Route 62 runs across South Africa. linking the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, providing a thin lane of black top that holds the promise of adventure and many hidden treasures. It’s not a journey that should be rushed, so roll down the windows, put a good song on the radio, and allow yourself a few days to meander through the mountains and mystery that make this one of the most memorable trips in Africa. Below are a few of the must-do things along the way.
J-Bay, as the locals call it, is famous for one thing: surfing. It’s home to the best right-hand surf break in the world, which means the town is filled with travelers looking to catch that perfect wave. If you know your point break from your beach break, grab a board and head out. If you want to learn, there are plenty of surf schools to get you up and running. Accommodation is easy to find and varies from the incredibly cheap to the luxuriously opulent. The town itself has imbibed the inner spirit of the surfer and moves at its own pace, so grab an ice cream and explore the many restaurants and bars. When you are done in the sea, you can try your hand at skydiving or riding a horse among the dunes.
The Route 62 is sold as the longest wine route in the world. While this sounds like a pat marketing pitch, it does not detract from the fact that there are some exquisite wines to be enjoyed by some of South Africa’s best winemakers. The Boplaas Winery makes fantastic Portuguese style table wines and award-winning pot stilled brandies. At the Montagu Winery, you can sample a delicious, fruity muscat and their highly-regarded Chenin Blanc. For a real treat, head to Herold Wines high in the Outeniqua mountains. Their restaurant offers wonderful views of the surrounding areas and their winemaker will personally take you through all their wines while you enjoy a scrumptious, rustic meal.
A must-do along the route are the Cango Caves just outside of Oudshoorn. The beautiful stalactites and stalagmites that make up the limestone formations in the cave are a wonder that will have you taking way too many photos. There are two different options to explore the caves: the heritage and adventure tours. The first is for anyone and offers the chance to see most of the highlights of this subterranean world. The second is for those who love crawling and tight spaces. The tours are led by knowledgeable, local guides who are well equipped to answer your every question on this twenty million year old cave system.
There are loads of farm stalls, bars, and restaurants to stop at along the way. One of the most famous of these is Ronnie’s Sex Shop. The story goes that one of Ronnie’s friends added the word sex to the sign outside his business as a prank. Instead of changing the sign back, he left it and Ronnie’s is now one of the most famous pubs in South Africa. Stopping for a burger and a beer is non-negotiable if you are driving down the Route 62. Insider tip: If you find you’ve had one too many to drive, book yourself a room at the Warmwaterberg Spa just down the road and soak the night away in their famous mineral hot spring pools.
Sometimes you just need to get out of the car and walk around, and luckily, there are loads of great hikes on Route 62. The famous Donkey Trail in Calitzdorp or the Bloupunt Trail in Montagu are both well-worth stretching your legs for, but one of the best places to hike is the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area. There’s some tough walking up mountain passes, but the views at the top are worth the effort. Added to this, you can walk through indigeonous forests and swim in mountain rivers. It is also one of the few hikes where you can camp anywhere you like.
The charm of the Karoo is the slow pace of life and the melting pot of people who find themselves thrown together. This mellow mix of artists, farmers, hippies, and artisans means that each small town has something different to offer. Picture perfect Montagu is surrounded by fruit farms and dotted with Victorian architecture and tree-lined streets. It is home to hot springs, rock climbing, and great wines. Nestled in the foothills of the langeberge, cozy Barrydale is a haven for artists, good food, and hikers. Further afield in Prince Albert, you can explore an historic watermill, take in a show at the art deco styled showroom, or wander out in the Karoo at night to do a little stargazing.
South Africa is famed for its game reserves, and the Route 62 offers plenty of opportunities to see an abundance of wildlife. Marvel at the Cape Zebra grazing in the fynbos or spot a leopard in the undergrowth at the Touwsberg Nature Reserve. If your budget allows, you can visit the Sanbona Reserve and see white lions, take a boat safari, or look at San rock art. For something a little different, you can stop at an ostrich farm in the town of Oudtshoorn and learn all about these stately creatures, buy ostrich eggs, and even try ostrich meat.