The 300-kilometre Garden Route stretches along the southeastern coast of South Africa, extending from Witsand in the Western Cape to the border of the Storms River mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park in the Eastern Cape. As you enter the Garden Route you will be met with an unmatched pristine coastline and softly meandering roads as they negotiate through the gorgeous landscape and the famous lush forests.
This is by no means the be-all and end-all itinerary for the Garden Route. There are many activities to be enjoyed in different towns. These include safaris, exploring the Lake District (birding and fishing), dolphin paragliding, abseiling, surfing, snorkeling, dolphin and seal watching and swimming with seals in Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay.
Discover Mossel Bay
Mossel Bay is known for its historic discoveries and its harbour. The best way to explore Mossel Bay is on the Diaz Express train that takes you around the town and outskirts of Mossel Bay. You also get to stop in remote areas to take in the views.
You must tour the Point of Human Origins, a world-renowned archaeological site. Also take an unforgettable, scenic hike from the Point of Human Origins to Mossel Bay Lighthouse.
Every day is beach day in the Garden Route
It does not matter which town you are visiting, taking a stroll to the beach is a must. Pack your beach bag, not forgetting a book and something to sip on. It does not matter what time of the day it is, it’s always the right time to swim. Most importantly, it’s always a good day for beach volleyball or just sunbathing. Beaches in the garden route are in abundance, therefore they are often almost empty. I’d say yes to a private beach any day, wouldn’t you?
Hiking and chasing waterfalls
The Garden Route is filled with hiking trails. It features the iconic Otter Trail, which is the most sought-after trail in the country. It dates as far back as 1968 and offers the best hiking experience over five days. Amongst other trails is the majestic Outeniqua Trail showcasing the beauty of the mountains, lush forests and the out of this world landscape. This trail can be done over three to eight days. Day hikes can be done in the beautiful Robberg Nature Reserve hike along the beach. One can also experience a seven-kilometre wilderness hike and the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve, both leading to beautiful waterfalls.
River rafting and canyoning in Storms River
Tsitsikamma Nature reserve is the gift that keeps on giving. While at the suspension bridge one of the most eye-catching sights, besides the crashing waves, are patrons indulging in different water sports. River rafting and canyoning are the most popular. However, the introduction of kayaking has changed everything. I need to go back for this one.
What is unique about these experiences is that during the adventure the water changes to a darker colour, but don’t be alarmed this water is not harmful at all. I guess it’s just there to add a sparkle to your experience and give you something to marvel at. Talk about nature showing off.
Scenic drive along the seven passes route in the Outeniqua Mountains
Road tripping from one town to the next is the best way to enjoy the Garden Route. Experience the scenic and enchanting drive of the Garden Route. The Seven Passes road is a scenic 75-kilometre detour off the N2 passing through seven gorges, cut by rivers, between George and Knysna. Visitors descend from different parts of the world to experience this beautiful drive. It boasts the most gorgeous views. Along the way you are spoiled with different viewpoints where you can stop and take pictures while enjoying the meandering roads and the lush forests along the route.
Go strawberry picking in George
Red Berry offers the best strawberry picking experiences at reasonable prices. This charming, family-friendly strawberry farm offers berry picking, pony rides, bumper boats and inspires you to discover country life.
Within the premises there are picnic spots, a curios shop and restaurants where you can have your lunch. I must say the lunch here is everything and more and the your whole family will love it.
Walk the Tsitsikamma Suspension Bridge
The beauty of this small town is featured at the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve. The minute you step into their gates you are greeted by polite and friendly Nature Conservationists. As you explore further, all you will see is beauty and more beauty of the raging storms river. After a mini hike you will finally get to the majestic suspension bridge with the most amazing views of this unspoilt beauty. This suspension bridge hangs over the red-brown waters of the Storms River Mouth, spans 77 metres and remains one of the most popular tourist attractions of the garden route. Be warned, to not get lost in it and unknowingly spend the whole day there.
Slow down and chill at the weekend markets
Small town farmers markets are the best and it’s always rewarding to mingle with locals. The markets always have pleasant surprises for visitors and are great storytellers about the local culture. What stood out for me was the scale at which they produce authentic pieces of art, depicting the lives of the diverse occupants of the area. You can either try the popular Wild Oats Community Market or the Outeniqua Family Market designed with convenience and entertainment in mind. Be wowed by comedians, singers, bands and other entertainers while you shop and relax.
Sundowners at the Knysna Heads
After a long day of exploring, make a stop at the spectacular Knysna Heads for an afternoon sightseeing boat cruise, then catch the sunset while having sundowners and dinner at the Cruise Café.
Knysna is blessed with the most beautiful coastline that can be viewed at the Knysna Heads. You might also want to get there earlier so that you can enjoy some time at the beach.
Zip-line and bungee jump at the Bloukraans Bridge
At the top of every visitors list is bungee jumping at 216 meters above the Bloukraans river – the world’s highest bungee over a bridge. This has been attracting travelers from around the globe for decades. The thrilling 200m Flying Fox zip slide (known as a foefie slide in South Africa) to the bungee platform is the latest addition to the bridge’s attractions. It takes you on a wild tour over the beautiful forest and features surrounding mountains and has since become another favourite for visitors. These activities can be booked at Face Adrenaline in Tsitsikamma. Secure your harness and kick-start the fun by getting acquainted with the forest.
Detour to Oudtshoorn and Cape Agalhus
The Garden Route is overwhelmingly stunning but you can’t ignore the beauty of the surrounding towns like Oudsthoorn. Oudtshoorn is famous for playing host to the scenic drive to the Cango Caves located on a limestone belt that is 1.5 kilometres wide and almost 16 kilometres long.
You can’t leave the town before visiting one of the ostrich farms, to have close encounters with these mischievous creatures.
Cape Agalhus features three significant sites – the southernmost point on the African continent, the oldest lighthouse ever built in South Africa and the remains of a Japanese shipwreck. This small town is also packed with a lot of restaurants and is fast becoming one of the ‘go-to places’ in the Western Cape, with numerous water activities to be enjoyed.
Do not forget to make a few stops at the quaint farm stalls found along the way to enjoy homemade South African delicacies, visit vineyards for wine tasting, make a quick stop at the Wilderness National Park and then end your trip with some fun at the beach in Mossel Bay. If you go at the right time you can enjoy the annual Oyster Festival.