The Garden Route is a stretch of coastline loved for its green forests that unfold onto its pristine beaches, but winter isn’t exactly the time of year you want to go swimming, is it? Not to worry, this destination is the triple-threat of the tourism world and is a treat to visit all your round – but even more so in winter. This is why:
Knysna Oyster Festival
This is one of the highlights on the Garden Route social calendar every year. Taking place smack, bang in the middle of winter, the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival has something for everyone as it takes over its namesake for 10 days. From fun fairs and sporting events to wine tasting events, boat cruises, and oyster-shucking competitions, this event is jam-packed with fun activities for families, sports fanatics, petrol heads, and foodies alike. The 2017 festival takes places between 7th July – 16th July.
Knysna Forest Marathon & Cycle Tour
The Knysna Cycle Tour and the Knysna Forest Marathon are two of the most well-known activities on the Oyster Festival agenda. The Cycle Tour takes place across two days and includes mountain-biking trails, road races, kids races, and family rides. The Knysna Forest Marathon tests true grit on its 42.2km route, while a 21km half marathon is also well-loved (and much more doable).
You’ll have one problem with this activity, and that’s trying to pick a trail! The Garden Route is an outdoorsman’s dream and hiking trails compete for top activity here as much as its beach days do. Some of the more popular hiking routes include the Giant Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness, the Woodcutters Trails in Knysna, and the Robberg Nature Reserve trails in Plettenberg Bay.
Tsitsikamma Treetop Canopy Tour
Fun for young and old, the Tsitsikamma Treetop Canopy Tour in Storms River lets you live out the Tarzan fantasy that the Disney classic is made of. Your starting point for many of the zip lines is 30 metres in the air and built around ancient Outeniqua Yellowwood trees, some of which, if rumours are to be believed, are almost 700 years old.
The scenery in this corner of the world is breathtaking, and it’s almost a shame to whizz by it so fast as you drive through. The water is a sublime way to take in the land and ocean scape, and whether that takes you out to sea or simply around the Knysna Lagoon is entirely up to you. The ways to take to the water here are endless, from kayaks and yachts to paddle cruisers.
Foodie culture is alive and well in the G-Route, so much so that we even did a Travel Tips video on restaurants in the area! From fresh seafood spots and organic home-grown vegetarian table restaurants to family-run pizzerias, the area is alive with culinary creativity and allure. Believe it or not, the Garden Route is also an up-and-coming wine destination with farms popping up in Plett and as far as the Crags.
Hit 9 Holes
From PGA championship courses to 18-holes sprawled across Knysna’s Eastern Head and overlooking the ocean and lagoon, the Garden Route is brimming with opportunities to test your handicap and your drive. The Fancourt Links in George and The Goose Valley Golf Club in Plettenberg Bay, the masterminds of PGA legend Gary Player, are top picks for the region. Other bucket list courses include Simola Golf & Country Estate and Pezula Championship Golf Course at the Conrad Pezula.
Monkey about with birds of a feather
Would you believe me if I told you the largest free-flight aviary in the southern hemisphere is on the Garden Route’s doorstep? Well, it is. A seemingly endless path of wooden boardwalks winds through the lush vegetation of Birds of Eden, allowing visitors to spot their feathered friends in their natural habitat.
Just next door is Monkeyland, a sanctuary home to a variety of primates, and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, home to big cats, which makes for an entertaining and easy add-on. Together, these sanctuaries have won numerous top attraction, animal welfare, and responsible tourism awards.
The Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jump can only be described as a daredevil’s delight. Found at Storms River and stretching across a forested gorge that stretches into the sea, this bridge is home to the highest commercial bungee jump in the world.