Garden Route travel guide
The Garden Route lies between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and is one of the first areas that South Africans recommend to visitors. It has stunning cliffs and beaches but also deep forests and lakes. Its permanent holiday pace appeals to artists, golfers, fishermen, surfers and people who love secluded nooks near beach or mountain. Within a day you can drive on the N2 all the way along the coast. Or you can take a few days, stopping at quirky towns such as Sedgefield, Wilderness, Mossel Bay, Knysna, and Plettenberg Bay. Little hamlets like Brenton-on-Sea offer a quieter break and are still close to towns. Choose one to make your base and do your day trips from there. For a detour inland, you’ll need a couple of extra days. Once you’ve made it over the mountain passes, focus on Oudtshoorn and de Rust, and make sure you see some ostriches and the Cango Caves.
Stunning stops along the coastal roads:
- Knysna – Gorgeous town on the shores of a lagoon surrounded by mountains with the largest estuary in SA, which is home to lots of unusual species like seahorses. Knysna is known for its annual festivals such as the Pink Loerie and the Knysna Oyster Festival. If you need a reprieve from socialising, visit Leisure Island, take the ferry to Featherbed Nature Reserve, or a boat cruise to the Knysna Heads. At least once, sip a cocktail on an evening cruise of the Knysna lagoon. In winter, you may even have the castles at Noetzie to yourself.
- Plettenberg Bay – Big, beautiful bay with a seaside town known to locals as South Africa’s own South of France. Plett makes a wonderful seaside base for many daytrips. Watch out for southern right and humpback whales and mingle with the bling crowd in season on the spectacular beaches. Great hiking trails are close by and the town has a lovely craft market.
- Mossel Bay – half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay makes an excellent base in the Garden Route. This pretty harbour town has some stunning beaches and is big enough and historical enough that there is plenty going on. The popular Oyster Catcher hiking trail starts in Mossel Bay, and there are loads of adventure and water sports on offer. A boat trip to Seal Island offers some exciting whale watching. You can tour prehistoric caves and Khoisan rock art as well as see a life-sized replica of the ship in which Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias sailed into Mossel Bay back in 1488.
- The Garden Route National Park - joins the Tsitsikamma and
Wilderness National Parks. Take a canopy tree tour through ancient forests, follow the dolphin and otter trail or paddle your own canoe along a peaceful waterway.
- The Crags, Harkerville and Nature’s Valley – Child and adult animal lovers will delight in the sanctuaries here, where they can bond with a baby elephant, gaze at monkeys swinging in treetops and marvel at the astounding colours at Birds of Eden, the largest free-flight aviary in the world.
- Outeniqua Mountains – You can take a day trip from the coast to go mountain biking, hiking and horse riding in the scenic Outeniqua Mountains.
- Oudtshoorn – Lying slightly out of the Garden Route, this is a short detour well worth taking if you’ve never seen a real live ostrich or the famed Cango Caves. Plant fans, be aware that three different biomes come together here – fynbos, cape Thicket and succulent Karoo. Hike the Swartberg Mountains, go abseiling or quadbiking. Dive with crocodiles, meet a meerkat or cheetah, or discover the incredible story of the ostrich feather industry in Oudtshoorn’s CP Nel Museum.
If sport is your thing:
- Storms River – Go black water tubing or steel yourself for the world’s highest bungee jump at Bloukrans.
- George - You’ve entered Africa’s golf capital. Enjoy ultimate golfing at courses such as Kingswood Golf Estate, Fancourt Golf Estate and George Golf Club. George is also centrally positioned for heading even further inland while still taking day trips to the coast.
- Sedgefield, Wilderness and Victoria Bay – Take your board on the epic waves, then relax on the picturesque beaches.
- Jeffrey’s Bay - A short drive from Storms River into the Eastern Cape takes you to the international surfing headquarters of J-Bay, bringing together surfers of all levels.