Whenever someone asks me for advice on where to visit when going on holiday in South Africa, my response is ALWAYS the same – the Garden Route. If you love a combination of friendly locals, excellent food, quaint towns, world-renowned golf courses, ancient forests, beautiful lakes, jaw-dropping scenery with a dash of adrenaline-inducing activities then the Garden Route will not disappoint. There are just so many things to do and places to visit!
The Garden Route stretches along a coastline of about 300 km between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape and is one of South Africa’s most popular holiday destinations.
It’s ideal for both a quick getaway or a longer slower-paced trip. You can’t go wrong staying anywhere in the Garden Route, but there are a couple of gems that are worth spending some time in:
Starting from Mosselbay you will be treated with an idyllic coastline, and pit-stop cafes serving the best farm-fresh treats around. At this point in your journey, now would be the perfect time to buy padkos before officially driving along the fabled Garden Route towards George which is about 45Km away.
George is an ideal base from which to explore neighbouring towns, and the area is known for its magnificent hikes up the rugged Outeniqua mountains. The various hiking routes offer you an unparalleled view of the Garden Route; on a clear day, you will be able to see George surrounded by kilometers upon kilometers of green farmlands bordered by the restless ocean.
The Garden Route Botanical Gardens, recognized by UNESCO for its biodiversity, is a nature lover’s paradise. Plus, the gardens aren’t huge and are perfect for a short afternoon visit. George also caters to sportsmen and women, offering world-renowned golf courses that include Fancourt and Oubaai.
Leaving George you will only need to drive about 10Km before you enter Wilderness, the perfect stop for a scrumptious breakfast and a walk around town, greeting the friendly locals. The Garden Route National Park – Wilderness Region, is rich with exotic birds, amazing hiking trails, and endless waterfalls. After your hike enjoy an ice-cold drink at one of the beachfront restaurants while taking in a powder soft stretch of beach that could rival many Indian Ocean destinations.
Next is the culinary highlight Knysna, just 50km from the Wilderness and pretty Sedgefield section. The ocean lies between twin sandstone cliffs called The Heads, and the view at sunset over the Knysna Lagoon is a sight that will stay with you forever. You need to spend a day or two to enjoy all the activities Knysna has to offer, as well as the world-class restaurants and a visit to the Knysna Elephant Park. The Park houses and cares for orphaned elephants. It is a heart-warming experience to see these magnificent beasts get a second chance in such a caring environment.
If you are looking for a different type of accommodation, Knysna offers houseboats for hire on the Knysna Lagoon. They are completely self-catering and a lovely alternative to a hotel stay.
Heading out of Knysna to Plettenberg Bay (only 30kms), be sure to stop at the Coral Breeze Cafe for the best road trip breakfast and friendly service! Plettenberg Bay is home to the Robberg Nature Reserve. It’s a marine protected area that houses seal colonies and the rare blue duiker, the Western Cape’s smallest antelope. The reserve offers more amazing hiking trails and is the perfect option for a picnic amongst the best nature has to offer. A visit to Plett won’t be complete without visiting the world’s largest free-flight aviary, Birds of Eden. Home to about 220 different bird types and over 3500 birds you will get immersed in the experience on your walk through the indigenous forest covered by the two-hectare dome above you. Don’t forget to look up.
Adrenalin addicts will love the next stop, 60kms away, Storms River. Storms River is framed by the dense and untamed Tsitsikamma forest. Here you will find the world’s highest bungee jump (216m) from the Bloukrans bridge, as well as zip-lining, treetop canopy tours, and kayak adventures through breath-taking canyons and waterfalls. You will definitely need more than one day to get through it all!
Regardless of where you chose to stay, every town in the Garden Route offers an assortment of accommodation types from 5* luxury hotels to cosy cabins in the forest; there is an option to suit your personal taste. If you are looking for a destination where you can explore a bit without spending the entire day in the car driving long stretches at a time, a destination that prides itself on its foodie appeal, nature repertoire, and adventure possibilities then the Garden Route is a place you need to visit.
I have visited many places around the world, yet the Garden Route is still, today, one of the few places that continuously is able to take my breath away. Browse our Garden Route holiday packages or get in touch for your homegrown adventure.