top of page

Exploring South Africa: Essential Tips and Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

Updated: Mar 22

First Time Visit Guide : Planning a Holiday in South Africa {Caroline Travel 360 Consultant}
Planning The Perfect Holiday in South Africa

This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth. – From the journal of Sir Francis Drake, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580.

I couldn’t agree more – South Africa is an incredibly special place which I’ve visited many times and loved it so much that I even got married there.

South Africa is an unbelievably beautiful country with a volatile, diverse and fascinating history. It’s an ideal destination for self-driving and any itinerary you do will, without a doubt, be filled with the most amazing experiences.

It takes around 11 hours to fly to South Africa – an overnight flight allows you to arrive in the morning and, due to the minimal time difference, you will be jetlag-free and able to hit the ground running. This, along with the fact it offers amazing value for money, make it an ideal family destination.

Cape Town – Winelands – Garden Route – Eastern Cape Safari

This is a fabulous route for first time visitors to South Africa. One of things I love about this country and these areas are all the unique properties - unlike when you stay in some of the larger chain hotels you can always find places here where you know you are waking up in South Africa.

Driving is easy and stress free. They drive on the left like us, roads are well maintained, signage is good and from my experience getting from A to B is never very complicated.

Visiting Cape Town

I love a South Africa itinerary to commence in Cape Town – there is simply no better start to your holiday than the breathtakingly beautiful view of Table Mountain and the City Bowl beneath.

You need, at the very least, 3 nights in Cape Town. Great restaurants aside you also need to allow time to explore the city, enjoy Table Mountain (from the top and with a drink somewhere fabulous at the bottom!), picnic in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, take a boat over to Robben Island and of course drive the spectacular Cape Peninsula.

Visiting The Winelands

Although the Winelands are all within an hour of Cape Town it’s still well worth staying at least 2-nights, so you can properly sample the wine. Outrageously beautiful landscapes, wonderful wine and many of South Africa’s top restaurants are in this region. Franschhoek is known as the Culinary Capital of South Africa and offers some renowned fine dining options.

The journey to the Garden Route

There are two possible routes to take to the Garden Route but taking Route 62 via Oudtshoorn is my favourite. This route is always likened to USA’s Route 66 – long tarred roads, desert vistas and tiny roadside towns. Route 62 starts in the lush Winelands and then gradually the landscape dries up as you enter the Karoo.

Taking this route, you would normally overnight in Oudtshoorn – the home of the Ostrich. You can spend the morning visiting an Ostrich farm or the Cango Caves before continuing your journey through the stunning Swartberg Pass to your base on the Garden Route.

The Garden Route

The Garden Route is the stunning coastal road (the N2) that stretches from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape along to the Storms River Mouth in the Eastern Cape. Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are the main towns along the route but there are plenty of places to stay outside of these.

This entire area is an outdoor playground and there are heaps and heaps of things to do including fabulous hikes, mountain bike and horse riding trails, abseiling, kayaking, boat trips and loads of opportunities to get close to wildlife in various sanctuaries. One of my best memories is taking my children to the Elephant sanctuary where they got to interact with some rescued Eles – very special.

Eastern Cape Safari

Easily accessible from the Garden Route, malaria free and ideal for a first-time safari experience a safari in the Eastern Cape provides a wonderful finale to any stay in South Africa.

Safaris can be one of the costliest parts of your trip as they are generally full board and include your game drives. A 2-night experience is often enough for a lovely introduction to the world of safari and no doubt after a visit here you’ll be rebooking to visit another region of Africa.

After your safari, you simply drop your car at Port Elizabeth and connect with your flight home…..or to maybe Mauritius, the Seychelles or Mozambique....

First Time Visit Guide : Planning a Holiday in South Africa {Caroline Travel 360 Consultant - Surrey Travel Advisor}
First Time Visit Guide : Planning a Holiday in South Africa {Caroline Travel 360 Consultant - Surrey Travel Expert}

If you're interested in finding out more about working with a Surrey Travel Advisor to plan a holiday in South Africa or elsewhere, contact me today to start planning your next experience.



bottom of page