The Beauty of Route 56
Having lived on Route 56 in Baynesfield (KwaZulu-Natal) for a number of years, Dale Chaplin (Owner of Chaplin PR), fell in love with the area as he spent his weekends taking the road less travelled and experiencing the true beauty of Route 56. Over the years, hours were spent trying to find one website that expressed the passion of the people, the hospitality and culinary delights, the diversity of the cultures and of course the spectacular scenic beauty of Route 56. Websites touched on Route 56 but nobody told the full story of the magnificence of the area. Route 56 was created to appeal to open-minded travellers with a yearning for unusual experiences and so, a new Legend is born…
Route 56 stretches over 765 kilometres and is divided into 2 regions, namely Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. With 31 towns/villages on and off Route 56, you are spoilt for choice. Visitors can experience true hospitality in picturesque surroundings, outstanding accommodation, conference and wedding facilities, fascinating local events, fabulous padwinkels, coffee shops and restaurants, invigorating outdoor activities and over-the-top adventure sports, historic landmarks, wildlife conservation, and best of all "shop-till-you-drop" unique arts and crafts. We are fortunate to have four distinct seasons on Route 56, snow in the winter, lambs and wonderful birding in the spring, lush green vistas, wild flowers and full rivers in the summer or the spectacular colours of autumn. National and international annual events also occupy most of the four seasons’ calendar making your travels on Route 56 that much more exciting.
The Eastern Cape region, stretching over 579 kms, starts in Middelburg, the heart of the Karoo, and meanders all the way through the Eastern Cape Highlands area of the Southern Drakensberg to end in Kokstad. En-route, you’ll past through towns and villages such as Schoombee, Steynsburg, Molteno, Dordrecht, Indwe, Ugie, Elliot, Maclear, Mount Fletcher, Matatiele and Cedarville.
The cultural heartbeat of the province lies here, in this most pristine of country areas, where time seems to stand still and locals welcome you like old friends. Arguably the area’s most alluring feature is the dramatic diversity of landscape that covers the second-largest region of the province, with the Karoo-like arid regions of the west giving way to the high, mountainous regions of the central areas, which in turn transform into the wild and open areas of the east. The wide open space of the region, filled with fresh country air, boasts numerous high-quality game reserves and safari opportunities.
Adventure activities abound, ranging from those requiring nerves of steel, such as paragliding or white-water rafting, 4x4ing up the 8 mountain passes, to the more relaxing pastimes like leisurely strolls in the great outdoors and for the more skilled, fly-fishing in some of the country’s finest trout dams and rivers. Rock paintings from the country’s earliest inhabitants, the San people, provide a unique eye into the world of generations ago.
The smaller KwaZulu-Natal region, stretching over 186kms, continues from Kokstad, through Umzimkulu, Ixopo, Richmond, Baynesfield and finally onto Piertermaritzburg, the heritage heartbeat of KwaZulu- Natal. From Casinos and horse racing to tranquil guest farms, spectacular scenery, abseiling the world’s highest gorge and hiking through spectacular forests, not to mention the game drives and bird spotting, visitors are spoilt for choice.
Plan your trip allowing for adequate time, not just to pass through one of the unique towns or villages en-route, but to ensure you stop and enjoy the hospitality, sport, and culture of the area…or you could just return time and again and experience the wonders on offer.