Explore the wide-open space of the Cape Karoo and all its magic. This 4-Day Itinerary will take you through the essential and must-see spots of the region.
Pitstop Padkos at Diesel & Creme
You could opt to drive straight up the N1 and head into the Karoo via De Doorns and the Hex River Valley. However, if you’d rather take a scenic route, make your way through the Montague Pass and take the R62 to Barrydale.
Stop for a decadent milkshake at the eclectic Diesel & Crème vintage diner, before continuing along the R62. You’ll pass Ronnies Sex Shop, travel through Ladismith and turn left onto the R323 when you reach Zoar.
This will take you through the Seweweekspoort, where towering rock flanks the pass that lures cyclists, motorists, bikers and hikers in trickles proportional to the vast, sparsely-populated region. Don’t be surprised if you don’t pass another vehicle on the winding dirt roads.
Lunch and drinks at Overlander Bush Pub
After you exit the pass, continue on the R323 for about 20 minutes and keep an eye out for the Overlander Bush Pub at Porcupines Rest Camp on the left. Catering is done by prior arrangement, so make sure to contact them with your order well ahead of time. Pizzas come highly recommended and the burgers are also tasty. From here it’s a short drive to Anysberg Nature Reserve.
Overnight at Anysberg Nature Reserve
This Cape Nature wilderness area will give you a true sense of being in a remote, semi-desert location. Although a 4x4 is not necessary, it’s advisable to have a high-clearance vehicle for the drive from the gate to reception that crosses a dry riverbed with a fairly steep ascent.
Once you’ve set up camp or have settled into your cottage, opt for a dip in the swimming dam or a guided horse ride in the late afternoon. From your perch on a plodding equine, you can watch the colours change over the Karoo veld and surrounding mountains, as you keep an eye out for eland and other antelope.
The night sky is exceptional here with stars so brilliant, you’ll want to try your hand at astrophotography.
From Anysberg, drive into Laingsburg where you can grab some breakfast (or one of Tannie Poppie’s famous roosterkoek) and stop at the Flood Museum. Here you’ll find photos and information about the flood that wreaked havoc on the town on 25 January 1981, killing over 100 people and destroying ninety percent of its houses. Once you’re ready to move one, take the N1 to Prince Albert.
Lunch at African Relish, Prince Albert
Enjoy a stroll down the main road with its curated spaces and the well-known Art Deco theatre, The Showroom, before stopping for lunch.
African Relish is a few notches above your average Karoo dorp eatery. The restaurant and cookery school may surprise you with its fare, which includes vegan options. You can enquire about menu updates, however, expect to find selections of woodfired pizzas, pulled leg of lamb with relishes and dips, soup and a variety of interesting salads, such as grilled fig and quinoa. African Relish offers cooking classes if you are interested and if there’s time you can visit the Fransie Pienaar Museum, where you’ll discover more about the town’s history.
Overnight at Roam Private Game Reserve
This 5000-hectare private game reserve (situated between Prince Albert and Beaufort West) allows you to enjoy game drives and walks, as well as cheetah tracking on foot. What was once a sheep farm has been rewilded and is now home to giraffe, kudu, gemsbok, zebra, buffalo, eland, springbuck, bat-eared fox, aardvark, meerkat and cheetah.
Spend the night at Roam Guest Lodge and enjoy delicious meals prepared by the resident chef or stay at the Explorer’s Camp and sit around a campfire beneath the spectacular night sky, with the Milky Way and a number of constellations clearly visible.
If you did a game walk or cheetah tracking the previous evening, opt for a game drive before breakfast and a dip in the Guest Lodge pool before departing.
Head back to the N1 and drive to the historic little town and National Heritage Site of Matjiesfontein. After checking in to the Lord Milner Hotel, walk the length of the town’s short main road and inspect the Victorian buildings before popping into the gift shop.
Lunch Laird’s Arms
Enjoy a G&T and a pub lunch at the Laird’s Arms or if you prefer, a light lunch and something sweet at The Coffee House (located in what was once Logan’s General Store). You may want to lounge at the pool before hopping onto the old red bus at 5:30pm for ‘the world’s shortest tour’. Johnny Theunissen will share some interesting facts about the village as you rumble down the road, across the spot where South Africa’s first international cricket match took place and back.
Overnight at Lord Milner Hotel, Matjiesfontein
The Scottish-born founder of Matjiesfontein, James Logan, established the village as a Victorian health spa in 1884. The hotel was built in 1899 and served as a military hospital during the Anglo-Boer War with the hotel turret used as a lookout post. Soon this village became the headquarters of the Cape Command with about 10 000 troops camped nearby.
Among the famous visitors during its heyday as a resort were Lord Randolph Churchill (Winston Churchill's father) and Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book.
The comfortable three-star hotel comes with more than a century of history and an obligatory ghost story. Dinner is served in the hotel restaurant with a firm favourite being Karoo lamb followed by malva pudding.
Breakfast in the hotel dining room includes traditional hot English breakfast options and an array of pastries, fruit salad, muesli and yoghurt. Before checking out, you may want to visit the vintage car museum or admire the bright pink church opposite. A three-hour drive from Matjiesfontein, through the Hex River Valley and the Huguenot Tunnel will take you back to Cape Town.