South Africa is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It is the only country in Africa where you can go on a African wildlife safari just a few hours drive from a worldly city like Johannesburg. South Africa can boast a myriad of landscapes, including the high mountains of the Drakensberg, the arid beauty of the Karoo and the coastal forests of Knysna.
But South Africa can also claim 1,500 miles of coastline and two oceans: the cold Atlantic and the warm Indian oceans. If you want to experience both coasts, the best way to do this is to pick up a car rental. South Africa offers some of the most scenic road trips in the world. Its national roads are comparable to any you would find in North America and Western Europe.
The most popular road trip in South Africa is called the Garden Route. The trip starts in Cape Town. It is South Africa’s oldest and most beautiful city. Most visitors to Cape Town arrive via cheap flights from London. The Garden Route follows the N2 heading east from Cape Town, with most travelers finishing up in Port Elizabeth, about 450 miles away.
This coastal route takes in some of South Africa’s great beaches. The first stop of your tour must be Clifton in Cape Town.
Clifton 4th Beach, Cape Town, Western Cape
As the name indicates, Clifton has four beaches, but Clifton 4th is by far the most popular beach of the bunch. Clifton 4th is on the list of South African beaches that have earned the coveted ‘Blue Flag Status’. This international accreditation is only awarded to those beaches that meet the highest standards of safety, environmental management and water quality. As clean as the water is, you might not want to hop into these Atlantic waters, unless you are ready for a chill! Even on summer days, the waters off Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard remain cold.
Even on summer days, the waters off Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard remain cold. Locals and visitors from all over the world flock to Clifton to work on their tans while lying on this beach’s brilliant white sands. Visitors should be prepared that the only way to get down to the beach is via long staircases that start at the side of the road.
Dolphin Beach, Jeffrey’s Bay, Eastern Cape
Affectionately called ‘J-Bay’ by the laid-back locals, this coastal town is one of the most celebrated surfing venues on the planet. For decades, it has attracted some of the world’s greatest surfers to participate in major surfing competitions like the annual Billabong Pro ASP World Tour. But surfing isn’t the only activity at Dolphin’s Beach.
It is also known for the abundant shells that wash ashore. The collecting of seashells is a great activity to do with the kids. Also a nearby entertainment park has water slides, mini golf, and quad bikes. A car rental is especially handy for checking out the nearby village of St. Francis. This is where affluent types from Johannesburg spend their summers. The village is notable in that according to local ordinances all houses must be painted white and have black roof tiles. Adjacent to St. Francis is Cape St. Francis. It has a historic lighthouse that makes for a great photo opportunity. Beyond that is Oyster Bay, which is perfect for those looking for some peace and quiet.
Kelly’s Beach, Port Alfred, Eastern Cape
Most end their trip along the Garden Route in Port Elizabeth, but if you venture just two hours further up the coast you will discover the splendors of the Sunshine Coast. This region is home to one of the largest coastal dune fields in the world, and some of the sunniest weather you will find anywhere. The center of the Sunshine Coast is the tourist town of Port Alfred. Kelly’s Beach is another of South Africa’s famed Blue Flag beaches. The beach itself is quiet and almost untouched by development. It is popular with surfers but there are designated areas for surfing and swimming so both can share this beach safely. The beach is less than a mile from the Kowie River mouth. After a hard day relaxing on the beach, take a boat up the Kowie with a glass of South African white wine in hand and watch an African sunset.