As the year continues to rush past us at a startling rate, it’s no wonder most of us haven’t planned our last trip of the summer. The days are getting shorter and the cooler weather has most of us clinging to those last sunny days. But there are plenty of great spots in South Africa that are at their best in the slightly cooler seasons.
So before the cold completely sets in and sees most of us retreat into hermit mode, take a look at these 5 autumn road trip ideas.
Nestled in the majestically beautiful uMngeni Valley in the Natal Midlands, this route has everything from culture and history to activity and adventure. The route boasts a number of attractions such as the Howick Falls, the Howick Museum, the Mandela Memorial Site where late statesman Nelson Mandela was captured in 1962, the Zulu Mpophomeni Tourism Experience and a range of local craft and the Midmar Dam, all just a stone’s throw from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Drakensberg Mountains.
Enjoy zip-lining at Karkloof Nature Reserve, take a walk down the newly-opened Howick Falls Gorge Walk or visit the quaint restaurants and coffee shops in and around Howick. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site is a must see, where the impressive steel structure enchants all who visit.
The Baviaanskloof Route’s climate is pleasant all year round and one of the few places left in the world where travellers can still swim in clear mountain pools and drink from fresh river streams. The region is rich in tradition and local people have lots of stories to share over a plate of traditional fare. Donkey carts can still be seen traversing the dirt roads and on steep passes along parts of the Baviaanskloof. While you’re in the area be sure to check out the natural caves and rock shelters, many of which were inhabited by early KhoiSan people over thousands of years ago. The shelters are home to remarkably well-preserved archaeological deposits and fine examples of rock art.
3. Kamiesberg and West Coast Diamond Route
You may be thinking to yourself that the only time you’ll head into this section of the Northern Cape is in spring to see the carpets of wildflowers. Truth be told, this area has more to offer than just the annual display of colourful blooms. A great place to visit during the cooler months, the west coast, with its flowing dunes and mysterious shipwrecks, is a rugged nature experience. These shores have remained virtually unknown to the public at large as it is within the restricted and previously-forbidden diamond mining areas. The route runs along the coast from “Groenrivier” mouth until Port Nolloth and is ideal if you are looking for peace, tranquillity and adventure. However many of the roads on the route are not accessible to ordinary cars and more suitable for 4×4. The delightful coastal village of Hondeklipbaai has a few guesthouses for those wishing for a little luxury.
The Kamiesberg section of the route will take travellers on a journey through wonderful rock formations, fascinating plant life, amazing gorges, exciting mountain passes and some truly remarkable people. It’s also one of the rare places where one can camp in matjieshutte (huts traditionally built by the Nama people) surrounded by quiver trees in the Namaqualand. Awesome!
Not surprisingly, in view of the beauty of its surroundings, Clarens has become a haven of tranquillity for artists, solitude seekers and nature lovers both from South Africa and abroad. It offers various outdoor pursuits such as birding, hiking trails, horse riding, 4×4 trails but it is favoured most for its trout and bass fishing.
But there’s so much more to this scenic area in the Free State. It features places of historical or archaeological interest, including Surrender Hill, dinosaur fossil sites and San paintings in nearby caves, while the nearby Golden Gate Highlands National Park is home to a number of unusual lichens that occur nowhere else in the world.
5. Southern Overberg Fynbos Route
At the centre of the route is the charming fishing village of Gansbaai. The town offers all basic amenities and a number of interesting restaurants and activities. The town is the capital of the shark cage diving industry in South Africa and a number of operators offer daily excursions to interact with these magnificent creatures.
Nearby Stanford is a quaint, rural village that is popular among artists, musicians and writers. The Klein River that runs through the town gives a unique atmosphere and the streets are lined with antique stores, coffee shops and vineyards. Travellers can enjoy activities like horse riding, boat cruises, hiking and bird watching. Or for the less adventurous, there is of course lazing around, soaking up the gorgeous natural beauty of the area. Yes, please!