Want to explore South Africa, but worried that you don't have the right set of wheels? No problem: simply rent a car and drive off into the sunset!
South Africa is road trip heaven. Where else would you find such a comprehensive collection of stunning coastal drives, epic mountain passes and adventurous gravel roads? There's hardly a better way to explore the country, even if you're a local. In fact, why not do it like a tourist and rent a car? Not only is it more fun, but you'll also get a chance to drive something completely different from your daily runabout.
Here are five of the country's best road trips, with rental cars to match.
One of the best examples of the accessibility of South Africa's natural wonders is the Addo Elephant National Park. It's just an hour's drive from Gqeberha, and as soon as you enter the park you're immersed in the realm of giants. Take your time along Addo's network of game-viewing routes. Some are tarred and others are good gravel roads, but whichever you choose you're pretty much guaranteed to see elephants. After all, there are over 650 of them in this relatively small reserve!
THE RENTAL: Addo is an excellent family-friendly destination, so consider a people carrier – the Hyundai H1, Mercedes-Benz Vito, Toyota Quantum or Volkswagen Transporter – to fit the whole clan in one car. The larger windows and higher ride height also make for better game viewing.
The Cape Peninsula is arguably the best day drive in South Africa. Starting in Cape Town's city centre, the M6 leads you past world-renowned beaches (Clifton, Camps Bay, Llandudno) before Chapman's Peak Drive delivers you to Noordhoek. From here you continue to the surf towns of Kommetjie and Scarborough before reaching Cape Point National Park, after which the M4 hugs the coastline to Simon's Town, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg.
THE RENTAL: There's a reason why this route appears in so many car adverts. Take your chance to play the lead, cruising along the coast with the wind in your hair in a premium rental like the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C Class or BMW 3 Series!
Half a day's drive on the N3 from Johannesburg deposits you in Harrismith. Turn west and you're in for a treat: the stunning R712 leads through one of SANParks' hidden gems, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. As soon as you see its warm sandstone cliffs, you'll understand where its name comes from.
THE RENTAL: The road through Golden Gate is public and very scenic, but you might want to explore some of its game-viewing routes too before continuing to the Free State's favourite countryside town, Clarens. Its quaint collection of restaurants, curio shops and art galleries make it the perfect weekend getaway... and renting a small car – think Nissan Micra, Chevrolet Spark or Toyota Aygo – is the way to go.
Every spring, the West Coast discards its usual drab dress and dons a technicolour coat that would put even RuPaul to shame. The annual wildflower display starts just outside Cape Town and continues up the coast to Namaqualand. It's the ideal road trip landscape, ranging from quick day trips along the R27 to Darling or the West Coast National Park to multi-day tours via the N7 to Nieuwoudtville, Kamieskroon and Springbok.
THE RENTAL: Whichever route you choose, a sedan – the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Almera, Honda Ballade or similar – is a superb option. It'll give you enough space for extra luggage, padkos and room to stretch your legs.
The Klein Karoo is known for its exceptional mountain passes, and the magnificent Swartberg Pass is king of them all. It's a proper bucket list gravel pass, winding its way over the Swartberg mountains north of Oudtshoorn to the picturesque Karoo village of Prince Albert. Follow the N12 northbound from George, and you'll be rewarded with another beautiful mountain pass, the tarred Outeniqua Pass, which leads you over the mountains to Oudtshoorn.
THE RENTAL: You could drive this route in any vehicle, but a bakkie or SUV – here we're talking a Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Ford Ranger or similar – will make light work of the numerous inclines and gravel roads.
South Africa has tons of excellent road trip destinations, from the Kruger to the Klein Karoo's R62, the Wild Coast, Panorama Route and more. And for every trip, there's a suitable rental car to take you there. Use our Car Rental comparison tool to get the best deals from the biggest brands in car hire. You can also compare travel insurance for you trip.