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TThe N2 route between Port Elizabeth in Eastern Cape province and Nature’s Valley in Western Cape is about 230km, so you could do the journey easily in less than 3 hours – but what would be the point?
The magic of meandering around, visiting every attraction that takes your fancy, is the essence of a great road trip. This particular route, which takes you from the seaside to the Tsitsikamma Forest, has it all: an awesome lighthouse, fine trails, world-famous surfing, wonderful eating spots, great farm stalls and the adventure of flying through the forests on a canopy tour.
Start off at the Cape Recife lighthouse, near the Port Elizabeth suburb of Summerstrand. If the light keeper is available, ask for a tour of the facility and the little museum on the ground floor.
The Cape Recife Nature Reserve is also the site of your first walking trail on this trip, most of which will be spent outside your vehicle. It’s a 9km circular walk, and there’s excellent birding to be done along this route too.
Then head off down the N2, and at Humansdorp take the turn to Surf Central: Jeffreys Bay, known to surfers around the world as ‘J-Bay’ – with its long right-hand break rated by many the best in the world, it’s ranked in the top 5 surfing spots around the globe.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a surfer, though – just hanging out at Supertubes Beach and watching the wave-junkies 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 test their wave skills.
Then you’re off to nearby Port St Francis for a chokka feast. The eateries of this sophisticated port, the newest in South Africa, mostly specialise in the fine calamari fished off these shores.
After dinner, check in at your overnight lodgings – perhaps 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 keep your own hours.
The next morning you’re going to the wooded village of Storms River, so get an early start. First stop on the way is the Oudebosch Farm Stall for some curio shopping and a friendly chat with the owner.
When you arrive in Storms River, drop your bags off in your accommodation – the Tsitsikamma Village Inn, a rather lovely Cape-style collection of units in the centre of Storms River, is a good option. Then 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.
Your afternoon could be spent on the Tsitsikamma Woodcutter’s Journey, which takes nearly 3 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 you’re going to stretch your legs on a ‘soul stroll’ in the glorious Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.
TTravel 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 west along the N2 from Port Elizabeth to Nature’s Valley, a route of around 230km – but be ready to venture off the N2 through the small coastal towns along the way as often as possible.
Best time to visit
This route has something to offer all year round.
Around the area
Make the time for 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 – see the Stormsriver Adventures website.
Self-drive gives you freedom to explore; you can hire a car at Port Elizabeth International Airport if you need to.
What will it cost
There are accommodation options along the route to suit all pockets, from backpacker establishments to exclusive guesthouses – see the options on the listed websites.
Length of stay
Set aside at least 3 days and 2 nights for this trip.
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 is one) – check the listed websites for details.