Modelled after America's legendary Route 66, South Africa's own version perfects this unrivalled arid road trip. Immerse yourself in sublime scenery, pull over for marvellous milkshakes and embrace the wide-open spaces of the quintessential Karoo with this guide to Route 62.
The Cape Route 62 links Cape Town to Port Elizabeth in a variety of ways, but its classic core lies between Montagu and Oudtshoorn - look at the markers, and you'll see that this road is numbered 62.
Passing through farming towns such as Calitzdorp, Ladismith and the fruit-growing and wine-producing towns of Barrydale, Montagu and Robertson there are padstals a-plenty. The iconic old highway is also varied in landscape and encompasses soaring mountain paths along dramatic gravel roads that grind through the Little Karoo. Here's how to wend your way to wonderful (whatever your ride) in just three days.
Day 1: Wine & Wanders
Proclaimed as the start to Route 62, Montagu is an elegant introduction to the quirks of the Little Karoo. Tucked between the Cape's famed wine region and semi-desert landscapes, the Kogmanskloof Pass (which is cut through a mountain when you approach from the towns of Robertson and Ashton) marks the start of your adventure.
You'll find excellent coffee and panoramic views on arrival at Blu Vines Bistro. Housed in a refurbished old farmhouse many of the staff are alumni from the Rural Arts Development Foundation, a Montagu-based non- profit organisation with a focus on driving community arts.
Once jacked up on java, head into the Montagu Museum for a guided history tour by a passionate local. Then tackle the streets by bicycle come evening (after a pizza at Piccolo Tesoro of course - the authentic, family-owned pizza place is within walking distance of the tourism information office) for a fascinating ghost- tour with Marchelle van Zyl (R100 per person).
Travel tip: the Robertson Wine Valley is on par with Stellenbosch for its quality terroir (at a much nicer price). Pop into the Cape Dry Factory Store in Montagu for padkos snacks at a bargain and cost-price wines from the surrounding farms, such as Springfield, Excelsior and De Wetshof.
Stay here: Gert Lubbe, the late owner of the Montagu Country Hotel, was the celebrated driving force behind the R62 concept almost 20 years ago. Got a penchant for nostalgia? Start this iconic route at his quirky stay. It's a real step back in time. Bedrooms and leisure areas are all decorated in either Art Deco or Victorian style – right down to the door handles and cutlery. B&B from R483 per person this winter.
Day 2: Milkshakes & Motorbikes
Venturing into the Little Karoo often feels like travelling back in time. Nowhere is this more beautifully effected than at Diesel and Crème - your next stop in Barrydale. It might appear to be just an old fuel station at first glance, but inside the vintage diner is an enchanting time capsule
The family-owned diner is filled with nostalgia-inducing paraphernalia, such as video game machines, old arcade games, lumo neon signs and old Koffiehuis signage. Plus the array of vehicle antiquities and motor oil memorabilia all honour the golden age of the backroad. A perfect pitstop. Order a gourmet milkshake and then walk it off by exploring the surrounding stores that line the street.
Ronnies Sex Shop, 20 kilometres away, is next. Don't worry, it's not what you think. This famous pub (it's been going strong for 40 years) is favoured more for the photo ops than for any gourmet goodness. Still, it's very popular with motorcyclists. Admire the rides that line the parking lot, venture inside to sneak a peek at all the underwear that adorns the ceiling then carry on to Calitzdorp.
Take your time, though - there are plenty of pretty viewpoints to stop and enjoy along the way.
Travel Tip: Decide on your designated driver and pull into port paradise. Try a Boplaas port for award-winning products paired with chocolate or biltong.
Stay here: A farm stay sanctuary, Lenies Hof lies just beyond the tarred roads of R62. Set on a small organic farm (with a vineyard, olive and apricot orchards) the chic self-catering studio apartments are small but delightful with an outdoor firepit. Take a seat below the swell of stars and enjoy. From R495 per person.
Day 3: Do the views
Ok, it's a deviation from the regular R62 route, but the sweeping Swartberg Pass is worth it.
Carry on the gravel road past Lenies Hof farm in the direction of the Calitzdorp dam, towards Groenfontein and Kruisrivier. This is the scenic route to the pass and Prince Albert beyond.
Travel Tip: Stop for a true-Karoo farm breakfast at Kobus se Gat. There's proper moer koffie, fire-grilled roosterkoek with all the fillings and the pretties outdoor setting. The restaurant is also green, and totally of the grid, relying on solar panels for electricity
The Swartberg Pass is a national monument and was Thomas Bain's final, and arguably best work of road building. It's also one of the longest passes in the country at 23,8 kilometres long, and can easily take over an hour to drive with all the spectacular stops.
Once in Prince Albert, a feast of local produce awaits. Pop into Prince Albert Olives for their prize extra-virgin oils. Be sure to book a tasting in advance to enjoy the fruit of father-and-son farmers, Fred and Hein Badenhorst (find them on Facebook). Or find award-winning cheese at Gay's Guernsey Dairy. Did you know? This is the original farm, which founded Prince Albert. It was first named "De Queekvallei" in 1762.
Then find a seat at the Green Prince Gin Bar, on the stoep at the Swartberg Hotel and cheers to an epic journey
Stay here: I share this stay reluctantly. The Meerkat accommodation unit Ta Mala's cottages is almost 200 years old and has been renovated to preserve the traditional Karoo-style Brakdak. The little self-catering unit has an outside shower, a shared pool and is located within an easy walk of the main street in Prince Albert. There's also a cosy little lounge with a fireplace and I cannot wait to steal back to this little nook. From R450 per person.
Linger a little longer
If you still can't get enough, return to the R62 and Oudtshoorn via Meiringspoort. Pull off for a swim in the pool below the waterfall - you might even spot the mystical mermaid who dwells there - and enjoy the bounty that lies in South Africa's ostrich capital.
Highlights include a morning with meerkats (from R660 per person and De Zeekoe guests receive an R100 discount) and the beautiful Cango Caves (from R150 per person).