The Easter weekend has come and gone, and so has my incredible holiday to the south coast of South Africa. The drive was long, the time was short and the weather mostly wet, but it was a great road trip nevertheless!
Having missed visiting this part of SA whilst driving along the Garden Route in 2013, we decided to make the trip now. The Tsitsikamma National Park is well known for its lush indigenous plants (Fynbos), dramatic coastline, numerous hiking trails and a myriad of adventure sports and activities. Storms River is a small scenic village located close to the National Park and offers a variety of accommodation options and adventure sports.
Since the distance from Joburg to Storms River is approximately 1200 kms, it would take us almost 11 hours to get there. Hence, K and I decided to take it easy, enjoy the drive and split the journey into two parts: Joburg to Gareip Dam on day 1 and Gariep Dam to Storms River on day 2.
Joburg to Gariep Dam – 597 kms, 5hrs 20m
We left bright and early at 6am (ok not that early!) but since we were only going to be driving up to Gareip, we could take it easy. With time on our hands, we also took a short de-tour into Bloemfontein to check out the Naval Hill. Located within the Franklin Game Reserve, Naval Hill offers beautiful views of the entire city. In addition, an 8m high statue of Nelson Mandela sits atop the hill. Unfortunately for us, when we arrived at the Hill, we were not allowed inside as we had Mia with us and dogs are not allowed there.
This did not dampen our spirits as it was a last minute decision, so we happily carried on. The drive to Gariep is mostly via the N1 (a national highway) and was uneventful. Surprisingly, the traffic was not bad at all despite all the heavy travel warnings. We reached Gariep Inn, our pet-friendly accommodation just before 2pm and were shown to our chalet. The place was clean and comfortable and just right for a night’s rest. They also have a restaurant attached to the inn, just in case you do not feel like a braai!
After checking in, we drove down to the dam, which is built on the Orange river and is the largest in South Africa. The town of Gariep Dam was built in the 1960s as a temporary place to house the labour force but has since become a tourist attraction and a major stopover point for travellers headed to the Cape. It was a little misty and foggy and the drive through an old bridge was really magical. The dam itself was magnificent and had beautiful look out points. Having seen all there was to see, we headed back to the inn for an early dinner. The food at the Tjailatyd restaurant was just ok but since they allowed dogs, we were happy to eat there.
Gariep Dam to Storms River – 593 kms, 6hrs 30m
The drive on this day was mostly through the R-roads, which are the smaller, regional roads and run through quaint old towns and villages. Personally, I prefer these roads to the national highways as these are more scenic and often lead to interesting places en-route.
So on that day too, R390 did not disappoint and led us to an adorable little bakery and cafe called True Living in Cradock. The restaurant was actually set in an old house, with the main cafe in an open veranda located towards the back of the house whilst the rooms in front were filled with good for sale such as cushions, scarfs, leather bags, locally knit stuff and home-made jams and preserves. The owner was very warm and welcoming and was happy let Mia in as well.
After a great breakfast, we were back on the road and excited to get to Storms River as fast as possible. The rest of the drive was through the Karoo – a semi-desert region with its sparse vegetation, tall mountains and miles and miles of flat land in between. This area is famous for its warm hospitality and the delicious Karoo lamb.
An important thing to remember while driving in this area is that there are very few petrol stations on the way. You can go for a few hundred kilometers before coming to a filling station so make sure you fill up before driving through the Karoo.
After a few hours of non-stop driving, we left the arid Karoo behind and finally hit the coast. Our route to Storms River was taking us through Port Elizabeth (PE) – a beautiful coastal city that we were yet to visit. However, we did not have time for it on this trip so another getaway will have to be planned soon!
Our final destination was approximately two hours from PE and we finally made it to our stunning ocean facing chalet at around 3pm. Not having found too many pet friendly options in Storms River, I had decided to take my chances on this small place called Dolphin View. We reached there not expecting much, but what we received, completely blew us away. Wait for a complete review on this place – it’s worth it!
Some useful information:
Pet-friendly places to stay around Gariep Dam:
Morning Glory Cottages – we stayed here two years ago, and it was absolutely wonderful. Not to mention the delcious food they serve. Highly recommended.
Pet-friendly places to stay around Storms River: