The N2 travels a distance of approximately 2300 km and is the longest of the National Roads of South Africa; it is the main highway along the south and east coast of the country. The N2 starts in Cape Town in the Western Cape and runs through the cities of Port Elizabeth and East London in the Eastern Cape and Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal to its end at Ermelo inMpumalanga. Major towns and cities along the route of the N2 include Cape Town, Somerset West, Caledon, Swellendam, Mossel Bay, George, Knysna, Humansdorp, Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, King William's Town, Bhisho, East London, Mthatha, Kokstad, Port Shepstone, Durban, KwaDukuza-Stanger, Empangeni, Piet Retief, and Ermelo.
The N2 begins in central Cape Town at the northern end of Buitengracht Street outside the entrance to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The first section of the N2 is shared with the beginning of the N1; it is a four-lane elevated freeway that runs along a strip of land between the city centre and the Port of Cape Town. On the eastern edge of the city centre the two roads split, and the N2 turns south as Eastern Boulevard, crossing above the yards and approach tracks of Cape Town Railway Station. The N2 descends to ground level in Woodstock before approaching the major interchange known as "Hospital Bend" because of its proximity to Groote Schuur Hospital. In this interchange, the N2 and the M3 merge to form a massive 10-lane freeway before diverging again. Because Hospital Bend is built on a steeply sloping curve, and lane-changing is often necessary to travel through the intersection, it is notorious for congestion and accidents. After Hospital Bend the N2 turns east to travel across the Cape Flats as a 6-lane freeway to Somerset West; this section is known as Settler's Way. Along this route it crosses the M5, M7 and R300 freeways; it also travels just past the end of the main runway at Cape Town International Airport In Somerset West it is reduced to an undivided highway, passing through several intersections with traffic lights, which cause frequent congestion. East of Somerset West the N2 climbs Sir Lowry's Pass to enter the Overberg region. It passes near the town of Grabouw on the Hottentots-Holland plateau before descending the Houwhoek Pass to Botrivier. After Botrivier it passes across the agricultural plains through the towns of Caledon, Riviersonderend, Swellendam and Riversdale to re-approach the coast at Mossel Bay, which marks the beginning of the Garden Route. Just west of Mossel Bay the N2 again becomes a divided freeway, and remains one as far as the intersection with the N9 just outside of George. From there it travels across Kaaiman's Pass (see below) to Wilderness and on to Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. After Plettenberg Bay a section of the road is tolled as the Tsitsikamma Toll Route, primarily because of the Bloukrans Bridge; an alternative route runs through Nature's Valley. The Bloukrans Bridge marks the border with the Eastern Cape.
In the Eastern Cape the N2 passes near Humansdorp and Jeffrey's Bay before becoming a four-lane divided freeway through the city of Port Elizabeth, ending at Coega. The N2 continues in a north-easterly direction from Port Elizabeth, moving away from the coast towards Grahamstown; en route the N10 splits from the N2, going northwards towards Middelburg. After Grahamstown the N2 passes through the former Ciskei; at King William's Town it turns back towards the coast, meeting it at East London. The N2 passes around East London on a bypass; it meets the N6 which runs northwards from East London towards Bloemfontein. After East London the N2 turns again towards the interior, to avoid the difficult terrain of the Wild Coast. It passes through the former Transkei and its former capital Mthatha. Near Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal the N2 crosses into the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
From Kokstad the N2 turns again back towards the coast, meeting it at Port Shepstone. From Port Shepstone it runs as a freeway past the resort towns of the Natal South Coast, including Umzumbe, Hibberdene, Ifafa Beach, Scottburgh, Umkomaas and Amanzimtoti, before passing on a bypass around the city of Durban. At the Westville four-level bypass the N2 meets the N3 from Johannesburg. After Durban the N2 continues as a freeway along the Natal North Coast past Umhlanga Rocks, Ballito and Tongaat, with the freeway ending at KwaDukuza. It passes the port of Richard's Bay and turns north, moving away from the coast into the heart of Zululand. It passes close to the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. It approaches the border with Swaziland near to the border post of Golela, and turns westwards, running just south of the border through the town of Pongola before entering Mpumalanga province.
In Mpumalanga the N2 continues close to the Swazi border to the town of Piet Retief, from which it travels north-west to end in the town of Ermelo. Ermelo is connected by the N17 to Johannesburg and Mbabane, and by the N11 to Mokopane and Ladysmith.
Most of South Africa's tourist destinations and attractions are on this route.
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