Nobody loves a road trip more than a South African. It’s an integral part of our summer holidays, with the trip to the destination as important as the time in destination itself.
Every year, over the festive season, thousands of travellers from Johannesburg make the drive down to Cape Town to enjoy our beaches, reserves and nightlife, but it’s important to break it up with some epic pit stops along the way. Nobody wants to spend more than 14 hours on the road, so make the most of it with this epic 4-day road trip extension.
📍STOP 1: Beaufort West
After a stop-over in Bloemfontein, you first destination in the Western Cape is Beaufort West and a night at the Karoo National Park. Make sure you leave Bloemfontein early, because it’s a 5-hour drive and you’re going to want to spend some time exploring the park.
BRUNCH at 4 Sheep Restaurant
Described as a "hidden gem", tucked away between two petrol stations, is this quaint stop-over. With great breakfast options and coffee, to comforting classic Karoo meals, there's something for everyone to refuel on.
EXPLORE the Karoo National Park
Founded in 1979, the park features a rich and diverse range of mammals and birds, which can be spotted during game drives due the nature of the vegetation in the area. With around 60 km of tourist roads to explore, most of which are accessible to all vehicles, and include 4x4 trails, you need some time here. There are a multitude of experiences available, but a highlight would be the Klipspringer Pass. The Pass offers a scenic 13km drive and features eco-friendly construction, specifically the “Andrew Bain” method of dry-masonry construction. Choose from a cottage, chalet or family cottage and then sit back and enjoy the Cape Karoo at its absolute best.
📍STOP 2: Matjiesfontein
One does not drive through the Cape Karoo without spending at least one night in Matjiesfontein, the lovely little town also known as ‘The Grand Duchess of the Cape Karoo’. The best part about ‘Matjies’ is that it’s completely self-contained, with a fantastic hotel, magic pub and warm, welcoming locals ready to take care of your every need. Take a trip back in time and soak in the best of Karoo hospitality here (and keep an eye out for ghosts).
EXPLORE the town
Embark the Red Double-Decker Bus that boasts the world's shortest guided tour. In those grand 10 minutes, Johnny will take you through the street(s) and teach you about the history of Matjiesfontein. Some of the stops include the cricket pitch to host the first match between England and South Africa, along with the bright pink church, old-post office and single petrol pump. For those with a love for wheels, the transport museum homes some incredible vintage cars worth looking at.
For more information on the town: open the time-capsule of Matjies.
DINE at the Hotel Dining Room
Hosted by the hotel, it is a kitchen worthy of regular visits due to its incredible fine-dining experience. This would be the ideal spot to tuck into some fresh soup on a cold night, try Karoo lamb over candle light, or order anything really, every answer would be right. The red-jacketed porters provide warmth beyond your wine, and the friendly staff are always a treat too.
DRINK at the Lairds Arm
Cheers to your explorations and company at the only pub in town. For a fully authentic experience, try the incredible gin cocktails while listening to Johnny clank away at the piano keys, bellowing his best vocals. It is a wonderful place to end a day in Matjiesfontein.
STAY at The Lord Milner (Haunted) Hotel
Originally constructed in 1899, the hotel was converted into a hospital during the Anglo-Boer war, with the turret even functioning as a look-out post. After this, however, it returned to its initial inception as a place of relaxation and luxury. Since its renovation and transformation, it boasts an even more prestigious air. If the pool, sprawls of green lawns, and warm Karoo sun don’t meet your idea of comfort, there is always the indoor escape of the Yellow Room. Here you can kick back, read a book, and enjoy the cool company of Kate, Lucy and the lady in white — the infamous ghosts of the hotel. Despite their cool presence, they’re known to be quite warm and playful, awarding Matjiesfontein the unique title of 'the most welcoming haunted town in the country'.
For honest insight, read about Raphaella's sleepless stay-over here.
📍STOP 3: Robertson
The true joy of the Western Cape is the diversity of the regions. Leaving the dry, arid splendour of the Cape Karoo, you now make your way towards Robertson in the Cape Winelands, and a region known for its lush greens and imposing mountains.
LUNCH at Excelsior Wine Estate
You can’t be in the Cape Winelands and not stop over at one of the many farms in the region! You will want to spend plenty of time at your accommodation, but make sure you stop somewhere for lunch – Excelsior is a great bet. The De Wet family has farmed at Excelsior Estate since 1859 and it shows in the running of the estate, putting the upmost care in their crops, utilizing sustainable practices that deliver incredible wines. This family-friendly estate is perfect for day trips – enjoy lunch at the deli, while the kids enjoy the play area. In summer, they can try their hand at fishing off the dam’s jetty.
STAY at AfriCamps in Robertson
Based on the foothills of the beautiful Pat Busch Mountain Reserve, just outside of Robertson, AfriCamps Robertson is the ideal getaway for nature lovers who aren’t looking to ‘rough it’ too much. Ideal for folk keen for a hike, trail run or a ride along a mountain track, who are also apt to put their feet up afterwards with a glass of wine or beer in a luxurious glamping set-up. Apart from the mountain trails, you can also take advantage of the dam, just a two minute walk from the tent, where you can row a boat / kayak or just splash around if you prefer. If you’re not keen on a big body of water, there is also a communal pool in the centre of camp. If you’re not keen on carting all your food up with you, AfriCamps will deliver breakfast and braai baskets to your tent, both packed with locally-sourced produce – all you need to do is brew the coffee, fry the eggs and cook the meat. It’s glamping comfort 101.
Take a sneak peak of a stay-over on TikTok.
📍STOP 4: Franschhoek
There is no need to rush this trip, so we suggest you plan one more night on the road, before heading into Cape Town for the remainder of your holiday and Franschhoek is arguably one of the pinnacles of the Cape Winelands vibe. It’s just over an hour from Robertson to Franschhoek, so there is time to really soak it all in. Spend some time exploring the area and make sure you visit more than one location while in town.
Babylonstoren is so much more than ‘one’ thing, it is a multitude of experiences that can be enjoyed for hours on end, and in truth it would take more than one visit to unpack it all. For the purpose of this itinerary, start with breakfast at Babel Restaurant, which is a feast for the eyes and the… well stomach. The mix of Cape Dutch architecture and glass walls are an edgy intro to this estate, while the farm-to-fork philosophy lives up to the ‘pick, clean and serve’ philosophy of the estate. If you have time – we suggest you make some – make sure you enjoy the garden tour, which begins daily at 10am. A great way to work off the breakfast.
Here's on overview of the Babylonstoren experience on TikTok.
WALK in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve
Just outside of town, you will find one of the most beautiful reserves in the province. Achingly beautiful, with plenty of trails to explore, you will be in the mountains the minute you cross through the gates. Arguably one of the most unheralded reserves in the Cape Winelands, you just have to make time for a visit while in town.
LUNCH at Werf Restaurant
Now that you have walked off breakfast, treat yourself to lunch at The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal Estate. Located in the revamped manor house, the soil-to-fork menu uses only the best local, seasonal and ethically-sourced ingredients. The sharing plate menu includes the farm’s Black Angus beef, forest-reared Duroc pork as well as vegetables and herbs from The Werf Food Garden, which can be viewed from the conservatory. Magic!
For those that would prefer the seclusion and surrounds of a picnic, enjoy a Boschendal basket under the trees; here's a taste of the experience.
STAY at La Petite Ferme
Franschhoek is known for its luxury accommodation and we would suggest any one of the myriad of options on offer. But for the sake of this trip, you won’t be disappointed with La Petite Ferme. Based on the northern slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains, this laidback boutique hotel is jaw-droppingly beautiful – both in terms of the accommodation and the scenery – and has everything you need and more to ensure you have the best overnight stay in the valley.
📍STOP 5: Cape Town
Enjoy a slow start to the day with a leisurely breakfast at one of the town’s restaurants, and then take a stroll down main street, taking in the cultural offerings of this wondrous town. Then it’s time to head off to Cape Town and the rest of your stay in the Western Cape. And remember, you’ll never get to see it all in one trip, so make sure to keep an eye out for more suggestions for your next visit.
EXPLORE the Mother City
There is so much to see, do and taste in Cape Town.
- Breath of fresh air:
For those that plan to enjoy the summer days on the beach, be sure to try Cape Town's blue-flag beaches, and must-try surf spots. To explore the greener side of the city, visit the various parks and gardens, as well as the nature reserves. Or take a hike and climb one of these 7 spectacular day trails, or get your steps in by walking the promenade or meandering in Muizenberg.
- Get the heart-racing:
For the adrenaline junkies, try some of the inner-city adventures, including activities like Signal Hill's tandem-paragliding, amongst many others!
- Craving culture?
Our academics can learn about the history with guided tours of Cape Town, its lighthouses, and even its shipwrecks. For the culture and art enthusiasts, if you've missed the infamous First Thursdays, be sure to explore the local art world or you can get crafty in the cape too!
- Working remotely?
For those that need a spot to WFH but out the house, visit these coffee shops.