(Photo: Nelis Engelbrecht)
Rejoice! Winter is finally on the retreat and all around us the world seems to be reawakening from a deep slumber. Sweet wafts of jasmine float on the breeze, bees buzz furiously and flowers seem so eager to stretch their curled petals that they even raise their pretty little heads through the cracks in the city pavements underfoot.
While she may still have to cross swords with a relentless cold front or two in the coming weeks, it’s safe to say that Spring is making her tentative entrance, bringing new life and possibilities in her wake.
And what better way to celebrate the pretty new season than with a road trip along one of our country’s most scenic routes. We’ve picked seven that would be particularly enjoyable in Spring for various reasons – from pretty flowers to cutesy baby animals.
SEE: Traveller24 readers share first sightings of Namaqualand daisies
Check them out below:
Namaqualand Route, Northern Cape
If wild flowers are what you want to see, heading to the Northern Cape’s Namaqualand is a no-brainer. Focused around the towns of Springbok, Garies, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth, the Namaqualand Route consists of a variety of drives that you can easily do in a day.
Main attraction: Flowers, flowers and more flowers!
Places of interest: Goegap Nature Reserve just outside Springbok and Namaqua National Park outside Garies are both great places to take a relaxed drive. Both of these parks are home to an incredible array of flower species and also have plenty of spots for you to pull over and snap a selfie among the daisies.
Accommodation: If you’re very lucky you may be able to find mid-week availability at SANParks’ Skilpad Rest Camp. There are also a number of coastal campsites in Namaqua National Park, but just take note – they are extremely rustic and only for those with an appetite for roughing it. If a little bit of comfort is what you’re after we suggest checking out one of the quaint accommodation offerings in one of the towns. Verbe Farm Accommodation just outside Kamieskroon looks particularly cosy to us.
Cederberg Heritage Route donkey cart trail, Western Cape
Centred on the Moravian mission village of Wupperthal, the Cederberg Heritage Route will take you into some of the most remote, culturally rich communities in the Western Cape. While the route consists primarily of six different hiking trails, there is also the absolutely charming option of taking a three-day donkey cart route with members of the local community as your guides.
Main attraction: Flowers, once again! The rugged rock formations and stark mountains of the Cederberg take on a softness during spring, as gazillions of colourful wild flowers pop up all over the place. What better way to take it all in than during a slow and steady donkey cart ride with a few short walks in between?
Places of interest: Your adventure will start in Wupperthal where you will be taken on a tour of the mission station village, followed by lunch at the Lekkerbekkie Tea Room. Throughout the trail you will get to explore the surrounding settlements of Heuningvlei, Brugkraal and Witwater. If you’re the adventurous type (which you should be to do this in the first place), traversing Pakhuis Pass on Day 3 will definitely be a highlight.
Accommodation: You will spend both nights in community-based accommodation in Kleinvlei and Heuningvlei respectively. These villages are inhabited by about 20 families each, who live off subsistence farming. Income from tourism helps to improve the livelihood of the communities.
Pretoria historical route, Gauteng
Well, there is no official route quite like this, as far as we can tell. However, we think there should totally be one, allowing visitors to spend a day hopping from one historical site to another in South Africa’s administrative capital. While it would be pretty cool any time of year, the streets of Pretoria take on a breath-taking purple haze during late spring, when the Jacaranda trees burst into bloom.
Main attraction: Jacaranda trees in full bloom!
Places of interest: Start your adventure at the Voortrekker Monument and be sure to take a selfie on the koeksister bench, from there head to the Kruger House Museum to find out more about the Old Transvaal, its President Paul Kruger and the wild days of the 1880s gold rush.
Finally end off by heading to the Union Buildings to marvel at the perfectly maintained gardens and check out the impressive 9m Nelson Mandela statue ‘embracing the nation’ from the amphitheatre – you know the one that used to have a rabbit in its ear. All the while you would either be travelling among Jacarandas or be able to see their purple glow from afar. Wrap up your day of exploring by taking a drive/stroll down Herbert Baker Street to see the rare collection of white Jacarandas.
Accommodation: The Protea Fire&Ice! Menlyn is ultra cool, uber chic and quite centrally located to all the spots on the route.
Whale Coast Route, Western Cape
September is the height of whale watching season in the coastal Overberg region, so head out along the super scenic Clarence Drive between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els, pulling over ever so often to seek out the gentle giants of the deep as they blow, spy hop and breach. From here wind your way further along the coast and maybe hop on board a whale watching boat in Gansbaai or a kayak in Hermanus.
Main attraction: Whale sightings… and in celebration of this, the Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival set to take place from 2 – 4 October.
Places of interest: This route will take you past or through the towns of Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond as you make for the whale watching capital of Hermanus. Pringle Bay has a delightful array of restaurants and coffee shops, Betty’s Bay a burgeoning penguin colony and Kleinmond some spectacular elevated views over Walker Bay where Southern Rights love to frolic.
Once in Hermanus, be sure to check out the Whale House Museum where you will be able to learn all about the town’s controversial whale hunting history and also find out more about conservation efforts, migration routes and the intriguing life cycle of these creatures. If you head on a bit further into Gansbaai, a boat cruise on board Marine Dynamics’ Whale Whisperer vessel comes highly recommended.
Accommodation: If you’re in the mood to spoil yourself and enjoy a bit of romance among the Fynbos, you can’t go wrong with Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. However, if you’re on a slightly tighter budget check out the variety of self-catering accommodation offerings in Hermanus.
Skukuza to Lower Sabie, Kruger National Park
The southern region of Kruger, especially around the Sabie River, is widely known to be particularly rich in wildlife – with big cat sightings being more common here than in any other area of the park. There are two routes you can take between Skukuza and Lower Sabie – the often crowded H4-1, which is considered to be the main river road and then the less-travelled Salitje dirt road. We would definitely suggest the latter.
Main attraction: Spring time in the Kruger Park means one thing and one thing only: BABY ANIMALS. And since this route is known for its wildlife it’s probably also the best bet for seeing the littlies!
Places of interest: The Mafotini Waterhole is a great spot to just pull over and spend some time waiting on animals. Heading out on this route early in the morning comes highly recommended, as your chance of encountering lions and hyenas returning from an evening of hunting/scavenging is pretty good. If you decide to take the H4-1 route instead, be sure to duck into a number of the loops overlooking the Sabie River – keep an eye out for leopards lazing in the trees, and you’re almost certain to spot herds of elephants. Stop at Nkuhlu picnic spot for a late morning skottelbraai brunch.
Accommodation: Skukuza is the capital of Kruger and has a huge variety of accommodation offerings – from camping to chalets to luxury guest houses. Lower Sabie is a slightly smaller rest camp, but utterly lovely, overlooking the river. Here you can choose from camping, to safari tents, to chalets or even a guest house.
Route 62, Eastern Cape section
Stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, Route 62 offers road trippers a delightfully ‘plattelandse’ alternative to the more traditional N2 option. While the entire route is filled with quaint spots to stop over for a meal, pretty scenery and loads of intriguing accommodation, we think the Eastern Cape section is by far the best bit of the road in spring, as wild flowers brighten up the otherwise thirsty Karoo plains and all sorts of adorable baby farm animals can be spotted romping as you drive.
Main attraction: Baby animals and flowers
Places of interest: The Eastern Cape section of Route 62 takes you through completely underrated dorpies like Kareedouw, Uniondale and Joubertina. Carrying all the charm of the likes of Barrydale, McGregor and Montagu that have gained popularity recently, these towns are still relatively undiscovered and uncrowded. If blossoms are what you’re after, you can head into the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve with its 500 000ha of varied vegetation and be sure to include Joubertina in your itinerary. The town is famous for its apple orchards and celebrates the trees all bursting into bloom with the Langkloof Bloeisel Festival set to take place from 22 – 25 October this year.
Accommodation: The Apple Valley Guesthouse is located in the very heart of the flower-rich Langkloof, just outside Joubertina, offering beautiful views and a central point for exploring the rest of this section of Route 62.
Maloti-Drakensberg Heritage Route, KZN, Eastern Cape, Free State and Lesotho
This extensive route not only spans the borders of a variety of provinces, but also spills over into neighbouring Lesotho. While the scenery is spectacular any time of year, winter sees heavy snowfall, making travel a little uncertain and temperatures tend to soar during summer. Spring, however, brings mild weather, lush green vegetation and wild flowers.
Main attraction: Rolling green hills, flowers and champagne air
Places of interest: If you have a lot of time and money, we would recommend the entire route. However, if you’re on a shoestring (of time or money), why not head out into the Eastern Free State section of the route? Taking you through towns like Fouriesburg and Ficksburg, that are famous for their cherry farms, you will no doubt be treated to an amazing display pink blossoms. Golden Gate Highlands National Park is also beautiful this time of year – decked in green, with beautiful wild flower displays of its own.
Accommodation: The Maloti Drakensberg Route website has an extensive list of accommodation offerings for each of the areas it covers. Check it out here.