The ultimate road trip from Cape Town to Augrabies Falls National Park

Posted on 5 October 2023

Cristine Wekenborg and her boyfriend hit the road for an epic adventure with the goal of exploring the north of South Africa.

Driving from Cape Town to Sutherland, to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and ending off in Augrabies National Park before heading back to the Mother City, the pair set off on an epic adventure.

The couple drove to Sutherland from Cape Town and stayed at Sterland Caravan Park and Camping Site.

‘The owner at Sterland had some telescopes himself, so he told us some interesting facts about our universe,’ said Wekenborg.

From Sutherland, the pair continued north to Verneukpan, where they spent the night.

‘It is very isolated, and we were a bit scared that our little Audi A3 would not make it to the pan. Once we arrived, we were all on our own, raced the Audi for a bit, and watched the sunset in the middle of the pan, absolutely stunning.

READ: Guide to some of South Africa’s best little towns

road trip Augrabies

A desert sunset. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

Dinner prep. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

road trip Augrabies

Post-locust bombardment. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

Blue skies and the open road. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

From here, the couple set off for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park via Upington. They spent two nights in Twee Rivieren and a night in Nossob and Mata-Mata.

‘The Kalahari was very green, and we saw a lot of wildlife. Heavy rainfalls in the evenings flooded the camping areas, so be aware of where you pitch your tent, but it also made the roads very smooth for our little car to drive around.’

After leaving Mata-Mata, the pair travelled to Upington to shorten their trip to Augrabies National Park. They spent the night on a springbok farm just outside the town.

Can you see the lioness? Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

road trip Augrabies

Red soil and green grass, the perfect contrast. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

Sunset in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

Morning in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

‘Augrabies was our aim for the next day. Luckily, it cooled down to about 32 degrees Celsius, so camping was a more pleasant experience. We stayed one night inside the park. We spent the day around the campsite and waited until 4 pm to see the falls.

‘It’s incredible how much water was flowing down the gorge. The visitor platforms are right next to the high water level, which makes it very exciting but also a bit scary.

‘One platform is in the middle of a couple of streams, which makes it raining nonstop, so your phone better be waterproof. In the afternoon, one can see the rainbows around the waterfalls, which is stunning. The morning rainbows are a bit weaker. The sunsets have all the colours. Due to the rain in the area and the dust/sand, we got an awesome pinkish/purple sunset,’ she continued.

The mighty Augrabies Falls. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

road trip Augrabies

Cristine Wekenborg overlooking the falls. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

‘Half of the park was flooded, and all other hiking trails and driving routes were closed. Only a small part of the park, the boardwalk around the waterfalls, is open. All visitors concentrate on this little area. But if you stay in the park, you can visit the falls after hours (the park is only open until 6 pm for day visitors, last in at 5 pm). The light is also incredible after 6 pm. Additionally, you can see the falls for sunrise, which is very special. Most of the campers only leave after sunrise so that you might have the whole waterfall area to yourself,’ said Wekenborg.

road trip Augrabies

When the pot of gold is the Augrabies. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

Powerful cascades. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

A double rainbow! Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

‘The falls were incredible. I have seen the Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls, and Niagara Falls before, but this was special. The boardwalk has several lookout points, which are totally different. You have a panorama view of the river, green bushes, and parts of the falls from far away. The middle part is like standing in the rain, and you get completely soaked. The rainbow was kind of above our heads, and the massive amount of water was shooting through the gorge underneath our feet. The closer platforms bring you to the start of the waterfall, where you feel the water pumping down and vibrating. There is no other way than smiling and being happy to witness such a flooded waterfall.

‘I would have loved to see other parts of the park, but due to the flooding, it was not possible. Next time, I will come back in the dry season. There might not be a waterfall, but there is the possibility to explore the desert in a sandy and hot way. You cannot have both. But seeing the Kalahari and the Waterfall in full flood was a lucky experience, and I would not like to miss it.

‘From Augrabies Falls, we made our way back to Cape Town. Our last night, we stayed at Highlanders Campsite just north of Clanwilliam to shorten our trip,’ Wekenborg continued.

road trip Augrabies

The Augrabies Falls are roaring. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

Breathtaking. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

road trip Augrabies

A true force of nature. Picture © Cristine Wekenborg

‘I definitely recommend this trip. As a Karoo lover, this trip was one of the best trips we ever made. Although we sometimes felt like we were fighting the Egyptian plagues with all the heat and flooding. Camping in these rural areas, seeing so many lions in the Kgalagadi, wine tasting on the Orange River, and feeling the power of South Africa’s most magical waterfall. One highlight followed the next,’ Wekenborg added.

‘There is no break in between, as every day brings so much adventure. It might have only been ten days, but it felt like I made memories for much longer,’ she concluded.

What you shouldn’t leave behind:

  • A raincoat
  • mosquito repellent
  • Swimsuit
  • cold beer

Map outline of the trip:

Cristine Wekenborg’s recommendations for accommodation and places to visit along the way:  

  • If you have a 4×4 or a high-clearance car or are just willing to take your little car up there (which was no problem apart from some sections in Kgalagadi), you can drive the same route we did.
  • We spent time in Namaqua National Park in September, so we didn’t go there again. If you have time, definitely check out their coastal campsites. If you have a 4×4 and time, drive through the 4×4 routes of the park from the N7 towards the coast: dunes, remote beaches, and awesome flora & fauna.
  • If you have less time for the trip and are willing to take two driving days, the trip is also possible in a shorter period of time

Traveller tips:

  • Have Roosterkoek/wine tasting at Piekenierskloof (N7, south of Citrusdal)
  • If you are driving N1 (direction Southerland), start early and have your Breakfast at Du Toitskloof Wines
  • Lots of people stop in the Cederberg (I met some people who stopped over in Kliphuis)
  • Most people took the R27 up (not drive the N7 twice), but we met a British couple who planned on driving through Namaqua on the way to Cape Town
  • It can get very hot during the day, so be prepared for temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius
  • It can rain a lot in a very short time period, so choose your camping spot wisely
  • A 4×4 is not necessary for the roads, but you might want a higher car to see the animals

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ALSO READ: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: A brief history

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