Short (and scenic) road trips from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg

2020-01-22 16:45 - Gabi Zietsman
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You're socially distancing and need a bit of a break. Plus, maybe your bank account is struggling as petrol prices are always on the rise and finding the time to help you realign with the world can be difficult.

Taking a drive can be great for the our state of mind. 

Here are some road trip ideas that will roughly cost you only one tank of petrol there and back - and nothing over two hours away from the business centres of South Africa's top cities. 

Please note: This was calculated from each city's CBD with an average 45-litre tank. This can be more or less depending on your car model and how you drive.

Cape Town

Pringle Bay - Betty's Bay - Kleinmond - Hermanus

A popular route along the coast, you can stop off at the small coastal towns on the way to whale hub Hermanus - remember to make a pit stop at the Kogelberg Nature Reserve for invigorating hikes through the Cape Floral Kingdom.

The smaller towns also have stunning beaches where you can swim, surf and soak up the sun - the perfect itinerary for a beach bum! Also make sure to chomp down on fish and chips at Kleinmond's waterfront. 

READ MORE: Here's why you should head to Hermanus 

READ MORE: 7 Secret beaches in the Overberg 

Stellenbosch - Paarl - Wellington

A wine journey through the Boland, these older towns offer both history and craft for the tongue. But don't drink and drive - stop for the night in each town and take a wine tour to keep everyone safe on the road.

Make your final stop in Wellington - sometimes forgotten in this region but it offers a lot of special nooks and crannies to explore - from wine to wild boars to leather.

WATCH MORE: Choose Paarl and Wellington next time you head to the Cape Winelands 

WATCH MORE: 48 hours in postcard-pretty Stellenbosch 

Riebeek Kasteel - Wolsely - Tulbagh

Another wine expedition to the most beautiful towns in the Western Cape, these small dorpies pack a lot of punch for city-slickers. In Riebeek Kasteel eat your way through the best Italian food in the Cape, in Wolsely have breakfast at the faux fine-dining spot Bully and Koos and in Tulbagh walk the most historic street in South Africa. 

And of course - take in all the various wine farms in-between with budget-friendly prices, including tasting olives, chocolates and other platteland cuisines. 

WATCH MORE: An empty wine glass will not be tolerated in the Swartland 

WATCH MORE: Do Wolseley, Tulbagh and Ceres in one weekend 

AND MORE: Witzenberg on a budget: Taste and drink platteland cuisine

Yzerfontein - Langebaan - Paternoster - Velddrif

If you find the sea calling you, go West up South Africa's coastline where fresh seafood, rustic charm and the occasional bokkom will make you want to pack it all up and move out of the city.

You can start on the 16-mile beach of Yzerfontein - where ostriches roam - and then head to party central on the banks of Langebaan's lagoon. After that make your way to Paternoster for world-class cuisine and finish off in Velddrif - an unassuming place where you can let go of your pretences. 

Remember to stop on the way at West Coast National Park, the Fossil Park and San cultural centre !Khwa Ttu. 

WATCH MORE: A short break on the West Coast 

READ MORE: 3 Must-do West Coast long-weekend itineraries 

AND MORE: This Strandveld restaurant might just be the most unpretentious, uber-cool restaurant of the moment 

Rawsonville - Slanghoek- Worcester

Just past the N1 tunnel, dive into the Breedekloof Valley where small-scale craft lends an authentic charm to this mountainous region. Not only taste wine - but learn more about it than you've ever known - all along the banks of the Bree River.

At face-value Worcester might not seem like the most exciting town, but it's surrounded by a treasure trove of delectable wine, mountain vistas you'll never want to leave and the sense that the people here have a deep connection with the soil.

WATCH MORE: A rare rainy day in Worcester 

WATCH MORE: This is the wine region where almost all the winemakers are friends 

AND MORE: #FindYourEscape: Run away from the city to Rawsonville 

Grabouw - Caledon - Greyton

Take the N2 up Sir Lowry's Pass and start your rugged adventure at the foot of the Hottentots Holland mountains in Grabouw. After a trip to the reserve (and maybe a high-flying trip via zipline) head through to Caledon where you can test your luck at the casino or soak in the hotel's warm springs.

Finish off your journey in Greyton - a town blessed with beauty, Insta-worthy cafes and restaurants and walking trails through natural splendour to help those cramps from sitting in a car. 

READ: 'Because of the Wimpy' - South Africans tell us why they choose these petrol stations when roadtripping 


Pietermaritzburg - Howick - Mooi River

Start your trip with an exploration of this off-the-grid city - stroll through the botanical gardens, find out more about birds of prey or see unique collections in the KZN Museum. 

Then make a detour to Howick - most famous for its falls - a historical town with far-stretching vistas and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. After you're done here, hit up the Midlands town of Mooi River where you can let your stress flow out into the beautiful landscape, gaze on local art and maybe do a horse trail if you've had enough of the roar of an engine.

READ MORE: Enjoy a weekend in Howick 

WATCH MORE: Rainy hikes across quiet hilly pastures and being over-caffeinated in the Midlands 

AND MORE: Have a farm-fresh experience just 2 hours outside of Durban 

Umhlanga - Ballito - Tugela Mouth - Mtunzini - Richard's Bay 

Explore KZN's coastline with easy stops along the way to Richard's Bay just before you hit the two-hour driving mark. Make your first stop at Umhlanga for a little fun in the sun and some cocktails at a rooftop bar, then head to Ballito for more surf and long beach walks to help you unwind from the Durban hustle. 

If you've never been, check out Tugela Mouth where the longest river in KZN runs out into the brilliant Indian Ocean, and discover a 'secret' beach at Mtunzini before making your final stop in Richards Bay. Here watch out for hippos roaming the street or take a detour through the wetlands at the local game reserve.

READ MORE: #SABudgetTravel: 5 Things to do in Richards Bay 

READ MORE: Overactive in KZN: 5 top serotonin-spiking activities to try in the adventure province 

Umkomaas - Hibberdene - Margate - Port Edward

Take the opposite direction from Durban down the province's South Coast, and if you love the world under the sea, Umkomaas is the best first stop - just 5km off the coast is the world-famous Aliwal Shoal, a goldmine for marine life. 

After equalising your spirit, hit up Hibberdene for a relaxing beach atmosphere and then pop into Margate for a proper seaside jol. Once you hit Port Edward, you can go see the smallest desert in the world, ride the waves at the funky water park or take a hike through the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve.

READ MORE: 9 Places locals love along the South Coast of KZN 

READ MORE: Road tripping for the hops: Craft breweries of KwaZulu-Natal 

Richmond - Ixopo - Park Rynie

Head into a different part of the Midlands the quaint town of Richmond on the banks of the Illovo River. Here you can go white water rafting or birding in the Highover Nature Reserve. Then head east to Ixopo - another Midlands wonder - where rolling hills and farm stays will set your mind at ease. It's also home to a Buddhist Retreat Centre if you're looking for an extra dose of serenity.

Then change complete direction and end your trip in the coastal resort of Park Rynie. Its sea pools offer days of fun, especially when the sea is rough. The waves crash over the edge of the pool – built on the ocean’s edge – showering all inside with sea spray and foam.

READ: The perfect pitstop: Spend a night in this Midlands village before taking on the Drakensberg

READ: This is SA's newest official nature reserve in the KZN Midlands

Pietermaritzburg - Albert Falls - Greytown

With another tour through this city, take a different direction to Albert Falls Dam - a watersports haven where you can also view game and catch a fish or two.

Then head off to the birthplace of General Louis Botha in Greytown, where you'll also find the real grave of Sarie Marais from the famous Afrikaans song. It's also home to a mosque, Hindu temple and Anglican church, and just outside you can wonder at ancient rock paintings. 

READ: #LongWeekendEscape: 4 SA camping spot ideas

MAPPED: Give a dam and get your splash on at SA's non-beach waters


Potchefstroom - Klerksdorp

Take an academic detour to North West's Potchefstroom - where you can pretend to be a student again for a day or two. You can check out one of the many historical and literary museums, go on a pub crawl or hop just outside the town to one of the many wildlife sanctuaries on its borders. 

Continue your education in Klerksdorp - another of the province's main hubs. You can test your luck at the Rio Casino, practice your skills at one of the oldest golf clubs in South Africa or visit the old prison-turned-museum where the region's geological history is on display.

READ MORE: Road tripping for the hops: Craft breweries of North West

Vanderbijlpark - Parys - Vredefort Dome

Hit up the Vaal River on your first stop into far corners of Gauteng - a jump-off point for various water sports, boat excursions and offerings of a vibrant nightlife at night. After this stop head to the pretty Parys - a lovely dorpie with its very own French Quarter to pay homage to its famous namesake. There's also a wine to route to check out.

When you've had your fill of Parys, descend into the bowels of the Vredefort Dome. Here you can go camping, take on meteorite trails, river rafting, abseiling and horse riding.

READ MORE: Vaal Escape: A stone’s throw to leisure

READ MORE: Parys: The perfect small town weekend escape from Joburg 

Vaal Marina - Deneysville - Oranjeville

Make a Vaal escape to the mother of all dams, hopping to all the villages nestled on the coast of the Vaal Dam. First check out Vaal Marina where you find for accommodation that looks over the waters for sunset drinks.

Then pop over the Deneysville for another view of the dam - here there's also a crocodile ranch to see the world's oldest creatures. Your last stop can be the last of three dam towns - Oranjeville. The smallest of the lot, it's right next to a massive bridge that crosses the dam.

READ MORE: Discover the great outdoors in the Vaal

READ MORE: Vaal River luxury: Create your own Winelands escape in Gauteng this winter

Magaliesburg - Kgaswane Mountain Reserve - Rustenburg

Head to the north of Gauteng to the stunning Magaliesburg - a mecca for adventure like canopy tours, fly-fishing and foodie spots for that hungry spot in the stomach. After having your fill, make a detour to Kgaswane Mountain Reserve to fill up on majestic nature for a picnic while watching antelope graze. 

Then head to to the foot of the Magaliesberg Mountain range - besides the obvious natural appeal, there are also many battlefields and forts from the Anglo-Boer War and museums dedicated to history.

READ MORE: Magaliesburg Escape: Old-school chill at the Valley Lodge and Spa

Pretoria - Dinokeng Game Reserve - Bela-Bela

Why not make a stop at Joburg's sister city Pretoria? You can reconnect with history at the Freedom Park, check out the art and food of Menlyn Maine or watch some zebras in Waterkloof Ridge. 

Then head to the Dinokeng Game Reserve where you'll see all the big animals - elephants, rhinos leopards and buffaloes - before finishing in hot spring mecca Bela-Bela in Limpopo. Here you can steam away your worries among a peaceful African bush atmosphere. 

WATCH MORE: A day in Pretoria for an easy weekend itinerary

READ MORE: Your guide to Limpopo’s best lodges for the ultimate in bush bliss

Cradle of Humankind - Harbeespoortdam

Less than an hour from Johannesburg's CBD, everyone should visit the Cradle of Humankind at least once in their life. You can also interact with more recent history at the Maropeng Visitor Centre's exhibit of SA's icons. 

After diving into history, head to the most famous dam of them all in Hartbeespoort. Besides the allure of watersports, you can also rise above it all on the Harties Cableway or try out the local craft brewery.

READ MORE: From 20 to 20 billion years: Celebrate the story of our origins with the Cradle of Humankind’s upcoming anniversary

READ MORE: Maropeng’s Long March to Freedom

AND MORE: SA Road Trips Mapped: Pretoria's wonders, both near and far

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