[Updated July 2020]
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Take the road less travelled along Route 63 and discover the unexpected on the back roads crisscrossing the heart of South Africa. Your journey starts with warm toes in the Indian Ocean and ends with considerably colder ones on the West coast. You’ll encounter the largest post box in the world, farm stalls aplenty, quirky museums, big sky country and an appreciation for a slower pace of life. In total, the distance covered is 1540km and demands at least three, or preferably five days to complete this route.
Kenton-on-Sea, Eastern Cape
Why Kenton? For the exceptional beaches, warm Indian ocean, serene lagoon (great for paddling kids), beach walks and if you’re lucky phosphorescence on the water at night. And pizzas at Homewoods!
Nearby attractions: Visit the giant Pineapple in Bathurst and stop in for a pub lunch at the infamous Rat and Parrot in Grahamstown.
Next stop: Cookhouse
This little town on the banks of the Great Fish River is steeped in history. The name is said to stem from the late 1700s when Suzanna van Aardt supplied provisions from her “Cookhouse” to transport riders while they waited to cross the river. History buffs will be fascinated visiting the Slachter’s Nek monument, the Thomas Pringle cairn and the Fairworld Fine Wool Museum.
Nearby attractions: the Walter Battiss Museum in Somerset East and don’t miss out on the biltong festival held on the 17th and 18th June 2016.
Next stop: Daggaboer farmstall, 225 km covered
Voted the best farm stall in South Africa by Weg, like “Ronnie’s Sex Shop” the “dagga” is a playful misnomer. There are more than 50 homemade jams and preserves from which to choose, including slap hakskeentjies (onions in a mild mustard sauce), boeremeisies (apricots in almond-infused witblits), and turksvystroop (thick prickly pear syrup) as well as dried fruit, Dutch cheeses, biltong, dry wors, snug sheepskin slippers and mohair blankets.
Next stop: Mountain Zebra National Park
The endangered Cape mountain Zebra is thriving in this beautiful park. Also look out for the Aardwolf, Cape buffalo, Cheetah, Blue crane and Denham’s bustard. This malaria-free park offers a more relaxed safari experience. This is a wonderful and affordable place to stay on the first night of your road trip. Find more here.
Next stop: Pearston
Visit Eve Palmer’s hometown, which provided ample inspiration for her beloved book “The Plains of Camdeboo.” This is also a great stopover spot as the best things to do involve long walks, star gazing and taking time out.
Next stop: The Valley of Desolation, Graaff-Reinet
Contrary to the name this is a photographer’s paradise with dramatic scenery to rival the Grand Canyon. Look out for the rare Black eagle. If you have the time, do an overnight hike in the park and explore the charming town of Graff-Reinet.
Next stop: Victoria West
The Mannetjies Roux Museum is a must-visit for rugby fans as is the Victoria Trading Post, owned by the Roux family. Hungry travellers will love a leisurely lunch as Karoo Deli in the main street. We recommend the lamb curry.
When to visit? September is the best time when the Karoo flowers are in bloom.
Next stop: Carnarvon
Stay over in a real corbelled house. These fascinating domed-roof houses are made from flat stones – which were built between 1811 and 1815. This makes for a truly unusual and unforgettable memory. Discover the Karoo rhythm – there are still some people who rely on donkey-drawn carts here.
Next stop: Calvinia
Visit the largest postbox in the world! Every letter that is posted from the gigantic postbox gets a hand-stamp with a flower as an emblem. The Calvinia Museum is also worth a visit. It is housed in a 1920s art deco styled Jewish synagogue.
If you have time: definitely visit the Akkerendam Nature Reserve, three kilometres north of Calvinia set in the Hantam mountains. Seek out the rare, indigenous star tree.
Next stop: Nieuwoodville
The Waterfall reserve is a must-visit as is the Neo-Gothic Sandstone Church and the Quiver Tree forest.
If you have time: Stop in at Louise and Owen McGregor’s inventive padstal oasis with stuffed hay bale men sitting outside in the sun beckoning you in.
Next stop: Vredendal
Vredendal will feel like the big city after passing through all the small towns on this route. Time for some wine tasting at the boutique wineries in the area. Teubes Family Wines offer cheese platers in their tasting room. MelkboomsDrift Boutique Wine also features a lodge on the property which is a great idea if you choose to take your time and enjoy the slow life on the banks of the Olifantsrivier.
Next stop: Namaqualand National Park
At a certain time of a year, the landscape is transformed into a riotous celebration of spring. The desert landscape erupts into a fiery carpet of flowers like nothing you have ever seen.
The Skilpad rest camp in the Sanpark’s Namaqua National Park is well worth the visit year-round but especially during the flowers season in spring.
1,540 Kilometres later, you’ve at last made it to the freezing waters of the Atlantic, so dip a toe into the sea to celebrate your epic cross-country road trip. Stay at Skulpieskraal with a view of the sea from your bed. They offer pre-pitched tents under A-frame net shading. There are no power points, but there is lighting. This is a great alternative to the Namaqua Beach Camp for flower viewing. Their rates are extremely reasonable.
There is so much to discover in our backyard, so get going and carve out a new appreciation for our beautiful country. Happy travels!