Ah the Garden Route: a 200km stretch of verdant vegetation and flora, shimmering lagoons and lakes, fairytale beaches and an impressive array of wildlife. What’s not to love, right? Running along the south eastern coast of the country, starting at Mossel Bay and extending all the way until Storms River in the Tsitsikamma, and with so much to do and see, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular routes travelled by both tourists and locals alike. There’s something for everyone, so come along for the ride as we hone in on seven reasons why you should make your next adventure a road-trip along this route.
Endless natural beauty
This part of the world gets its name from the fact that it’s like one huge, lush garden filled with ecologically diverse vegetation, flora and bodies of water. Subtropical and yellowwood forests burst with freshness and colour, while azure waters rush up to meet powder-white sands and mountain ranges rise from the earth like majestic, rocky sentinels. Where ever you find yourself along the route you’re bound to be surrounded by natural beauty unlike any other, so be sure to keep those eyes open and those cameras poised.
Adventure activities for days
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie in search of your next exhilarating experience, or simply a nature lover looking to get up close and personal with the wonders of the outdoors, the Garden Route offers it all. From taking the plunge at Bloukrans Bridge (the highest bungee in Africa at 216 metres), to making friends at the Knysna Elephant Park (a sanctuary for orphaned ellies) or meandering along the 1km walkway through the forest at Birds of Eden, home to some 3000 birds and a 50m free-flight dome (the largest in the world), there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to activities. The ideal family destination, every day can be spent discovering something new in and around this incredible area.
We also recommend you add these to your list:
- Discover the world below from up above on a canopy tour in the famed Tsitsikamma Forest.
- Monkeyland where you’ll enjoy encounters with a variety of different primates.
- Take a ferry boat ride to the amazing Featherbed Nature Reserve before taking a 4x4 ride up to the headland and enjoying a delicious buffet lunch under the Milkwood trees.
- Enjoy an array of different water activities on the Knysna Lagoon, many of which take you past the famous Knysna Heads.
- Abseiling enthusiasts will love Kaaimans Gorge (in the Wilderness National Park) where you'll have the opportunity to do two 45m abseils right next to an amazing waterfall, only to land in a canoe below! (Tip: wear shoes with good grip and bring that courage!)
- The Garden Route National Park offers a range of activities from hiking to boat cruises and kayaking – crossing the Storms River Bridge is a must!
- The famed Otter Trail (a 43km stretch of beaches and rivers) is a four day hike worth getting under your belt if you’re an avid hiker.
Creatures of all shapes and sizes
Where there are diverse ecosystems, there are bound to be an exciting range of creatures – and the Garden Route is no exception. Apart from the elephants and monkeys, you’ll spot dassies at Storms River Mouth, whales and dolphins along the coast and the Knysna seahorse in the Knysna Estuary. Birding is undoubtedly one of the things for which the area is particularly well known, with some highlights being the Knysna Loerie and the Narina Trogon. Also be sure to look out for the little critters that can often go unnoticed, like the fascinating Knysna dwarf chameleon. Bottom line: nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts won't be disappointed.
Apart from the Garden Route offering a rich wildlife experience, the best part is that it’s also a malaria-free area. This means that you can have an unforgettable safari experience at one of the many game lodges along the route without the added worry of having to protect your loved ones against malaria. Teeming with wildlife, amazing reserves (such as the Garden Route National Park) and a variety of wonderful lodges to choose from, the Garden Route can be the ideal safari destination for you and your family.
Note: Even though it’s a malaria free area, it’s best to speak to your health care professional beforehand.
Picturesque seaside towns
In between enjoying the wealth of activities and taking in the endless natural beauty, there are many picturesque and sleepy seaside towns to explore. Each with their own charm and unique South African flavour, spending some time in each of them is an important part of discovering the route. There’s Knysna at the heart of the Garden Route with its buzzing Waterfront, iconic Heads and annual oyster festival; Plettenberg Bay with its stunning beaches, hikes and lively restaurants; the Wilderness with its laid-back village and bird-filled forests; and St Francis Bay, a quieter part of the route with white-washed cottages, teeming rock pools and fantastic surf. The possibilities are endless and these towns only bring added to character to this breath-taking stretch.
A golfer’s dream
Never fear – if it’s a selection of top-class golf courses you’re after, the Garden Route gladly obliges. With a number of challenging and well-maintained courses (a total of 13 that should be considered!), you can indulge in a round of 18 holes while still benefitting from all the other appealing features of the area.
Take a swing at:
- St Francis Links
- Goose Valley Golf Club
- Fancourt (three courses)
- Oubaai Golf Club (10 minutes from the George Airport)
- Kingswood Golf Estate
- Simola Estate (Knysna) – boasts a signature Jack Nicklaus course
- Mossel Bay Gold Club
Calling all beach bums
And of course, the beaches are some of the finest in the world and one of the major drawcards for visitors. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean are welcoming, while the kilometres of pristine sands invite sunbathers to soak up the rays. Whether it’s a lazy beach walk you’re after, an incredible surf session you crave or just empty stretches of sand you seek, look no further than the GR.
A few of our beach picks:
- Noetzie beach, Knysna: think a secluded cove, quiet estuary and a fanciful castle or two.
- Victoria Bay Beach: enclosed by rugged cliffs, this hidden bay is the perfect beach escape and favourite amongst surfers.
- Myoli Beach, Sedgefield: sip cocktails at the PiliPili Beach Bar, kite surf along the golden sands or just relax while listening to the sounds of the waves.
- Robberg Beach, Plettenberg Bay: stretching between the Beacon Isle Hotel and the Robberg Peninsula, this knock out beach is perfect for those lengthy strolls, summer dips and tanning.
- Nature’s Valley Beach: famous for being the end point of the Otter Trail, this secluded and unspoiled beach is ideal for everything from swimming, to paddling, sunbathing and catching that perfect sunset – a must!
- Wilderness Beach: a beautiful, golden beach with Blue Flag status that extends for kilometres. Perfect for whale/dolphin watching and ideal for that beach picnic at the end of the day - it's beauty overload here.
- Buffalo Bay Beach (Buffelsbaai): in the Goukamma Nature Reserve and the perfect family beach. Flanked by coastal fynbos and blue-green waters, it’s a holidaymaker’s paradise.
And just beyond…
Venture out to the Cango Caves at the foothills of the Swartberg Mountain range near the town of Oudtshoorn where you’ll be taken on a guided tour and given the opportunity to see the tunnels and chambers with their amazing stalagmites and stalactites – a truly fascinating experience!
Right, now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to plan our next Garden Route road-trip. Travel safe!
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And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, our amazing reservations team can help you find the perfect places to stay on your Garden Route adventure – just get in touch here.