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South Africa’s best scenic drives: Take two for each province

"Life is a journey, but not a very dazzling one if all we do is keep walking around the same block." - S.E.G

People who can truly appreciate a scenic route are usually those people who believe that life is about the journey, not the destination.  As Drive South Africa is all about the journey, we have compiled a list of South Africa's best scenic drives for each of the country’s provinces. Many of these routes boast some of the best views in the world.


1.   Choose "Chappies"

This world-renowned scenic drive is enthralling. You’ll understand why it is a toll road when you see the ingenious road engineering. Chapman’s Peak Drive winds its way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay. The drive offers stunning 180° views. A must if you’re visiting the Cape.

                        2. Drive the Swartberg Pass

The spectacular Swartberg Pass runs through the Swartberg mountains which runs east-west along the area called the Little Karoo in the Western Cape.

The best route to do the Swartberg pass will be through Oudtshoorn in the direction of De Rust and then turn to Prince Albert, have lunch there and return to the pass and follow the directions all the way down. This way around, you will be on the safe side of the mountain coming down and end at the Cango Caves where you can stop again and stretch legs.

3.    Cape Town to Grabouw via Franschhoek and Villiersdorp

From Cape Town take the N2 to the scenic Winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Take the R45 over the Franschhoek Pass for breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and vineyards. Follow the R45 and then take the R43 to the N2. Take the N2 back to Cape Town via Elgin and Grabouw. This route offers a combination of beautiful sights from sweeping vineyards and rugged mountains to apple and peach orchards.


4.   There's nothing boring about the Garden Route

Meringspoort road is beautiful and drivers who have been there millions of times are thrilled every time they are on this road. Stop at the picnic spots, do the short walks and enjoy the indigenous plant life and the stunning fynbos and restios.

5.   Port Elizabeth to Colesberg (N10)

Take the road via the Garden Route to the N1 and Cape Town or Johannesburg, or alternatively past gorgeous Graaff-Reinet.


6.   Opt for the gravel road

Above: Whether you're on two wheels or four... the Northern Cape has hidden routes that will make every adventurer's dream come true. Photo by: Willem van der Berg

If you’re looking for a scenic route in the Northern Cape, you’re spoilt for choice. During the past few months, journalist and photographer Willem van der Berg travelled the whole of the Northern Cape on his bike in the search for interesting stories and to him, it seems unfair to choose only one scenic route.

“The most wonderful gravel road must be a narrow road meandering from Strydenburg to Vosburg. It passes the Sodium train station that’s completely deserted. It’s this desertedness that makes this route so interesting. In fact, I have never found another vehicle on this route. Marvellous. 


"From Vosburg, it’s a treat to take the alternative gravel road to Carnarvon. Drive 10 km out of Vosburg on the Van Wyksvlei gravel road and turn left. The road meanders near the Karee mountains and is a lot prettier than the main gravel road to Carnarvon,” says Wille

           7.   No limits on the Molopo border

Another great road is the Molopo border road from Van Zylsrus to Andriesvale. This is the police’s old patrol road along the Botswana border and isn’t maintained anymore, but the farmers regularly opt for this route. This is the ideal route if you’re on your way to Kgalagadi.


8.   Detour to Derdepoort

As if the Jacaranda trees in Pretoria aren't enough, this city hosts a range of must-see natural and urban attractions, such as Derdepoort, a captivating rural village situated a few minutes away from Pretoria’s modern, urban centre. The village hosts the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, the Roodeplaat Dam Nature Reserve and many other activity hot spots.

Above: Some birds gather on a submerged tree at Hartbeespoort Dam. Photo by: Darren Olivier

9.  On the road to Hartbeespoort Dam

Take the scenic road from Johannesburg to Hartbeespoort, along curving roads that meander between aloes in bloom during the winter months. The Hartbeespoort Dam offers an array of water sports, a local bird sanctuary, challenging hikes and gentle rambles.


            10.  Barberton to Bulembu to Badplaas


Although the round trip from Barberton to Bulembu to Badplaas is roughly 160 km, it can take up to 4 hours or more to complete. More so because there are so many places to stop and view the magnificent landscape, than anything else. Many describe this route as one of the most scenic routes in Southern Africa.

11.  The Panorama Route is a must

Best known for its dramatic routes, the magnificent Panorama Route offers fresh mountain scenery and panoramic views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment. These views are quite spectacular and give the area its name of 'Panorama Route'. Viewpoints are named for the spectacle they offer, and God's Window and Wonder View hint at the magnitude of the scenery. 


12.  The scenic Sandstone Route

Above: Looking towards Maluti Mountains in Lesotho from along Highlands Route between Clarens and Fouriesburg, eastern Free State, South Africa. Photo by: Paul Rickerby

The region stretching from Clarens to Ladybrand in the Free State offers a great scenic route for the self-drive. Make your way to experience the amazing sandstone rock formations found in the eastern Free State area.

13.  Admire the mountains on the Maluti Route

Meandering over the scenic routes of the Free State Highlands, this route snakes over the border of the Maluti Mountains and ends in the Seekoei Nature Reserve. Starting in Harrismith, it goes through the Free State and crosses to the Eastern Cape over the Orange River, from where it continues on to the Wild Coast. Dominated by the Maluti Mountain Ranges, this scenic route offers the traveller various options from art, culture, history, rock art sites and spectacular scenery to a host of cultural experiences.

If you’re always on the look-out for routes that capture the beauty of South Africa, this guide may help with your quest for that picturesque route on your self-drive holiday. Hire a 4x4 in South Africa to accommodate your travel. 

Cheréne Pienaar

Cheréne Pienaar Title: Blog Contributor
Affiliation: Drive South Africa Blog

Born and bred in Bloemfontein, this Free state gal is an obsessive reader and hiker and loves discovering... all the time. As an e-marketing assistant and copywriter she believes social media is the future and plans to conquer Africa one word at a time.

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8 Responses on this page.Add your own

  1. Gravatar gerrit opperman says:

    hey cherene

    gaan desember die langste pad soek wat ek kan kry van rustenburg tot mosselbaai en dan weer van jeffreysbaai tot terug in rustenburg!

    sal jou mooi opdateer as ons goeie nuwe paadjies kan opspoor! hopelik nuwe paaie wat nie op die gps is nie!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Gravatar cherene-pienaar says:

    Hi Gerrit

    Dit sal fantasies wees!

    Sien uit om te hoor van julle reis.

    Geniet elke oomblik…


    Reply to this comment
  3. Gravatar Camille says:

    Awesome survey, I love your site. 

    Reply to this comment
  4. Gravatar cherene-pienaar says:

    Thank you Camille! Much appreciated.

    Keep well

    Reply to this comment
  5. Gravatar Brian Wakeham says:

    How can you NOT include the drive from Prince Albert to Oudtshoorn over the Swartberg Pass. It is, I believe, more dramatic than Chappies!!!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Gravatar cherene-pienaar says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Brian, and updated the post. Thanks for your input!

    Reply to this comment
  7. Gravatar South Africa Tours says:

    Chapman’s is a great drive, but I believe the drive between Gordon’s Bay and Hermanus offer so much more with many stops en route providing great opportunities to take great photographs. Beautiful little towns where one can enjoy a breakfast or lunch. And… Do not forget the Penguins in Betties Bay.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Gravatar cherene-pienaar says:

    Good point! I will update the blog accordingly. Would you mind sending us some pics?

    Reply to this comment

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