Before they’re all grown up and have fled the nest, it is considered a rite of passage to treat your teen to a road trip – whether it be over a week’s worth of adventures, or just a weekend event, here are our top three South African road trips to consider on your next holiday with the kids…
Sunflowers and Mountains – Bloemfontein to Durban
This mission through farmlands and foothills in the heart of South Africa begins on the freeway from Bloemfontein, in the Free State, to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Zip through endless sunflower fields; the immense blue skies stretching across the horizon, with rusty tractors dotting the pastoral flatlands, sharply contrasting with the mountains ahead.This is drive is considered one of South Africa’s most scenic, passing snow-covered peaks in winter, amber foliage in autumn and relaxed country villages all year round. Overlooked by the Maluti Mountains, arty Clarens is a picturesque pit stop with its art galleries, quaint stores and brewery.
Nearby, antelope run alongside the road in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, famous for its sandstone cliffs and spectacular sunsets. If your teens don’t fancy too much physical exertion, drivable roads head high into the hills above the park’s shimmering grasslands for amazing views. Leave a few days to travel from here to Durban on the coast, and meander through one of Africa’s greatest ranges, the Drakensberg.
Go West – Cape Town to Lamberts Bay
From Cape Town, head north along the perfectly scenic west coast, home to a treasure trove of cafes, restaurants, beaches, bays and some of the most out-of-this-world sunsets in the country. Stop in at Paternoster – this whitewashed fishing village, on a peninsula north of Langebaan Lagoon has long been known for its fresh seafood and crayfish. In fact, there is opportunity to feast on all-inclusive open-air buffets all along the West Coast. Muisbosskerm is on one of the area’s most empty and secluded beaches, while an untarred toll road will take you to Lambert’s Bay. The causeway from Lambert’s Bay leads to Bird Island, where you’ll see a chaotic scrum of blue-eyed Cape gannets while boat trips offer the chance to spot dolphins and whales.
Leaving Lambert’s Bay, the Cape Namibia tourist route leads north to Namibia through Namakwa, where wildflowers carpet the barren terrain every spring. If you’re returning to Cape Town, stop for camping and trekking in the Cederberg Wilderness Area with its sandstone formations and secluded plateaus, or among mountaintop rock pools in the Beaverlac Nature Reserve.
The Wild Wander along the Garden Route
Most South Africans would have followed the warm Indian Ocean on a road trip down the lush Garden Route at some point in their lives. This famous 300km stretch of beaches, lagoons and indigenous forests is popular with outdoor loving families, with activities ranging from surfing, zip lining, river tubing, bungee jumping, snorkelling and diving. Head to Knysna and Plettenberg Bay for seaside holidays, while the laid-back Wilderness and Buffalo Bay offer more rugged, rural charm.
A section of the route that is considered a little off-the-beaten-track, but is equally beautiful and worth the drive, is the Wild Coast. The aptly named area’s hills roll to rugged cliffs and empty beaches – leave the freeway and venture into the country’s most quintessentially African spot, watching out for potholes and cattle between the green hills dotted with Xhosa homesteads. Teens with a keen interest in history will appreciate that Nelson Mandela was born here in the village of Mveso, and there are a few sights dedicated to South Africa’s greatest hero.