What I've tried to do is lay out several day trips or journeys that I have taken. You can begin your own adventures in -out of- Johannesburg or from Cape town. Both are first class international airports.
I find that beginning in the Cape Province (Cape Town) eases you into the South African lifestyle in the most tranquil way after that long exhausting overseas flight.
Once you arrive at the Cape Town Airport visit the information stand in the arrivals hall. The staff will provide you with many free maps and lots of valuable information.
I recommend staying in Sea Point, it's just around Lions Head from Cape Town. About 10 minutes by car, taxi or bus. Avoiding the overpriced and crowded "chain" hotels in Cape Town proper. Besides you'll want to be by the sea. I've found that there's nothing like the ocean air to re-hydrate your body from the dry air at flying altitude.
Use Johannesburg as a point of reference. It's like any other big city in the world. In the last couple of years the downtown area has become overridden with crime. There are a few "musts" which I will cover later.
If your travels take you through Jan Smuts Airport (Johannesburg) you should at least travel into the city center for a few hours. There is excellent scheduled bus service, located just outside the domestic arrivals hall. From the rotunda (central bus station) everything is within walking distance.
Now that you have an overview of the two international arrival ports; and, an idea of where to begin your trip. I'll continue, and share with you the highlights of my 14, to date, journeys to this "world in one country".
I suggest you plan a circuit route (ie. M4 - M6/65). I have made several drives in both directions and recommend picking up the M4 on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula at Muizenberg. Head south to Simonstown; then continuing south along the False Bay Coast to the Cape Nature Reserve.
Your entrance fee to the reserve includes an excellent brochure and map of the various roadways, picnic spots, beaches and of course foot paths. Hiking is one of South Africa's greatest sports. So, allow adequate time to explore on foot. Restaurants and coffee shops within the reserve are reasonably priced and provide excellent meals. Not to mention a great seat from which to view the animals and birds. Be sure to take in the spectacular view from the Cape Point Light House. On a clear day you can see Cape Hangklip. This is truly "where two oceans meet".
A word of caution, if I can; when you leave your car unattended be sure to roll up the windows. I didn't and returned to find a baboon ripping the car upholstery to shreds.
As you leave the reserve turn left on the M65 to Kommetjie and the Western side of the Cape Peninsula. The drive from Kommetjie to Houte Bay is an unforgettable scenic experience. Have your camera ready. Be sure to capture the view of Houte Bay from Cahpman's Peak, the most scenic point along this drive.
Depending on your arrival time in Houte Bay there are several alternatives to consider.
First, if it's not too late, you can turn right on the M63 to the winery at Groot Constantia for an afternoon tasting, tour and meal. The last tour begins at 16:00. If you are too late for a visit to the winery, don't worry, the wines will still be there for another day's tasting.
If you miss the afternoon wine tasting at Groot Constantia there's still lots to see on your way back to Cape Town. Between Houte Bay and Cape Town / Sea Point there are many scenic outdoor cafe's or restaurants from which to savor the delights of an afternoon sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
Just north on R310 is Sunrise Beach. Depending on the time of your arrival - well, you be the judge. The name implies it all.
RHODES COTTAGE: Main Road
Contains personal relics of Cecil John Rhodes
. Open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 17:00
Telephone number 88-1816 Admission free
De POST HUYS: Main Road
Built in 1673 by the Governor of the Cape - Isbrand Goske - as an observation post for the whole of false bay.
Open Tuesday through Friday 14:00 - 16:00
South Africa's largest naval dockyards and town.
SIMONSTOWN MUSEUM: The Residence Court Road
Displays tracing the history of this naval dockyard in 1687, through Royal Navy port times to present.
Open Tuesday through Friday 09:00 - 16:00
MARTELLO TOWN, NAVY MUSEUM: St. George's Street South
Museum devoted to naval, especially South Africa, history.
Open Monday through Friday 10:00 - 16:00
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE NATURE RESERVE
Floral Treasures: 1100 fynbos species; including protes, ericas and orchids.
Birds: A range in size from the tiny Orange Breasted Sunbird to the majestic Black Eagle, 161 bird species have been recorded.
Animals: Eland, Bontebok, Grey Rhebuck, Grysbok, Springbok, Hartebeest, Zebra, Baboons and Ostriches.
A most unique emporium of seafood bistros, fresh-fish & live lobster markets, nautical gift and souvenir shops.
Try to time your journey for lunch here. I recommend a seafood platter of lobster, Knysna oysters, lime fish, kingklip, mussels, red roman fish, including several smoked fish. A meal for two.
STRAND UNDERGROUND CONCOURSE: Adderley street and Strand street
GREEN MARKET SQUARE: Burg and Short Market streets
An open air market surrounded by gift shops, very good values, and many great cafe's.
GOLDEN ACRE: Adderley street Cape Town city centre
ARCHIVES: 62 Queen Victoria Street
Collection of historically interesting documents and pictures dating back to the earliest days of the cape.
Open Monday through Friday 09:00 - 16:15
THE CASTLE OF GOOD HOPE: Castle Street
Built in 1666, the oldest building in South Africa.
Open Monday through Friday 10:00 - 16:00
CULTURAL HISTORY MUSEUM: Upper Adderley Street
Furniture, glass, ceramic, postal and currency history.
Open Monday through Saturday 10:00 - 17:00
CITY HALL, CIVIC CENTRE AND CLOCK TOWER
For additional information and guides stop by the Visitors Center. Very friendly and informative staff. It's on the corner of Adderley Street and Strand Street.
This familiar landmark my be explored either on foot along one of the many pathways or by cable car from the Lower Cable Station on Table Mountain Road, Kloofnek (my recommendation). The view from the top of the of the mountain is spectacular and the restaurant there a good place from which to enjoy it.
For the hiker; on top of the mountain there are well mapped trails. You can select from any number which take from a few minutes to a full day or more.
Off Rhodes Drive, Rondebosch: Built of Table Mountain Granite as a tribute to the memory of Cecil John Rhodes.
UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN
Off Rhodes Drive, Rondebosch: Plan to spend an hour or two exploring the campus.
OHLSSON's CAPE BREWERIES Main Road, Newlands:
South Africa's oldest brewery, situated next to the famous Newlands Rugby Stadium and Newlands Station.
GROOT CONSTANTIA Just off the M41, Constantia:
The oldest homestead in the Cape, established in 1685. First, taste some of the Cape's finest wines. Heerenrood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and unique to South Africa (my favorite) Pinotage.
Next stop by the "Tavern" or the Jonkershuis Restaurant for an afternoon meal. Traditional old Cape mid- day meals include dishes such as Waterblommentjie stew and curried fish. Enjoy your meal outside under the oak trees or inside in the Cape Malay atmosphere.
The "wine routes" lay North East of Cape Town, about 42km, just off the N1. The principal areas are; Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. I recommend an early start and at least one or two nights stay in the area.
My best suggestion is to pick up one of the many wine route maps. There's an abundant supply and most are free and very informative.What I'll do is provide you with my list of must see and/or do items. However, follow your nose and most of all enjoy. Once, a two day journey of mine into this beautiful area turned into two spellbound weeks of this wonderful, intoxicating life.
BOSCHENDAL: North East of Stellenbosch on the R310
Reservations are suggested. Gourmet buffet or casual dining in the garden. Be sure to have the buffet and return, if time allows, for a picnic in the garden. This is rated as the best in all of South Africa, and I fully agree. Excellent tastings here as well.
DELHEIM: North of Stellenbosch on WR3 off of the R44
No reservations required.Excellent ploughman's lunch and tastings.
DELAIRE: Between Stellenbosch and Boschendal on the R310
Locally known as "vineyards in the sky".
D'OUWE WERF COUNTRY INN: 30 Church Street, Stellenbosch
Established in 1802, this is one of the most historic buildings in Southern Africa. 28 "en-suite" luxury bedrooms which are furnished with priceless antiques.
LA PETITE FERME: Pass Road, Franschhoek.
Reservations a must. Lunch only
Phone number 02212 3016
LE POMMIER: On the R310 just opposite Delaire Vineyards
No Reservations required. Lunch or dinner.
Phone number 02231 9 1269
BELLINGHAM: West of Franschhoek on the R45
LA COTTE INN: Main Road, Franschhoek
Country hotel, run by Ludwig and Ladine Mask
Phone number 02212 2081
LA PROVENCE: Off the R45 just west of Franschhoek
Attractive cottages independently situated on a historic Huguenot vineyard. Scenically beautiful. Your room rate includes two bottles of their private label wine.
Phone number 02212 2542
SAMPLE TWO DAY ITINERARY
From Cape Town: Stellenbosch lies about one and one half hours East of Cape Town. Plan to arrive early. Your first stop should be breakfast and coffee on the trellis covered patio of the D'ouwe Werf Hotel. This is where you should spend your first night.
After you have settled into your room walk over to the information office, select one or more of a number of walking tours. Bike rental is also available here. There is lots of local history and magnificent buildings to discover on foot. Including the University of Stellenbosch.
Have your lunch this day at Boschendal. I do recommend reservations, however I have been lucky in the past without them.After lunch, taste your way to Franschhoek. It's here that I suggest you spend your second night. So, check out the area. Stop in the LaCotte Inn, Ludwig or Ladine will be happy to provide you with information about the area and the many local attractions to see. Be sure to visit the Huguenot Monument and Museum, it is just at the end of the main road.
As you return to Stellenbosch visit Delair, "vineyards of the sky", for a relaxing afternoon wine tasting. Dinner is a must back at the D'ouwe Werf.
Spend your second day following one or more of the many well marked wine routes. I've given you a list of a few that are my favorites.
Your second over-night should be in Franschooek at the LaCotte Inn or LaProvence. I recommend breakfast at the LaCotte even if you do not spend the night there.
Start off your third day by tasting your way along the R45 to Paarl. This is the most commercial of the three areas. Stop in the information office and select any drives that are of interest to you. You should, however, visit the Afrikaans Language Monument. It is on your way, at the junction of the R45 and the N1.
If your tour of Paarl is over early enough, I'd say by 13:00, head for a ploughmans lunch and tasting at Delheim. Follow the N1 west to the R44 south towards Stellenbosch. After lunch you can return to Stellenbosch or continue to your next destination.
As you drive be sure to stop in as many wineries as possible.
This is what takes you to Africa. THE BIG GAME PARK. Home to 122 different species of mammals, 33 species of amphibians, 45 fish and 106 reptile species and about 450 species of birds.
GETTING THERE: Once in Johannesburg you can book any number of package tours. All very good, I am sure. However, I recommend you hire a car and proceed on your own. It's very easy and gives you the added freedom to set your own pace. Four days is about right for a taste of this magnificent park. Below I will take you on a typical tour of the Park and Eastern Transvaal.
DIRECTIONS: From Jan Smuts (Johannesburg) Airport; South on the R21, pick up the R22 to Benoni then follow signs to Witbank where you will take the N4 east to Nelspruit. Stay on the N4 east for about 50km and enter the Kruger Park through the Malelane Gate. Be careful, the entrance signs are in Afrikaans -MALELANEHEK. HEK = GATE. If you miss the signs, there's another gate at Crocodile Bridge. And, if you pass that you reach the border crossing at Mozambique. This has happened to me twice. Anyway, just turn around and the Crocodile Bridge Entrance is now your first right turn.
From Jan Smuts Airport the drive is exactly 4 hours on the nose. The Park gates close at 16:30. Judge your travel time accordingly. If you arrive after 16:30, by accident or choice, there's a great hotel in Hectorspruit. The Buffalo Hotel, 91 Hectorspruit Road (there is only one road in town) phone number 01313-4227. The hotel has excellent food and provides a refreshing stop from your drive. They even have a large cool swimming pool. From here either Park entrance is only 15 minutes away. The Park gates open at 05:30.
The Park entrance fee (R12.00 per person & R9.00 per car) includes a map of the Park. It is here, at the entrance gate, that you should plan, at least, you first overnight stop. The Park contains 28 overnight areas (camps) from which to choose. Each camp has an atmosphere of it's own, based on the location within the Park. From the entrance gate the Park ranger will radio ahead your reservation. I strongly suggest that you move from camp to camp each day. This will eliminate back- tracking and allow you to see the greatest area, and animals, in the shortest period of time. All camps have good restaurants, shops and grocery facilities.
I personally recommend the following camps; in order from south to north: (1) Lower Sabie, (2) Satara and (3) Olifants. All are within a reasonable, relaxing game drive of each other. A second alternative is; depending on your arrival time in to the Park, (1) Satara, (2) Olifants and (3) Letaba. Letaba camp offers guided day walks of the Park.
The Kruger Park maps are very easy to follow. The signage within the Park is excellent. All rest areas and camps are well placed, providing breaks at just the right times. The object is to wander and view the animals in their natural environment. All camps within the Park close their gates at 16:30 so make sure you allow time to reach your camp. Gates open again at 05:30. I suggest an early game drive at 05:30, return for breakfast then head out, stop along the way for an afternoon meal and finish at your next camp just before 16:30. Be sure to book your continuing reservations as you check in the day before.
Leave the Kruger Park in the north through Phalaborwa Gate. You can then set off on another type of adventure through the Drakensburg Mountains and the Eastern Transvaal. Allow a full day to reach Johannesburg, as you will want to stop along the way to take in the many breathtaking views.
A suggested route back to Johannesburg, which will cover most of the places of interest in the Eastern Transvaal is; from Phalaborwa take the R530 to Mica, follow signs to R36 Lydenburg. After the beauty of Abel Erasmus Pass you can follow signs to Pilgrim's rest. Either on the R532 or the R533.
Pilgrim's Rest is an open-air museum and replica of a mining town during the late 19th Century gold rush. Your next stop should be God's Window, offering splendid views over the lowveld. As beautiful as the name implies. The observation platform -God's Window- is just north of Pilgrim's Rest off the R532.
South of Pilgrim's rest on the R532 is Mac Mac Pools and Falls. The crystal clear pools are suitable for swimming. The twin falls plunge into a densely wooded chasm. Beautiful.
There are many more interesting overlooks, passes, nature reserves and trails along your route back to Johannesburg. Perhaps you will discover some of them. Time unfortunately has to play it's role and from my experience without another day, from here you'll have to press onward. Continue south on the R532 to Sabie then west to Lydenburg. After Lydenburg pick up the R450 to Belfast and there rejoin the N4 to Johannesburg.