Top 7 Eastern Cape road trips

2012-09-18 14:54
The Eastern Cape, an area of great natural beauty in South Africa, can be a holiday haven for those wanting value for money and an equal amount of relaxation in return. Take a look at these seven routes that showcase the area's diversity and then get to planning the ideal end-of-year road trip...

1 - Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown - The Wildlife Route

Travel the Wildlife Route from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown and experience dune fields, elephant herds, hiking through game reserves and picnicking in beautiful olive groves. From the Great Fish River Reserve with its typical Eastern Cape succulent bushveld and rocky terrain, you'll encounter the perfect habitat for black rhino, Cape buffalo, kudu and hippo. Other reserves worth checking out include Pumba Game Reserve or Shamwari, one of the largest private game reserves in the Eastern Cape.

Photo: Supplied

2 - Willowmore to Graaff-Reinet - The Camdeboo Route

From the upper reaches of the Baviaanskloof Wilderness through the Victorian-era villages of Willowmore and Aberdeen, your route takes you all the way up to Graaff-Reinet. Check out the Leopard hiking trail on Matjiesfontein Farm, situated in the heart of the Baviaanskloof - the area is home to about two hundred places containing San art and artifacts, found in the Baviaanskloof. It is an area the Bushmen inhabited for about 20 000 years before being joined by first Khoi and later European settlers.

3 - East London to Port St Johns - The Wild Coast Route

Travel north out of East London to pristine beaches with good accommodation like Haga Haga, Kei Mouth, Mazeppa and Port St Johns. Journey to Coffee Bay with its Hole in the Wall, another of South Africa's remarkable, natural phenomenon. This unique structure is a huge, detached cliff with a giant opening carved through its centre. Known as "izi Khaleni" in Xhosa, during certain seasons the waves crash through the hole so violently that the area becomes a "place of thunder". No one knows exactly what created the near perfect opening in the dense cliff face, but many theories do exist. From the scientific to the more mythical, the Coffee Bay Hole in the Wall has many stories to tell.

Photo: Shutterstock

4 - Port Elizabeth to Nieu Bethesda - The Heartland Owl Route

If you like farm stalls, historic villages and the legends of outsider artists, then the Heartland Owl Route is the road you should take. Before 1945 the tiny Eastern Cape town of Nieu Bethesda was hardly noteworthy. Being an agriculture center for the surrounding farms, life in this Little Karoo village was mostly focused on keeping the Angora sheep and Karoo lambs fat, healthy, sheared and slaughtered. Thanks to Ms Helene Martins, the creative force behind Nieu Bethesda's Owl House, a weird and wonderful paradise of concrete figurines and light reflecting glass, who unwittingly managed to transform a somewhat dull town into one of South Africa's artistic gems.

Photo: Shutterstock

5 - Port Elizabeth to Graaff-Reinet - The Back Roads Route

This route takes you through the southern part of the Karoo heartland and up into the Camdeboo, ending with views overlooking the Valley of Desolation. This tourist attraction provides excellent game-viewing, bird-viewing and hiking trails. 4x4 enthusiasts and watersport adventurers will be more than satisfied when opting for this route.

6 - Port Elizabeth to Nature’s Valley - The Tsitsikamma Route

This route is popular with surfers, nature-lovers and those who love great views and excellent beaches. Stop-over at Jefferey's Bay to catch the legendary waves the town is famous for - made up of seven different sections, the three really good parts of this world class right being Boneyards, Super Tubes and Tubes. Surfers can expect leg achingly long rides when the surf is in. Alternatively, stop off at Marilyn's Diner in Storms River and get lost in the '50s.

Photo: Shutterstock

7 - Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth - The Coastal Route

Leaving the City of Saints, we meander slowly towards the coast, taking in the villages of Kenton-on-Sea, Bathurst, Port Alfred and Alexandria en route to Port Elizabeth. Touring the Sunshine Coast you can also make your way to the hamlet of Salem past private game farms or the Woody Cape and the Great Fish River on its eastern boundary. Enjoy this malaria-free area with its temperate climate and more recorded sunshine hours than anywhere else in the country.

Have any road trip routes you'd like to recommend, email us on

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