English, Afrikaans, Xhosa
Extending from Stilbaai to the Tsitsikamma, The Garden Route is an ever-changing, several hundred kilometer-long landscape of unspoiled beaches and lapping waters, dense forest, picturesque towns, private game reserves and immaculate golf courses. From dolphin-watching to bungee jumping, the list of activities available along the Garden Route is practically endless;
not for nothing is the Garden Route known as South Africa’s Adventure Capital. Geographically, the Garden Route features remarkable landscapes, with its primary arterial road, the N2, nestled between the barrier of the Outeniqua Mountains to the north and the vast Indian Ocean to the south.
Attractions & Activities
A closer look at what your holiday could be.
Kayak with dolphins in Plettenberg Bay, ride elephants at Knysna’s Elephant Park, play golf at George’s famous Fancourt estate and paraglide in Wilderness. Whether your trip is family-oriented, action-filled or a leisurely break, the Garden Route will doubtless provide.
Oudtshoorn, while a little detour from the Garden Route itself, is well worth a visit for anyone touring this part of the world. An hour’s drive from Mossel Bay, Oudtshoorn is found in the Little Karoo semi-desert and has the unusual distinction as South Africa’s ostrich capital. The town’s history and ups and downs in prosperity has been largely built on ostrich feathers. Learn more about Oudtshoorn’s curious and tumultuous history, but the Cango Caves are perhaps the area’s most captivating feature. Guided tours are available to explore this vast underground system. Take the R328 and mountain pass from Mossel Bay to reach this semi-arid town.
The sixth oldest town in the country, George has the merit of retaining its tranquil and scenic small-town quality, despite being what is essentially the capital of the Garden Route and Southern Cape. George’s many historical landmarks include the intriguing Slave Tree, an ancient oak with a lock and chain embedded within its trunk. Be sure not to miss Victoria Bay, where you can spend a lazy afternoon strolling along the pier and taking in the far-reaching views.
George is also home to the world famous Fancourt Golf Estate, truly a golfers paradise.
Leaving George behind, the name Wilderness is self-descriptive. Unspoiled white-sand beaches sweep endlessly, and the little town is cozy and intimate. Watersports enthusiasts will not be left wanting, as Wilderness’ complex of rivers and lagoons provide ample space for all forms of water activities. The ocean in this area has an abundance of sea life, including dolphins and whales.
Entering Knysna, the lagoon is easily the town’s most noticeable geographical feature. The Knysna Heads, the two sandstone cliffs guarding the ocean inlet, are visually impressive and provide astonishing views of the inlet and ocean.
Nicknamed Bahia Formosa (Beautiful Bay) by early Portuguese explorers, Plettenberg Bay (or Plett to locals) is one of the most bustling cities on the Garden Route. The bay is known for its beautiful beaches and large concentrations of sea life. If wildlife is your thing, the Elephant Sanctuary, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden should be on your hotlist. Monkeyland is a popular multi-species sanctuary in which guests can view and interact with primates of all shapes and sizes.
When to Visit
The Garden Route is a great year-round destination, due to its mild oceanic climate. Temperatures rarely fall below 16 degrees Celsius/ 60 degrees Fahrenheit, even in winter.
Your interests will largely dictate the best time to visit; whale watching season runs from July to October (peaking in September), hiking is also good in winter, and the 10-day Knysna Festival in July is a great combination of sporting events, food and live local music.