The Northern Cape boasts many small, interesting towns and pit stops, each with its own unique attractions just waiting to be explored by the curious traveller.
The ideal way to make a fun trip out of travelling around the province is to fly with Mango Airlines to either OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport in the Western Cape. Once you get to one of these airports, rent a car from one of Mango’s partners – Budget Rent a Car, Avis Car Rental or Tempest Car Hire – and make the most out of your road trip in the province of extremes.
The N14 national road from just outside Johannesburg connects with Springbok via Upington (while passing through a number of Northern Cape towns), providing visitors with excellent stops while travelling through the province. You can also travel on the N12 to Kimberley, and start your Northern Cape odyssey there. Travelling along the N7 up the West Coast from Cape Town, or taking a detour into the interior on the R27 via Calvinia, provides different options worth exploring when driving through this part of the country.
If you’re travelling through the Northern Cape, here are a few stops and attractions worth keeping your eyes open for …
Die Pienk Padstal in Kakamas
The Northern Cape’s farm stalls make for perfect stops when road-tripping through the province. Die Pienk Padstal (Afrikaans for “the pink farm stall”), just outside Kakamas along the N14, offers a variety of Northern Cape delicacies, including marmalades, jams, jellies and chutneys, as well as freshly brewed coffee. Outside the stall are local arts and crafts items, ranging from handbags and hats to fridge magnets and rag dolls, which visitors can buy and keep as mementos of their travels.
Where: N14 north, Kakamas
Phone: +27 (0)83 381 9272
Situated on the R355, about 90km from Ceres on the way to Calvinia and before you get to the Tankwa Karoo National Park, the Tankwa Padstal is a trading store, restaurant and bar, all in one.
This farm stall, almost in the middle of nowhere, is accessible via gravel roads – and do not expect to find any fuel stations or shops in this arid area, apart from this padstal. It is a well-known stop for bikers who frequent the region while riding the Cape Town/Upington route, and for the festival lovers who flock to the Karoo every autumn for the annual AfrikaBurn festival.
There are many interesting items travellers can buy at the Tankwa Padstal, aside from enjoying a refreshing beer at the Werkswinkel bar section. These include body-art spray paint, airtime, tobacco pipes, honeybush espresso and leg warmers.
Where: R355, en route to Tankwa Karoo National Park
Phone: +27 (0)27 341 1927
The Quiver Tree Route stretches across several towns, including Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Augrabies, Marchand, Kanoneiland, Kenhardt and Riemvasmaak, and takes in lush, green countryside in some areas, contrasted with arid semi-desert in others.
The kokerboom, or quiver tree, is the magnificent botanical symbol of this part of the country and the Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok is the perfect stop for road-trippers interested in learning more about these fascinating succulents. Here, there are over 600 plant species that can be viewed, including quiver trees, the strange halfmens tree (named for its half-person, half-plant appearance) and other succulents.
Quiver trees have the ability to store water in their stems and leaves. In days gone by, the San used the branches of these trees as quivers for their hunting arrows, hence the name.
The reserve has 15 picnic sites, as well as conference facilities, chalets, bush huts and campsites.
Where: Along the N14 to Springbok
Phone: +27 (0)27 718 9906
The Augrabies Falls
The original Khoikhoi people referred to this waterfall as Ankoerebis, meaning “the place of big noises”. There is also a variety of game that can be spotted in the Augrabies Falls National Park, including leopard, jackal, the African wildcat, zebra and springbok.
Inside the park is the Augrabies Rest Camp, where you can recharge before heading off the beaten track to other parts of the province.
Where: Augrabies, off the N14 near Kakamas
Phone: +27 (0)54 452 9205
Kimberley’s Big Hole
The Big Hole in Kimberley is said to be the largest hand-dug excavation in the world and is the result of a diamond rush that commenced in the area in 1871. An estimated 2 722kg of diamonds were mined from the Big Hole.
Today it is a tourist drawcard, and the open-air mine museum located near the Big Hole showcases a variety of late 19th-century vehicles, as well as period buildings that recreate the lifestyle of that era with artefacts and furniture.
A display of uncut diamonds and jewellery can be viewed at the De Beers Hall within the museum, while there is also an underground mining tour experience offered to tourists and locals in a recreated mine shaft detailing 19th-century mining conditions.
Where: S Circular Road, Kimberley
Phone: +27 (0)53 839 4600
So, if you’re thinking of doing a road trip, swing by the Northern Cape. South Africa’s largest province is calling you, with its open skies and its landscapes of ever-changing and contrasting colours. Visit www.experiencenortherncape.com for more information.