There's nothing like a good road trip, with the freedom to stop exactly where and when you like. This drive will take you through incredible scenery from the slopes of Table Mountain to the thorny wilderness of the Eastern Cape. You could do the trip in less time, but the secret is to get off the beaten track and take it slow.
Days 1 & 2: Route 62
Choose your vehicle with care: It will become your friend and chariot. Go for fuel efficiency and comfort (A/C in summer is a must). Travel north from Cape Town on the N1; branch off at Worcester and head for Robertson on the R60, then turn onto the R62 to Montagu soon afterward. Stretch your legs at the fabulous Kogmanskloof Pass, with its incredible fold mountains. If you're a wine lover, don't miss one of the multitude of estates on the Robertson-Montagu stretch. Les Hauts de Montagu, just past Montagu, is worth a stopover; otherwise, press on past Barrydale (stopping for lunch at Clarke of the Karoo, if you have time) to Sanbona for your first safari experience in the arid Karoo. It's pricey but it is the top private game reserve in the Western Cape; alternatively, the Retreat at Groenfontein, near Calitzdorp, is another wonderfully remote stop. You'll need at least 2 nights at either. The Karoo landscape is huge, starkly beautiful, and often empty: There are fewer towns along this stretch, so watch your gas gauge. Keep traveling along the R62 to ostrich capital Oudsthoorn.
Day 3: Prince Albert
Visit the Cango Caves, see an ostrich farm, or try ostrich carpaccio or filet at one of the town's restaurants before taking the knuckle-clenching turn up the awesome Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert and spending the night at Dennehof.
Day 4 & 5: Wilderness/Knysna
Take the spectacular Meiringspoort Pass, Outeniqua Pass, and Kaaimansriver Pass to Wilderness. If you like the peaceful atmosphere of this small village, surrounded by water, spend a night at one of the excellent-value guest houses (such as Moontide) and enjoy the deserted beaches (beware the currents) and the lakes of Wilderness National Park, with a day trip to Knysna. Alternatively, press on to Knysna, which has plenty of accommodations; top choice is Phantom Forest. While in Knysna, try to fit in a forest walk to admire centuries-old yellowwood trees (or choose a horse-riding trail), a boat trip to the Heads, and a visit to Noetzie beach. Golfers may want to play a round or two at Pezula. Restaurant choices for all pockets and tastes abound, but we recommend curry at Firefly, and fabulous fresh bread at Isle de Pain.
Days 6 & 7: Tsitsikamma
The drive from Knysna farther east is lovely: This is forest territory. Leave time to either paddle or cruise up the Keurbooms River (near Plettenberg Bay); visit Monkeyland (or Tenikwa, for cat lovers), in the Crags; or spend some time on Nature Valley Beach (a wonderful diversion from the N2). End up in the glorious coastal forest of Tsitsikamma National Park. Give yourself a full extra day to hike, swim, and relax in this natural paradise. Accommodations aren't swish, but it's the scenery that counts; if you'd prefer creature comforts and fine dining, trade this time for a stay at polo destination Kurland or Tsala Treetops Lodge -- all west of Plettenburg Bay and closer to the Crags.
Days 8, 9 & 10: Port Elizabeth & Eastern Cape Reserves
Get acquainted with the struggle against apartheid at the Red Location Museum, or visit the beaches (if you need to stretch your legs, walk the Donkin Heritage Trail and take in some history). You could spend the night at one of the fine accommodation options (Shamwari Townhouse and Hacklewood Hill Country House) or push on to an Eastern Cape Reserve, most about 2 hours from the city.
You're spoiled for choice, but, budgetary concerns aside, my personal favorite in the P.E./Grahamstown region would be Kwandwe; Shamwari's Eagle's Nest or Bayete camps or Gorah come a close second. Aim to spend 3 nights at your reserve of choice -- 2 at the very least. Those on a strict budget could book in at Addo Elephant National Park and search in their own vehicle for elephant and other beasts. It's a wonderful experience, though you are unlikely to see as much as you would with trained guides. (The other option is to stay at Elephant House or Hitgeheim Country Lodge and enjoy their safari tours into Addo -- more expensive, but very relaxing and at nowhere near the prices you'll pay for the top reserves.) There are a fair number of midrange game lodge options, too, such as the lovely RiverBend Lodge. Other excellent options, farther into the Karoo, are Blaauwbosch or the magic Samara (near Graaff-Reinet) -- you can track cheetah at both of these. (If you have the time, spend 2 nights at one of the Karoo destinations -- my favorite is the charming Graaff-Reinet) before heading back to P.E. and flying home via Jo'burg or Cape Town.