The journey starts in the heart of the Highlands Meander at the charming village of Dullstroom. This beautiful part of Mpumalanga is highlighted by clear streams, lakes and breathtaking scenery. Try your hand at some fly-fishing (at least once!) and tuck into a meal of freshly caught fish at one of the friendly local eateries. It only takes a couple of days to explore this quaint and somewhat quirky town. Locals are friendly and accommodating and you’ll soon find yourself exchanging fishing stories or engaging in small-town talk with locals and travellers alike.
Hit the open road and discover this wonderfully scenic route full of pretty pit-stops, great family-friendly getaways and awesome adventures.
Did you know Dullstroom is home to a whiskey bar with the largest collection of whiskey in the southern hemisphere as well as a clock shop with the largest collection of clocks this side of the equator!
As you pass through the farming town of Belfast, make sure to lap up the roadside views from your window seat, as this small town is known for its cattle, dairy and sheep farming. Stop off, stretch your legs and enjoy plenty of hiking trails or indulge the whole family in a delicious picnic at one of the beautiful public gardens. A little known fact is that this town exports about six millions tulip buds annually, so it only makes sense to visit Belfast’s tulip nursery!
Did you know Belfast has the oldest Bluegum plantation in South Africa!
You’ll pass through Carolina and reach New Castle - a town flooded with history and guaranteed to be an original way to spend some time. With its many battle site memorials and monuments, it’s certainly worth a stop. Just a short drive out of town and you will find the road to Ladysmith littered with little gems, like the wonderful Hindu Temple as well as traditional home bakes and biltong stores.
Ladysmith is the gateway to Central and Northern Drakensburg and is blessed with a backdrop of the beautiful range which, in winter, is enticingly snow-capped. Visit the 6000 hectare Spioenkop Dam and Nature Reserve just outside of town for a bit of boating, camping, hiking, climbing and horse riding. Oh, and while you’re there, the Spioenkop Anglo-Boer War battle site offers fascinating tours for all the history buffs!
The choice is yours at this point in the journey – you can either sidestep into the Drakensburg area for a few days to explore a treasure-trove of nature’s offerings, or keep going onto the South Coast, (you can always take your time to better discover the Drakensburg area on your way back!)
Marked as ‘a major town’ of the Midlands, Mooiriver is a pretty place framed by dramatic scenery. Of course, it is also conveniently situated to use as a base from which to explore, and also boasts numerous craft shops, cottage industries, restaurants and excellent accommodation options.
Did you know that Mooiriver is the capital of racehorse breeding in South Africa. Visit Summerhill, an internationally recognised stud farm that attracts clients from all over the world!
The changing landscapes along the immaculate N3 from this point include lush green rolling hills and undulating plains that lead you into Pietermaritzburg. A town noted for its great historic value, Pietermaritzburg also offers plenty of unique things to see and do. Visit the tropical Butterfly House The Old Prison or The Comrades Museum.
Did you know The Old Prison in Pietermaritzburg once detained both prisoners and the politically defiant? Famous inmates included Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. Today (after having undergone a radical transformation) it is a world class museum offering guided tours and recognised as an official Heritage Site.
A few days in the lively city of Durbs never goes amiss. It’s warm, inviting climate and gorgeous sun-kissed beaches makes it more than just a surfing hot spot, but an ambitious city offering a great choice of amazing day and nightlife. Add to that a rich cultural melting pot of friendly city folk, and you have a winning combination!
The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, with its iconic ‘arch of triumph’ (inspired by the Y-shape on the South African flag), is an engineering feat. With 27 awards received to date, the stadium also claims the highest level of utilisation ahead of all the new 2010 stadia built in South Africa.
The Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Conservation Area is a thriving paradise of wildlife that incorporates two world heritage sites! It spans from the heights of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, through the tropical savannahs of Zululand, and on to the brilliant lakes and wetlands of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Take your pick from more than 32 nature reserves, bush camps, luxury lodges, camping and caravan sites!
The South Coast strip is a holiday-maker’s mecca with secluded rocky coves, beautiful stretches of blue-flag beaches, lagoons and warm Indian Ocean waters. Nature lovers will relish in its numerous reserves, hiking trails, snorkelling and diving hot spots, with some excellent golf courses too!
The brilliantly maintained roads make driving a pleasure. Highlights for adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies along the way include a 4.5 kilometre zip lining experience at Lake Eland, as well as the Oribi Gorge Swing, which also just happens to be the highest gorge swing in the world!
From Port Edward, with the Eastern Cape border just a stone’s throw away, you can opt to drive on and explore the wonders of the Wild Coast. Or, begin your journey back meandering through the Central and Northern Drakensburg. Crossing the KZN border, you are welcomed by the spectacular Sterkfontein dam. From here, hit the celebrated Highlands Route and you’ll soon find yourself in the heart of the country; The Free State. This predominantly rural province means you will be greeted by wide horizons, big blue skies, rocky mountain and farmland as far as the eye can see. The area is also dotted with charming country towns – so be sure to pull in, rest up, relax and enjoy. .
A long weekend stay in Clarens is recommended to revive any weary city soul. Well known as a secret haven of artists and craftsmen, the small town is picture-book perfect, with tree-lined streets, art galleries, boutique stores, a fine selection of local fare and plenty of craft beer on tap!
A tour of the Basotho Cultural Village in Clarens will have you mesmerised by the lifestyle of the South Sotho with demonstrations of the decoration of huts, making basketware, crushing maize and traditional dance.
While you’re in the area, The Golden Gate National Park, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains, is a must see!
It must be noted that this brilliant local route is crowned by flawless, easy-to-navigate roads and countless highlights along the way! If you feel like you missed something out the first time round, it’s quite acceptable (if not imperative) to drive this route more than once.