Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town: The Ultimate Road Trip

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One of the most affordable ways to get from Johannesburg to Cape Town is to drive. Whether you are a foreign visitor or a local, this is one road trip worthy of making to see the two largest cities in South Africa. 

Although driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town is a long road trip, you can make it exciting with a few scenic stops or day trips along the way. Good snacks also make this road trip much more pleasant. 

In this article, you will learn about driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town, including the best route, alternative routes, where to stop for a break and what to see along the way. 

The Ultimate Road Trip Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town Pin 2

Distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town 

Cape Town is approximately 1400 km from Johannesburg. 

Johannesburg to Cape Town Drive Time

Depending on your route, it can take between 14,5 and 16 hours to get from Johannesburg to Cape Town and vice versa. This duration assumes you don’t stop for a snack or sightseeing.

Why Drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town? 

Driving is one of the cheapest options from Johannesburg to Cape Town and vice versa. It is a flexible travel method since you can stop anywhere for sightseeing. 

Read more about the best places to visit in South Africa by clicking here!

A flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town takes around 2 hours. Flying can be more expensive than driving, especially if you are more than 2 people travelling together. For a single person travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town, a flight may be the most affordable option, unless you have to rent a car for the road trip. 

Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town - the ultimate road trip
Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town – the ultimate road trip

Taking the bus from Johannesburg to Cape Town is affordable but may not be as quick or comfortable as driving. 

There are a few options to travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town by train, but these are only available on certain days of the week. 

Therefore, we can conclude that driving is the best way to get from Johannesburg to Cape Town or vice versa. 

Best Routes to Cape Town from Johannesburg

There are two commonly used routes to drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Both of these routes include toll roads. 

The best and fastest route from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and vice versa, is taking the N1, passing by Bloemfontein in the Free State Province. It will take you approximately 15 hours to drive the 1398 km of this route without stopping. This route map from Johannesburg to Cape Town shows the route via Bloemfontein:

The alternative route from Johannesburg to Cape Town uses the N12 and the N1, passing through Kimberley in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. This route is 1432 km and will take just over 15,5 hours if you don’t stop anywhere. This route map from Johannesburg to Cape Town shows the drive via Kimberley:

Best Johannesburg to Cape Town Drive Stops

It is possible to complete the road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town in one day. However, it is much better to break the trip into several days to allow you some rest and sightseeing on the way to Cape Town.

Route 1: Johannesburg to Cape Town via Bloemfontein

For most of the route, you will stay on the N1 until you get to Cape Town. Some of the best places to stop along the way include:

Kroonstad Shell Ultra City

The best place for your first stop is the Shell Ultra City near Kroonstad. Here, you can refill your car, take a bathroom break and get a bite to eat or a coffee to keep you going. By this time, you would have completed about 184 km or 2 hours of your trip. 

Bloemfontein Shell Ultra City

Bloemfontein sunrise from a road trip
Bloemfontein sunrise from a road trip

The next stop is at the Bloemfontein Shell Ultra City, about 388 km or 4 hours from Johannesburg. If you are not in a hurry, some sights in Bloemfontein include the Anglo-Boer War Museum, the National Museum and the South African Armour Museum

Colesberg Shell Ultra City

The Shell Ultra City in Colesberg is another place to refuel, stretch your legs and get something to eat or drink. Colesberg is a good halfway stop if you want to break the journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town by spending the night here. At this point, you would have completed about 618 km or 6,5 hours of your trip. 

Engen 1 Stop Beaufort West

The Engen 1 Stop Beaufort West features a Wimpy restaurant, a South African favourite. Beaufort West is another good option for a halfway stop between Johannesburg and Cape Town, although you would have completed 935 km or 10 hours of your trip when you get here already. 

Matjiesfontein 

Matjiesfontein is a quirky town in the Western Cape Province, making it worthy of a visit. To refuel, I would stop in Laingsburg, the town before Matjiesfontein. Matjiesfontein is 1163 km from Johannesburg and 237 km from Cape Town. Spend a few hours exploring this quaint town with its historical sights, including the Old Post Office, the Railway Station, the Courthouse and Jail, and the pink church. Another experience to consider is staying in the old Lord Milner Hotel.

From Matjiesfontein, your next stop will be Cape Town – the end of your trip!

Route 2: Johannesburg to Cape Town via Kimberley

The second route from Johannesburg to Cape Town is via Kimberley. Here is the best Johannesburg to Cape Town drive stops for this route:

Kroonstad Shell Ultra City

The best place for your first stop is the Shell Ultra City near Kroonstad. Here, you can refill your car, take a bathroom break and get a bite to eat or a coffee to keep you going. By this time, you would have completed about 184 km or 2 hours of your trip. 

Kimberley

Kimberley is the capital city of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. It is 495 km from Johannesburg and 955 km from Cape Town. You can refill at any of the service stations, of which there are many. You may decide to spend some time in Kimberley to see its attractions, which include: 

The Big Hole in Kimberley, South Africa
The Big Hole in Kimberley, South Africa

If you decide to spend a night here, the best accommodation options are: 

  • The Kimberley Club Boutique Hotel guests can enjoy the hotel’s terrace and garden or have a meal at the bar or restaurant on the property. 
  • The Protea Hotel by Marriott Kimberley. Read my review of this hotel here. This hotel is situated next to the Kimberley Big Hole and Mining Museum, making it the perfect option for sightseeing. 

Engen 1 Stop Beaufort West

The Engen 1 Stop Beaufort West features a Wimpy restaurant, a South African favourite. Beaufort West is another good option for a halfway stop between Johannesburg and Cape Town, although you would have completed 935 km or 10 hours of your trip when you get here already. 

Matjiesfontein 

Matjiesfontein is a Karoo town in the Western Cape Province with character and worth visiting. To refuel, I would stop in Laingsburg, the town before Matjiesfontein. Matjiesfontein is 1163 km from Johannesburg and 237 km from Cape Town. Spend a few hours exploring this quaint town with its historical sights, including the Old Post Office, the Railway Station, the Courthouse and Jail, and the pink church. Another experience to consider is staying in the old Lord Milner Hotel.

From Matjiesfontein, your next stop will be Cape Town – the end of your trip!

Click here to learn about the best Cape Town Tours.

Tips for Travelling From Johannesburg to Cape Town By Car

Cape Town - your end destination
Cape Town – your end destination

Here are some tips to make your road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town by car more enjoyable:

  1. The best place to stop for a bathroom break or to top up your fuel is to stop at one of the many Engen petrol stations along the route. In South Africa, a road trip traditionally involves stopping at an Engen Garage with a Wimpy Restaurant for a meal. Other options are Shell Ultra Cities, usually with Steers or another restaurant. 
  2. If you have food allergies or specific food preferences, be aware that you may not always be able to find appropriate food along the route. If this is you, consider packing a cooler bag with foods you can enjoy without worrying.
  3. A GPS is useful for long road trips. I like to use Waze when driving since it provides real-time updates on roadblocks, accidents and other issues you may encounter. Alternatively, you can use Google Maps to ensure you stay en route or find the nearest petrol station. 
  4. As with any road trip, having something to listen to adds to the enjoyment. When driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town, you may only be able to listen to national radio stations, such as 5FM or Radio 2000, and the signal may cut out in rural areas. There are multiple regional radio stations to choose from. To cater for a situation of not being able to listen to a radio station, have a good playlist of podcasts or music to keep you entertained. 

Consider doing Clarens Drive, another scenic driving route, and visiting the penguins at Stony Point when in Cape Town.

Best Time to Drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town or Cape Town to Johannesburg 

With South Africa’s moderate climate, you can make the drive any time of the year. The best season for completing this long road trip is spring or autumn, as the days are not as hot as summer. In winter, driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and vice versa, is also pleasant and warm inside a car. 

Avoid driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town during South Africa’s peak holiday seasons. The busiest traffic times of the year are over Easter and December-January when all schools in South Africa have school holidays. 

Road trip scenery
Road trip scenery

If you want to avoid traffic, drive during the week instead of on the weekend. 

When leaving Johannesburg or Cape Town, avoid the peak traffic hours from 7:00 – 9:00 in the morning and 16:00 – 18:00. Other than these two cities, the rest of the route has little traffic.

When I drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town, I like to leave around 5:00 in the morning to avoid the morning traffic. 

How Much Does It Cost to Drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town?

The Ultimate Road Trip Driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town Pin 1

The cost of driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town depends on the type of car you drive, its petrol or diesel usage and the price of the petrol or diesel.

Cape Town is approximately 1400 km from Johannesburg. The current petrol price in South Africa (inland prices on 27 Dec 2022) is R23.46 per litre, and diesel is R23.92 per litre. If we work on an average fuel consumption of 12 litres per 100 km, driving from Johannesburg to Cape Town will cost you about R4000 or $235.  

If you have to rent a car for the journey, the costs will increase, but the increase depends on the price of your rental car. 

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By Sunelle

Editor of the South Africa Travel Blog that focuses on travel to South Africa, including destinations, attractions, accommodation, food & drink.

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