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December 29, 2011

One-day road trips from Cape Town

Did you know that Cape Town is one of the largest cities in the world in terms of surface area? It exceeds cities like London, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Kuala Lumpur, Rio de Janeiro and many more in sheer size. 

Add to space the elements of beauty – the city of Cape Town is situated in the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms – and cultural diversity and you are met with a city where inspiration lurks behind every corner, waiting to be discovered. Pack your favourite road trip tracks; whether it is Creedence Clearwater Revival who inspired the theme of this blog or local sounds, a map and let the open road take you where it will.

Here are some ideas for day trips; two of these will take you beyond city borders:

Penguins at Boulders Beach. Image © Cape Town Tourism

Constantia Wine Route to Cape Point

This route takes you directly to the Constantia Wine Route, then around the False Bay side of the peninsula to reach the penguins at Boulders Beach and Cape Point Nature Reserve with enough time to enjoy the circular route back via Scarborough and Chapman’s Peak.

Take the M3 towards Muizenberg from Cape Town until it becomes Edinburgh Drive and you see the Constantia Valley Wine Route stretched out before you. These lands were cultivated by the first governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, in 1685. Drive from here along the M3, turning towards Muizenberg and make your way slowly through the hamlets of St James and Kalk Bay, continuing on to Simon’s Town for a visit to Boulders Beach. Road works on the Main Road mean you have to travel along Boyes Drive for a small section of your journey. Rather than being a hindrance, this detour actually gives sweeping views of both False Bay and the Atlantic coastline.

From here, it is an easy drive to Cape Point where maps are available that show beaches suitable for children, snorkeling etc. Make your way back via the spectacular drive through Scarborough, past the Kommetjie lighthouse, through Noordhoek and over Chapman’s Peak, which promises breathtaking views. Meander through Hout Bay and take the Atlantic coastal road back via Llandudno to Camps Bay – the perfect spot for sundowners at the end of the day.

Don’t miss:

  • The kramat (a Muslim shrine) on the grounds of the Klein Constantia wine estate. The shrine is dedicated to Sheikh Abdurachman Matebe Shah who was banished to the forests of Constantia by the Dutch in the 1660s. Tours of the estate are by appointment only. Call +27 (0)21 794 5188 to make enquiries.
  • Snorkelling at Venus Pools, Cape Point. (Be sure to check the tides before heading down to the pools.)
  • A walk on Scarborough’s wild beach or Kommetjie’s boardwalk near the lighthouse.

Distance: About 170km

Lunch time. Photo courtesy Guy with Camera

West Coast, Darling & Riebeek Kasteel Route

Start your journey from the coastal towns of Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand, known as the little West Coast, driving along the R27 all the way to the West Coast National Park.

Leave early, stopping at !Khwa ttu San Education and Culture Centre, 70km out of Cape Town, just before Yzerfontein. Have breakfast and then head for the West Coast National Park where you will be met by a carpet of Namaqualand flowers during the spring flowering season. Take a detour to Darling and Riebeek Kasteel to sample wine and olives. Visit Evita se Perron for side splitting comedy by Pieter Dirk Uys and enjoy lunch in town or head over to arty Riebeek Kasteel for a bite to eat.  Enjoy the scenic 1.5-hour drive back via the N7.

Don’t miss:

  • The replica of a traditional San village at !Khwa ttu near Yzerfontein.
  • Sitting quietly in a bird hide on the lagoon where flamingos abound in winter and 70 000 winged migrants arrive from northern Russia in summer.
  • Paternoster: the characterful fishing village further north offers many beachside cottages to rent for weekends.

Distance: About 317km

Durbanville Wine Route

The exceptional Durbanville Wine Valley in the Tygerberg Hills is easy to explore from Cape Town and the circular part of the route should ideally be done clockwise for spectacular Table Mountain views.

Durbanville is known for its excellent wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc, and genuine hospitality. Start your tour at Durbanville Hills; continue on to Poplar’s Restaurant or Ntida wine estate for lunch. Stop in at Bloemendal if they offer one of their famous festivals and continue on to Meerendal wine estate, Diemersdal or De Grendel. 

Don’t miss:

  • A game drive at Clara Anna Fontein.
  • Mountain bike trails on wine estates.
  • Take the kids tobogganing at Cool Runnings just past Tyger Valley.

Distance: About 93km

Route 62

Cape Route 62 winds between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn, all the way to Port Elizabeth through the Western and Eastern Cape;  it is also known as the world’s longest wine route.

There are a number of variations in terms of stops and distance travelled on the route, but my favourite is from Cape Town, through Worcester, Robertson, Ashton and onward to Montagu. On your journey you will encounter mountains and scenic passes, rivers, diverse indigenous flora and excellent wines all set in an atmosphere of rustic tranquility.

The first stop on your journey will be the historic town of Paarl that boasts excellent Cape Dutch, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco architecture along the longest main road in the country. Worcester is the economic hub of the Breede River valley, nestled at the foot of the Brandwacht and Langeberg mountains, home to the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden. A short drive away is Robertson, one of the most beautiful Cape Winelands towns with a rich viticulture history. Further along is Ashton, which offers top notch rock climbing amongst other things. Your final destination is the gateway to the Little Karoo, a town called Montagu. Peaceful, it is most famous for its abundant orchards, vineyards, rock formations, restaurants and hot mineral springs.

Don’t miss:

  • Enjoying a glass of Paarl Valley wine in one of the many glorious eateries in this town.
  • Take a trip back in time at Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum in Worcester to sample pioneer lifestyle along with witblits (a traditional clear brandy distilled in the region since the 19th century), homemade jams, bread and confectionary. 
  • Relax and revive at the Avalon Springs in Montagu.

Distance: About 400km

*There's plenty to experience and after a long day's drive Route 62 is best enjoyed with an overnight stay in Montagu.

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