From north to south and everything in between, these African road trip itineraries will inspire serious wanderlust. Get ready to start planning your self drive Africa family trip!
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The Ultimate African Road Trip
Africa may not be the first place you think of when planning a family vacation, yet there is so much for all ages to love. Is it possible to visit Africa with kids? Absolutely!
And this Cairo to Cape Town road trip will take you across most of the African continent if you have the time to explore!
Cairo to Cape Town
TIME NEEDED: Up to 4 months
One of my favourite overland trips was going from Cairo to Cape Town in Africa over four months. We went from the deserts in the north to the lush green in the east to the bustling city of Cape Town.
One of the highlights for me on this trip was the number of safaris we went on. I did my first safari in Kenya and from there I was hooked.
We stopped in all of the national parks such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. I think I was surprised at how much we saw but it was definitely worth bring binoculars for safari to see the animals far away. Each stop along the way was unique and well worth.
I have so many stories of seeing the big 5 (elephants, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhinos) but one thing that caught me off guard was seeing a giraffe crossing the road as I was driving from Swaziland to South Africa.
It’s a completely different sight than seeing a deer on the side of the road.
–Nicole from Nicole LaBarge Travel Blog
North Africa Road Trips
Your African road trip as a family will be a blast with this North Africa self-drive itinerary through Morocco.
TIME NEEDED: At least 2 weeks
In April this year, we did a 2.5 week road trip around Morocco with our boys, who were 3 and 5 years old at the time.
We hired a car on arrival at Marrakech airport and drove north to the blue city of Chefchaouen, via Rabat, then back down through Moulay Idriss to the Sahara, and back across to Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains. It was one of our best road trips to date, and we have done A LOT of road trips with our kids.
Morocco is a great option for families in Europe as there are no visa or vaccination requirements, no jet lag, and good connections with low-cost airlines. Or you could even get the ferry across from Spain!
Plus, the Moroccan landscape is fantastically diverse. Kids will love running around the maze of colourful medinas, camel riding over the sand dunes of the Sahara, and trekking through the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains on a mule.
Not to mention all the warm interactions they will experience with locals who make a fuss over them.
To plan your Morocco with kids road trip, you will find a full itinerary and costs, as well as accommodation recommendations and tips for hiring a car and travelling Morocco.
-Jenny from Travelynn Family
East Africa Road Trip Itineraries
Venture into East Africa for some of the most incredible safari experiences and animal encounters you can imagine. These East African road trip routes are sure to delight all ages.
Kenya Road Trip
TIME NEEDED: 3 to 4 Weeks
There is something special about driving around on the battered roads in Kenya at 5 am in the morning, watching Africa wake up and come alive. We often headed off exploring this early for this reason alone. Sunrise and sunsets are two parts of the day you really shouldn’t miss.
I have visited Kenya many times and taken different road trips each time. There are so many routes you can take so you are spoilt for choice! On this occasion, we started our road trip in Nairobi and ended it in Mombasa. In total, we spent 3 weeks on the road and got to see some of the most amazing things.
There are some great touristy things to do in Nairobi, especially if you are travelling with children. These are not to be missed. We stayed in the outskirts of Nairobi, in Karen\Langata, which is close to everything and 40 minutes from the airport.
Whilst in Nairobi, we visited the famous Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre, where you get to feed the giraffes, Karen Blixen Museum and coffee garden.
From Nairobi, we set off on a 4 ½ hour road trip to the Masai Mara, where we stayed for 4 nights. This gave us 3 full days on safari and 2 half days. We also managed a little relaxation too!
The wildlife in the Mara was out of this world. We managed to see some of the migration of the Wildebeast crossing the river which is an experience I will never forget.
From the Masai Mara, we headed to Nakuru, which took about 3 1\2 hours. Nakuru is famous for its flamingos which cover the lake. This is another game reserve but very different from the Mara. The much smaller planes are surrounded by forest – great for leopards! Here we saw a lot of rhino.
From Nakuri, we took the road back down to Nairobi and then another adventure was about to begin. We decided to cycle from Nairobi down to Mombasa. This was with an organised group. We cycled right past Kilimanjaro and down to Tsavo West.
Whist inside the game reserves we were in vehicles for safety. Tsavo West is very dense and it can be quite hard to spot wildlife but totally amazing too.
We continued on the red dirt road until we arrived in Mombasa. The cycle ride itself took 6 days with 1 day to rest. Whilst it was a challenge, as I am no cyclist, it was totally doable! It was great to reach the coast and spend some time here relaxing before taking a flight back home.
You can do short cycle tours during a day trip from Nairobi too if you aren’t ready to commit to a full bike tour.
-Anna from Twins and Travels
TIME NEEDED: 2 to 4 weeks
Any road trip in Madagascar is likely to start and end in Tana (Antananarivo), since this is where most international flights arrive and depart. The capital is worth exploring for a couple of days but after that, I suggest hitting the road in search of the hugely diverse flora and fauna of the National Parks.
No two parks are the same (or even remotely similar) so if you can spare the time, visit as many as possible. Plan to spend at least 2-4 days in each minimum.
Remember that distances are vast and roads are poor so what looks to be a short hop on a map could actually take a full day of driving. It’s a spectacular way to see the country though and the changing landscape will blow you away.
Highlights include UNESCO World Heritage Sites Ranomafana National Park, Andringitra National Park and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, as well as Isalo National Park, popular for its arid sandstone canyons and Ringtail Lemur population.
Ranomafana’s rainforest is home to a number of rare lemurs, as well as birds, amphibians and reptiles, many of which are endemic to Madagascar and specifically to the park. Guided walks are available during the day and night.
Andringitra offers unbeatable hiking and rock climbing, and the views from Chameleon Rock stretch for miles.
The bumpy 10-hour drive to Tsingy de Bemaraha is undoubtedly worth it. En route from Morondava, ensure you stop at the Lovers Baobab, named for its two trunk embrace, and at the Avenue of Baobabs, best seen at sunrise or sunset.
The spiky limestone formations known as tsingy are incredible, unlike any rock formation I’ve seen before.
For those with a good level of fitness, I highly recommend the Broadway Route in the Grande Tsingy. If hiking through the forest, climbing up rock faces, crawling through caves and walking over vast suspension bridges isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other routes to suit all levels and interests.
Madagascar is a hiker’s paradise, a dream destination for nature lovers, and road-tripping is undoubtedly the best way to travel between spots and truly appreciate the biodiversity for which the nation is famed.
-Joss from Little Green Globetrotter
Kigali to Kampala road trip
TIME NEEDED: 10 days
One of the best road trips in Africa runs through two of the smallest countries in the East — Rwanda and Uganda.
This ten-day trip starts in Kigali – Rwanda’s capital. This extremely clean, safe city is an easy introduction to Africa. Kigali has amazing art galleries like Inema Arts, great cafe culture and the must-visit Genocide Memorial.
Then, drive north into Uganda to track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The experience of standing three meters away from a 350-pound silverback gorilla is indescribable.
Next, try a traditional safari with two days in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Drive through the Ishasha Sector to see the famous tree-climbing lions.
A boat trip on the Kazinga Channel practically guarantees elephant sightings, and you might even have a hippo wander into your campsite!
Continue west toward Kibale Forest National Park. Spend your first day tracking chimpanzees in the park and seeing all manner of monkey and bird species on the Bigodi Swamp Walk.
The next day, check out the day hike options around the Toro Crater Lakes. Local guides cost just $10 for half a day and they’ll take you on trails you’d never find on your own.
This road trip ends with a long drive to Kampala. If you still have any energy left after sitting in hours of traffic, spend a night on the town to experience East Africa’s most exciting nightlife.
-Carrie from Trains Planes & Tuk Tuks
Central Africa Road Trip Itineraries
As you venture to the centre of Africa, discover the lesser-known Sao Tome and Principe for beautiful landscape during your Africa family trip by car.
Sao Tome & Principe
TIME NEEDED: 2 days
The tiny island nation of Sao tome & Principe of the west coast of Africa, only has about 140Km/87miles of paved roads around the entire island. While you might think it would only take you a few hours to drive the whole island, you would be mistaken.
The quality of the road on the southern part of the country is flawless, compared to the northern part that is full of potholes. You will need two days to cover the entire island, to see the natural and historical sites in Sao Tome.
Drive south and you will see the world’s strangest-looking mountain. The volcano tower is known as Pico Cao Grande at 668m (2,192 ft) high or “Great Dog Peak”.
Drive to the south and the end of the road so do you have the option to take a small wooden boat to Rolas Island to cross the equator. If you are here in the right season, you can see the world’s largest turtle. The leatherback lay their eggs here.
Sao Tome might be the easiest country in the world to take a road trip since there is only one road here. There are almost no cars on the entire island outside the capital so there is never any problem to stop anywhere you want along the road to take photos or have a picnic.
However, there are also no gas stations outside the capital, so don’t forget to fill up!
-Christian from Unusual Traveler
Road Trip In South Africa
Possibly the region that comes to mind is a South Africa road trip. Venture through beautiful self-drive areas in the continents southern region with these Southern Africa road trip itineraries. There is much more to South Africa than Cape Town.
You won’t want to miss any of these highlights as you plan your own family road trip through South Africa.
TIME NEEDED: At least 2 weeks
Road tripping in Africa took things to a whole new level for me. We chose a self-drive safari in Namibia because we had researched taking kids on safari and discovered that Namibia is one of the easiest places to do this.
It’s an incredibly safe country (especially compared to its neighbours), has a relatively low incidence of malaria (we still took anti-malarials just in case) and has absolutely stunning scenery that is incredibly varied.
We took 2 weeks to do our trip but could easily have added more stops to see more and slow down a bit. We included Windhoek, the Kalahari Desert, Namib-Naukluft Park (Namib Desert – home to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei), Swakopmund, Sandwich Harbour, Twyfelfontein, Palmwag and Etosha National Park in our itinerary.
If we had had time, I would have also spent time the Caprivi Strip, Kolmanskop, Luderitz, the Cheetah Conservation Fund and Okonjima Nature Reserve and also further north on the Skeleton Coast than we managed to get.
We opted for a combination of camping (we had 2 tents on top of our 4×4!) and staying in lodges along the way.
I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful the country is. It is very spread out so the driving was mostly on gravel roads and pretty tough going but every place we went just took our breath away.
-Emma from Wanderlust and Wet Wipes
Table Mountain, South Africa
TIME NEEDED: 1-3 days
Table Mountain, one of the most iconic landmarks South Africa has to offer. The mountain reaches fully 1,086m above sea level, but being so close to the sea and the city, the mountain features look even more impressive.
This makes it a truly breathtaking sight, and the way this mountain rises above the middle of the town is unlike anything you are ever likely to experience again.
There are almost limitless adventures you and your kids can experience on your road trip. From family friendly day hikes to various water sports, diving and shark encounters, there is something for everyone.
That being said, the highlight of your trip is undoubtedly to be a journey up Table Mountain, which provides a stunning panoramic view of Cape Town, the ocean and neighbouring peaks. They will love the fun and excitement of ascending to the top of the mountain.
And while it takes only five minutes to reach the top via car, you will want to set aside an entire day so that you can fully explore the top of the mountain. Entrance to the mountain and cable car costs only $13 (R180) for adults and $6 (R80) for children. Or combine your visit with a city tour and cable car entry.
Your kids will definitely have a blast as you road trip through this iconic area on your next vacation.
-Lydia from Africa Wanderlust
Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa
TIME NEEDED: At least 2 weeks
If you are looking for an adventurous family travel destination, a South Africa road trip is a great choice. Beautiful beaches, challenging hikes, safari parks and world-famous wine regions all make this one of the most diverse and memorable road trips with kids.
With 2 to 3 weeks, it is possible to start in Johannesburg and drive to Cape Town via the Garden Route.
With an extra week (or an internal flight), a stop at Kruger National Park to go on safari is essential. This is one of our top destinations to visit for 2020.
In Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum is a sombre but important stop, best with older kids.
From Johannesburg drive to the UNESCO listed Drakensberg Ranges for a few days of spectacular hiking and glimpses of Tugela Falls, the world’s second-highest waterfall.
From the Drakensberg, make your way to the coast via Addo Elephant Park for a mini-safari experience the kids will love.
Once you reach Port Elizabeth, the famous garden route commences – a spectacular coastal road through Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, inland to Oudtshoorn, then on to the southernmost point of Africa, to the wine region of Franschoek and on to Cape Town.
Along the way there are so many great things to do with kids, including hiking, exploring caves, swimming at beautiful beaches and enjoying South African hospitality at some of the best wineries in the country.
Finally, Cape Town. One of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, see the penguins at Boulders Beach, enjoy the cosmopolitan V&A waterfront and discover Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
It is a great city to explore with kids and the perfect place to finish a trip to South Africa.
-Rachel from Adventure and Sunshine
Johannesburg to Durban
TIME NEEDED: 3 weeks
We did a roundtrip from Johannesburg to Durban and back which took us 3 weeks. You can actually go from Johannesburg to Durban in a few hours because it is only about 400 miles on a very well maintained national road. You would miss SO much, if you did it that way though.
From Johannesburg, we went to the Drakensberg Mountains for hiking, cycling and other adventure activities. We then went to the Kingdom of Lesotho and stayed in a national park for more adventure activities. None of these compared to the adrenaline rush that was driving the Sani Pass back down from Lesotho to South Africa.
We visited Durban, the wetlands of St Lucia, and went on safari in a couple of South African national parks (including Kruger National Park) on our way back up to Johannesburg.
The Kingdom of Swaziland is only about a 3-hour drive to Johannesburg. We stopped in Swaziland to see their annual Reed Festival where tens of thousands of young maidens dance in front of the king.
The driving in South Africa was very easy, but we did take precautions and stayed on the main routes, only driving during the day. We found a couple of restroom stations in South Africa, but they were far and few between.
The driving in Lesotho and Swaziland were also easy, but only on the main routes. There are many unpaved roads in these two countries. We did not see any restrooms either. My husband and son had no problem pulling over on the side of the road, but I was quite dehydrated on the driving days due to the lack of restroom facilities being a concern.
If you are driving into either Lesotho or Swaziland then you need to make sure your rental agency confirms your rental car is permitted to enter these countries.
-Shobha from Just Go Places
Namibia to Cape Town
An African road trip may sound a little daunting to some. Images of dirt roads spring to mind and to be fair, we did see quite a few dirt roads during our three months overland trip through Africa. Some were completely impassable, but our road trip from Namibia to Cape Town was a world away from this.
Namibia and South Africa are two of the most developed and westernised countries in Africa and their infrastructure is great. In fact, South Africa is one of our top recommendations to travel as a family. There are just so many family-friendly activities in South Africa.
The route from Namibia to Cape Town is very straightforward. The Vioolsdrift border crossing from Namibia into South Africa is open 24 hours and is a breeze.
From there you can head down the N7 for 700km which takes around 6.5 hours and you’ll arrive in Cape Town. But where’s the fun in that?
The beauty of a road trip is that you can do it at your own pace and stop off wherever and whenever you like. And trust us. You’ll want to stop off. The natural beauty along this stretch is outstanding.
We made our way down slowly in 7 days and the highlights of our trip were:
- Hiking and biking in the rugged, mountainous terrain of the Cederberg Wilderness Area;
- Taking a dip in the beautiful calm waters of the Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park;
- Birdwatching from our stunning accommodation in Velddrif backing onto a wetland area;
- Lambert’s Bay Bird Island Nature Reserve where you’ll see a very large, loud and smelly colony of Cape Gannets
- Eating seafood with a view at the simple but stunning Muisbosskerm Seafood Restaurant in Lambert’s Bay.
-Jacquie from Flashpacking Family
TIME NEEDED: 2 to 4 weeks
Whether you have two weeks to spend or a month, a self-drive safari in Botswana will more than exceed your expectations. The wildlife in the National Parks is phenomenal. To start your road trip adventure, I would suggest you fly to Kasane and then hire a car.
The best time to visit is in the dry season between May and September. The daily temperatures will be cooler, and animals tend to congregate at the watering holes. That said wildlife viewing is excellent all year round.
The Chobe riverfront is the most popular route, as its easily accessible and well signposted. The park is home to the big five and its also renowned for its elephant population. As you drive along the river, you can often see them bathing and playing in the water.
It’s also worth taking a river cruise during your stay as there’s plenty of water birds and hippos to see along the banks.
From Kasane is an easy drive down the A33 to Gweta which is the gateway to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. It will take you the best part of a day to get there so you may wish to consider stopping at Nata along the way. The Makgadikgadi Pans are the largest salt pans in the world and well worth exploring.
From Gweta it’s worth heading to Maun and spending a few days exploring the Okavango Delta. This region is made up of marshland and flood plains, so it’s advisable to have a 4WD or book organised tours. The area is a must for birdwatchers, but the wildlife is spectacular as well.
If you have a couple more weeks to spare, I would suggest driving from Maun to the Moremi Game Reserve. The scenery in this part of the country is spectacular and for those seeking a thrilling adventure you can drive through Moremi and back into Chobe game reserve.
You’ll need to be competent at handling a 4WD to complete this loop, but it’s well worth the time and effort.
-Fiona from Passport and Piano
Maputo to Johannesburg
TIME NEEDED: 2 days
Africa truly is an epic continent for road trips, as I found out spending four months with my fiancée travelling overland from Uganda to South Africa. Our final leg was from Mozambique’s bustling capital Maputo to Johannesburg, with just one overnight stop.
Heading west out of Maputo it was a simple one-hour drive to the Komatipoort border crossing into South Africa.
Within 10 minutes of entering South Africa, we’d left the main road, driven into Kruger National Park and come face to face with a white rhino five meters in front of us. We knew that Kruger had lots of wildlife, but hadn’t expected such an immediate and close up encounter!
As the sun went down we trundled slowly to our camp doing an evening game drive, seeing herds of impala and a family of elephants by a watering hole.
After a night listening to the sounds of the bush we set off at dawn for our afternoon flight home. We spotted lion, buffalo and plenty of birdlife on the way out of Kruger, before heading to Johannesberg airport via one of the most exhilarating stretches of road in southern Africa – the Long Tom Pass.
Here the Northern Drakensberg mountain drop down to the vast Lowveld plains and winding Blyde River far below, giving jaw-dropping scenes and some incredible photo opportunities!
4 hours later we were on our flight back to the UK, still buzzing from that final leg of our African road trip. 3 years on and we still dream of it…
-Ed from Safaris Africana
These road trip itineraries for Africa are sure to help you plan a dream family trip in Africa!
Check Out These Road Trip Planning Resources:
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- Ultimate family road trip playlist
- DIY kids activity kits for travel
- Travel safety tips
- Guide to planning overseas travel with kids
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