South Africa’s Garden Route is one of the most popular, and scenic routes in South Africa. The route is most popularly done by starting from Cape Town and ending in Port Elizabeth or one of the Eastern Capes, stunning malari free Big Five Game Reserves. As a non-stop journey it can take 7 hours to drive between the two cities but it’s best done over 3-5 days so you can enjoy the various wonders and deviations along the way.
Many families and couples will visit Cape Town for 4/5 days, then head along the Garden Route for a further 5/6 days and end with a wonderful malaria free Eastern Cape Big Five Safari for 3/4 days before travelling home. This is one of the most popular itineraries and is absolutely perfect for first time visitors to South Africa.
If you fancy a slower paced trip it can also be easily enjoyed as a week long stay by setting up a base in the likes of Plettenberg Bay allows you to head off and explore the area around you, covering most major places of interest within 2hrs drive away. Plettenberg Bay does have it’s own small airport, otherwise your nearest airport is George, 1,5hrs away or Port Elizabeth 2hrs.
The journey takes you from Cape Town, along the N2, East, passing Cape Town International Airport towards Somerset West. Visit the historic wine estates of Somerset West or take a walk in the Helderberg Reserve. You will drive up Sir Lowrie’s Pass, there is a wonderful scenic view point at the top just as you reach the brow of the climb. Definetely worth a stop and photo if it’s a clear day. Up on the top of this escarpment, you will pass the apple growing towns of Grabouw and Elgin, synonomous for the quality decideous fruit. Before travelling the Houwhoek Pass, do stop at the road side Farm Stalls whether it be for snacks during your drive or perhaps even lunch and a tea/coffee break.
You can take a short detour and visit the coastal town of Hermanus, see the Whale Route, or continue along the N2 travelling through the farm growing region known as the Overberg towards Swellendam – the third oldest Drostdy in South Africa which has a variety of Cape Dutch buildings amongst the Oak Tree lined roads and lanes. You can visit the Mueum or the Bontebok National Park outside of town. Head to the historic Suurbraak, and if you continue from here you will reach the magnificent Tradouw Pass which takes you along the ‘Route 62’ to the village of Barrydale.
The official gateway to the Garden Route is at the little drive through town of Heidelberg and nearby is the nature reserve of Grootvadersbosch where there is some excellent hiking. A coastal detour can bring you to the coastal sea side town of Witsand which is at the mouth of the Breede River. Whale watching in season and year round fishing is the popular pasttime as well as relaxing on the beautiful Witsand “whitw sands” beach. Back on the N2 and your next port of call is Riversdale, well known for its flowers before heading to Albertinia. You’re still travelling through the farm lands at this point but soon enough, when you cross the Gouritz River Bridge, renown for being the first place in South Africa to offer commercially and professionaly run Bungee Jumping, you’ll soon sea the Indian Ocean as you pass by the coastal town of Mossell Bay. Mossell Bay is well known for it’s beaches and the Bartolomeu Dias Museum. Bartolomeu Dias was one of the first naval explorers from Europe to round and whether the Cape of Storms as he sought to find a way to the East Indies in the early 17th Century.
Travelling along the N2 now, you’ll pass over the Little and Great Brak Rivers making your way to the town of George which is home to some spectacular golf courses and the famous steam train ‘Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe’ which runs between George and Knysna. Before you reach the beautiful coastal town of Wilderness you will pass by the Vic Bay, short for Victoria Bay, a well known surf spot and tiny sleepy sea side village. Wilderness is a nature lovers dream with lagoons, forests and the most stunning stretch of beach. Next is Knysna, known for its forests, oysters, golf courses, Mitchels Brewery, Featherbed Nature Reserve, Lagoon, the impressive The Heads. Knysna has grown over the years is now a bustling tourist town with all the modern shopping malls, waterfronts, restaurants and numerous accommodations.
From Knysna, it’s a 30 minute drive to the more resorty and upmarket and quite beautiful town of Plettenberg Bay. Fetchingly known as ‘Plett’ here you have any number of beaches and eco-attractions to suit all tastes. The whale and dolphin watching here is legendary and there are some good variety of places to stay from being steps away from the beach to being in the forests and/or town centre.
The last real place of interest in terms of where to stay and perhaps get away from the busier places like Plett, yet be within easy striking distance of a visit, is the stunningly beautiful Natures Valley. The famous 3 day ‘Otter Hiking Trail’ ends here. There is a beautiful beach here, ideal for families. The next major attraction for adrenalin junkies is the Bloukrans Bridge which offers the worlds highest commercial bungee jump.
Before you reach Port Elizabeth there is one last place if you’re into your surfing and that is Jefferies Bay. This world renown surf spot offers one of the longest and most consistent waves in South Africa and has regularly featured on the World Pro Tour competitions. The beaches here offer fabulous warm water bathing and it’s only 1 hrs drive from Port Elizabeth.
From Port Elizabeth, it’s 1-2 hours drive to any number of world class private game reserves located in the wonderful and scenic malaria free Eastern Cape Game Reserves..
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