15 days´ round trip
This is our best round trip ever since South Afria is such an amazing country. The nature is stunning beautiful and offers so many different activities, the food is totally amazing and so is the wine. There is an endless number of lovely boutiqe hotels, you can go on a safari meeting lions, elephants and giraffes. Adding to that the service is exceptional and the price level is low compared to Europe and the US.
Highlights on this round trip in South Africa
When to go?
South Africa is great to visit all year round but summer is a little warmer and winter a little colder. If you visit Cape Town and want to go their during their summer you should go between November-March.
Around Christmas is perfect but that is a big holiday also for Southafricans so hotels are more expensive and the hotels and restaurants are also more fully booked. You should be prepared to book a year in advance.
15-days road trip South Africa
Arriving in Cape Town
Cape Town including a full day´s visit to Cape of Good Hope
Drive to Franschoek (1,5 hours)
Drive to Plettenberg (6 hours)
Drive to Kariega Game Reserve
Drive to Port Elisabeth
Arriving in Cape Town
Cape Town is the most southern city in Africa and you have probably had something between 12-20 hours flight to get here.
One great thing about flying from Europe to Cape Town is that there is no time difference so maybe you are tired after flying, but at least you do not have any jetlag.
If you arrive in daytime you have plenty of time to settle in at your hotel or rented apartment. You will stay in Cape Town for four nights.
Where to stay?
There are plenty of really nice guest houses in Cape Town and along the Garden Route. A guest house is the same thing as luxuary B&Bs or boutique hotels.
One of these lovely boutique hotels is Abbey Manor Guest House close to the city center. Another one with a large garden outside the city center but near the botanical garden Kirstenbosch is The Cellars-Hohenhort where you also can have a fabulous dinner at their Green restaurant. A third option if you are a family of four or five is to rent an apartment in Camps Bay a few kilometres from Cape Town city center. We stayed in Crystal Aparments i Camps Bay. The apartment was big and modern with views of the Ocean from the balcony.
You can easily spend a week in Cape Town and its surroundings. Most places are safe but like in any city you shall not go on empty street in the dark. Walking in the city center or in the Victoria and Albert Waterfront is safe. Here are the things we liked the most.
Top ten things to do in Cape Town
Cape Town is full of excellent restaurants where you can have a fantastic dinner for the price of a lunch at home. The food is one of the reasons I want to return to South Africa -to be able to go to some more restaurants and visit my favourites once again.
The most famous (and most expensive) restaurants is one of top 50 restaurants in the world, The Test Kitchen. It is located in the Woodstock area. You have to book months ahead.
Another great restaurant with a tasting menu is the Green House restaurant. Ask for a table in the green house area. A third option that is a little cheaper is Aubergine restaurant, a cosy place in the Gardens area. A fourth one is Nobu, a japanese restaurant that you also find in many other places in the world.
2. Hike to Lion´s head
This is the perfect hike when in Cape Town. It brings lovely views, it is close to the city center and it is not too streneous. Read more about the hike and how to get there here.
3. Walk along Long Street to Bo-Kaap
Along Long Street you find pretty Victorian styled houses with cafés, art and bars. Continue to Bo-Kaap with its colourful houses climbing on the hills of Signal Hill.
You probably also want to visit the famous Victoria & Albert Waterfront. It is a bit far to walk from the city center so go there by car. There is a large parking garage in the area. V&A is a modern center with restaurants, shops and attractions.
It reminded me of Fisherman´s wharf in San Fransisco and Monterrey but with a more modern layout. There are also some really expensive big 5-star hotels in that area. No matter if you are attracted by those things or not it is well worth to visit the area. We got tired after an hour and left. This kind of place is not our thing.
4. Visit the Old Bisquit Mill market on a Saturday
At Old Bisquit Mill you find a lot more genuine food, art and design than in V&A Waterfront and you are not surrounded only by tourists. This is where the locals go. Have a tapas lunch at the Pot Luck Club (little sister of The Test Kitchen) or eat something you have not tried before at the market.
The Old Bisquit Mill is in the Woodstock area a little outside the very city center. An option is to go there by your rental car.
There are plenty of people with yellow reflective vests helping to find parking lots. You pay them some 10 rands afterwards. It might seem a bit strange and not so secure. Like always, don´t park your car on the most narrow and dark street.
A perhaps easier and more relaxing option is to go there by Über. Of course, if you go there in the evening to have dinner and wine pairing at The Test Kitchen you go there by Über.
5. Visit the Kirstenbosch Garden
Don´t miss to visit the Kirstenbosch botanical garden of Cape Town. It is situated on the slopes of Table mountain and is the most peaceful and beautiful place you can imagine. Walk the tree canopy walkway and enjoy all the fantastic flowers and trees in the park.
6. Visit Robben Island
Robben Island is of large historical importance as Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison here. Tours are prebooked and former inmates guide you around the prison.
7-9. Go to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
This is a full day trip and it is a good thing to start early since this is a popular day trip. Driving straight to the Cape takes about 1,5 hours if there is no queu. There was a queu when we arrived out on the Cape to enter but time passed by quite quickly. We spent perhaps half an hour in a line.
You should make the tour to the Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope to a round trip. On your way there go along the southern coast along Chapman´s Peak Drive, a beautiful road along the ocean (easily beats Highway 1 in California). On your way back, stop by Boulder´s beach in
Simon´s town and check out the penguins. They are small and there are lots of them.
There are two restaurants at Cape Point, one that serves pizza and another one that is more elegant. If you want to visit the last one, book ahead to be sure to have a table. We ate at the pizzeria. It was ok, but nothing special at all. The funniest thing was the baboos trying to steal our food.
Arriving in Cape Point, walk up to the Lighthouse and imagine you are on the most southern point of Africa. Then walk along the coast to Cape of Good Hope. It is a beautiful coast line path.
10. Hike or go by cable car to the top of The Table Mountain
Last but not least. Probably the most famous thing about Cape Town - the Table Mountain.
There are plenty of hiking routes to the top of the Table mountain and it will take you about 4 hours to the top. Most people go by the cable car.
Drive to Franschoek
Franschoek is a very short drive from Cape Town, only about 1,5 hours. Besides Franschoek you can also visit the wine districts of Stellenbosch, which is a larger town a little closer to Cape Town, and Paarl. All three are close to each other. The reason we chose Franschoek is that the village is smaller and everything is within walking distance.
Many visit the wine districts on a full- or half day trip from Cape Town. Don´t! There is so much to see and experience in this beautiful part of the country. At least if you are into food and wine.
On your way from Cape Town it is really nice to stop by and have lunch at the super expensive hotel Delaire Graff (1300 Euros for a double room). It is the most beautiful place we have ever eaten lunch at. The food is superb and so is the service and atmosphere.
It is not that expensive to have lunch at Delaire Graff. Prebooking is necessary.
Arriving in Franschoek you check-in at your hotel. We chose to stay at Last Word, a really small and personal guest house in the very city center. It was quite a bit expensive for us but we got it recommended and to be honest, it is one of the best hotels we have ever stayed at. It is one of our favorite boutique hotels. It´s also our kids reference point of a "good" hotel.
If you are lucky and have managed to book a table at The Tasting Room, then con gratulations! It is said to be superb. We had a great dinner at Reuben´s. It was also a bit cheaper than a tasting dinner. We also had dinner at Haute Cabriere, which was just fine but not as good as for example Reubens or Delaire Graff.
There are plenty of restaurants in Franschoek. Check around and see what you like. You can also check with your hotel before arriving. They usually know the restaurants in the area and are really helpful. Eating out is th "big thig" here. Remember to book in advance!
One popular thing in Franschoek is taking the wine train. We heard it is full of drunken tourists so we skipped that. Instead we went on wine tasting and a wine tour at Boschendal. It is a lovely place with large gardens and the guided tour was really interesting.
We got a private wine tasting afterwards. Of course with the purpose to sell wine. Funny thing is you choose between a "cheap" packet and an "expensive one" but the price for the expensive one is like 2 Euros. So, pick the expensive one!
You can also buy picknick and eat in the park. There are a lot of tables spread around in a nice way.
Other options for acitivities in Franschoek is horse-back riding and biking between wine yards. We will try that the next time!
Drive to Plettenberg
Today is a long drive to Plettenberg. It will take you about 6 hours and a little longer with a few stops. A lot of people stay overnight to see the ostrichs in Oudshoorn. We skipped that and we heard from some that it was nothing special. But again, that depends on your interests. A lot of people also to to Hermanus to swim with sharks. We skipped that as well and went straight to Plettenberg.
The first and last part of today´s drive is lovely. The part in the middle a bit boring. As you arrive to the start of the Garden Route in Mossel Bay the landscape changes and you want to stay everywhere. It is so lovely! We had a great and simple lunch close to Still bay.
The Garden Route is famous for its beautiful landscape and stretches from Mossel Bay in the south to Storm´s river in the north, a distance of about 200 kilometres. Here you find beaches, rivers, little villages and forests.
Where to stay in Plettenberg?
If we go here again without the kids we would try Tsala Treetop Lodge. It seemed to be the most lovely place to stay at. We found it a bit too expensive for the four of us though.
We could easily have stayed here for a week. There is so much to see and do. We hiked at Robberg island and to Storm´s river, we did canyoing and visited the nearby city Knysna. Check out the links for more information. This place is also a lot better for sun bathing and swimming in the ocean as the water is a lot warmer compered to Cape Town.
Knysna is famous for its castles and its bay.
Where to eat in Plettenberg?
The restaurant at Laird´s lodge serves great dinners. We were really surprised by how good it was. They had "grill night" one evening but that was unfortunately not so good. Our guess was that the chef was free that night.
We also had the loveliest lunch and dinner at nearby Zinzis a lovely hotel a few kilometres away and a great lunch in Plettenberg at The fat fish. Like so many times in South Africa we were surprised by how good the food was.
Drive to Kariega Game Reserve
Driving from Plettenberg to Kariega Game Reserve for the safari you pass by the last part of the Garden Route. The whole trip along Road 2 will take you about 4 hours. It is a lovely landscape and the time passes by quickly.
Kariega is a large private game reserve of 10 000 hectars of wilderness with a river - the Bushman´s river - running through the landscape and connecting it with the Ocean at Kenton-On-Sea.
Going on a safari was our kid´s absolute favorite part of the whole round trip in South Africa. Most people stay for 2 nights. We decided to stay for 3 nights. We had been on a safari in Tanzania on our honey moon and we figured our kids would like it.
To stay in Kariega you book like any other hotel on their website for the number of nights you choose to stay. At first you might think it is expensive, but it´s full board and with guide and transportation.
Kariega offers 4-star and 5-star lodging. Kariega River Lodge which is a 4-star lodge has 8 bungalows, each one of them for 2 people so in total we were 16 people there.
After checking in in our bungalow by the Kariega river we had a snack lunch around 2:30 pm. You should try to arrive before 2 p.m. to have time for the lunch and settle in before the afternoon game drive (safari tour) at 4 p.m.
A game drive lasts for about 3,5 hours. In the evening there is also drinks served during the drive. You are divided into groups of 4-10. In the luxuary 5-star resort in Kariega you are only 4 people in the jeep.
On a safari you sit in an open jeep and the guide drives along small unpaved roads. The guides know where the Big 5 - elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo - usually hang around but the animals walk around freely in the area. It is not like in a animal park and you will not see all Big 5 on our first day. You need more time for that.
After the game drive dinner is served around 7:30 p.m. This is a very relaxed place and you are not expected to dress up for dinner.
At dinner you sit with the people you go on a safari with. You can also ask for your own table. The guides are having dinner with their groups so you can ask any question you might have.
Safari means getting up early, at 6 a.m. The reason is animals are most active in the morning at sunrise and in the evening at sunset.
Every morning the guide called us at 6 a.m. to give us enough time to get dressed and drive in our golf cars to the main building for a small breakfast usually a muffin and coffee. Then it was time for the early morning game drive.
Around 10 we returned to the lodge for a long breakfast and then it was up to you what to do. You could fish in the beautiful river, relax by the pool, go on a bush walk, SPA or go by boat down the Bushman´s river to the coastal town of Kenton-On-Sea. Everything but SPA-treatments is included in the price.
On our first day we relaxed by our bungalow and on the second we went on a boat trip to Kenton-On-Sea. It is a tourist resort with mostly South African people. We loved that place and the boat trip down the river was beautiful.
After the boat trip it was time for lunch snack at 2:30 p.m. and a game drive at 4 p.m. like on our first day.
To summarize, a day on a safari at Kariega Game Reserve River Lodge follows this schedule
Tea, coffee and a snack before leaving for the early
morning game drive
Return to the lodge for a late breakfast/brunch
Free-time. Choose between a boat trip down the
Bushmans river to the coast, a bush walk, go fishing or canoeing, relaxing by the pool, a spa-treatment
Afternoon tea/coffee and snacks
Evening game drive
Return to the lodge for dinner
Drive to Port Elisabeth
In the morning of our last and third day we went on a final game drive and then checked out after breakfast.
We then went to Port Elisabeth where we were staying for one night before leaving for Sweden the next morning. Some of the people at the lodge went straight from the lodge to the airport to fly home but I would feel very uncomfortable with that. It is a long flight back home and you don´t want to miss the flight. It is about 2 hours drive to Port Elisabeth from Kariega Game Reserve.
Our last night in South Africa we spent at The Hacklewood Hill Country House. Like all other Guest houses in South Africa - superb!
Port Elisabeth was very different from Cape Town. We saw a lot of people just hanging around and it felt more unsafe. According to the staff at the hotel the area we were in was safe and we did a morning run in the area before leaving.
Leaving South Africa
Since Port Elisabeth is a small airport there are no direct connections to Europe. We changed flights in Johannesburg.
Arriving there was a bit confusing because of course you arrive at the airport for national flights. It took us some time to realize that. We probably looked very confused. Finally a helpful man at the airport guided us all the way to the international flights.
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