Make the most of a trip to Springbok, Pella, and Upington

Springbok, Pella and, Upington are town names many of us have heard before but you might be wondering? What is there all to do? And, why should I go there?

The Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province, yet not many people seem to make it a travel destination. Strangely enough, it’s a province that’s home to some of the country’s most sought after tourist spots like Augrabies Falls National Park.

The drive from Cape Town to Springbok is about 577 kilometers along the N7. The journey is sensational with views of the mountain landscapes, unusual vegetation, and arid barrens.

Tip: On your way towards Springbok, the police will either pull you off or there’s a speed camera close to Klawer, Western Cape. Also, make sure to fill up either in Vanryhnsdorp or in Bitterfontein.

If road trips are not your preferred transportation, you can take a flight to Kimberley Airport and hire a car. The drive from the airport to Upington is about 3h45 and from the airport to Springbok is roughly 781 kilometers.

You’ll notice the vast amount of space between towns because it is semidesert. It’s also a region currently in a drought so it’s blazing all year round.

But with its flamboyant sunsets and dry air, it’s a province to add to your travel list.

Springbok

Springbok is like a city of its own; enclosed by Koppies (a small hill in a generally flat area). For the first 3 kilometers, the town is quiet with little residents in sight but the further you drive in, it becomes lively as ever with many retail stores in Voortrekker Street.

Originally called Springbokfontein, it lies between Cape Town and Namibia; making Springbok the ideal stopover town which it was for our trip. As much as this area is seen as a commercial hub, it’s a town with a significant rich history mixed with the picture-perfect surroundings.

What you can do in Springbok

If you thinking of escaping to the peaceful charming town of Springbok, there isn’t that much to do but it’s enough to make your time there worthwhile.

View the Dutch Reformed Church

Also known as “Die Klipkerk” (the Stone Church) was built in 1921 is a national monument to behold. Designed by the architect F.W. Van Der Houwen, it’s a magnificent example of stone masonry.

Eat at Herb Garden Restaurant

This well-established restaurant offers a casual atmosphere for laid back travellers and has a menu that accommodates breakfast, lunch, and supper.

Sit outside while the sun bakes on your skin and enjoy a good, wholesome meal. Have their omelette with fresh herbs, bacon, and mushroom or, order a toasted avo and bacon; whatever your order, it’s delicious.

Address: Kruis Street, Springbok| Phone: 027 712 1247 | Visit website here

Other places to put on your list:

  • Explore the richest bulb flora of any arid region at the Namaqua National Park
  • Make a day trip to Goegap Nature Reserve
  • Visit the original copper mine at Blue Mine

Where to stay

There is no shortage of accommodation in Springbok since it is a stopover town. However, due to that factor, the places are pricey to browse around for affordable stays.

We stayed at Gina’s Place; a comfortably furnished apartment for up to 4 people for R650.00 per night. It has a fully equipped kitchen, WIFI, DSTV, and private parking.

A Pitstop in Pella

Along the N14 towards Upington is a small town called Pella. If you weren’t aware, it has one of the most beautiful provincial cathedrals in the country.

It took seven years to build and it was built by Father Simon and Brother Leo Wolf. Brother Leo Wolf who died in 1947 is actually buried in the church he built and, you can view his burial site.

The people are one of the friendliest we encountered in a long time. However, today, Pella is not much more than a few sandy roads and a couple of brick buildings but it’s worth taking a tour inside the cathedral, popping in at their tiny museum and obviously, spend time with the locals.

As much as the town is serene, it’s extremely hot so don’t forget your sunscreen. Surrounded by date palms, and sharp mountain landscapes, it’s always great to explore smaller towns.

Upington

From Pella, the drive to Upington is roughly 3 hours and the landscape changes from dry barrens to lush agricultural haven; trekking through towns like Kakamas and Keimoes.

Upington might be a commercial and agricultural center but it’s buzzing since it’s situated next to the largest rivers in South Africa; the Orange River.

Other than that, it’s a town rich in history and culture and, it’s quite prominent in the sculpture figures such as the South African donkey who played a significant role in the use of transportation in rural communities in and around the area.

If you didn’t know, Upington was originally called Olijvenhoutsdrift due to the abundance of olive wood trees in the area but only later renamed after Sir Thomas Upington, Attorney-General and then Prime Minister of the Cape.

Between the months of November through January, Upington is the sunniest location on the planet so take note that it can be uncomfortably warm than what you use too.

What to do in Upington

There are a number of outdoor activities to do but equally cool things to do indoors so you have many options when you find yourself in Upington.

Sakkie se Arkie

With Upington being an extremely warm area, there’s no better way to explore it than to sit back and relax at Sakkie se Arkie; right next to the majestic Orange River.

It’s a place that has everything under one roof. A camping site for our advert campers, hours of fantastic birding watching, have a day visit for only R50.00 per person and do absolutely nothing, or consider doing their sunset cruises with a fully licensed bar; watching the sun go down across the river.

Address: Park Street, Upington| Phone: 082 564 5447 | Visit website here

Donkey Monument and Orange River Museum

If history is something you enjoy then you’ll find that the Orange River Museum is a place filled with items dating from 1875; housed in the building built by the Reverend Schröder.

You’ll spend at least an hour going from room to room about the history of Upington, the unselfish contribution made by the donkey in developing the Lower Orange River Valley during the pioneer days and, what is known as Upington 26.

Address: 4 Short Street, Upington| Visit website here

Die Pienk Padstal outside Kakamas

There’s nothing like a retro padstal like the one we found in Kakamas. Die Pienk Padstal is pink, decorated in lost number plates, and surrounded by rustic items.

The shop has much local produce from jams, honey, figs, biscuits and olives to children’s toys and interesting books, and antiques.

After much browsing, it’s suggested to have a bite to eat like their lekker vetkoek with mince while cats rest underneath your feet. Find a shaded area in the courtyard. It’s exceptionally hot!

Address: Main Road, Kakamas| Phone: 054 431 1457 | Visit website here

Other places and activities to do in Upington:

  • Wine tasting at Orange River Wines
  • Take a walk along the Palm Avenue on the Kanon Eiland
  • Be adventurous and take a Hot Air Balloon in Augrabies
  • Do a little gambling at Desert Palace Casino
  • Take a game drive at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Where to be staying

Again, there are a number of camping sites, self-catering accommodations and, Bed and Breakfasts to choose from on various booking sites.

We stayed at Villa Borghesi that’s within walking distance of the main town so it’s ideal for leaving your car behind and sightseeing on foot. There are monkeys to be aware of that will come into your room if you leave your window open.

It accommodates everything from an en-suite bathroom that is equipped with a shower, DSTV, WIFI, Braai facility and, a mini-fridge and tea-and-coffee-making facilities.

One thing to point out is that they say breakfast is provided but when you arrive, you need to pay an additional R80.00 per person for breakfast.

Don’t let the weather, the arid landscape or the long roads scare you. It’s a province that can definitely surprise you. The Northern Province has many unique towns that offer peculiar farm stalls and activities so make sure to add this province in your next getaway.

Watch our 13 day Road trip on my YouTube Channel

Until the next adventure.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog