If you are a fan of South Africa and have done all the classic tours such as the Garden Route, Panorama Route and Drakensbergen, you may want to consider a road trip along South Africa's West Coast . This route from Cape Town to the Kalahari Desert is much less touristy but absolutely worth it.
The West Coast is less popular and therefore much less aimed at tourists than other parts of South Africa, partly because the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are much colder and more turbulent than the waters of the Indian Ocean. So a day at the beach won’t be something to look forward to during a road trip along South Africa's West Coast. However, the region has many other things to offer and is really highly recommended for the traveller who wants to explore South Africa off the beaten track.
The West Coast is located within the Western Cape, one of the nine provinces of South Africa. Cape Town is the main city in the Western Cape, South Africa so you can start your road trip from Cape Town. Two-thirds of the population of the Western Cape lives in and around Cape Town which means that the rest of the province is only sparsely populated.
The Western Cape is characterised by its gigantic coastlines. It borders the Atlantic Ocean for over 400 km, and stretches from Cape Town to the Kalahari. The coastline along the Indian Ocean, from Cape Town to just beyond Knysna is a whopping 500 km.
You will definitely need a car in this area because there is little to no public transport. The main road is the N7 which runs from Cape Town to the border with Namibia. However, choose the R27 if you the have time to enjoy a more scenic drive.
Road trip South Africa's: West Coast
South Africa Road Trip Planner
Thanks to the road trip planner below you can create the perfect South African road trip along the West Coast. We had little time and visited everything in 12 days. However you need far more time to explore the region. If you haven't been to Cape Town before and love to enjoy the culinary highlights in Paternoster to the fullest, you need about 3 weeks for this road trip through South Africa.
1. Cape Town
- Number of days to stay in Cape Town: between 1 and 5 days. If you haven't been to Cape Town before, you can easily spend 5 days to discover the highlights.
If you can't decide where or what to eat, visit Waterfront Foodmarket in Cape Town. There's a large range of food stands and they sell everything from bobotie over biltung. It's closed in the evening so go there for breakfast or lunch.
If you have more time, you can also drive to the Cape Wine Regions from Cape Town and visit some of the best wineries in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
Where to stay in Cape Town?
There are endless possiblities to stay in Cape Town and there are hotels in every price range. If you have no idea where to stay in Cape Town, you can try one of my personal favourites.
One & Only Cape Town
If you are looking for ultimate luxury in the center of Cape Town, this is where you should stay. The hotel is situated in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, overlooking the marina. There are many restaurants, bars and shops in walking distance and the Table Mountain is close to you. It's a safe neighbourhood, also after dark.
Tip: Ask a room at the back of the hotel; In front of the hotel are many screaming gulls.
Camps Bay Retreat
This luxury boutique hotel is a real hidden gem. It is a bit uphill between the forest and overlooking the ocean. It's a small walk to the beach but I am sure you don't feel like leaving the hotel. Enjoy the beautiful garden, swim in the pool or dive into the lake in the hotel's private nature reserve.
If you can't deside where to stay in Cape Town, I would definitely book Camps Bay retreat. It's my favourite hotel in Cape Town.
It's a 7 minute drive to the center of Cape Town.
Head South Lodge
Luxury boutique hotel in Green Point. Green Point is situated at the northern part of Cape Town, next to Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. It's a popular area with lots of restaurants and bars.
This 4 starred hotel has nice rooms, a small pool and a honesty bar; Very relaxed atmosphere.
If you are looking for a stay at the beach, I can highly recommend The Marly. This luxury hotel is recently (2019) refurbished and has very spacious rooms. Camps Bay beach, one of the most pictursque beaches in South Africa, is just across the street. There are many sidewalk restaurants and bars and it has a vibrant nightlife.
Tip: request a room at the back with mountain view. The Twelve Apostles mountain range looks fabulous.
Wedgeview Country House and Spa
If you prefer staying on the countryside, you might consider staying in Stellenbosch. It's only a short ride to Cape Town and you can take a day or 2 to taste some great wines.
Wedgeview Country House and Spa is a small luxury boutique hotel with nice rooms. They also have a superb family room with two separate bedrooms.
2. From Cape Town to Paternoster
- Distance from Cape Town to Paternoster: 160 km
- Time: 2 hours
- Take the entire day for this trip and visit the beautiful beaches at Milnerton, Blouberg and Melkbos, You can consider visiting one of the small nature reserves such as Koeberg, Blaauwberg or Jakkalsfontein.
- Number of days to stay: at least 3 days to discover Paternosters and the cosy towns like Langebaan, Darling and many others and to try as many restaurants as possible.
After your first days in the Western Cape of South Africa, head north towards the African West Coast for the start of your road trip. You follow the R27 and pass inviting settlements such as Milnerton, Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand. These last two locations will provide you with a phenomenal view over the Atlantic Ocean and the dunes. Make sure to at least make a stop at Bloubergstrand as you will enjoy an unbeatable view of Cape Town and Table Mountain.
Further along the R27 you will pass the silver domes of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, the only nuclear power plant in all of Africa.
And if it's almost time for lunch, it's best to take a small detour to Yzerfontein. (Turn left to the R315 and follow the signs to restaurant 'Strandkombuis'.) Yzerfontein is known for its large crayfish population. You absolutely have to taste this delicacy between December and April. If you are in Yzerfontein anyway, also visit !Khwa ttu village. There you can read all about the life of the bushmen.
South African crayfish or rock lobsters are not the little red crayfish we know in Belgium. The crayfish they catch in West Coast South Africa are comparable to our lobsters. They are slightly smaller because they live in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean (and not in a river) but are at least just as tasty.
At the start of the 20th century, there were so many rock lobsters here that the well-heeled class saw it as poor-people’s-food. Even the prisoners on Robben Island were fed lobster. Appreciation of the lobsters only surged after they became less available due to overfishing. Now it is even called the 'red gold from the sea'.
After lunch, continue your way to Paternoster, the first stop during your South African West Coast roadtrip.
Paternoster is a picturesque fishing village still characterised by small, white houses. Paternoster and the entire West Coast are gaining popularity quickly, and it is visible in the rapid expansion that is underway here. Fortunately, in Paternoster they value their authenticity and new houses can only be built in the same style as the current housing.
For foodies this is the most important stop on this road trip along South Africa's West Coast.
Where to stay in Paternoster?
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel
Another luxury boutique hotel with a panoramic view over Paternoster bay.
The rooms are decorated in natural colors. They used organic attributes and solar heating to be as eco-friendly as possible.
Their restaurant, Leeto, is one of the best restaurants in Paternoster.
Abalone House & Spa
Abalone House & Spa is a luxury boutique hotel. It is decorated in a luxurious bohemian style.
There is a small garden and pool. The roof terrace offers spectacular views over the ocean.
The Restaurant serves delicious food in a cozy atmosphere. Definitely our favourite place to stay Paternoster.
The beach is within 100 meters of this cosy B&B. They offer beautiful decorated rooms and they have a small pool.
There is no restaurant but that's no problem since Paternoster is a very small village with lots of restaurants.
Things to do in Paternoster
Restaurants in Paternoster
Kobus van de Merwe put Paternoster on the map in 2019. That is when his restaurant Wolfgat became the best restaurant in the world. This means that a visit is an absolute must during your South African West Coast roadtrip.
Please note however that you will need to make a reservation months in advance. If you haven't been able to get a table, try his bistro Oep ve Koep. Still no luck? Don't worry, There are so many great restaurants in Paternoster. And you can leave your Sunday best at home because you can enjoy dinner in your shorts at even the best restaurants in Paternoster.
Other Paternoster restaurants worth a visit:
- Noisy Oyster: very relaxed atmosphere. Starters, main courses and desserts are called 'Foreplay, intercourse and afterglow'. ofcourse you have to try the oysters.
- Gaaitjie Restaurant: white cottage on the beach, just besides Wolfgat. Serves mainly seafood and is one of the best restaurants in Paternoster.
- Voorstrandt: Restaurant on the beach. Easily recognisable as it is one of the only houses that isn't white. The view is spectacular and the food is nice. No fine dining but honest food.
- The Hungry Monk: you can find this restaurant next to the Crayfish Wharf. The view is amazing and so are the oysters.
- The Restaurant at Abalone House: fancy restaurant with a nice frontporch. They serve a superb pork belly and a yummie seafood pasta.
- Leeto: Modern restaurant at Strandloper Ocean Boutique hotel. Amazing view over the ocean and lots of seafood.
IMPORTANT: make reservations in advance as many restaurants are often fully booked!
Walk along the beach in Paternoster
Be sure to take a walk along the 10-kilometre coastline from Paternoster, and enjoy views of the turbulent Atlantic Ocean. This is an ideal way to shed those extra calories, after visiting the many restaurants in Paternoster.
You should definitely have a beer at the Panty Bar in Paternoster while on your South Africa's West Coast roadtrip. The Panty Bar is located at the Paternoster Hotel on St Augustine Road. This little bar once served as a prison.
In 1974 the owner Johan Carosini started collecting 'Honeymoon Panties'. In 1983, he had to remove all panties because someone had complained to the police because of these 'lewd practices'.
In the 1990s, the former owner's son restarted the collection. Nowadays, there is no space left on the ceiling or the walls. Panties in all colours and sizes and with the craziest messages hang over your head.
The Paternoster Hotel and Restaurant, which dates all the way back to 1863, is easily recognised by its red roof.
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
South of Paternoster, a 5 km dirt road will take you to the entrance of Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. This coastal strip consists of fynbos-covered dunes and is located on the westernmost tip of South Africa's West Coast.
If you like desolate landscapes, you can even stay here in one of the holiday homes.
Make your way straight through the park all the way to the Cape Columbine lighthouse.
The 1936 lighthouse was named after the English ship 'Columbine' which was shipwrecked here in 1829. It turned out to be the last manned lighthouse to be built in South Africa. It is still a manned lighthouse to this day.
The light can be seen from 60 km away and it is the first South African lighthouse that ships from Europe can see.
You can visit the lighthouse. A 97-step ladder will bring you to the top of this 15-metre high tower.
Travel along Tietiesbaai too, this is one of South Africa's most beautiful coastlines. Wild camping is allowed here, by the way. During the high season it is very busy here seemingly, but we had the whole reserve to ourselves. The nature park is the most beautiful in spring (October-November) because then everything is in bloom and the park looks like one big flower carpet.
West Coast National Park
Between Cape Town and Paternoster in South Africa lies the beautiful West Coast National Park with the azure Langebaan Lagoon. So be sure to bring your swimming gear to take a refreshing dip here. In some places you can also go fishing, sailing, kitesurfing,....
The park is located along the Langebaan Lagoon, it is 3,200 hectares in size and is bordered by white sand dunes overgrown with fynbos. A large part of the park consists of wetlands making it a favourite habitat for countless bird species. In Augusts thousands of waterbirds from Siberia arrive. When they return to Siberia they gained twice their weight beause the lagoon is rich in nutrients. There is a small chance you may also see a zebra, giraffe, buffalo, bontebok, or gemsbok. And if you're very lucky, you might even spot a caracal.
The park also features a number of magnificent vantage points such as:
- Atlantic Viewpoint: On a clear day you can see Table Mountain from here
- Seeberg Viewpoint: From here you can enjoy an amazing view of the azure lagoon.
Cyclists and walkers will enjoy their time here. There are a few nice hiking and mountain bike trails.
In August and September you van walk the Postberg Wildflower Trail. It's only open during flower season. Only twelve people are allowed to walk at a time, which gives it a real wilderness feeling just an hour from Cape Town. It's one of the best kept secrets of South Africa. It's a 2 day walk and you have to bring your own gear but there are toilets and braais (BBQ).
Shelters from where you can observe birds are placed along the routes.
Some other sights in South Africa's West Coast National Park:
- Postberg Section: this part of the park is only open in August and September when it is full of flowers.
- Tsaarsbank: A fantastic picnic and braai (BBQ) site right by the ocean. From August to October, you can spot whales from here.
- Kraalbaai: Beautiful location for a picnic by the lagoon.
- Geelbek Visitors Centre: Here you will find a replica of Eve's footprints. The footprints were discovered in Kraalbaai in 1995. They are thought to be left by a young woman who lived about 117,000 years ago. The original footprints can be viewed at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town. The Geelbek restaurant will be happy to serve you some lunch. The Cape Dutch building from 1860 that houses the restaurant is registered as a national monument.
In 1920, Geelbek had the largest wine cellar in the country even though they do not produce wine here. The governor kept his wines here.
If you are a bit short on time during your South Africa's West Coast roadtrip, then take the West Coast Gate on the R27. This panoramic route runs through the park. After 25 km you leave the park in Langebaan.
September to March: 7.00 am – 7.00 pm (last admission at 6.30 pm)
April to August: 7.00 am – 6.00 pm (last admission at 5.30 pm)
Daytrips from Paternoster to surrounding towns
.Langebaan is a small town with about 8,000 inhabitants. It is located on the Langebaan Lagoon and you can enjoy phenomenal views over the azure water from here. You can also access West Coast National Park from Langebaan.
The town is popular with fishermen and for water sports and, as it is only an hour from Cape Town, it is a popular destination for a weekend away.
In this relaxed environment, you can also spot the so-called 'slow five' during your trip along the South African West Coast: tortoises, whales, sand sharks, porcupines and dune mole-rats.
The West Coast Fossil Park is also located near Langebaan. It is the only fossil park in South Africa. Here you can view the only bear print found in Africa.
For a nice lunch on the beach you will have call into Die Strandloper. For a fixed price you can eat fresh grilled fish, mussels and more. Bring you own alcoholic beverages. On April 2019th 2020 a fire broke out (probably vandalism) and there was a lot of dammage; They start rebuilding the restaurant and hope to reopen soon.
Wine lovers do not necessarily have to visit the best wineries in Stellenbosch as you'll also find this nectar of the gods during your South African West Coast roadtrip. Due to its favourable location, the Groenekloof region is excellent for vineyards and farmers.
Some well-known wineries include Darling Cellars, Cloof, Groote Post, Oudepost Estate, and Ormonde Estate.
- Groote Post is fairly remote. You will have to go along a dirt road for many kilometres to get there, but along the way you'll enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding hills covered with grapevines. We visited Groote Post during the picking season and observed how the whole grapes are sorted and crushed, after which they are stored in large silos. The domain consists of three charming Cape Dutch houses. One serves as a residential house, the second as a production space and shop, and the third is in use as a restaurant.
- Ormonde is more towards the centre and has a beautiful country house. The garden features a tasting room and a small restaurant. Perfect for a pleasant lunch on the terrace.
.If you're more of a beer drinker, be sure to stop at Darling Brewery. Here they produce seasonal beers. The classics are Slow beer, BONE Crusher, Pixie Dust, and Rogue Pony. In the restaurant you can order the 'DB Flagship Flight'. You will then be served a sample glass of each beer. For lovers of fruity beers there is the 'Ladies Flight'.
If you like to make a short stop for a safari during your South African West Coast roadtrip you might consider Buffelsfontein Game & Nature reserve. This former cattle farm was destroyed by a fire in 2000. The owner took the opportunity to start all over again. He improved buildings, constructed roads, fences and introduced new wildlife such as zebra, lions, cheetah, buffalo and rhino.
3. From Paternoster to Citrusdal
- Distance from Paternoster to Citrusdal: 150 km
- Time: 1h 40minutes
- When you are traveling between August and October you can enjoy the endless sea of flowers in Namaqualand
- Number of days to stay: at least one. If you like to go hiking in The Cederberg conservancy, you need more time.
Citrusdal is a cosy little town at the banks of Olifantsriver, close to Cederberg. It's surrounded by Koue Bokkeveld and Swartberg mountains. It's famous for its citrus trees and rooibos tea. They harvest about 90.000 tons of citrus fruits annually.
The oldest orange tree in South Africa is 250 years old and seen as a national monument. It's supposed to be at Hexrivier Farm. We've been looking for it and asked everyone we passed for information. Only one person ever heard of the tree and we never found. Please keep us posted in case you may find it during your road trip in South Africa.
If you like hiking or mountainering, you will love the Cederberg Conservancy. It's an otherworldly landscape full of sandstone figures and arches. You can go hiking to the Maltese Cross, a tower-like rock on top of the mountain. The hike takes about 3 hours. You need a Cape Nature permit to enter the area but it seems worth the cost because you will be rewarden with fantastic vistas. Another populair hike is the trail to Wolfberg Arch.
During our visit in February it was far too hot to go hiking. As there was also a hike to some refreshing waterfalls we decided to go over there but it took us 3 hours in the burning sun to get there.
Visit the Stadsaal Caves, a labyrint of caves, with it's !Xan (SAN) rock art. Tere is famous rock painting of an elephant. The painting is very colourful and it looks like it is painted recently but experts believe it is at least 1000 years old. The legend sais that the paintings were drawn by Khoisan shamans. v It's only a shart walk from the car park to the caves. You also need a Cape Nature permit to enter the area.
Wine enthousiasts should definitely visit Cederberg wines.
Where to stay in Citrusdal?
This charming guesthouse houses in a restored farm. It has si individually decorated rooms. It has an infinity pool with amazing views.
There are self-catering options but you can also eat in the restaurant that only uses fresh, local ingredients. They serve traditional African dishes.
You can buy fresh fruit, vegetables, sourdough loaf and many more in the farmstall.
The tasting room offers NieuwBrew Craft Beer, carmien Rooibos tea, Craft Gin and Piekenierskloof wine tastings.
4. from Citrusdal to Springbok
- Distance from Citrusdal to Springbok: 400 km
- Time: 3.5 hours
- Number of days to stay: 1
Springbok is the largest town in Namaqualand. It doesn't have much to offer but it's a traditional stop on the way to Namibia. But it's worth a stop and stay in Sperrgebiet Lodge. Thy offer 4 self catering lodges in the middle of knowhere. You have never seen such an enchanting starry sky.
5. From Springbok to Kakamas
- Distance from Springbok to Kakamas: 300 km
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Number of days to stay: 2
Kakamas is close to National Park Augrabies near the Namibian boarder.
Where to stay in Kakamas?
This luxury guesthouse is situated in the Orange River Valley and is surrounded by vineyards and farms.
From here you can visit Augrabies National Park, the Kalahari, a part of the West Coast and even Namibia (make sure it's permitted to cross the border with your rental car).
Augrabies Falls National Park
The last National Park on your road trip South Africa comes is called 'Aukoerebis' or 'place of great noise' by the local Khoi-tribe. The Orange River, South Africa's longest river, forms a spectacular, 60 meters high, waterfall. The waterfall is most impressive at the end of summer (march/april). The river carries 400 million liters of water per second at that time and the sound is deafening. Augrabies Falls is one of the biggest wateralls in the world.
The falls are located in the largest granite gorge in the world. It's 240 meters deep and 18 kilometers long.
Thanks to the extreme ecosystem you can find unique animals and plants in Augrabies Falls National Park.
You can follow several wooden paths that lead to lookouts with spectacular views.
TIP: you need a 4x4 to explore the park.
6. From Kakamas to Uppington
- Distance from Kakamas to Springbok: 100 km
- Time: 1 hour
- Number of days to stay: 1
As Uppington is not far from Kakamas you can also choose to skip a stay in Kakamas and book a few nights in Uppington.
Uppington is the hottest place in South Africa. It's a very dry area but the soil is fertile and a lot of crops like vegetables, grain en fruits grown on the watered fields. The area is famous for its grapes and raisins.
It's the gate to the Kalahari dessert so if you have more time you can travel towards Namibia from here.
If your West Coast South Africa trip ends here, you can fly from Uppington to Cape Town or Johannesburg.
Where to stay in Uppington?
River Place Manor
This luxury boutique hotel is situated on the banks of Orange River. It offers spacious rooms and a nice swimmingpool on the banks of the river.
The airport is only 6 km away and the hotel offers a free airport shuttle service.
Enjoy the spectacular views when you fly from Upington to Cape Town.
South Africa Road Trip Planner
Follow our West Coast South Africa Road Trip on the map below.
West Coast South Africa Road Trip in a nutshell:
- Cape Town: 1 to 5 days. Highlights: Table Mountain, tour of the Cape Peninsula, Robben Island,....
- Cape Town to Paternoster: 160 km 3 days or more Highlights: Food Food Food, Cape Columbine Nature reserve, West Coast National Park
- Paternoster to Citrusdal: 150 km: 1 or 2 days: Highlights: Cederberg Conservancy
- Citrusdal to Springbok: 400 km. 1 day Highlights: starry sky
- Springbok to Kakamas: 300 km. 2 days Highlights: Augrabies Falls National Park
- Kakamas to Uppington: 100 km. 1 day
I would suggest to spend 14 days to enjoy this magnificant, unspoiled part of South Africa to the fullest.
If you have more time, I can suggest the following extensions:
- Extend your road trip and drive through the Kalahari to Namibia
- Fly to Cape Town and take another South African road trip along the Garden Route.
- Fly to Cape Town for a safari in one of the private game reserves near Cape Town
- Fly to Johannesburg to discover the Panorama route and to go on a safari near Johannesburg
Is it safe to road trip in South Africa?
South Africa is my favourite destination but I can't denie there is a lot of criminal activity going on. Yet, renting a car and discovering the country at your own pace is the best way to travel through South Africa.
Take the following into consideration:
- Don't stop for anyone, no matter how friendly he or she looks.
- Use an ATM at the airport or in shopping malls. Make sure someone keeps an eye on the surroundings.
- Keep your valuables out of sight
- Keep your doors locked at any time
- Keep your windows up
- Pay 'parking attendants'. At most car parks people will offer you to watch your car. Ofcourse they are not real parking attendants but if you are polite to them and tell them it's ok, they will make sure your car is safe. When you return they ask for a tip. Pay them about 5 ZAR.
- If you have an accident, call the police and don't get out of your car.
- Policeman are not allowed to accept payment of fine. If you are pulled over and the policeman tells you you have to pay, you can be sure it's a scam.
- If someone starts washing your windows at the traffic lights, point out they have to stop. They will ask money and can be very agressive.
- And the most important rule: never ever drive after dark.
Due to the many carjackings and robberies there is a South African law that says you can run a red light or stop sign at night if you don't feel safe.
But don't let this keep you from traveling. Use your common sense and I am sure you will be fine.
How much will a road trip to South Africa cost?
It's hard to say. It all depends on the length of your trip, the time of year and the accommodations of your choice.
A plane ticket in economy class (from Europe to South Africa) costs about 600 to 800 euro. If you find cheaper tickets you are lucky. If you want to travel during Christmas Holidays you will pay at least 1000 euro for the tickets.
Renting a mid range car will cost you about 250 euro for a week.
Can I drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town?
It's about 1200 km from Johannesburg to Cape Town and it takes at least 2 days to drive. It's not the most interesting part of South Africa so I would suggest to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
South Africa's Western Cape has so much to offer. The biggest advantage is the fact that it is (for now) far less touristy as other regions. The temperature is often slightly higher here than on the Cape. In the spring, the relatively arid environment is dotted with a gigantic sea of flowers and for gastronomes it is a mecca thanks to, among others, the amazing restaurants in Paternoster.
Are you considering a roadtrip along South Africa's West Coast?
Like it? Pin it!