Port Elizabeth to Nature’s Valley – the Tsitsikamma route
Did you know?
The highest commercial bridge bungee jump in the world takes place at Bloukrans Bridge near Storms River.
The N2 route between Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and Nature’s Valley in the Western Cape is about 230km, and if you were in a hurry you’d probably do the journey in less than three hours.
But that’s not the point of a road trip, is it? The magic of meandering is the essence of leisure travel, and this particular route, which ends up in the Tsitsikamma forests, has it all: an awesome lighthouse, fine trails, good surf, wonderful eating spots, great farm stalls and the adventure of simply flying through the forests on a canopy tour.
Let’s begin at the Cape Recife lighthouse, just near the Port Elizabeth suburb of Summerstrand. If the light keeper’s available, ask him for a tour of the facility and the little museum on the ground floor.
The Cape Recife Nature Reserve is also the site of our first walking trail on this trip, most of which is going to be spent outside our vehicle. It’s a 9km circular walk, and there’s excellent birding to be done along this route too.
We then head off down the N2 and at Humansdorp we head for Surf Central, Jeffreys Bay, also known fondly as 'J-Bay'. It doesn’t matter that you’re not a surfer, just hanging out at Supertubes beach and watching the ‘water babies’ riding their boards is enough of a thrill. Of course, if you’re there in July, you might catch some of the Billabong Pro action, when surfers from all over the world come to match their wave skills.
Now we’re off to the nearby Port St Francis for a ‘chokka fest’. The eateries of this sophisticated port, the newest in South Africa, mostly specialise in the fine calamari fished off these shores.
After dinner, we check in at our overnight lodgings, a chic self-catering apartment overlooking the port and its moored fleets of chokka boats and yachts. Staying in these super-luxury apartments gives you the freedom to eat in or out, and call your own hours.
Good morning. Today, we’re going to the wooded village of Storms River. First stop on the way is the Oudebosch Farm Stall for some curio shopping and a friendly chat with the owner, Dewald Pretorius.
Presently, we arrive in Storms River and drop our bags off in our rooms at the Tsitsikamma Village Inn, a rather lovely Cape-style collection of units in the centre of Storms River.
We walk down the main road to the headquarters of Stormsriver Adventures for a full day in the forest, which begins with a canopy tour through the giant Outeniqua yellowwood trees.
The afternoon is spent on the Tsitsikamma Woodcutter's Journey, which takes nearly three hours and is probably one of the most relaxing and informative forest experiences in South Africa.
The next morning it’s a short hop to Nature’s Valley, which is also where the famous Otter Trail ends. Lace up your walking shoes once more, because we’re going to stretch our legs and go for a ‘soul stroll’ in the glorious Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tsitsikamma Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)42 285 0562
Jeffreys Bay Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)42 293 2923
Tel: +27 (0)42 281 1836
Tsitsikamma Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0)42 280 3561
Storms River Village Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0)42 281 1098
How to get here
Drive south on the N2 from Port Elizabeth to Nature’s Valley, a route that is approx. 230km long. Go off the N2 as often as possible to experience the small coastal towns along the way.
Best time to visit
The Port Elizabeth-Nature’s Valley route is a year-round destination.
Around the area
If you have the time, go on a drive through the towns of the southern Baviaanskloof region: Kareedouw, Hankey and Patensie.
Tours to do
The Woodcutter's Journey through part of the Tsitsikamma forest is great – see the Stormsriver Adventures website.
Hire a car in Port Elizabeth and the road is yours.
What will it cost
There are accommodation options to suit all pockets, from backpacker establishments to exclusive guest houses.
Length of stay
Set aside three days and two nights for your trip if you can.
What to pack
Pack some semi-casual evening clothes in a mostly informal set of travel garb.
Where to stay
This route has loads of accommodation – check the listed websites for options.
What to eat
You'll find some exceptional seafood restaurants along the way, especially in places like Port St Francis, Jeffreys Bay and Summerstrand.
Each of the towns along the way holds various festivals and events (the Billabong Pro surfing competition in Jeffreys Bay being one) – check the listed websites for details.
Visit the Billabong Surf Clothing Factory in Jeffreys Bay for funky beachwear.