With the Tsitsikamma Mountains on one side and the stunning white beaches of the Indian Ocean on the other, the show-stopping Garden Route is a stretch of coastline of unparalleled beauty. Lush forests, sprawling wetlands, towering dunes, peaceful lagoons, wide sandy beaches, deep river gorges and rocky headlands, make this one of the most popular holiday destinations in South Africa.
Stretching almost 300 kilometres along the southern coast, from Mossel Bay in the west, to Storms River in the east, the Garden Route is the most picturesque road trip in South Africa. This impressive natural beauty is complemented by a string of charming towns, where you can sample the local lifestyle and indulge in activities, that include ocean safaris, paddle boarding, visits to wildlife sanctuaries and for the truly adventurous, there’s the chance to experience one of the highest bungee jumps in the world, from Bloukrans Bridge.
To experience the Garden Route in all its glory, we recommend spreading the journey over four or five days, so you can soak up the stunning scenery and relaxed vibe. Our advice is also to make the journey by car, as it is easy to break the trip down into manageable drives. We’d also suggest combining this self-drive trip with a visit to Cape Town at one end and a malaria-free Eastern Cape safari at the other. For us, this is just about the perfect holiday, giving a wonderful mix of city, culture, beach and wildlife, without too much travelling involved.
The Indian Ocean water along this stretch of coastline is much warmer and more suitable for swimming than in Cape Town. What’s more, there are many opportunities to sample a wide range of outdoor activities, making the Garden Route particularly suitable for a family holiday. While most stops along the route guarantee an attractive and pleasant stay, we would recommend staying in the towns of Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma National Park.
As the name suggests, Wilderness offers an escape from the crowds and uninterrupted views over the ocean. If you really want to get away from it all, we can arrange for you to paddle board on the Keurbooms River. This stretch of the river is free from motorized vehicles, so you can take in the beautiful scenery in total peace and quiet. Threaded by scenic hiking trails, both hikers and bird lovers will enjoy Wilderness National Park, which attracts around 250 different bird species. The interconnected coastal lakes provide an important habitat for the red-chested flufftail, purple heron and yellow-billed egret, among many others.
Travelling eastwards, we’d suggest a stop at Knysna, which is a must for foodies, being particularly famous for its abundance of oysters and fresh seafood. With a great selection of restaurants and coffee shops, the historic port of Knysna, makes a great place to refuel. The town sits at the back of a natural harbour, a huge lagoon, which connects Knysna to the ocean through a narrow gap in the headlands. Dolphin and whale watching trips are popular activities here.
Beach lovers will want to stop at Plettenberg Bay. This beautiful beach town makes a good base for visiting local wildlife sanctuaries. We can recommend Monkeyland, a primate sanctuary that rehabilitates and frees previously caged primates and the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, where you will learn about the conservation efforts to protect the country’s endemic species. For those looking for a big game viewing experience, there is also the opportunity to visit Plettenberg Game Reserve. Here you can expect to see lion, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and crocodile. But for an adrenalin-fuelled rush, why not head further east to Bloukrans Bridge, home to one of the world’s highest bungee jumps?
Yet further east, brings you to Tsitsikamma National Park. This area is a protected coastal reserve, known for its spectacular coastline, verdant forests, tree-top canopy tours and range of treks. We can arrange a kayak and lilo adventure for you to explore the Storms River Gorge, tranquil pools and bat caves.
With so many activities to enjoy and so much beauty to behold, we think the Garden Route combined with a few days in Cape Town and an Eastern Cape safari is one of our favourite holidays.