Middelburg Karoo to Pietermaritzburg

Wanderlust a strong desire to travel...

This desire lives in all of us, whether we would like to admit it or not. People talk about bucket lists… well Route 56 should definitely be a part of yours!
Route 56 is about capturing the spirit of the people, its’ diversity and love for the country. Whether you are an outdoor adventurer, skiing on the slopes of the Southern Drakensberg; a Scenic Adventurer, bird watching or hiking the foothills and mountain passes, Route 56 has it all. It is an exciting experience, even for the well-travelled.
Although known as the Gateway (the shortest route - all 765 kilometres of it) between the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, if you get caught up in the incredible scenery, it’s going to turn into a rather lengthy affair… Route 56 takes you through Middelburg, Karoothe heart of the Karoo, into the mountainous regions of the Eastern Cape, right on the edge of what would once have been known as No Man’s Land, through the lush grasslands of the Southern Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal and finally onto “mighty” Pietermaritzburg, the heritage heartbeat of KwaZulu-Natal.
There are 31 towns/villages on and around Route 56, just waiting to be explored…

Eastern Cape Route 56 is ideal for travellers who like to take their time, travel at leisure, and get to know the country and the people en-route. With a number of farmstays, B & B's, hotels and backpackers in the area, visitors are perfectly positioned to explore the beautiful surroundings and experience the adventure, culture and friendliness of the warm and welcoming local people. It’s a quieter, easier and far more pleasant experience than the national highways but there are plenty of distractions, from visits to working farms and game reserves, bird spotting, cascading waterfalls, tribal art, cultural tours, museums and for the more adventurous: hiking trails and mountain climbing, 4x4 routes, white-water rafting, horse riding, fishing and caving...
If you want an outdoor adventure package that involves the ever changing colours of the majestic mountains and countryside, scenic passes, rivers, as well as the multitude of attractions, then book a week off and travel Route 56. Any time of year brings its joys and challenges, Winter snows and Summer blooms – take your pick. Follow Route 56 from either Middelburg Karoo or Pietermaritzburg (an ordinary sedan will do the trick).
Explore the Open Road – Embrace the Detours – Enjoy the Journey


Explore the Open Road

Middelburg Karoo

Middelburg | Cradock | Schoombee | Hofmeyr | Venterstad
Middelburg Karoo Beautiful Sunset

Your adventure begins in Middelburg Karoo

Middelburg is not so named by choice. It is in the middle of a fascinating area in the Great Karoo, the hub from which the tourist can enjoy a Karoo Experience with a difference. Middelburg is located halfway between Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein, as well as between Johannesburg and Cape Town.


Steynsburg | Burgersdorp
Steynsburg bushveld and surrounding areas

The rugged beauty of Steynsburg

Steynsburg may be very small, but it has a long history. It was founded in 1872, and the entire area was used for sheep farming from its earliest days, thanks to the scrubby vegetation so typical of the Eastern Cape. It was named after the grandfather of former president Paul Kruger, whose name was Douwe G Steyn.


Molteno | Aliwal North | Queenstown | Lady Grey
Snow in Molteno, South Africa

South Africas second coldest town

Regarded as one of the coldest towns in South Africa and home to Ouma rusks and the Stormberg biltong factory, the little farming village of Molteno lies in the heart of the Stormberg Mountain range. In the mountains nearby you can view rock paintings, fossils and Stone Age implements uncovered in caves and diggings close to Molteno.


Dordrecht | Indwe
Trout Fishing in Dordrecht

The Jewel of the Stormberg

The little farming village of Dordrecht is situated in the heart of the Stormberg region, north west of Queenstown. Dordrecht is well known for its hiking trails, trout fishing, pheasant and game hunting. There are interesting San rock art trails in the area.



Elliot | Barkley East | Rhodes
Beautiful Mountain Range in Elliot

Home of the Giants Castle and The Pillars

Laid out in a valley of the Slang River, the farming town of Elliot has a wonderful backdrop of mountain grandeur with magnificent sandstone formations, crystal streams with trout and bass, waterfalls, towering cliffs and fascinating rock formations with San rock art.


Gatberg, a Hole in the Mountain, in Ugie

Gatberg, a Hole in the Mountain

Ugie is a quiet, friendly town situated on the banks of the Inxu River beneath the cliffs of the southern Drakensberg. It was founded by the Rev William Murray and named after the river of the same name in Scotland. Close to Ugie is an oddly shaped mountain known as Gatberg so named because of a large hole directly through the centre of its peak.


Maclear | Mount Fletcher
Steam Train running through Maclear

Walking with Dinosaurs

Many of the farms surrounding Maclear have embedded in them the footprints of dinosaurs from millions of years ago. There are trails leading to dinosaur footprints in the area and San rock art paintings in the surrounding caves. For the more adventurous there is abseiling at Tsitsa Falls and the ever challenging 4x4 trails.



Matatiele | Cedarville | Swartberg
African Xhosa initiation in Matatiele

The African Wild West

The village is situated in the shadow of the Matatiele Mountain in the former ‘no man’s land’ that during the latter part of the 19th century was the home of horse thieves, gun runners and smugglers - something like an African version of the Wild West.



Kokstad | Harding | Umzimkulu
Hiking in Kokstad

Best Cheese in Africa

Kokstad lies in the shadow of Mount Currie on the outer slopes of the Drakensberg and best known for its cheese. Oprah Winfrey placed the town on the map amidst much fanfare when her charitable foundation, Oprah’s Angel Network, designed a school for Kokstad’s Shayamoya township.



Ixopo | Bulwer
The Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo

Welcome to the home of the Buddhist Retreat Centre

This charming town is not a major tourism 'hub' which makes Ixopo particularly attractive to those seeking to get away from it all. The surrounding countryside is breath-taking and there are many hiking trails and a few beautiful waterfalls along the Mzimkulu and Mkhomazi rivers.



Richmond | Baynesfield | Camperdown
Umkomaas River Valley in Richmond

This is not the coast

Joseph Byrne fooled settlers in this region into believing the land they bought was on the coast. This was not the case however and one can only imagine the settlers decided to call the area their home due to the breathtaking beauty of Richmond and the Byrne Valley.



Pietermaritzburg City Hall

The end of your Journey

Situated some 80 kilometres from the coast, Pietermaritzburg is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal with many landmark colonial buildings, such as the famous red-brick Pietermaritzburg City Hall and the old Supreme Court building, now the outstanding Tatham Art Gallery, gracing its busy streets.

Embrace the Detours



Craddock is home of the unusually shaped Egg Rock which weighs around 488 tons and is perfectly balanced. One side of the Rock was destroyed by a lightning strike.



Venterstad is the complete antithesis of city living. Effortless plains spread as far as the eye can see, the kind of space to which most of us is unaccustomed.



Described as the oldest town in the North Eastern Cape, Burgersdorp is surrounded by the Stormberg Mountains.

Aliwal North

Aliwal North

Aliwal North has many attractions such as Museums, Historical Places and Buildings, Nature Reserves, a beautiful Golf Course as well as San Rock Artwork.



Nature lovers can enjoy the Memorial Gardens in Shepstone Street or the quiet tranquillity of the Walter Everitt Sunken Gardens in Queenstown.

Lady Grey

Lady Grey

With “God’s thumbprint on the mountain” you could only expect Lady Grey to be peaceful, spiritual, magical and mystical place.

Barkley East

Barkley East

A variety of caves contain rock paintings by the San that date back hundreds of years, and visitors interested in San art stay at cottages on local farms.



Rhodes is the home of three significant sporting events: The Rhodes Trail Run, the Rhodes Mountain Bike Challenge and the annual Wild Trout Festival.



Swartberg and its surrounding areas are filled with hidden beauty and adventure for those visitors seeking a truly exceptional 'getaway' experience.



Established as a military outpost by the British in 1874. The town is named after the first Chief Justice in Natal, Sir Walter Harding.



A birding spot, a beautiful place to relax, and a haven for hang gliders and paragliders. Local and international pilots flock to Bulwer to fly recreationally.



The Natal Lion Park is just 25km from Pietermaritzburg and just over 14km from the town of Camperdown. A must for all the wildlife enthusiasts.


Enjoy the Journey