Are you planning a festive season escape to the hottest city on the East Coast this summer? Good thinking! If you haven't thought about it yet, how about planning a last-minute escape to Durban?
Not only is Durbs one of the best coastal spots in SA to soak up summer, the road there can be part of your holiday, if you take a few pointers from our handy Durban road trip planner.
READ: #UnlockYourCity: How to plan the best Durban Staycation
There are two main ways travellers head to Durban for the festive season, and we know how to make the road trip worthwhile from every angle.
You might think of the N3 as a one-way street to the sea, but don't miss out on all the great festive season stops along the way.
Take two days to head to the coast, and two days on your way back to Joburg again. And be sure to go a little off-course every now and then.
Our favourite diversions
This quaint place is a great stop-off if you happen to be travelling from Gauteng to KZN and vice-versa. Clarens is a key point along the scenic Highlands route, which includes the Golden Gate Highlands National Park - linking the towns of Harrismith, Bethlehem and Fouriesburg, all along the Lesotho Highlands, the Malutis and the Drakensberg.
Situated roughly three hours' drive from Johannesburg, in the embrace of the beautiful Maluti Mountain range, the charming town is known as the Jewel of the Free State - and there is so much more to it than its outstanding art.
Some have called it a brewery with a town built around it, so expect some great craft beers to quench your thirst after a long drive.
SEE: Clarens: A brewery with a town around it
If you're looking for a road trip to remember, the road around the iconic Drakensberg Mountain range is something every traveller should do at least once in their lives.
This mountain range, which is also the highest in South Africa, is like a playground adventure seekers. Whether you’re a tame hiker, extreme mountain biker or vertigo seeking climber, the Dragon will have you coming back for more and more.
It's also the perfect spot to train your little ones from a young age to let the adventure find them.
SEE: Taming the Dragon: 21 things to do in the Drakensberg
Four potters, a weaver and a couple of artists... This almost sounds like the start of a joke, but as a matter of fact, they were the ones who came up with the idea of the now famous Midlands Meander in KwaZulu-Natal.
When this group of artists got together on a summer’s evening in 1985 the concept of a Rolling Exhibition, where visitors could come and see their work a few times a year, was born. Over the years the Midlands Meander family has grown and now has more than 150 members, with many of the original members still remaining.
This collection of routes in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal all leads to artistic, exciting and beautiful places. Small towns like Howick, Underberg and Nottingham Road are all scattered around here, and make for magical exploring.
SEE: A Meander through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands
Farm stalls you need to stop at
Rotunda Farm Stall
The shop provides fresh produce from locally source farms in the midlands area and also a selection of imported items.
What to buy: Locally made cheese
Piggly Wiggly has grown into a formidable force in the Midlands offering a one-stop shop for all good country experiences. The Coffee Shop serves up generous breakfasts and is the perfect lunch-time spot. There's everything from fresh organic food, to incredible home decor, ceramic painting, candle dipping, and plenty of kids activities.
What to buy: Locally produced cheeses
Zandspruit Farm Stall
Some of the very best biltong in South Africa comes from this small roadside farm stall at the bottom of Van Reenen’s Pass, just off the N3. A must-stop for the South African road-trip staple.
What to buy: Biltong
Through the Eastern Cape
If you're not coming from the northern side of the Drakensberg and Lesotho, you'll most likely be heading through the Eastern Cape to Durbs in KZN.
If you are, consider yourself lucky. The Eastern Cape is one of our favourite destinations and perhaps one of the most undermined as a holiday-destination.
Take time to explore this wild child of South Africa on your way to the coast. But be warned, you might get hooked on the EC and choose to stay on for the whole holiday...
Our favourite diversions
There is a stretch of coast in SA that's as beautiful as the Garden Route and the East Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, though not as main stream. And what you'll find along the Sunshine Coast is a unique slice of coastal paradise life that makes for a pretty special beach holiday break.
The route meanders past the sights of the coastline between Port Elizabeth and East London, taking you through a number of villages such as Colchester, Bathurst, Alexandria, Kenton on Sea, Port Alfred and Kidds Beach.
This unique route’s most striking attraction is the spectacular sandy coastline, consisting of a variety of river channel connections, resorts and great activities for everyone to enjoy along the way. It's also home to perhaps the most secretive of secret beaches in SA - which is why we love it.
Apart from the beaches, though, there is so much more to explore.
Nothing distinguishes the village of Qunu from any other in the Butterworth surroundings.
Even the large pink home built for the Mandela family does not ridicule the colourful, round huts standing alongside it. It is puny compared to the stately resort erected for South Africa’s latest president.
Life in Qunu is quiet and peaceful. Goats frequent the streets of the village hub, where a single fuel station and one or two supply stores can be found.
But people don’t come to Qunu for supplies. They come to remember and see what it was that made a ‘Father of a Nation’.
Read more on why we love Qunu here: 4 Reasons to visit Nelson Mandela’s hometown, Qunu
King William's Town
The Eastern Cape is a factory of great democratic leaders of South Africa. Not only is it where the first democratic leaders of our country were born, but also where they first implemented their democratic practices.
Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki are two worth mentioning. Another is Steve Bantu Biko, of whom a museum and memorial centre has been erected in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape.
Some people argue that Biko would have been a leader as great as – if not even greater than – Nelson Mandela had he not been murdered by the small, fearful minority who ruled during Apartheid.
King William's Town is a place of reflection in South Africa - a place all South Africans should visit in their lives.
SEE: Why all South Africans should visit the Steve Biko Centre in King William’s Town
Farm stalls you need to stop at
Mac Bananas & Banana Cafe & Pancake House
This spot is a local-loving shopping, entertainment and destination hub which offers a Lifestyle Centre anchored by a Food Emporium, many restaurants and over 20 activities for the whole family to enjoy. It's a road trip haven if there ever was one.
What to buy: Pancakes
Red Apple Farm Stall
The Red Apple is a veritable treasure trove of exquisite and interesting things. Apart from the typical 'padstal' finds and morish food, the Red Apple prides itself in being master coffee makers (and drinkers).
What to buy: Good coffee
Oakly Farm Stall
A sweet spot with delectable fresh bread and homemade pies which are baked fresh daily. The homemade gingerbeer is also a win.
What to buy: Fresh farm bread
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #UnlockYourCity: How to plan the best Durban Staycation
- Exploring Durban in all its glory
- Mapped: 10 coastal spots on our camping list!