There’s something magical about road trips, don’t you think? The gentle purr of the car’s engine, the wind whipping at your hair through the window, dancing in your seat to the playlist you prepared for the drive and the interesting towns and people you pass by. Whatever the season, the distance or the reason, I’ve always loved it.
Fortunately, Cape Town has provided many opportunities for a little day trip or weekend adventure, with roads spiraling out in all directions from the city centre. Whether you’re looking for a day in the winelands or quaint little towns on the fringes of the desert, there’s something within driving distance.
Here are some of my favourite road trips in and around Cape Town, for the next time you have a weekend free and a craving for the open road.
This is my default route when I want to show Cape Town off to a visitor or when I need a pick-me-up after a long week. Of course, it’s best on a sunny day or at sunset, but that’s probably when you’ll sit the longest in the traffic there (hey, more time to enjoy the view!).
Starting at the beach front in Mouille Point, the coastal road winds around into Sea Point, Bantry Bay and Camps Bay, offering you an opportunity to gaze out to sea, or at the beautiful and crazy homes clinging on to the mountainside.
You can see storm clouds rolling in over the ocean, or crane your neck to spot Lion’s Head, the corner of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles as you head towards Llandudno.
The road winds along, between mountain and sea, with multiple rest stops appearing on the way should you care to pause for a photo. Eventually, you’ll loop around to Hout Bay, where you can go for a walk on the beach, visit the harbour or settle in for amazing food options at Bay Harbour Market.
On the other side of the city, you can take a drive from the Southern Suburbs through to the town of Muizenberg. It’s one of the area’s most popular surf spots which is also known for its iconic multi-coloured beach huts. If you continue along the coast, you’ll come to Kalk Bay, one of the Cape’s quirkiest fishing villages.
Kalk Bay is all artisan bakeries, cute designer and vintage shops, ice cream stores and tidal pools. You can grab something to eat at the Brass Bell, a restaurant which is basically halfway out to sea – at high tide, the water often splashes in the windows. Wander along until you reach the harbour, where you can walk out along the sea wall and spot seals in between the docked ships.
You can also continue further down the peninsula to Simon’s Town, home to a naval base and a famous penguin-spotting beach. You can have something to eat at a restaurant overlooking the harbour or at The Sweetest Thing, a gorgeous local patisserie.
For the history fans, the South African Naval Museum offers a quiet afternoon wander, while the nearby Boulders Beach is worth a visit to get a chance to see scores of penguins nesting and taking over the sand.
There are fewer sea views at certain points on this drive, but there are a few towns to see on your pit stops, depending on the route you take. If you head towards Malmesbury, you can stop over in the town of Darling for some craft beer from the local brewery or traditional tea treats at local coffee shops.
Otherwise, continue on to the area around West Coast National Park, which is filled with wildflowers in the spring. This park, which is home to more fynbos (local shrubs) than you could imagine, also surrounds the stunning and impossibly blue Kraalbaai lagoon. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Depending on how long you want to make your West Coast adventure, you can stop by Langebaan (the beach and West Coast Fossil Park are great) or carry on to Paternoster. Paternoster is a bit of a long drive for a day trip, but it’s worth it to see this quaint fishing town with lovely restaurants, white-painted houses and a relaxed atmosphere.
Want a one-day road trip that will make you feel like you’re on holiday? The winelands are an amazing escape overflowing with activities – from wine tasting to exquisite food, relaxed markets and incredible views.
A popular choice in the land of mountains and vines is the Root 44 Market, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays to offer a mix of local design and crafts, as well as delicious food ranging from flavoured fudge to incredible cupcakes and pizza. Also in Stellenbosch is the Slowmarket, where you can grab a bench under a tree and enjoy handmade food or shop for fresh organic produce.
If you venture further, you can stop off at Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch style farm famous for its stunning gardens and incredible restaurant, Babel. In the Paarl area, Fairview is a good option for wine and cheese tasting and provides a great atmosphere (seriously, there are cute goats that live in a tower). The Spice Route is also a good place to visit, as it’s a one-stop-shop for everything from chocolate tasting (yes, you read that right) to craft beer.
The historic town of Franschhoek is one of my favourites in the area (you can read why here) and definitely worth investigating. Between the quaint main street, Huguenot monument and the food and wine options, you’ll leave with a full heart (and possibly an empty wallet).
Want to stand at the most south western spot on the African continent? Cape Point is waiting for you. Venture closer, entering the national park and taking the walk up to the top of the cliffs overlooking the site of so many shipwrecks. There is a lovely restaurant, local wildlife (watch out for the baboons) and stunning scenery.
On the way back home, consider stopping off at the tiny town of Kommetjie. Between the secluded beaches and the Slangkop lighthouse, you can take both a casual stroll and some amazing photos.
Stay on this road to head back via Chapman’s Peak Drive, the winding cliff-side road that offers incredible views of the sea and Hout Bay.
For those who want to wander a bit further, the fringes of the Karoo await. The village of Matjiesfontein is a really special find – it’s a well preserved Victorian town, complete with a vintage red bus and gorgeous architecture.
If you’re up to staying the night, Sutherland is a bit further down the road, just over the border into the Northern Cape.
If you’re a fan of space and astronomy, you’ll love this tiny town. You can visit the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, or book a star gazing tour and stand in awe of the amazingly clear views of the night sky.
Have you explored the Cape by car? What are your favourite road trip destinations?