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Self-Drive Tourist Routes - South Africa


Distance: 740 kilometers
Time: 7 hours 15 minutes

The N2 passes suburbs and Cape Town International Airport before reaching the township of Khayelitsha where tours are available to experience the rich tapestry of different cultural expressions.

Historic Somerset West is the gateway to some beautiful mountain passes which lead to apple and fruit country – Grabouw and the Elgin Valley. The Houw Hoek Pass leads you to Bot River and on to Caledon with its hot springs . Look out for the endangered Blue Cranes – South Africa 's national bird - in this area. Farms and wheat fields line the route to Swellendam, midway between Cape Town and the Garden Route. Interesting detours from Swellendam should be considered: to the north, some of the most fertile farming areas in South Africa are found in the Breede River Valley towns of Bonnievale, Ashton, Robertson, McGregor and Montagu, where noble wines are being created every minute as they form part of scenic Route 62 ( See Route 2 ); to the south lie Bredasdorp, picturesque Waenhuiskrans or Arniston and the southernmost tip of the African continent, Agulhas.

Some 50km from Swellendam lies Heidelberg and the ‘start' of the Garden Route, named for the profusion of flora and fauna in this coastal Eden, which stretches eastwards to Tsitsikamma/Storms River. Bounded in the south by the warm Indian Ocean and its wealth of marine life, the area of interest for visitors has now been expanded to include the Klein or Little Karoo which includes the semi-desert hinterland interspersed with lush river valleys between the Langeberg, Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma and the N1.

40km south of Heidelberg on the R322 is Witsand, renowned as a nursery for Southern Right whales, that visit the area from around June until December. A floral paradise awaits you 300km from Cape Town at Riversdale, while just south off the R305 Stilbaai offers an unsurpassed natural experience. Further along the N2 at Albertinia you find the bridge crossing the Gourits River - one of South Africa's favourite bungee jumping spots. Bartholomeu Dias landed at Mossel Bay in 1488, and the Museum complex today naturally has a maritime theme.

George is the juncture for the N12 which leads north to Beaufort West ( See Routes 1 & 2 ) and the N1, via the ostrich mecca of Oudtshoorn, site of the unforgettable stalactite and stalagmite formations of the Cango Caves. At Oudtshoorn Route 62 and Ladismith lie to the west. Some 25km outside of George on the N12 is the juncture of the N9 that travels through the Karoo to Graaff-Reinet and on to Colesberg where it joins the N1 ( See Route 1 ).

George maintains the ambience of an unhurried seaside town, yet it hosted the thrilling 2003 Presidents Cup at the Links golf course at Fancourt, proving its sophisticated facilities for visitors. Its situation enables visitors to take myriad excursions, from spectacularly scenic drives to Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train rides through the Lakes District and Sedgefieldwith wonderful birdlife - to Knysna. Guarded by two sandstone cliffs, The Heads, and famous for its oysters and yellowwood forests, Knysna is linked to both the N9 and Plettenberg Bay via the quite remarkable and magnificent Prince Alfred's Pass (very narrow and winding, travel very slowly and only in good weather!).

Some 35km along the N2 is the glitzy holiday resort of Plettenberg Bay and its more nature-focussed neighbours of Keurboomstrand, The Crags and Nature's Valley. Plett is renowned for its magnificent spacious stretches of beach and a spectacular, but mildly strenuous, walk can be taken to the end of the Robberg (mountain of seals) promontory.

A short trip of 30km brings you to the Eastern Cape and to the awesome Storms River and the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park. The sheer beauty of the area will remain one of your best images – an absolute must-see!!

When you manage to drag yourself away from here, continue along the N2 to Humansdorp, the gateway to St Francis Bay with its distinctive white-walled, thatched-roof homes built on some 6km of canals at Cape St Francis. 12km further on lies the home of the perfect wave – Jeffreys Bay, a surfer's paradise just 80km from Port Elizabeth. Almost midway from here to PE is the Van Stadens River Bridge, where the famous Apple Express - one of only two operational narrow-gauge steam trains in southern Africa - crosses the highest narrow-gauge bridge in the world.

As the Eastern Cape holds the honour of Nelson Mandela's birthplace and his formative years, the friendly city (and the people are really friendly!) of Port Elizabeth falls within the Nelson Mandela Bay district. Its breathtaking seashore has wide expanses of clean, golden sands while just 72km north of the city in the Sundays River Valley is the exceptional Addo Elephant National Park.

Suggested stop or stretch towns on the N2: Somerset West, Swellendam, Bredasdorp, Arniston, Witsand, Riversdale, Stilbaai, Albertinia, Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Jeffreys Bay, Cape St Francis and Port Elizabeth.

Suggested stop or stretch towns on Route 62: McGregor, Montagu, Ladismith and Oudtshoorn.

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