Summer twilight sky over Durban's city beachfront skyline
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Road trip from Cape Town to Durban

Published by Dianne Titos on January 31 2024

With its stunning landscapes, beautiful coastline and vibrant cities, South Africa is an amazing destination that has something to offer every traveller. You can visit where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, taste world-class wines at the cellar door, and try your luck spotting some of the Big Five on safari.

The 1,830 km road trip from Cape Town to Durban will take 24 hours to drive. You can visit Paarl, Prince Albert, Beersheba and Pietermaritzburg inland or follow the coast to visit Cape Agulhas, Bontebok National Park, Gqeberha and East London.

Durban, where your journey culminates, is a vibrant city known for its bustling beaches and cultural mix. Add on a road trip from Cape Town and you have a fantastic way to explore some of the highlights of South Africa. Read on to learn more about what awaits you on this epic adventure!

How to drive from Cape Town to Durban

The map below shows two great route options for your road trip from Cape Town to Durban. Click on the star icons for headline details, and scroll down for much more information below.

* Always remember that drive times can be impacted by traffic, closures, weather and other conditions. It's best to double-check while planning and before starting out on your trip.

Comparison of inland and coastal routes between Cape Town and Durban
RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Coastal Route (via Garden Route)1,850 km22 hours 35 minutes
The Drakensberg Route1,930 km25 hours

How far is Durban from Cape Town, and how long will the road trip take?

The quickest way to drive from Cape Town to Durban takes around 18 hours, but you'll miss out on some amazing sights if you just stick to the highway, so we've put together two great alternatives.

The Drakensberg Route from Cape Town to Durban takes about 25 hours to drive, covering a distance of 1,930 kilometres, but with its mountain landscapes and vineyard views, you'll hardly notice the additional distance.

If you'd prefer to take in some of South Africa's Atlantic scenery, the 1,850-kilometer Coastal Route is slightly quicker at 22 hours 35 minutes.

While you could complete either drive in about a day and a half, we'd definitely suggest taking your trip at a more leisurely pace and allowing yourself at least a week to explore some of the highlights of the beautiful Eastern Cape.

Durban North Beach waterfront
Whether you are looking to go beach-hopping on the East Coast or want to enjoy some city fun - Durban has it all!
MG Africa/Shutterstock.com

Best road trip route from Cape Town to Durban

Whether you travel inland or via the coast on your road trip from Cape Town to Durban, you'll be immersed in breathtaking experiences along the way.

As we've mentioned, the Drakensberg Route majors on South Africa's winelands and mountain views. As you leave Cape Town, you'll pass through Paarl, Worcester, and Montagu before reaching Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo, where stunning vineyards stretch out between lush green mountain slopes.

Your journey continues through the vast, rolling hills of the semi-desert Karoo before you enjoy the sweeping view from the top of the Swartberg Pass. Approaching Underberg, you'll also see the southern Drakensberg mountains and the spectacular Sani Pass.

As you might expect, the Coastal Route exchanges mountain passes for ocean lookouts. The route skirts the Atlantic Ocean at first as you head southeast from Cape Town, passing through picturesque coastal towns nestled between the sea and the hills.

After visiting the southernmost tip of the African continent at L'Agulhas, you'll join the famous Garden Route, which follows the coast of the Indian Ocean. With stunning beaches, vibrant coastal towns, and extensive tracts of temperate indigenous rainforests, this is one of the many highlights of the trip.

Continuing on towards Durban, you'll enter the Eastern Cape and the Transkei, the homeland of the Xhosa people. This rural area is dotted with traditional clay houses and roaming cattle.

You also have the option to take a detour along the Wild Coast and explore coastal towns like Cintsa and Coffee Bay before arriving at your destination, Durban.

Drakensberg Route

From your starting point in Cape Town, you'll begin by heading northeast towards Paarl, where you can visit the Afrikaans Language Monument. From here, it's a stunning drive through the mountains to reach Worcester.

Next, you will head towards Montagu, a town known for its preserved historical buildings. Carrying on along the R62, you'll be immersed in mile after mile of colourful countryside as far as Oudtshoorn before turning left to reach Prince Albert via the Swartberg Pass.

You can enjoy dramatic views across the rugged landscape of the high mountains from the Swartberg Pass, but the gravel road is narrow and has steep drop-offs.

For a more straightforward drive, you can also reach Prince Albert by making your way back to the N1 after visiting Montagu. From the N1, turn onto N407 and continue on the main route from Prince Albert.

The journey continues through Klaarstroom, De Rust and Willowmore before turning north towards Graaff-Reinet. If time allows, spend some time in Camdeboo National Park. Alternatively, you can make a short detour on the R58 to Aliwal North, known for its Anglo-Boer War Blockhouse.

Take the turn towards Faview to visit the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve, then return to the R56 and continue towards Underberg, a great base for exploring the Drakensberg mountain range, and continue on to Beersheba before arriving in Durban.

Lush greenery with the famous mountains in the background on a sunny day
You will get to admire the majestic landscape of the Drakensberg Mountains on this route to Durban.
TUX85/Shutterstock.com

Coastal Route (via the Garden Route)

Start your coastal adventure from Cape Town by heading towards Strand and then to the picturesque Groenlandberg Nature Reserve. You'll soon reach Hermanus - if you're lucky, you can spot majestic Southern Right Whales from the viewpoint here.

Further along the road you'll come across the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary near Gansbaai. The journey then takes you to the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

From here, make your way back to the N2 at Swellendam, home to the Bontebok National Park. Continuing along the scenic route, you'll get the opportunity to visit the Point of Human Origins near Mossel Bay before hopping on the famous Garden Route.

Following Garden Route, you'll arrive in Knysna and then a short drive will take you to Plettenberg Bay and the Robberg Peninsula. Continuing along the Garden Route, you'll reach Jeffreys Bay before arriving in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).

Next, the route takes you through Port Alfred and East London, where the Ann Bryant Art Gallery showcases South African Art, on the way to Port Shepstone. From here you'll take the final stretch of the N2, which follows the coast to your destination, Durban.

Beautiful view of the ocean from the top of the cliffs on the Garden Route
The Garden Route will take you through stunning coastal views such as the vistas of Robberg Nature Reserve.
Codegoni Daniele/Shutterstock.com

Best places to stop between Cape Town and Durban

With so many kilometers to cover and so much to see along the way on a Cape Town to Durban road trip, you're going to need to make a few overnight stops along the way. Here are some of our top picks to get you started with your planning.

Soak in the artistic atmosphere of Prince Albert

Right in the heart of the Karoo, Prince Albert is a fabulous place to spend a night or two if you're travelling on the Drakensberg Route, approximately six hours into your journey from Cape Town.

Surrounded by unforgettable landscapes, Prince Albert is dotted with artsy charm and an array of quaint coffee shops. It's a hub for local produce, so make sure you get a taste of the region's fresh and dried fruits, olives, and homemade cheeses while you're in town.

Aerial photo of the charming town with hills in the background on a cloudy day
Prince Albert is a charming town nestled in the mountains.
MD_Photography/Shutterstock.com

One of the highlights of Prince Albert is the Fransie Pienaar Museum, which captures the town's rich cultural and historical heritage.

Why not take a ghost tour for a more spine-tingling glimpse into the town's mysterious past? Prince Albert is rumoured to be the most haunted town in the Karoo, with at least ten resident ghosts. One is even said to haunt the nearby Swartberg Pass!

Combining old-fashioned elegance with modern style and comfort, De Bergkant Lodge offers an exquisite retreat in the town's centre. Set amidst stunning gardens, guests can indulge in one of three year-round outdoor swimming pools.

The lodge also features a cosy shared lounge and an inviting on-site bar, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.

De Bergkant Lodge is ideally located for visiting attractions in Prince Albert as well as exploring the surrounding area. The Showroom Theatre, a hub for the arts and entertainment, is just a 600-meter stroll away. For nature enthusiasts, the start of the Gordon Koppie walking trail is nearby too.

Admire the views of Algoa Bay in Gqeberha

Gqeberha, the largest city in the Eastern Cape, is an ideal stopover along the Coastal Route. It's just under halfway along the route, about 10 hours and 45 minutes into your drive from Cape Town. This beautiful city is famous for its long, beautiful beaches and the warm hospitality of its residents.

Gqeberha was known for many years as Port Elizabeth and became a significant port city. It played a pivotal role for ships travelling the Cape Route to India and is still famed for its rich history and cultural vibrancy.

Port Elizabeth's pier also known as Gqeberha, South Africa during sunset
Gqeberha played an important role as a port city and was known as Port Elizabeth in the past.
June Muks/Shutterstock.com

There's plenty to see and do in Gqeberha, especially if you want to delve into the city's history. The Donkin Heritage Trail lets you trace the city's past through an immersive historical experience. When you're ready for some relaxation and beach activities, head to picturesque Sardinia Bay Beach.

For your stay in Gqeberha, the Mantis No5 Boutique Art Hotel in Summerstrand is an amazing choice. The modern and stylish hotel boasts luxurious suites with private balconies overlooking lush gardens. You can also relax by the outdoor swimming pool or book a treatment at the spa.

Mantis No5 Boutique Art Hotel is just 100 metres from Kings Beach. Known for its golden sands and inviting waters, you'll have easy access to a day of sun and surf. Additionally, Bayworld, approximately one kilometre away, combines a museum, an oceanarium, and a snake park.

Where to stay when you reach Durban

Durban, affectionately known as “South Africa's playground,” is celebrated for its consistently warm weather and vibrant, diverse culture. Influenced by the warm Indian Ocean and the sunny climate, it's a year-round destination for holidaymakers.

The Golden Mile offers a stretch of golden beaches, while the Durban Natural Science Museum provides intriguing insights into the natural world.

A sign made out of sand the reads
Once you reach Durban, it is time to let your hair down and hit the beach!
mezzotint/Shutterstock.com

A fascinating aspect of Durban is its large Indian community, the biggest outside of India. Historically, Durban played a significant role in Mahatma Gandhi's political journey. This cultural blend is evident in local favourites like "Bunny Chow," a unique dish that symbolizes Durban's culinary fusion.

The Oyster Box is our favourite place to stay in Durban. This luxurious 5-star hotel boasts a stellar location overlooking the Indian Ocean and the iconic Umhlanga Lighthouse.

You can choose from beautifully decorated rooms, some of which feature a private patio and plunge pool, providing an intimate and serene experience.

The hotel's dining options are a highlight, with a restaurant offering a terrace overlooking the ocean. Known for its delicious seafood and diverse menu, we highly recommend reserving a table at this restaurant.

The Oyster Box also features two swimming pools and a fabulous spa, ensuring guests can unwind in style and comfort.

Things to see on a road trip from Cape Town to Durban

Whether you travel inland or via the coast, there's so much to see and do along the way that you'll be spoilt for choice when you take your road trip from Cape Town to Durban.

Here are some of our top picks - make sure you plan a long enough trip to enjoy as many as possible!

Drakensberg Route

  1. Afrikaans Language Monument, Paarl - This unique monument celebrates the Afrikaans language and its cultural history, featuring an intriguing architectural design set against the picturesque backdrop of Paarl's landscape.
  2. Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens, Worcester - This botanical garden specializes in the conservation of rare and endangered desert and semi-desert plants, offering a unique glimpse into South Africa's arid flora.
  3. Joubert House, Montagu - The oldest dwelling in Montagu now serves as a museum showcasing 19th-century rural life, complete with period furniture and a medicinal herb garden.
  4. Swartberg Pass - This dramatic mountain pass is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers breathtaking views. It can be a challenging drive, but it's worth it to explore the rugged beauty of the Western Cape's landscape.
  5. Fransie Pienaar Museum, Prince Albert - Located in the quaint town of Prince Albert, this museum houses a rich collection of local artifacts, showcasing the cultural and natural history of the region.
  6. Meiringspoort Waterfall - Nestled within a deep gorge, this stunning waterfall is a highlight of Meiringspoort. You can swim here among the picturesque scenery.
  7. Graaff-Reinet Museum - This museum, a highlight of one of South Africa's oldest towns, displays historical exhibits that capture the essence of the Karoo and its cultural heritage.
  8. Camdeboo National Park - Surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet, the diverse landscapes in this national park range are home to many species of animals and birds. The stark Valley of Desolation is a particularly memorable highlight.
  9. Anglo-Boer War Blockhouse, Aliwal North - This well-preserved blockhouse is a remnant of the Anglo-Boer War, offering a glimpse into the military history of the region.
  10. Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve - A short detour leads to this serene nature reserve, known for its rugged mountainous terrain and opportunities for hiking and bird watching.
  11. Reichenau Mission, Beersheba - This historic mission station in Beersheba, founded by German missionaries, reflects a unique blend of cultural and religious history in a peaceful rural setting.
  12. KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg - This museum is a treasure trove of natural and cultural history, with exhibits ranging from dinosaur fossils to Zulu heritage.
Large male Kudu with big spiral horns in the bush
Visit Camdeboo National Park on the Drakensberg Route to see some fascinating animals in person.
Cheryl Mitchell/Shutterstock.com

Coastal Route

  1. Groenlandberg Nature Reserve - This reserve, near Elgin, offers a tranquil escape with its lush fynbos landscapes, diverse flora, and fauna, and opportunities for hiking and bird watching.
  2. Hermanus Whale Watching View Point - Hermanus is renowned for its spectacular whale watching, with viewpoints along the coast offering prime spots to observe Southern Right Whales during their breeding season.
  3. African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary - Located near Gansbaai, this sanctuary is dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured or ill African Penguins and other seabirds, promoting conservation through education and research.
  4. Cape Agulhas - As the southernmost point of the African continent, Cape Agulhas is a significant geographical landmark where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, marked by a historic lighthouse.
  5. Bontebok National Park - Situated near Swellendam, this park is home to the rare Bontebok antelope. Enjoy a quiet moment for bird watching or follow one of the peaceful hiking trails through its pristine landscape.
  6. Point of Human Origins - Near Mossel Bay, this archaeological site offers insights into early human behavior and evolution, with guided tours exploring ancient caves and fossil records.
  7. Montagu Pass - This historic gravel pass near George, built in the 19th century, winds through scenic mountain terrain, offering panoramic views and a glimpse into the region's transportation history.
  8. The Heads, Knysna - These dramatic sandstone cliffs guard the entrance to the Knysna Lagoon, offering stunning views and a challenging navigation channel for boats.
  9. Robberg Peninsula, Plettenberg Bay - Look out for seals, dolphins, and whales when you take a walk through this beautiful natural reserve. There are archaeological sites to explore too.
  10. Main Beach, Jeffreys Bay - Renowned for its world-class surfing waves, Jeffreys Bay's Main Beach is a popular destination for surfers and beachgoers alike, boasting beautiful sandy shores.
  11. Donkin Reserve, Pyramid and Lighthouse, Gqeberha - This historic and scenic landmark in Gqeberha features a pyramid monument and a lighthouse, with panoramic city and ocean views.
  12. Addo Elephant National Park - Famous for its elephant population, this park near Port Elizabeth offers a chance to see a diverse range of wildlife in their natural habitat, including the Big Five.
  13. Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London - Housed in a historic Edwardian building, this gallery showcases a collection of contemporary South African art, reflecting the country's diverse artistic landscape.
  14. Wild 5 Adventures, Port Shepstone - For the thrill-seekers, Wild 5 Adventures in Port Shepstone offers exhilarating activities like bungee jumping, abseiling, and zip-lining, set against the backdrop of the stunning Oribi Gorge.
Famous lighthouse seen in the distance, with standing rocks on the shore in focus
Visit the beautiful Cape Agulhas to see the southernmost point of Africa, and of course, endless waterfront views!
Chris Jooste/Shutterstock.com

Best time to go on a road trip from Cape Town to Durban

Durban's fabulous climate makes it a great place to visit all year round. However, the experience of your road trip from Cape Town to Durban can vary significantly depending on the season you choose to travel.

Spring in Durban is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 20-25 degrees Celsius. This season is ideal for exploring the city's outdoor attractions like The Golden Mile and the Durban Natural Science Museum.

For those taking the Drakensberg Route, the Montagu Makiti Festival in September offers a cultural feast. The driving conditions are generally good, with lower tourist traffic. However, if you're venturing into the Drakensberg, be mindful of sudden weather changes.

Summer sees Durban bustling with holiday-makers, especially during Christmas and New Year when beaches are packed. The city experiences hot and humid conditions, with temperatures between 25-30 degrees Celsius.

If you're on the Coastal Route, expect traffic jams and thick tourist crowds, especially around urban centres like the Garden Route. The KZN Theatre Festival in February and the Mandela Bay Arts Festival in Gqeberha offer vibrant cultural experiences.

Autumn offers warm and mild weather in Durban, with temperatures around 18-23 degrees Celsius. This time of the year is perfect for those seeking a quieter experience as the tourist crowds thin out.

If you're travelling on the Drakensberg Route, consider timing your trip to coincide with the Journey to Jazz Festival in Prince Albert in May.

Winter in Durban is mild, with daytime temperatures hovering around 15-20 degrees Celsius, making it an ideal time for those who prefer cooler weather. The Knysna Oyster Festival in June on the Coastal Route is a highlight, offering delicious local cuisine and lively festivities.