Towards the end of last year our family took our annual holiday down to the Garden Route of South Africa - well I say annual in the hopeful sense of the word as this was actually our first holiday to the area since having 2 kids but I do plan to make it an annual event....
One thing you will know about travelling with kids is that it is ENTIRELY different from travelling on your own or with a partner! Bearing that in mind we decided that the only way we would get through a 6 hour long drive with two under 5's would be to stop often - like every 15 minutes often! And if that was to be the case I knew that we would need to make the journey part of the holiday. Fortunately in South Africa we are blessed with brilliant scenic drives in (almost) all parts of the country and we decided to explore one of them a bit more as part of the journey to our holiday destination on the Garden Route - Route 62.
Route 62 is the road that runs inland from Robertson in the Western Cape to Oudtshoorn (and beyond) in the Little Karoo. From Cape Town you take the N1 through the Du Toits Kloof tunnel and then turn off at Worcester and travel along Route 66 to Robertson and then on to the R62 through lovely country towns such as Robertson, Montague, Barrydale and Calitzdorp. It is fairly easy to link up to the Garden Route on the other end by leaving Oudtshoorn and driving via the Outeniqua Pass to George and then on to Knysna and Plett etc. Route 62 offers a great alternative to the N2 - the road is good, safe and scenic and it is much less stressful to drive as there are far fewer trucks, roadworks and traffic in general.
The amazing natural beauty makes the journey enjoyable and includes majestic mountain passes, an abundance of vineyards and fruit orchards and beautifully barren Karoo landscapes and there are also plenty of places to stop off and explore along the way.
Here is my list of Top 10 Things to do on Route 62 (and most are suitable to kids too!)...
1 - Affie Plaas.
Between Worcester and Robertson is Affie Plaas, a great farmstall to stop at for essential road trip supplies such as droewors, biltong, dried fruit and a few sweets including lucky packets for the kids. There is a restaurant if you are in need of another cup of coffee (already)...
2 - Wine Route
The R62 is said to be home of the longest wine route in the world so it is definitely worth stopping off at one or two wineries along the way. Just be sure the designated driver doesn't do too many tastings!! In and around Robertson (the home of the Wacky Wine Festival in June) you will find some great farms. Robertson Winery is located in the center of town and is worth a stop to stock up your wine rack or cellar! Child friendly farms to visit in this area include my favourite, Ashton as well as Bon Cap, Bon Courage, Major's Hill, Rooiberg and Viljoensdrift.
3 - Die Kloof Padstal
Refuel at Die Kloof Padstal in Montagu. This well known farmstall and restaurant has a wonderful play area for kids and plenty of lawn for little legs to run about on. The view over the river and across to the Bloupunt mountains is refreshing and makes for a great lunchtime stop over.
There is also a donkey cart available for rides! The restaurant is licensed and serves affordable, tasty food. At the neighbouring farmstall you can find a wide assortment of homemade, traditional South African favourites. Don't forget to explore a little more of this pretty town! It's definitely a place I would like to make an extended trip back to - maybe a long weekend later this year!
Die Kloof Padstal is located at 1 Long Street in the 1st building on right as you enter Montague from Cape Town. Call +27 (0)23 614 2209 for more information.
4 - Barrydale
Exercise your legs in Barrydale and meander along the main road, visit a few shops, have a bite to eat and enjoy this small town and the amazing views that surround it. Just off the main drag is the very beautiful Tradouw Pass which would make a great place for a picnic if you have planned ahead but you will need to get back onto the R62 to continue your journey unless you plan to go to Swellendam! A unique idea is to stop off and walk through the labyrinth located on The Manger farm in Lemoenshoek (15km from Barrydale, towards Ladismith on the R62). This outdoor labyrinth is based on the eleven-circuit labyrinth embedded in the floor of Charters Cathedral in France). The farm offers a stunning view of the Langeberg Mountains and the labyrinth is surrounded by a beautiful garden. It is necessary to make an appointment to walk the labyrinth, there is no charge but donations are welcomed and go towards upkeep of the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife also at The Manger. Call +27 (0)28 572 1643 or e-mail frazerp(at)iafrica.com to make an appointment.
5 - Ronnie's Sex Shop
Stop for a drink at Ronnies Sex Shop - it's not what you think!! Ronnie has become a well-known character of the Little Karoo. Many years ago he opened a shop - "Ronnies Shop" - to be exact. However the story goes that one night a few of his friends decided to liven up the name and added in a scarlet word that would completely change the meaning of the name and the popularity of the shop!! It has now become a mecca for tourists passing through this part of the world and it's walls are covered with graffiti greetings from these travellers. All sorts of underwear is strung from the ceiling too... (fortunately our kids were too young to notice!) It makes for an interesting stop over and we were lucky enough to be served by the Ronnie himself!
6 - Game Reserves
Although the drive from Cape Town to the Garden Route can certainly be done within a day why not extend your trip and plan to visit a private game reserve for a night or 2. This would certainly be part of my plan for our next journey along this route...
There are a few private game reserves in this area including the following:
Touwsberg Private Game Reserve (situated 35 kms southwest of Ladismith)
Home to many smaller game varieties such as the klipspringer, steenbok, duiker and springbok as well as larger game such as red hartebeest, black wildebeest, kudu, eland, giraffe, gemsbok (oryx), mountain reedbuck and the threatened Cape Mountain Zebra as well as predators such as leopard, caracal (rooikat) and jackal. 160 bird species can also be spotted include lapwings, kori bustards, egyptian geese, black eagle and falcon!
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Sanbona is home the only free-roaming white lions in the world as well as other big game and the rare riverine rabbit. This area is also previously home to the SAN People who have left a legacy of beautiful bushman rock art. Besides game drives the reserve is also a great place to take part in bird watching, nature walks and star gazing.
To book accommodation at Sanbona go to the Sanbona Widlife Reserve Page.
Located at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains, en route to the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn, this is a haven for 20 game species and more than 217 bird species. Why not enjoy sundowners on their open air bar while watching the sun set along with kudu, giraffe, elephant and Cape Mountain zebra.
To book accommodation at Buffelsdrift go to the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge Page.
7 - Karoo Landscape
Enjoy the Karoo landscape and stop off to explore a river, ravine or mountain side. When we visited the area it was covered in a carpet of wild flowers and around each corner was a new colour or variety to enjoy. So lovely to experience another part of the country in which we live.
8 - Calitzdorp
By this time of the day most passengers will be in need of a "comfort" break so it might be a good time to stop off for ice-creams in one of my favourite small towns in this part of the world - Calitzdorp. Browse in one of the antique stores or take a walk along Queen Street and admire the quaint Edwardian and Victorian architecture. Calitzdorp is probably most well known as the area which produces the country's best port wines due to the similar climate found in the Duoiro valley in Portugal so it might be worth a stop off at one of the local wineries that specialize in this wine variant.
9 - Cango Caves
Journey to the center of the earth at the Cango Caves outside Oudtshoorn and marvel at these dripstone caverns, you will be amazed at the vast halls and towering formations! Tours - both easy and adventurous - are available and lead by experienced, knowledgeable and accredited Caves Guides. Call +27 (0)44 272 7410 or email reservations(at)cangocaves.co.za. And as you are in the center of ostrich country don't miss out on visiting an ostrich farm too!
To view the video on the Cango Caves go to the Cango Caves Video
10 - Cango Wildlife Ranch
A definite highlight of our journey along Route 62 was towards the end when we stopped off for an afternoon at the Cango Wildlife Ranch 3km outside of Oudtshoorn. The Cango Wildlife Ranch offers sanctuary to some of the world's most endangered species including cheetah, tiger, leopard and white lion.
From the moment we arrived we were kept entertained with a wide variety of interesting things to do and see. We started with the reptiles and meerkats while we waited for our guided tour. The tour takes you through the Valley of the Ancients where you can get up close and personal with a few crocodiles sunning themselves - remember to hold on tight to the rope bridge!! Another highlight was the big cats enclosure where you walk on elevated walkways and have a bird's eye view of these majestic mammals. If you are brave enough (and have some extra cash to spare) you can have a "Natural Encounter" photo taken with a lion or cheetah cub - speaking of which, cheetah cubs have to be the cutest baby animals EVER!
After all the excitement we headed through the bird aviary and over to the petting zoo area and kids playground. Cango Wildlife Ranch has been called one of the most interactive tourist attractions worldwide and new species of animals such as Madagascar Lemur, Spotted-necked otter and Marabou stork have recently made this their home. All in all it is well worth a visit!
The Cango Wildlife Ranch is located at 2 Caves Road, Oudtshoorn. For more information call + 27 (0)44 272 5593 or email reservations(at)cango.co.za .
To view the video on the Cango Wildlife Ranch go to the Cango Wildlife Ranch Video
When travelling with kids it is always worth remembering to pack activity packs for each child to keep themselves occupied, often they loose interest after seeing their first wild animal or beautiful view so for a few moments of peace invest in a small pack of snacks for each child as well as travel games, crayons, colouring or activity books, etch-a-sketch, dinky cars and plenty of books. A portable dvd player has saved our sanity many times as would a Nintendo if you have slightly older kids!
Kathryn Rossiter is the blogger behind Becoming you - a blog she started a year ago as a forum to remind herself about what it is that she enjoyed apart from raising her two little people.
Besides writing about motherhood, kids and family life she also blogs about things that inspire her - interiors, photography, fashion, design, shops, travel and life in Cape Town. The idea behind Becoming you is that it would become a space that also inspires other women (especially moms) to continue becoming more of themselves!
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