The Port Elizabeth to Cape Town drive is iconic and filled with incredible sights and towns.
From cosmopolitan cities with world-class amenities to stunning seascapes, hiking trails, wine routes, and mountain ranges, this corner of the world truly has something for everyone!
There’s nothing that screams summertime like coastal road trips! I recently drove from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town with Ford South Africa. We stopped along the way to deliver essential COVID-19 preventative equipment and gear to schools and healthcare facilities in rural areas.
This was a great way to make a difference, and demonstrate the “Can’t Help But Help” ethos of living the RangeHer life.
I’ve pinned some amazing places you must see while driving from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town.
Things to know before your road trip from PE to Cape Town
- Which province is Port Elizabeth: Eastern Cape
- Which province is Cape Town: Western Cape
- How long is the drive from Port Elizabeth from Cape Town: about 8hr 30 mins (via N2)
- Port Elizabeth to Cape Town driving: 750KM
The Perfect Port Elizabeth to Cape Town Road Trip Itinerary
We drove for 3 days and slept in Willowmore and Knysna.
Willowmore is a small town in the Karoo. It was established in 1874 after starting out as a trading center on the farm, The Willows. According to some, Willowmore was named after William Joseph, who occupied the farm “The Willows” on which the town was laid out.
Some fun things to do in Willowmore include visiting the 19th-century town hall used for film shows, amateur theatrical productions, soirées, wedding receptions, and funerals. You should also cross the iconic Red Bridge in Knysna Street, erected as a pedestrian bridge over the Noodsloot, and used by pedestrians when the stream was flooded.
Stop by Willowmore Railway Station and visit the Blackstones Powerstation, opened before Willowmore was connected to the national electricity grid in 1984 the town was supplied with electricity by its own power station known as the Blackstones. The six Lister Blackstone diesel generators were shipped from England and then came up by rail to Willowmore. The largest of these engines is still in working order.
Prince Alfreds Pass
Prince Alfred’s Pass (R339) is a road that links the Klein Karoo with the coast. It was built by Thomas Bain, between 1860 and 1867.
With four biomes on the pass, it provides a home to an abundance of indigenous fauna and flora. The road crosses the river 7 times while winding through the mountains. This spectacular 88km mountain pass is also the home of the Middle Keurbooms Conservancy.
It is the only mountain pass in South Africa where people live alongside the road and trade on the pass. It’s fairly difficult to drive with its gravel that’s full of hairpin bends. I don’t recommend driving at night time.
Knysna is situated in the heart of the Garden Route in South Africa. One of the most prominent landscape features in the Greater Knysna area is the Knysna Estuary or lagoon as commonly referred to. The lagoon is protected from the ocean by the Knysna Heads which are two rocky outcrops about 230 meters apart.
We also stopped at the Garden Route National Park to learn about the Ford Wildlife Foundation and Knysna Basin Project, focused on coastal system research – particularly how these systems change and how communities can and should live within these systems.
Interesting Knysna Seahorse Facts
- Knysna Seahorses are found only in the Knysna, Keurbooms, and Swartvlei estuaries on the south coast of South Africa.
- The first seahorse species to be classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.
- Males carry the babies in pregnancy.
- They are monogamous (involved with one person at a time).
- They are green to brown in color.
- Knysna Seahorses grow to about 12cm in length.
- They live at depths of 50cm to 8m, on sandy bottoms or around clumps of plants.
Swellendam is the third oldest town in South Africa, known for its Cape Dutch architecture, quaint restaurants, and boutiques. The town is located about 220Km from Cape Town.
A trip to Swellendam can include hiking, a wine tour, or fine dining. You can travel back in time at the Drostdy, or meet Faeries at Saluna’s Sanctuary.
If you’re wondering what to do in Swellendam in 48 hours, this guide will come in handy!
Ford South Africa invited me to Drives With a Mission! There were 4 trips with 4 groups: Pretoria to Cape Town, and back again.
My trip started with an early morning flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, where we hopped into the Ford Rangers and drove over three days to Cape Town. This was an all-girls trip, where we each got the chance to test drive the Ford Ranger, Raptor, and Wildtrack while delivering face shields, washbasins, soaps, and sanitizers to amazing communities around the country.
At each of the schools, the team donated two specially developed portable Flow-Bin handwashing stations, which comprise a 1 000-liter water tank plus stand, a built-in basin, and all of the necessary fittings. Additionally, 300 soap bars were provided for each station – with the handwashing facilities designed to improve personal hygiene amongst learners and help contain the spread of COVID-19.
Verdict: Ranger vs. Raptor vs. Wildtrack
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My favorite was the Ford Raptor. The FOX shocks absorbers and the tyres make driving on gravel roads feel like you’re floating. For me, the seats were more comfortable and luxurious compared to the Thunder and Wildtrack.
Drive from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town: My Tips!
Get on the road early and stick to daylight hours. Start your day at 4-5 am to beat the traffic and make. sure you’ve reached your resting stop by 7 pm to relax and prep for the next day.
Mapping out your journey, you’ll want to avoid congested roadways around busy holiday travel days and see what events are taking place at each stop along the way so you can allow some extra time.
Bring the necessary tech
Pack your car phone chargers, USB cables, and a GPS device. We had Walkie Talkies in our cars for this trip, and it came in handy!
Don’t go overboard on the junk ― your body will thank you. Pack some fruit, veggies, protein, and lots of water in a cooler bag with ice.
Keep it clean
Bring wet wipes, paper towels, and hand sanitizer, and keep a trash bag in the car.
Road Trip Emergency Kit
Bring a flashlight with extra batteries, a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, spare tire, and some first-aid essentials — antihistamine, pain reliever, bandages, and scissors — will be helpful should something go awry.
Plan your playlist in advance and add some amazing South African podcasts to the list!
More Road Trip Itineraries
Travel Insurance for South Africa
Use travel insurance while visiting South Africa so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in South Africa, and it’s best to have peace of mind while driving, hiking, and trying some of the best food in the world!
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance Review.
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