enjoy in the park.
Cultural route – one has the opportunity to be t aken through the Basotho culture and the way of living dating back from the sixteen century to date. Tourist report backs, have been very complimentary.
This area has the reputation of being one of the best horse riding areas in the country. If you can ride a horse, do it now! Bookings: +27(0)58 225 0951
Information available from Clarens Tourism Tel: +27(0) 58 246 1542 or the Park offices +27(0) 58 255 1000
Clarens is known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate; it is one of the most picturesque spots in S.A. and has recently been acclaimed as the best Trout Fishing waters in S.A.
We have spectacular horse riding country that very few people have discovered!
The town is known for the many Art and Craft shops which offer the visitor a wide range of curios and original artwork. Another feature which adds to the picturesque atmosphere of the village is the many sandstone buildings.
Clarens Tourism Tel: +27(0) 58 246 1542
From Clarens, follow the R711 to Fouriesburg
Enjoy the Maluti Mountains all the way – every season is different!
The scenery along this route is spectacular. Each bend brings more beauty to the table. In winter, there is plenty of snow covering the mountains and landscape.
Treat yourself to a visit to the largest cherry farm in Africa. Taste the famous Ionia Cherry Liqueur that has become a landmark. Ionia offers cherry tours in season from October to November. Pre-booking for visits is essential. Ionia is situated on the Fouriesburg road approximately 25km from Ficksburg. Contact Renè at 051 933 4302.
Ficksburg is the cherry capital of S.A. There is a huge cherry festival in the 3rd week in November.
See the biggest collection of Steam Trains. The Great 400 working is held each year around April. Wander through time as you see beautifully restored steam trains. View by appointment only. Contact Teresa: +27(0)51 933 2619
Visit Die Blikplek on the Main Road – what an experience!
For all the other activities contact Ficksburg Tourism Tel: +27 (0) 51 933 2130 at 96 McCabe Street
Continue on to Clocolan and Ladybrand, Hobhouse, Wepener to Zastron.
The scenery is changing and soon you will be swinging away from the Maluti Mountains into the more arid Karoo.
Zastron is close to the border with Lesotho. It gets quite a lot of traffic, so has a number of good accommodation options and is a possible stop over point.
- View the well preserved San rock art and relics at the Hippopotamus Cave, where the San drawings are dominated by hippos.
- Check out the only Cape Vulture colony at Aasvoëlberg.
- Contact the Zastron Tourism Office for info on their excellent trout fishing spots, off-road trails, rock climbing, rafting, golf, hunting and more. Tel: +27 (0)51 673 1550
Continue on the R26 to Rouxville. The road changes to the N6 and continues to Aliwal North.
The principal attractions of Aliwal North are two hot mineral springs, both of which have extremely high concentrations of minerals and gases. There is a fairly reasonable country hotel in Aliwal North if you need to stop over.
From Aliwal, take the R58 to Burgersdorp and the R391 to a T-junction. Turn right onto the R56 towards Steynsburg.
About 10 kms past Steynsburg is the Decision Point.
If you are going to Addo and Port Elizabeth, turn left onto the R390 to Hofmeyer. If you are going to George, carry on to Middelburg.
Directions for Addo and Port Elizabeth will come after those to George.
Directions from Decision Point to George
Continue on the R56 to Middelburg. Turn left towards Graaf Reinet onto the N9. If you would like to do the Detour 4A to Nieu Bethesda, look out for the sign to Owl House. The turn off is about 60 kms from Middelburg, and for those coming the other way, it is about 25 kms from Graaf Reinet.
Like the other large towns in this interior stretch of South Africa, the Karoo Midlands town of Graaf-Reinet really doesn’t disappoint the discerning adventurer or tourist. It is almost completely surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park and basks in history.
Graaf-Reinet is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape with a huge number of restored Cape Dutch historical buildings. More than 200 buildings in Graaf-Reinet are National Monuments. The most notable of these are Reinet House in Murray Street, the Old Residency in Parsonage Street, the Old Library and the Drostdy in Church Street. Walking Maps are available from the tourism office at 13A Church Street.
For the nature lovers: visit the magnificent Valley of Desolation in the oasis-like Camdeboo National Park – there is a short walk to the view, or a hike of about an hour which is also great, so don’t forget your walking shoes. At least 225 bird species have been recorded in the park, with an interesting ecotonal mix including species typical of both the Great Karoo and Eastern region avifaunas. There are also 336 types of plant, and 43 types of mammal.
Directions to Park: From Church Street, the Old Dutch Reformed Church is dead centre of this road and vehicles can only turn left around the church and will come to a stop street. Turn left at the stop street into Caledon Street and proceed down the street. At the four-way stop, turn right into the road towards Murraysburg. Keep going on this road to the Valley of Desolation. The entrance to the park is 8km from Graaf-Reinet.
Within the Camdeboo Conservancy are some 22 farms, providing visitors with a range of accommodation and hikers with some amazing trails.
If you like cacti, we’d recommend a visit to the Obesa Cactus Nursery in Murray Street, with its amazing Cacti and Succulent Garden. The range of plants is spectacular and you can really go to town with your camera, especially in the early morning or sunset hours!
For the adrenalin junkies: excellent hunting expeditions, hot air balloon trips, microlights, Cessna flights, paragliding, 4×4 routes and mountain biking routes and for the culture vultures: Boer War tours, Fossil Tours, Township Walks or a visit to any of the amazing galleries, museums and monuments – call the Tourism Bureau on +27(0)49 892-4248 at 13A Church Street.
Continue on the N9 to Aberdeen and Willowmore. If you would like to go to Plettenberg Bay or Knysna, there is a very nice unpaved link road through the Prince Alfred Pass.
Continue on the N9 to George.
George is the capital of the Southern Cape. With a rich infrastructure of banks, schools, shopping centers and sports facilities, it still has a peaceful small town atmosphere.
George is also the golf mecca of South Africa; quality golf courses are plentiful, from the many courses at the reknowned 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
There are 2 beautiful beaches - Herold’s Bay, which is close to George Airport, and the surfing hotspot, Victoria Bay, which is en route to the Wilderness.
Visit the Outeniqua 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 at the museum.
From here you can travel on South Africa’s only remaining steam train, the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe. Book for the scenic trip to Mossel Bay and back – it runs on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, phone +27 (0)44 801 8288. The museum complex is in Mission Road which is off Courtenay Street (N9).
In December, get tickets to 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, Tel:+27 (0)82 491 5254
Drive the Montagu Pass – Take this gravel road for a fabulous scenic drive. Pass the old Tolhuis and tunnel and you will eventually re-join the N9. Turn left and follow the N9 over the Outeniqua Pass back to George. The road through the Montagu Pass is gravel, but unless it has been raining, it is quite passable with a normal car. The start is located off the N9 on the way to Oudtshoorn, just outside George.
Visit 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. It is off the R404 near the airport.
Continue with the R404, and the next turn off will take you strawberry picking at the Red Berry Farm. Picking and eating berries 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!
If you would like to see Oudtshoorn, Oudtshoorn details are on ourRoute 62.
For all the attractions and events in George, visit ShowMe George.
Directions from Decision Point to Port Elizabeth
About 10 kms past Steynsburg is the Decision Point. Turn left onto the R390 to Hofmeyer. Hofmeyer has a quaint little farm stall, Karoo Bos. In Hofmeyer, the R390 runs into the N10 to Cradock.
Continue on to Cradock. The scenery along this stretch is not very interesting, but soon you will see the vegetation start to green up and by the time you get to Patterson, the turn off for Addo, the coastal bush is green.
The Mountain Zebra Park is situated 12 km from Cradock.
The craggy heights of the Mountain Zebra National Park’s Bankberg is an impressive setting for the preservation of the Cape Mountain Zebra. The proclamation of the park in 1937 saved these animals from extinction, and currently their population stands at 350. Other mammals found in Mountain Zebra Park include eland, black wildebeest, red hartebeest and gemsbok. Mountain reedbuck and grey rhebok frequent the higher areas, whilst caracal occupies the niche of primary predator. There are also 200 bird species, a driving route with beautiful scenery, nature trails and day walks.
To reach the park, drive on the N10 towards Graaf Reinet, and turn onto the R61. It is about 10kms along the gravel road.
Continue to Cookhouse and then Patterson. At Patterson, turn right onto the R342 to Addo. The park gates are on this road. As you cannot book in after 6pm, if you think you will be late, there are plenty of good accommodation options outside the park.
Addo Elephant Park is a superb elephant experience. We found that it is best to drive out at about 11am as the elephant have come out of the thick bush. Position yourself near the waterholes and you are sure to have good viewings of elephant behavior.
There is also plenty of other game in this park. We took these pictures on one day!
Continue on the R335 to the N2 and then on to Port Elizabeth.
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.
Visit 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 Trailat 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 yellow wood 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, 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 all the tourist attractions and events & entertainment in Port Elizabeth, visit ShowMe Port Elizabeth.
Nieu-Bethesday is an isolated but extremely tranquil village, and is well worth a visit, even if just to restore your soul. The road is gravel, so do not rush. If it is getting latish, stay over in Nieu Bethesda.
It is Helen Martins and her assistant, Koos Malgas, creators of the mystical and unforgettableOwl House and Camel Yard, who have immortalized Nieu Bethesda. It was here that they gave life and form to her unique vision, by transforming her modest house and garden with glass and cement. Now run as a museum, and known internationally as a remarkable example of outsider art, the Owl House is open to the public every day of the year (except 25 December).
See the Kitching Fossil centre, displaying fossils found in the area from 250 million years before humans arrived on the scene. You can also participate in a Fossil hunt!
Continue with the gravel road, and it will come out on the N9 further on.
At Uniondale, turn onto the R339 to Avontuur, Knysna and Plett.
After the Pass and Avontuur, you will come to a fork in the road – bear left on the R340 to Plettenberg Bay and right onto the R339 to Knysna. Not far along the R339 to Knysna is the signpost to Spitskop, and if you are going to Plett, it is really worthwhile to make the short detour to this amazing viewsite.
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