This summer holiday Luke and I decided to take a road trip up the East Coast of South Africa and do a Cape Town to Coffee Bay Road Trip. I have such a passion for travel and my bucket list of foreign countries I want to visit seems to get longer each day. While I’ve been on many road trips around the country with my family, I haven’t had the backpacking experience in South Africa. This road trip was planned for that very reason. An adventure up the East Coast exploring our gorgeous coastline while camping at local backpackers and hostels. This blog post is packed with information to help you plan your very own Cape Town to Coffee Bay Road Trip. I hope you find it informative and helpful!
Our first stop was Wild Spirit Backpackers, a conscious-living centered backpackers perched right on the edge of the Tsitsikamma Forest. We camped within the forest beneath a canopy of trees and stars. The property boasted a bounty of forest walks, waterfalls, magic forests, a sunset tree house and big Mama yellow wood trees. We absolutely loved the incredibly peaceful playground to drink in the beauty of nature and rejuvenate our souls. Just a few minute’s drive into Nature’s Valley itself and we could spend the day relaxing on the banks of the lagoon and taking refreshing dips in the estuary where the sea water rushes into the lagoon. It was the perfect start to our holiday where we could relax and enjoy the magic of Wild Spirit and Nature’s Valley.
Cost: R100 per person per night camping, R180 for dorms (book here)
Recommended stay length: 3 nights
Must do’s: hike to the Nature’s Valley viewing point, relax at the lagoon, hike within the Wild Spirit forest
A little outside of East London the Wild Coast begins. This stretch of coastline is home to warm waters, great surf, whale and dolphin sightings and many family holiday seaside towns. We parked off at Yellow Sands Caravan Park for 3 days. We chose a beachfront campsite and spent our time watching the waves crash, dolphins swim by, reading our books, swimming in the warm sea and collecting shells. I had my sights set on a big, beautiful and intact conch shell. We spent hours combing the beach for one without luck. The next day we tried the rock pools. I spotted one tucked in between a few rocks and called out to Luke to help me get it. As I called to him I slipped and fell hard on my ankle. The pain was excruciating, but thankfully there wasn’t any serious damage. Luke pulled out the shell, triumphant, as he showed me the immaculate and beautiful big shell.
Cost: R100 per person per night camping (book directly on their website)
Recommended stay length: 3 nights
Must Do’s: relax, read, surf (if you can fit in a surf board), look out for whales and dolphins
Each trip always has a highlight destination. The one place, when planning the route, you knew you had-to, had-to visit. Coffee Bay was our highlight destination. We’d booked for 5 nights at The Coffee Shack and planned on exploring the rural beauty of the Transkei from there. We drove along pot-holed roads, trying to doge cows, sheep, pigs and goats, as we got closer to the coast. The villages were dotted atop undulating hills and made up of brightly coloured rondawel huts. Children waved enthusiastically as we bumped past.
The Coffee Shack hosted many activities in the surrounding area led by local guides. We loved being able to pay a reasonable price for a fun day out and know that we were directly helping and supporting the community. On our first day we hiked to Hole in the Wall. For three hours we walked along the breathtakingly beautiful coastline, admiring the brilliant blue water, green hills, rondawel villages and dolphins surfing in the waves. Cows roamed the beaches and aloes decorated the goat paths we followed as we walked towards our destination. Upon arriving at the Hole in the Wall we tucked into our freshly braaied beach toasties. Luke and I swam there, falling in love with the impossibly warm waters. Nothing like Cape Town’s ice-cold sea!
The next day we joined our local guides, Isaac and Lucky, on an adventure to the Mapuzi cliffs and sea caves. We walked up steep hills and down rocky crevices to find hidden caves and swimming spots. The views of the ocean from the Mapuzi cliffs were absolutely breathtaking. On the trip we got to visit Jonga pre-primary school. This school is run by the Coffee Shack as a part of their sustainable outreach program. They are doing wonderful things there and making huge differences in the lives of so many children. If you feel called to donate or support their work in any way check out their website www.sustainablecoffeebay.org.za . Also if you are planning on going to the Coffee Shack make sure you pack in a few clothes you no longer wear as they have a collection bin for any donations. Once they have enough clothes to clothe a whole village they will hand out the clothes to each family.
The next day we went surfing (or at least tried to, despite the strong winds and bad conditions). In the evening we joined our local guides for a village dinner. We were warmly welcomed into the home of a Xhosa family who hosted us for the evening. We were treated to a performance of their traditional dancing and were invited to join in with whatever dance moves we had. It was a truly beautiful experience dancing together as people from all over the world coming together in unity within a candle lit hut. We tasted the Xhosa beer, umqombothi, made from fermented corn. We were treated to a meal of soup, traditional Xhosa potbread, pap, cabbage stew and tomato smoor. A thunder-storm raged outside as we huddled together, watching the lightning streak across the night sky. It was an incredible experience and I am so grateful. Enkosi Kakhulu!
We loved Coffee Bay so much and would definitely love to come back and explore more of the Transkei and Wild Coast. The beauty is so untouched and raw and just observing the vibrant culture of its people fills you with immense joy. We are keen to do a hiking trip along the coast and have kept in touch with Isaac (our guide for the activities), who takes groups on hikes from Cintsa all the way up to Mdumbi. We’ll be back!
Cost: R90 per person per night camping (5th night is free!), dorms R160 (book here)
Recommended stay length: 5 nights
Must Do’s: Hole in the wall hike, Mapuzi Caves and Cliffs, surf, village dinner
Hogsback is a one street town filled with crystal shops, fairy realms, Hobbiton pubs, rolling brambles of roses and berries and deep green forests filled with countless waterfalls and hiking trails. The place we stayed at is called Away with the Fairies which should give you an idea of the general vibe of the area and the sorts of people who live there. We spent our time hiking, chasing waterfalls and popping into chocolate and crystal shops, or walking through fairy gardens.
At Away with the Fairies there was an outdoor bath overlooking the green valley and magnificent mountains. The bath water was natural mountain water and heated up by a fire oven. It was such a treat to be able to soak in a nice warm bath (no baths here in water restricted Cape Town!) and look at the most glorious view!
Cost: R100 per person per night camping, R200 dorms (book here)
Recommended stay length: 3 nights
Must Do’s: hike the 3 waterfall trail (Swallow’s Tail, Bride’s Veil, Madonna & Child), walk around the town and check out the weird shops, take a bath on the cliff edge bath tub.
Cape St Francis
After 2 weeks of camping we knew we’d be very ready for a good night’s sleep in a real bed. We booked a little chalet in Cape St Francis for a little bit of luxury and comfort and as a break in the journey down towards our final stop: my family’s holiday house at Malagas, Breede River. We ended up absolutely LOVING Cape St Francis and felt our stay was way too short. We’ll definitely be back for a longer period of time! We loved our little white chalet with a black thatch roof, housed within the Cape St Francis Resort. Seals Backpackers was a 2 minute walk from the beach, where we spent a lovely day relaxing. We soaked up the sunshine, played frisbee, read our books, swam in the warm sea and enjoyed the gorgeous view of the lighthouse, blue ocean and yellow sand.
Cost: R513 per night for a double room (book here)
Recommended stay length: 3 nights
Must Do’s: enjoy the beach!
On our way down towards the Breede River, we made a little detour and drove along Route 62 through the Klein Karoo. We stopped in Barrydale at Diesel & Creme for their famous milkshakes. This American Diner style restaurant is filled with lots of fun, vintage decor and has a wide array of quirky milkshake flavours. I had Turkish Delight while Luke had Zoo biscuit.
We had a lovely few days with friends relaxing on the river before coming back to Cape Town. This trip was absolutely amazing and really showed me just how incredibly beautiful South Africa is. We only scraped the surface with this trip but are excited to pick up where we left off at the end of this year with a trip through KZN exploring the coast and popping inland to the Drakensberg.
I hope this post was helpful and gives you some inspiration to travel and explore your own country with this Cape Town to Coffee Bay Road Trip. I know travel often feels unreachable, difficult and expensive. This trip was anything but those things! We did it on the cheap making the whole 3 week trip about R4500 per person (petrol, food, accommodation, eating out, activities), we were driving Luke’s car around our own country were everything is familiar, and I’ve given you all the info you need to plan this trip yourself. Believe in yourself and do it! And I promise, once the travel bug has bitten, you’ll be ready to conquer the world! If you have any questions please feel free to ask me and I’d be very happy to help you plan your Cape Town to Coffee Bay Road Trip as well.
Love a good South African Road Trip? Why not add Storm’s River Mouth to your Cape Town to Coffee Bay Road Trip itinerary?