Driving across South Africa, from Joburg to Cape Town, is about as local as pap and wors. It’s further than from New York City to Chicago, or from the very tippy top of Great Britain to the very bottom. But it’s way more beautiful too (don’t take our word for it)! For anyone who hasn’t done the trip, or who just wants to reminisce about a trip they’ve done, here are some pointers.

swartberg
Scenery waiting for the adventurous driver. Here, the Swartberg mountains.

The Directions

  1. Take the N1 from Johannesburg to Cape Town (or in reverse).
  2. Just past Soweto take the Potchefstroom/Kimberly N12/N14 off ramp.
  3. Make your way to Kimberley.
  4. From Kimberley, travel along the N12 until you meet the N1 at Three Sisters (Halfway).
  5. Continue on the N1 through Beaufort West, until you reach the N12 off ramp for Oudtshoorn.
  6. From Oudtshoorn travel to George.
  7. From George follow the N2 back to Cape Town.

How Far is it, and Where Might you Break for a Sarmie

  • Johannesburg to Kimberley on the N12 – 459 km.
  • Kimberley to Three Sisters on the N12 – 418 km.
  • From Three Sisters to Cape Town on the N12 and N2 – 718 km.
  • Total: 1519 km.

Something to Think About as You’re Driving to Your Favourite Music

Don’t rush. Take a good two or three days to get from city to city, and you will have ample time to explore this stunningly beautiful country. Don’t forget to learn as much as you can about the Western Cape, Northern Cape, the Free State and Gauteng, so absolutely nothing is missed.

Things to Check Out Along the Way

  • Vaal River

South Africa’s longest river after the Orange is 1210 km long and forms a boundary between the Free State and Gauteng, North West and the Northern Cape. It supplies water to the country’s industrial heartland, including Johannesburg and Pretoria.

  • Kimberley

Don’t just drive by next time, explore it. The capital city of the Northern Cape is a hub of malls, art galleries, restaurants, the famous Big Hole and the excellent McGregor Museum. It’s like walking through history and is definitely worth an afternoon of exploration.


Outdshoorn

Take some breathtaking mountain passes through magnificent red-rock gorges and the wide open spaces of the Klein Karoo, until you reach Oudtshoorn, once known as the ostrich capital of the world. It’s the perfect place – along with nearby Prince Albert – to stay  overnight and explore the stunning countryside.

  • Swartberg Pass

The natural divide between the plains of the Great Karoo and the lush valleys of the Little Karoo has always been the imposing Swartberg Mountains. The magic of this pass really hits you during the river crossings, when you see the parapets of Cape Fold rock. More than 120 million years ago, the tectonic shifting of the earth caused these rocks to fold and thrust in on themselves, eventually taking on the appearance of flaky pastry.

swartberg
The towering rocks surrounding you as you come down the Swartberg Pass.
  • Outeniqua Pass

The Outeniqua Pass is a relatively modern pass connecting the coastal town of George with Oudtshoorn and the Klein (or Little) Karoo. A bit of a steep drive with plenty of mountainous twists and turns, there are a few viewpoints to stop off at along the way. Get your camera ready because these views are phenomenal.

  • Marloth Nature Reserve

Marloth Nature Reserve is named after the pioneer botanist who, together with a deputation of Swellendam residents, petitioned the Minister of Lands and Forestry in 1928 to set aside part of the mountain as a nature reserve. It is comfortably hidden away in the imposing Swellendam Mountains, between Swellendam, Ashton, Barrydale and Suurbraak. Swellendam is the third-oldest town in South Africa and has many interesting cultural-historic features.

And Then There is Much, Much More 

There is so much to discover along this 1,500-kilometre drive that the best advice we can give is to take things slow. And if you had fun, take a drive in the reverse direction and take a different road. We recommend it!

The original version of this story first appeared on South African Tourism’s website, and is republished with kind permission.