Considered the ultimate road trip in South Africa, the Garden Route languishes in all its verdant glory between the ‘Mother City’ of Cape Town and the ‘Windy City’ of Port Elizabeth.
It’s a paradise: ancient forests, secluded beaches, charming villages, hidden wine estates and unique wildlife sanctuaries combine to make this 200km coastal stretch one of the most diverse and beautiful in the country.
Above and beyond the eye-tickling natural beauty of the region, there’s wildlife, adventure, history and culture to discover. Plus, the Garden Route is fast developing a reputation for its fine cuisine. Here, you can tuck into a cheerful meal of fish and fries, knock back an ocean-fresh oyster, savour a juicy ostrich fillet or indulge in a bowl of creamy chicken livers.
To work up an appetite, there’s abseiling, bungee jumping, surfing, rafting, hiking and more on the menu. Golf enthusiasts will find the area a joy too, with several world-class courses within easy reach.
So where do you start exploring this incredible region?
Most visitors base themselves in Knysna, an entirely charming town set on a picturesque lagoon and famous for its annual Oyster Festival. The surrounding forests are magical – a paradise of towering ferns, ancient trees, mythical elephants, and hidden waterfalls.
No trip to Knysna would be complete without visiting its landmark attraction, the Knysna Heads – a pair of cliffs standing sentinel at the mouth of the lagoon. The eastern Head features spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna. The western Head is home to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, which you can access via ferry.
Plettenberg Bay is another ideal base from which to launch your Garden Route explorations. Famous for its excellent beaches, this seaside town boasts respectable surf breaks at the sandy Central Beach and Lookout Beach. If you’re keen on windsurfing or kitesurfing, head to Keurbooms Lagoon.
Coral reefs encircle Plett, as the locals call it. Great dive sites include Redbait Reef, suitable for beginners, and Shallow Blinders, a 3-pinnacled coral reef that’s home to leopard sharks, octopus and cuttlefish. To the south, Robberg Nature Reserve is a rocky peninsula with trails and the Stone Age Nelson Bay Caves. Nearby are Birds of Eden, a free-flight bird sanctuary in indigenous forest, Monkeyland and an elephant sanctuary.
Just over the Outeniqua Mountains lies Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo. While not officially part of the Garden Route, this quirky town is where to go to see incredible caves and geological formations plus some of the world’s biggest ostrich farms. The town is also an up-and-coming foodie destination, serving up local delicacies such as homegrown olives and ostrich in unique settings.
Not to be missed is a Cango Caves heritage tour, where you’ll explore breathtaking caverns and chambers filled with ancient stalactites.
Top experiences in the Garden Route
- Set sail for a Knysna Lagoon cruise on the double-decker John Benn ferry. Offering daily cruises to the spectacular Knysna Heads this floating restaurant is considered one of the best in Knysna.
- Walk through the Knysna Forest to The Big Tree, an 800-year-old Yellowwood which stands guard over the treetop canopy in the heart of the forest. This majestic tree is a giant among giants.
- The Garden Route is fast becoming a gastronomic destination for foodies. Take your taste buds on a journey from Wilderness to Plettenberg Bay and Knysna to Oudtshoorn and experience some of the best restaurants in the region.
- Adventure is out there! From guided hikes to ziplining, kayaking and tubing, you will find your perfect adventure on the Storms River in the Garden Route.
Keen on scenic coastal roads and forest adventures? Browse our top Garden Route trips now and let’s get planning!