The Eastern Cape is one of the most alluring and untouched provinces of South Africa. That is why it’s affectionately known among locals as the Wild Coast or the Sunshine Coast. The province is diverse in culture, fauna and flora and epitomises the ultimate South African holiday. Below are 10 different self-drive routes to choose from, each unique in its beauty and offerings.
The Baviaans Route winds gently between the mighty Kouga and Baviaans Mountains. It encompasses the third largest nature conservation area in South Africa and is home to large troops of baboons. Other wonderful wildlife includes Cape buffalo, Mountain zebra and almost 300 species of birds. This route is ideal for nature lovers and those who enjoy the outdoors. Along this route, you’ll find friendly towns with interesting histories, such as Rietbron, Steytlerville and Willowmore.
Blue Crane Route
The blue crane is South Africa’s national bird and there’s no better place to catch a glimpse of this treasure than along the Blue Crane Route through the towns of Pearston, Somerset East and Cookhouse. In Somerset East, you’ll find the magnificent Boschberg Nature Reserve surrounded by the picturesque Boschberg Mountains.
The Camdeboo Route forms part of the N9 national road, which passes through Graaff-Reinet; a town featuring architectural masterpieces, such as its famous church and charming Cape Dutch style houses lining the streets. Onwards you’ll pass through Middelburg, an area which encapsulates the spirit of the Karoo perfectly.
Make your way through the wilderness of the Baviaanskloof Reserve en route to Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa’s surfing capital. The Kouga Route leads travellers through breath-taking natural landscapes consisting of farmland and Cape fynbos. The Baviaanskloof Reserve, which covers 5000km km² of the area is a World Heritage Site and encompasses part of the Cape Floral Kingdom – the biggest in the world. Kouga means ‘home to the perfect wave,’ which is what awaits you at the coastal town of Jeffrey’s Bay. The town is known for its eleven different types of surf and the annual international Billabong Pro Surf Classic.
The Langkloof Route is famous for its stretches of fruit orchards and groves. The route leads travellers through tranquil rolling hills covered with stunning Protea flowers in summer nestled between three rugged mountains: the northern Kouga, Baviaanskloof and the southern Tsitsikamma mountain range. To get the full effect of the area’s all-encompassing beauty, it’s best to visit during spring when apple, apricot, plum and peach orchards reveal the softest petals and release the sweetest scents.
Angora goats are considered a rich source of economic wellbeing to the towns along the Mohair Route. Graaff-Reinet and Jansenville are the top mohair producing towns, and if you’d love a silky soft jersey or scarf, stop at Mohair Experience in Jansenville. Drive along the R75 to reach these two towns, and the N9 route from Aberdeen to Willowmore to complete the experience.
The Owl Route
Nieu Bethesda is a typical Karoo town along the Owl Route that delights art enthusiasts and foodies with its rural laid-back whimsy and charming farm stalls. An absolute must is to stop at Helen Martins’ Owl House, which is open to the public to showcase her interesting sculptures. The route is flanked by the Sneeuberg mountain range and offers activities for all interests, including art, fossils, wildlife, trout fishing and hiking in the mountains.
Sunshine Coast Route
Unspoiled egg-shell coloured beaches, deep turquoise ocean and exceptional natural scenery makes the Sunshine Coast an unrivalled South African holiday destination. Drive along the R72 and pass Alexandria toward Kenton-on-Sea and Bushman’s River Mouth, a scene along the coast that will leave you wide-eyed with wonder and appreciation. Continuing along the Sunshine Coast Route will lead you to Port Alfred, famous for its Royal Alfred Marina – the venue for the South African Formula 1 Powerboating Championships. Further along the route you’ll enter pineapple country. Stop at Bathurst, buy some sweet pineapples and take a photo of your loved ones next to the world’s largest artificial pineapple!
Tsitsikamma Adventure Route
The Tsitsikamma Adventure Route traverses dense forests cusped by rugged shorelines entrenched with deep gorges and cliffs. The Tsitsikamma Forest offers various hiking routes for all levels of fitness, such as the Otter and Dolphin Trails. If it’s adrenalin you seek then try bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge. It’s the world’s highest commercial bungee jump. If you prefer something slightly gentler, try the Tsitsikamma canopy tour or the Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline adventure.
Greater Addo Route
The Greater Addo Route starts at Noorsveld near Darlington Lake and the dunes of the Namib at Alexandria, not far from the bustling city of Port Elizabeth. Along this route, you’ll come across the malaria-free Addo Elephant Park, home to the largest population of elephants in South Africa. The park boasts over 450 elephants, as well as flightless dung beetles and the Big Five. What’s more is the conservation area isn’t restricted to land but stretches out to sea where great white sharks and southern right whales can be spotted. What makes the Greater Addo Route the perfect holiday destination is the wide choice of activities available to entertain holidaymakers. Annual highlights of the area include the Kirkwood Wildlife Festival in June and the Addo Rose Show in October.