Fiery sunset behind the city's skyline, photo taken from a nearby hill
Sunshine Seeds/

Road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg

Published by Dianne Titos on January 16 2024

Famous for the Garden Route and breathtaking ocean views, South Africa's coast is the perfect place to start an unforgettable road trip. This journey from Cape Town to Johannesburg will take you from stunning beaches to rugged mountains through beautiful small towns and epic national parks.

The 1,400 km road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg will take 15 hours to drive. On the way, you can visit Beaufort West, Bloemfontein, Clarens, Mossel Bay, Gqeberha, Cradock, Jeffreys Bay as well as Addo Elephant and Mountain Zebra National Parks.

This drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg is the adventure lifetime, full of beauty and adventure around every corner. Continue on below to learn more about our recommended routes, top highlights, the best places to stay, and the best seasons to travel.

How to drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg

The map below shows two great route options for your road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg. 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 road trip routes between Cape Town and Johannesburg
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Direct Route1,400 kilometres15 hours
Garden Route1,890 kilometres21 hours 30 minutes

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

There are two wonderful routes that will bring you from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Both are full of must-see highlights and beautiful stops along the way.

The Direct Route covers a total distance of 1,400 kilometres and takes approximately 15 hours to complete.

Alternatively, the scenic Garden Route, though longer, is a stunningly scenic option. This route spans 1,890 kilometres and requires around 21 hours and 30 minutes of driving time.

Though you can complete these routes in 4 to 5 days, their rich landscapes and attractions require a leisurely pace. We recommend spending several days to a week to fully appreciate the beauty and diversity each route offers.

The skyline of Sandton district of the city with a pink sunset, full moon in the background
Johannesburg is an urban metropolis and has a different atmosphere than the laid-back coastal vibes of Cape Town.

Best road trip route from Cape Town to Johannesburg

While both routes offer unique experiences through South Africa's diverse landscapes, which one you choose depends on what you want to see the most and how much time you have to dedicate to this drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

The Direct Route takes you straight through the Cape Winelands district, offering breathtaking mountain vistas, nature trails, and charming artsy towns. Here, you can indulge in some of the world's finest wines.

The journey continues through the semi-desert Karoo, famous for its beautiful and rugged landscapes. Then, you'll travel through the vast farmlands of the Free State province, known as 'South Africa's bread basket.'

You'll also see historical towns like Beaufort West and Bloemfontein. These places are famous for their classic architecture.

On the other hand, the Garden Route takes you along the coast, starting from Mossel Bay and extending to Jeffreys Bay. You'll see lush forests, stunning lagoons, and majestic mountain ranges, offering abundant adventure opportunities.

The route's small, welcoming coastal towns have trendy restaurants and live music venues and plenty of natural highlights. This route also features renowned wildlife reserves like Addo Elephant National Park and Mountain Zebra National Park.

A unique highlight is the chance to visit Lesotho, where you might be able to enter visa, depending on your nationality, to experience the culture of this landlocked mountainous nation known for its friendly and welcoming people.

Direct Route

Begin your journey on the Direct Route from Cape Town, heading northeast along the N1. Your first major waypoint is the historic town of Paarl, home to the Afrikaans Language Monument, nestled in the Cape Winelands.

Continuing on the N1, you'll get a change to visit the scenic Haweqwa Nature Reserve before reaching Worcester, another gateway to the Winelands.

The route then takes you into the heart of the Karoo, a semi-desert natural region. Here, you can visit Matjiesfontein and its Marie Rawdon Museum, and then the quaint town of Prince Albert, where the Fransie Pienaar Museum awaits (a short detour off the N1).

Rejoining the N1, you'll pass through Beaufort West, where you can explore the Beaufort West Museum. Your journey continues through the Karoo and the Karoo National Park, offering stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife.

Further along, you'll encounter the Three Sisters rock formations, an iconic landmark in the region.

As you continue east, the road takes you to the impressive Gariep Dam, a significant engineering feat. Your next major city is Bloemfontein, where you can pay a visit to the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, which showcases South African art.

The journey's last stretch takes you through the Free State province, passing through small towns like Winburg and Kroonstad. An optional detour leads to the Vredefort Dome, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world's largest verified impact crater, before reaching Johannesburg.

Graven road cutting through desert with mountains in the distance on a sunny day
You will drive through impressive desert views through Karoo National Park if you are following the Direct Route.
Jeremy Richards/

Garden Route

Your adventure on the Garden Route option begins heading east along the N2 highway, a major route traversing South Africa's coast. The first notable stop is the Groenlandberg Nature Reserve, offering stunning views and diverse flora.

Continue on the N2 to Swellendam, the gateway to the Bontebok National Park, known for its namesake antelope and rich biodiversity. Moving along the coast, you'll reach Mossel Bay, where the Point of Human Origins offers a glimpse into early human history.

From here, the route hugs the coastline, offering spectacular ocean views. Further along the coast, the Robberg Peninsula near Plettenberg Bay presents a stunning hike with breathtaking ocean vistas.

The N2 continues to wind through the lush landscapes, leading you to Nature's Valley, a hidden gem with serene beaches and forest trails.

Further east, you'll encounter the Seal Point Lighthouse at Cape St Francis, a picturesque spot for a break. Another coastal highlight is Jeffreys Bay, famous for its surfing opportunities.

You will soon start heading inland past Gqeberha, and visit two majestic national parks - Addo Elephant National Park, known for its elephant herds, and Mountain Zebra National Park, home to the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra.

A unique feature of this route is the opportunity to detour into Lesotho to see Lion Rock Mountain in Maseru, if you are exempt from visa requirements or have the necessary documentation with you.

Rejoining R26, you'll head towards Clarens, a charming town near the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, with its sandstone formations and scenic drives.

Your drive ends as you reach Johannesburg, but not before stopping at the Bethlehem Museum, showcasing the rich history of the Free State province.

Karoo National Park, South Africa with Cape Mountain Zebra.
Mountain Zebra National Park is home to the beautiful Cape Mountain Zebra, and you can spot one or two during your visit here on the Garden Route, if you are lucky!
Michael Potter11/

Best places to stop between Cape Town and Johannesburg

There are several must-see stops on this road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Below are our favourite places to rest up and explore.

Visit to the beautiful city of roses in Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein, known as the 'City of Roses', is an ideal overnight stop on the Direct Route, approximately 11 hours and 20 minutes into your journey. Despite being the largest city in central South Africa, Bloemfontein has a friendly, small-town vibe.

Did you know that Bloemfontein's name means “flower fountain”? This is because of the roses growing in the town and its famous annual rose festival.

Bloemfontein, South Africa taken at the Women's Memorial and horse rider statue overlooking the city on a clear sunny day.
Bloemfontein is a historic city with many museums to explore and views to admire.
Grobler du Preez/

Rich in history, Bloemfontein has been the backdrop for many pivotal events in South Africa's past. The town has plenty of wonderful museums and historical sites, such as the Anglo-Boer War Museum.

Another cultural gem is the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, showcasing a diverse range of South African art. This is the perfect place to spend a nice afternoon indoors, maybe finding a new favorite South African artist to follow.

For your stay in Bloemfontein, we recommend the Royal Fischer Hotel, an elegant boutique hotel nestled in the Woodland Hills Wildlife Estate. Here, you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding in the surrounding nature reserve.

The hotel is also popular for its restaurant, with multiple-course breakfasts and dinners. After fueling up with a delicious meal in the morning, you can visit the Free State National Botanical Garden, just a short drive away.

Another nearby attraction is Gwenbali Waterworld, located around 6 km from the hotel, perfect for a fun-filled family day out.

Return to nature in Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is an excellent choice for an overnight stop on the Garden Route, located about 9 hours into the drive. The park is South Africa's third-largest game reserve, has large elephant herds and other African wildlife to marvel at.

At Addo Elephant National Park, you can enjoy a self-drive or take a guided tour to explore the diverse animal life. Another must-visit attraction nearby is the Alexandria Dune Field, showcasing impressive sand dunes.

African elephant herd, Loxodonta africana, of different ages walking away from water hole, Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
Be prepared to be fascinated by the amazing elephant herds of Addo Elephant National Park, where you can see these majestic creatures up close (from a safe distance!).

A fascinating aspect of the park is its diversity, which includes fynbos, karoo, grassland, and forest, as well as a marine protected area rich in coastal wildlife.

For your stay, we suggest Camp Figtree by the Oyster Collection, famous for its luxurious safari-style rooms that offer panoramic views of the Zuurberg Mountains or the beautiful garden. Each one also features a fabulous veranda.

The hotel specialises in organising tours of Addo Elephant National Park, and guests can also enjoy game walks and sundowner walks on the property.

Dining at Camp Figtree is an experience in itself, with guests treated to contemporary South African cuisine, bush picnics, and weekly dinners by the boma fireplace.

Nearby, about 10 km from the lodge, is the Addo Elephant Main Camp, providing access to the heart of the park. If you are looking for more adrenaline-pumping activities, the Adrenalin Addo Adventure Park is about 20 km away.

Where to stay when you reach Johannesburg

Johannesburg, nicknamed the "City of Gold", has been South Africa's commercial heart for over a century, thriving on mining, manufacturing, and finance. Today, it's also famous for its iconic skyline and arts and culture scene.

For a deep dive into the city's history, a visit to the Constitution Hill Human Rights Precinct is essential, providing insights into South Africa's journey towards democracy.

A beautiful fountain with golden springboks jumping over the water, photo taken on a sunny day
Johannesburg is called the "City of Gold" due to its mining heritage, and you can spot this proud heritage all around the city.
Nataly Reinch/

The Apartheid Museum is another must-visit, offering a powerful and moving experience that looks at the country's past.

For your stay in Joburg, the Giglio Boutique Hotel offers a luxurious retreat. This 5-star hotel is famous for its world-class service and elegantly decorated rooms, ensuring a comfortable and stylish stay.

After your long drive, you can relax and enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, beautifully landscaped garden, and terrace. The hotel's on-site restaurant caters to a variety of tastes, serving American, Belgian, and Dutch cuisine with options for various dietary needs.

You're also just a short drive away from the city's top sights, like Johannesburg Stadium and the Observatory Golf Club.

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

As you drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg, you'll see and experience an almost endless amount of thrilling adventures and beautiful places. To help make your trip planning easier, we've included our favourite highlights below.

Direct Route

  1. Afrikaans Language Monument - This unique monument, located in Paarl, celebrates the Afrikaans language and its cultural history, offering panoramic views of the region and educational insights into the language's origins.
  2. Haweqwa Nature Reserve - Nestled in the Western Cape, this reserve is a haven for hikers and nature lovers, featuring diverse flora, fauna, and breathtaking mountain landscapes.
  3. Marie Rawdon Museum - Situated in the historic town of Matjiesfontein, this museum showcases Victorian-era artefacts and memorabilia, capturing the essence of 19th-century life in this unique railway village.
  4. Fransie Pienaar Museum - Just a short detour off the main route, this museum in Prince Albert offers a deep dive into local history, culture, and art, reflecting the rich heritage of the Karoo.
  5. Karoo National Park - Located near Beaufort West, this national park is a showcase of the Karoo's unique biodiversity, offering spectacular landscapes and wildlife, including rare species adapted to the semi-desert environment.
  6. Beaufort West Museum - This museum in Beaufort West provides insights into the town's history and notable figures, including the life and work of heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard.
  7. Three Sisters - These three distinct hilltops, visible from the N1 highway, are well-known landmarks in the Karoo, offering picturesque views and a great photo opportunity.
  8. Richmond Horse Museum - Dedicated to the equine heritage of the region, this museum in Richmond presents a fascinating collection related to horse breeding and racing in the Karoo.
  9. Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve - This reserve, located near the towns of Hanover and Colesberg, offers a serene escape into nature, with opportunities to see a variety of wildlife and enjoy the tranquil Karoo landscape.
  10. Gariep Dam - South Africa's largest dam, located on the Orange River, is an engineering marvel and popular recreational spot for water sports and fishing.
  11. Oliewenhuis Art Museum - Housed in a magnificent 1940s mansion, this art museum in Bloemfontein boasts an extensive collection of South African art, set in beautiful gardens.
  12. Vredefort Dome - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is the world's largest verified impact crater, offering unique geological features and a rich history located near Parys and Vredefort.
Tall, modern monument in Paarl, photo taken from the ground-level on a sunny day
You can visit the impressive Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl for a different kind of scenery if you are traveling on the Direct Route.
Grobler du Preez/

Garden Route

  1. Groenlandberg Nature Reserve - This reserve offers a picturesque escape into nature, with its diverse vegetation, wildlife, and hiking trails showcasing the beauty of the Western Cape's fynbos biome.
  2. Beaumont Family Wines - Located in the Overberg region, this family-run winery offers a delightful wine-tasting experience amidst the backdrop of the region's stunning landscapes.
  3. Bontebok National Park - Near Swellendam, this park is dedicated to preserving the rare Bontebok antelope and features lush fynbos landscapes and abundant birdlife.
  4. Point of Human Origins - This archaeological site near Mossel Bay provides a fascinating look into early human behavior and the origins of modern humanity.
  5. Half Collared Kingfisher Trail - This beautiful trail in Wilderness requires a permit but rewards hikers with stunning forest scenery and the chance to spot the elusive Half Collared Kingfisher.
  6. Robberg Peninsula - Offering panoramic ocean views, this peninsula near Plettenberg Bay is a favorite for hikers and nature enthusiasts, with its rich marine life and historical significance.
  7. Nature's Valley - This secluded valley, nestled along the Garden Route, is known for its unspoiled beaches, tranquil lagoon, and lush forests, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and nature activities.
  8. Seal Point Lighthouse - Standing at the easternmost point of the Garden Route, this picturesque lighthouse offers breathtaking views and is a landmark of Cape St Francis.
  9. Main Beach, Jeffreys Bay - Famous for its world-class surfing waves, this beach is a must-visit for surf enthusiasts and beachgoers alike, offering a vibrant atmosphere and stunning ocean views.
  10. Addo Elephant National Park - This renowned park near Port Elizabeth is a sanctuary for elephants and other wildlife, offering exceptional game viewing experiences in a diverse landscape.
  11. Mountain Zebra National Park - Situated near Cradock, this national park is dedicated to conserving the endangered Cape mountain zebra, with its rugged terrain providing a habitat for a variety of wildlife.
  12. Aliwal North Museum - Located in Aliwal North, this museum offers a glimpse into the area's rich cultural and natural history, showcasing local artefacts and historical exhibits.
  13. Lion Rock Mountain, Maseru (Detour into Lesotho) - A detour into Lesotho leads to Lion Rock Mountain in Maseru, offering stunning views and a chance to experience the unique culture of this mountainous kingdom.
  14. Golden Gate Highlands National Park - Near Clarens, this national park is known for its striking sandstone formations, scenic drives, and abundant wildlife, providing a picturesque backdrop for outdoor activities.
  15. Bethlehem Museum - Located in the town of Bethlehem, this museum chronicles the history and cultural heritage of the Free State province, with a variety of exhibits and historical artefacts.
The silhouette of a surfer at sunrise riding a wave at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa
Jeffreys Bay on the Garden Route is famous for its epic surfing opportunities,

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

Johannesburg is a beautiful destination for a road trip, offering a unique experience in each season, and this road trip from Cape Town showcases the best places you can visit regardless of seasonality.

If you're travelling along the Direct Route, you can consider setting off in the spring months, when Johannesburg enjoys mild temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius.

This season is perfect for exploring the city's arts scene and outdoor activities. Don't miss spring festivals such as the Mangaung Rose Festival in Bloemfontein in October.

Beautiful Jacaranda trees lining a street in the city in full bloom
If you travel to Johannesburg in the spring, you will get to admire the stunning purple blooms of Jacaranda trees during a fleeting couple of weeks.

Summer in Johannesburg sees hotter temperatures of 20-30 degrees Celsius. While it's an ideal time to experience its nightlife, December and January are peak tourist months, leading to congested roads.

If you're taking the Garden Route, summer offers beautiful landscapes but with more rain and traffic. Don't miss the special holiday festivities along both routes.

In Johannesburg, fall is another great time for road trippers, with mild weather (13-22 degrees Celsius) and less rain. This period aligns with the Ultra South Africa music festival in March, a major event in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, or the Journey to Jazz Festival in Prince Albert in May.

This is also the perfect time for attending the Joburg Film Festival in February/March. Or, if you're travelling on the Garden Route, don't miss the Karoo Food Festival in Cradock in April.

Winter is ‌mild in South Africa, with temperatures ranging from 4 to 20 degrees Celsius in most destinations. Don't miss the Knysna Oyster Festival in June, a winter highlight along the Garden Route.