A Guide to South Africa's Panorama Route
Suzanne van Heerden
Road Trip Travel
The Panorama Route lies within South Africa's Lowveld region and is where I grew up. This area is very dear to my heart and always will be. I always return from home with my soul filled with so much joy, light and love. There is an abundance to do in this area - from hiking and waterfall-watching to safaris - it truly has it all. This route is best enjoyed as a road trip or a self drive holiday. The Panorama Route is a scenic route in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province and includes numerous cultural, historical & natural points of interest. The route is centered around the world's third-largest and greenest canyon, The Blyde River Canyon, and is located in South Africa's largest forested area.
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Where to stay in South Africa
A quirky boutique art hotel in a perfect location for sightseeing, recreation, dining and exploring town.
Kruger Gate Hotel
Lodge-style resort with comfortable, upscale rooms located just outside Kruger National Park.
Restored Victorian-style hotel located in the historic, gold mining village of Pilgrim's Rest.
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Things to do in South Africa
Things to do per each town on the route:
Things to do in Lydenburg
The starting point of The Panorama Route is right outside of Lydenburg, at the foot of the Long Tom Pass. This mountain pass/parkway is a scenic road between Lydenburg and Sabie with lots of switchbacks and a picturesque drive with stunning scenes of the mountain landscape. This pass was named after the Long Tom French-made cannon that you'll be able to stop at and have a look at when you've reached the peak of the pass.
On your way to the top of the mountain (where the cannon is) make sure to stop at Hops Hollow Brewery which is Africa's highest brewery. Another great and fun stop on the way is the Long Tom Toboggan which happens to be Africa's longest toboggan run. Pro-tip: they do not take bookings so you can just arrive and ride :)
Things to do in Sabie
As much as Sabie is a tourist town, it is very much know for forestry and mountain biking.
The Panorama Route is peppered with waterfalls. Here is a list of them in the Sabie area: Horseshoe Falls, Lone Creek Falls, Sabie Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Pro-tip: make sure to carry some cash with you as some of these waterfalls charge an entry fee.
Komatiland Forestry Museum: A museum that has been around in Sabie for ages. I went to primary school in Sabie and remember going here as a kid. The museum displays ecotourism practices on local forests as well as the history of the South African timber and lumber industry.
Kestell Adventures: A recreation centre with all sorts of activities on offer like tubing, canyoning, abseiling, caving, forest cruising and white-water kayaking.
Hikes: A few day hikes to consider are the Loerie Trail, Forest Falls Walk, Secretary Bird Walk and the Misty Mountain Trail.
Backpacking: Check out the Fanie Botha Trail, a 5-day backpacking trip that doesn't require any camping as you hike to overnight huts. Pro-tip: this is one of South Africa's most popular trails so make sure to book ahead of time.
Things to do in Graskop
Graskop is my hometown and is so very dear to me! Just like its neighbor Sabie, Graskop is a tourist hot spot since it is right on the way to the famous Kruger National Park, but it is primarily know for forestry too. The towns history can be backtracked to the late 1830s. Graskop is closely located to an abundance of natural landmarks such as God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes, The Three Rondavels and the Blyde River Canyon. Graskop is ever growing and every time I am home there is more and more to do.
The Big Swing: A bungee jump swing and one of the world’s highest cable gorge swings which launches off the top of a waterfall.
Graskop Gorge Lift Co.: This impressive tourist attraction has a ton to do, including The Lift which is a viewing elevator that goes down into the gorge and is situated right across from the Big Swing. It is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Once you get to the bottom you enter a forest with waterfalls and rivers and suspension bridges. It is a MUST see and a wonderland in it's own right. Other things to do here is the zipline and shopping for some local South African arts and crafts.
Delago Arts & Crafts: My absolute favourite shop right in the main street of Graskop.
Waterfall watching in the area: Lisbon falls, Mac Mac Falls, Mac Mac Pools, Forest Falls and Berlin Falls.
Scenic drives & viewpoints in the area: Blyde River Canyon, Three Rondavels, Bourkes Luck Potholes, The Pinnacle Rock (lots of action movies have shots here and has also been featured in The Bachelor series), Wonder View and God's Window.
Africa Silks Farm is a silk farm and showroom where they show you how the weave silk and the start to finish process of silk and how it's made.
Hikes: The Jock of the Bushveld Trail.
Things to do in Pilgrims Rest
Pilgrims Rest is a restored gold mining town with the quaintest little streets with old historic, Victorian buildings. This town has so much history, so much so that they classified the whole town as a national monument. Pilgrims Rest had street lamps before England ever did. Pilgrims Rest is also famous for the yearly National Gold Panning Championships (yes it is a real sport - I compete myself :) ).
Alanglade House Museum & Ghost Tour: if haunted houses and history excites you then this ones for you! Alanglade was the house (more like mansion) of a wealthy miner built in the early 1900s and is still furnished with items from that era. If you go at the right time you might see the cradle rock in the baby room.
Gold Panning Tours: Pilgrims Rest is well-known for it's gold panning and there are guided tours to go do it yourself just like the early prospectors used to do it. Best of all - you keep what you find!
Hiking & Backpacking: There are a ton of overnight hikes in this area. My favorite is the Prospectors Hiking Trail.
Pilgrims Rest Golf Course & Country Club: If you love a good round of golf don't skip this course! One of South Africa's most scenic courses and the country club is one of the prettiest buildings in town!
Things to do in Ohrigstad
Ohrigstad is a small town that was established by Voortrekkers (pioneers) in the mid-1800s, and is named after a trader from Amsterdam who wanted to develop trade between the Netherlands and the South Africa. Ohrigstad is now home to game farms, game reserves and commercial agriculture. This area is well known for the Echo Caves, which are situated about 30 minutes north of town. These caves were discovered in the early 1900s when a farmer discovered his cattle to be disappearing into the cave as they were attracted to the fresh water within the cave.
Echo Caves: South Africa's longest cave and has an underground wonderland to explore. It is considered one of the oldest in the world.
Alwyn Farm Stall: The word 'alwyn' means aloe in Afrikaans, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa. The farm stall offers homemade preserves & jams as well as delicious chillies to buy. They also make pancakes, jaffles, vetkoek and koeksisters (all South African delicacies). You can get them to-go!
The Big Shoe: A man-made life size shoe building with very cool and quirky things inside. The Shoe also has a small museum including all the history of the Ohrigstad Valley.
Things to do in Hazyview
Hazyview is an agricultural town with sub-tropical climate and is therefor well known for its large banana and macadamia nut farms - they produce about 20-40% of South Africa's bananas and macadamias and the rest all gets exported globally.
Although, Hazyview might be better known as the 'gateway' to the famous Kruger National Park! I love Hazyview as it has not only good restaurants but also a ton of outdoor activities to keep you busy!
Elephant Whisperer: A wildlife encounter like no other! Elephant whisperers is an African Elephant refuge offering amazing encounters and interactions with ellies. From feeding them, walking with them or even enjoying an elephant ride. There are multiple options for you to choose from.
Skyway Trails: One of South Africa's longest zipline/aerial cable trails. I have done it twice and it never disappoints! It truly is a world-class rope tree-top adventure not to be missed.
Induna Adventures: An abundance of different types of activities. They have paintball, archery and rafting just to name a few! I have always have had tons of fun at Induna and my favorite activity has always been the geckoing which is basically a combination of white water tubing and kloofing (jumping off high rock cliffs into water pools) - it is thrilling!
Kruger National Park Day Tours: Hazyview have no shortage of companies that take you on a guided safari to the Kruger. There are multiple options to choose from like a half-day trip or a full day (recommend!) as well as trips where lunch is provided or trips where you can bring your own refreshments and food.
Summerfiels Rose Retreat & Spa: A luxury 5-star retreat & spa right on the Sabi River. This is the perfect stop after an exciting safari or a busy day filled adventure and adrenaline. Not only do they have an incredible spa, they also have amazing accommodation options to complete the trip! I highly recommend stopping by for a little R&R.
Perry's Bridge Trading Post & Tourism Centre: Aovely spot to do shopping, eat, keep kids entertained and relax! There are over 25 shops and restaurants to choose from which is bound to give the whole family a unique shopping, dining & adventure experience. There is even a reptile park, spa & boutique hotel.
A note from Suzanne
Everything in this guide can be done as a day trip - just pick & choose what you would like to do and see and off you pop!
Places to eat & drink in South Africa
Places to eat & drink in Lydenburg
Cafe Crust: A local and casual dining with a big menu and lots of variety! All the baked goods are always homemade and made fresh daily. The crowd pleasers are the quiches and the cakes.
Places to eat & drink in Sabie
The Wild Fig Tree: Has been around for years (26!) and throughout these years their quality and service never disappoints! Their baked goods are to die for and they have the prettiest outdoor seating under a beautiful Jacaranda Tree that makes for the perfect afternoon tea and cake spot! They have a variety of South African classics as well as interesting options like crocodile for the adventurous eaters.
Smokey Train Diner: Another local spot that has been around for years. There are seating options within the train carriages as well as a pretty covered deck with a put-put course outside for the kids to enjoy while the parents can chill. The are open for breakfast, lunch & dinner! My go-to here is always the Oxtail with a glass of red on a rainy, chilly day! Yum!
Sabie Brewing Company: Located in one of the towns heritage buildings with exposed original wooden beams from the 1920s. They have delish burgers & pizza but what you are really here for is the beer of course! The Safari Gold is a solid choice and my fave but I recommend a beer tour and tasting to really get a good taste of all the great beers and then have a good grub after!
Places to eat & drink in Graskop
Harries Pancakes: A trip to Graskop is not complete without visiting the world famous Harries Pancakes (which by the way is also now open in Dubai!)! I grew up waitering at this restaurant growing up so I might be biased but I have never heard anyone dislike Harries! Sweet or savory tooth - you won't taste a better pancake in South Africa! My recommendations are: Cinnamon Sugar & Milk Tart Custard, Bobotie with Chutney Vinaigrette, Chicken Livers with Pepper Cream Sauce, Smoked Trout Fillet with Horseradish Cream - TBH everything there is so so yummy! They have incredible coffee and great milkshakes too! Harries will forever and always be my favourite!
Bruno's Barn Pub & Grill: A super neat bar filled with very cool antiques that the owners have collected over the years. They have great outdoor seating and all the bar snacks are prepared over the braai (BBQ) and is delish! This is the place to meet all the locals as it is claimed to be the local watering hole. If you are lucky, you will get to meet the precious doggo this place was named after - Bruno the Staffie!
Places to eat & drink in Pilgrims Rest
The Vine Restaurant & Johnny's Pub: Run by the Reinders family; mom runs the restaurant and father and son run the pub. This is the coolest place by far in the whole of PR. It is located in the downtown area and is in an old sink Victorian building with plenty of outdoor seating too. My favourite on their menu is the Prego Roll, Chicken Schnity & Ostrich Neck Potjie. Their homemade tomato sauce/ketchup (yes in South Africa we call ketchup tomato sauce) is out of this world - so if you are not planning on eating their at least get some fries with tomato sauce!
The Old Church Bar at The Royal Hotel: Located in uptown PR and (as the name suggests) it is an old church. Old wooden floors, church benches and a lovely wooden bar top makes this place a must-see. Make sure you ask them for the 'Melktertjie' shot!
Places to eat & drink in Hazyview
Pioneers Grill: Where you want to go for a good steak & glass of red! They have been awarded the best wine list in this area a few times now and boost with the best steaks in town!
Shiloh Coffee Estate: For all the coffee lovers! It is situated right on a scenic lake and is best enjoyed when getting a cuppa with some yummy cake!
The River Cafe @ Summerfields: A cozy restaurant that is set inside a massive greenhouse. All of their food is farm-to-table style and comes from their veggie garden. The River Café has been a winner in the World Luxury Restaurant Awards before.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out my guide to Nashville: The Best of East Nashville: A 3-Day Guide.
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