Road tripping from Durban to Cape Town is a great way to experience South Africa and there is plenty to see along the way. Durban itself has some cool bars and some beaches further up and down the coast that are nice to visit, but I would not recommend staying too long here, there are so many other places on your trip down to Cape Town to spend more time at.
Wile in the area we ventured into the Valley of a Thousand Hills to learn a bit about the Zulu culture at PheZulu Safari Park. This place was interesting but definitely a bit touristy. We walked around a replica of a native Zulu village and watched a play and some dancing, it was pretty fun. Afterwards we headed to the Croc and Snake Park nearby. This place was great, we got to hold baby crocodiles as well as pythons. Our highlight was eating crocodile steaks right in the enclosure with the crocs chilling nearby.
Next we headed to the Mdumbi, which is in the Eastern Cape, also known as the Wild Coast. This place is incredibly remote and definitely worth the hassle to visit. We did the drive in one day but I don’t recommend it. It took us over 8 hours and the roads are terrible, plus it was raining which meant we got stuck in the dirt roads a few times and had to push the car out. We were staying at Mdumbi Backpackers in a rondavel (hut) for only NZ$15 each per night. The location was stunning, with beautiful views over the coastline and lots to do. We paid about NZ$10 each for a guide to take us on a 5 hour kayaking trip up the river. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful with a lot of bird sightings. On one of the evenings we walked to the nearby village we walked to a local restaurant for dinner. The Wild Coast is an incredibly rural and poor part of South Africa, yet the people are friendly and the scenery is stunning. Mdumbi is a place to relax, but if you want to party a bit more I recommend heading to Coffee Bay (which is nearby). Andrew and friends were in this area on a trip in 2012 and had a good time at Sugar Loaf Backpackers. Anywhere you go on the Wold Coast is beautiful and you will have a good time.
Another huge drive (approximately 8 hours) took us to the outskirts of Addo Elephant Park to a place called Avoca River Cabins. This is a nice place to stay near the Game Reserve and only cost us about NZ$20 each per night to stay in a lovely tree house cabin. They also have pool, which is fantastic. We spent a whole day on a self-driven tour around Addo Elephant Park, it costs about NZ$25 for foreigners to visit, very cheap! We saw some eland and tortoises and of course we say hundreds of elephants. At a waterhole that we stopped at we couldn’t even count them, there were so many rolling in the mud, walking extremely close to our car and babies running after their mothers. We stopped and watched them for a long time. We really enjoyed our time in Addo and I recommend you visit if you are in the area.
After leaving Addo Elephant Park you then embark on what is known as the Garden Route. This stretches all the way from Port Elizabeth to Mossell Bay. It would be impossible to stop everywhere so we just picked a few places and I think we did pretty well. A short drive (1.5 hours) to our first stop Jeffreys Bay, which is one of the top surfing destinations in the world. Unfortunately we weren’t staying the night here as we had plans to stay with family friends in Plettenberg Bay, and we immediately regretted it. We stayed for lunch and walked around the town and immediately liked its laidback vibes. Andrew and friends stayed a night here in 2012 at Ubuntu Backpackers and had a fabulous time. So definitely include J-Bay in your road trip. We then stopped in the town of Storms River to do the highest bridge bungee in the world. It is a beautiful spot but the bungee was terrifying! But if you’re into that kind of thing then you will love it. It was then a short drive on to Plettenberg Bay, which is another nice beach town.
After a brief stop ion Plett, we carried on our trip along the Garden Route, stopping at Knysna. This town is very beautiful and a good place to stop for lunch. It was then only a 2 hour drive to get to Oudtshoorn, which is in the middle of the Karoo Desert, and the place to see a lot of ostriches. We visited Highgate Ostrich Farm and got a tour of the grounds and got to feed the ostriches. We also got to have a ride on the ostriches, which was very disturbing, but pretty funny. You can also visit the Cango Caves while you are in the area, and walk through the various caves. The formations are pretty cool but the whole place is pretty touristy so I would give it a miss. While in Oudtshoorn you also need to try an ostrich steak, it is delicious!
After Oudtshoorn it is then a 5 hour drive to Cape Town through mainly desert. We drove a bit of Route 62 which is very desolate and eerie, making a stop at Ronnie’s Sex Shop for some food and a bit of a laugh. This is a great way to get across the country and I highly recommend it. You will need to rent a car and a normal sedan car will cost you approximately NZ$600 (US$420) to rent for about 10-14 days (including the one-way fee). I would say that we spent about NZ$60 (US$40) per day on top of the car rental. South Africa really is a pretty reasonable place to travel for the budget conscious, plus you will have an absolute blast.
Editor’s Note: Visited South Africa in 2010, updated in 2017.