February 27

Your Guide to a Garden Route Road Trip Journey

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February 27, 2024

Jump in – we’re going on a Garden Route road trip! After seeing depictions of azure ocean lapping flawless shores, thick forestry, dizziness-inducing mountain passes, and historical landmarks, South Africa’s most popular route is on many adventurers’ bucket lists. But why is it all the rage, and what can you expect to see and do along the way? Follow along as we take you on the ride of your life…

A meandering road engulfed by lush forest

Explore South Africa's own "Garden of Eden"

Life is a Highway, I Want to Ride it All Night Long

Lauded as the ultimate road trip for good reason, the Garden Route is a coastal ride that starts in Mossel Bay and weaves its way through spectacular stops and scenery all the way to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape

This route will take you through 300 kilometres (190 miles) of pit stops at quaint farm stalls, have you marvel at the natural wonders along the way, and stretch your legs by partaking in exhilarating adrenaline-fueled fun. Whether you prefer surfing, kayaking, paragliding and bungee jumping or want to take things slow with nature and beach walks or canoeing, the Garden Route will deliver and then some. 

However, we like to extend the journey by embarking from our home city Cape Town, as that’s our recommended arrival destination for you. Besides, you really don’t want to miss out on our Mother City’s grandeur!

Ziplining on a Garden Route road trip

Pure Garden Route exhilaration

Changing Lanes and Making Names

Why has this route been praised by local and international publications? Well, where do we even start? We could quote them all, saying how “beautiful”, “action-packed”, and “wildlife-rich” it is. However, from our personal experience, telling it straight from the heart is best. As we’ve cruised along this route many times ourselves, we know it better than anyone else! 

Garden Route road trip

Your Garden Route road trip awaits...

Flourishing Forward

Why is it called the Garden Route? Well, the area's prominent indigenous vegetation gave it this name.  It's part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is a bit of an anomaly. On the one hand, it's the smallest of Earth's six floral kingdoms. However, on the other hand, it has a baffling diversity of more than 9,000 different plant species. Moreover, 69% of these are only found in South Africa and nowhere else on the planet. 

Tsitsikamma National Park on the Garden Route: where the sea meets green forests

Where the ocean meets green flourishing forests

Malaria-Free Safaris 

One of the top reasons our guests request a Garden Route road trip is to enjoy easy access to malaria-free safaris. There are many excellent game reserves, like Sanbona Wildlife ReserveGondwana Private Game Reserve, and Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, which is located near the route. 

We especially love recommending the Garden Route for families travelling with the elderly, children, or pregnant women, as there's no need to stress about malaria. Furthermore, many of these lodges are geared specifically for multi-generational families. 

Lion in Gondwana Private Game Reserve on the Garden Route

See majestic lions on your malaria-free safari, Image Credit: Brad Mitchell

Where Did You Go, My Lovely?

Now, the Garden Route is just that, a route. So, the fun is in the journey and making as many stops as possible! But where should you stop on the Garden Route, and how many days do you need to spend in the area?

We recommend you set aside an absolute minimum of three to four days to explore the Garden Route. Besides, it should be a road trip, not a road rush! If you're able to, we suggest you spend as much as two weeks to ensure you have enough time at each destination along the route. But you can keep yourself busy for many more weeks!
Here's where we recommend you go on your exciting Garden Route road trip.

All About Oudtshoorn

Oudtshoorn is an oddly stunning place, the ostrich capital and home to the Cango Caves. Set on Route 62, it’s a cultural hub and home to the annual national Klein Karoo arts festival and is part of the Klein Karoo Wine Route.

As the biggest town in the Klein Karoo and a sun-drenched area of 250km long and 70km wide featuring multiple twists and turns with breathtaking mountain passes, it offers a scenic showdown around every turn. 

What to Do in Oudtshoorn 

Here are a few of our favourite things to do when visiting Oudtshoorn. 

Oudtshoorn is known for its ostriches

Oudtshoorn is known for its ostriches

Explore the Cango Caves

As one of the great natural wonders in South Africa, exploring the Cango Caves is a must. This is Africa's largest cave system and is filled with weird and wonderful lime formations. The Heritage Tour is an easy walk. However, if you want something more challenging, you can go on the Adventure Tour, where you'll have to crawl and slide through narrow spaces.

The Cango Caves in Oudsthoorn

Beautiful rock formations at the Cango Caves

Witness Ostriches Galore

Have you ever been close enough to observe the eyelashes on an ostrich or the complex scale patterns on their legs? Well, this is your opportunity to see many ostriches up close. Home to the largest ostrich farm in the world, you’ll be able to come face to face with these giant birds.

Oudtshoorn is all about the ostriches

Oudtshoorn is all about the ostriches

Drive the Swartberg Pass

Take the twists and turns along the Swartberg Pass to catch the spectacular views of the Klein Karoo from above. Although it’s highly rated for its dramatic viewpoints, this narrow, winding dirt road with a steep gradient drive can be a little hair-raising, so be sure to have an experienced driver with no fear of heights behind the wheel.

Swartberg Pass curved road

Swartberg Pass will leave you in awe

Botanist Safari

Especially for those who love plant life, two large wilderness areas just north of Oudtshoorn will make your succulent plant dreams come true. Spend some time in nature in the Swartberg Nature Reserve or Gamkaberg Nature Reserve.

The Swartberg Pass

Swartberg Nature Reserve has stunning vegetation

Gorgeous George 

Oh boy, it's gorgeous in George! Historically established as a timber hub, this picturesque town is perfectly located as a resting point on your road trip. After roughly a five-hour drive from Cape Town, you'll find yourself in the gateway to the Garden Route, making it the ideal hub should you wish to explore the surrounding towns (which we suggest).

You'll feel as though the hills are alive, with the surrounding Outeniqua Mountains and lush alpine forest. Along with being a nature-lovers paradise, George offers world-class golf courses designed by PGA professionals. You're also in luck if your visit coincides with one of its popular annual events, namely the Old Car Show, Cheese Festival, and NMB Sevens Premier League.

What to Do in George 

Here's how to stay entertained during your stop in George.

Fancourt links

George is a golfing paradise, Image Credit: Fancourt

Play Golf 

The grass is definitely much greener on one of the world-class golf courses in the area. Take a swing at improving your handicap on the Oubaai, Le Grand George and Fancourt Golf Course.

Pass Through More Passes 

We just can't get enough of the views, and almost invincible, butterflies-in-stomach feeling of driving through the Garden Route's mountain passes. Most notably, we love the Montagu Pass and Outeniqua Pass.

The Outeniqua Mountains on a Garden Route road trip

The Outeniqua Mountains near George 

Outeniqua Transport Museum

If you love a dose of history and trains, then remember to stop at the Outeniqua Transport Museum. Here, you can take your time admiring vintage steam locomotives and carriages and learn more about the advancements made in transport.

The Outeniqua Transport Museum

Choo-choo. Image Credit: Museum Explorer SA

Visit the Tsitsikamma National Park 

Love hiking? Then you'll enjoy the famous Otter Trail found in the Tsitsikamma National Park. A popular and challenging five-day hike, just make sure you book way in advance.

The Otter Trail

The stunning yet strenuous Otter Trail, Image Credit: SANParks

Feeling Swell in Swellendam 

Known for its artistic flair, small-town charm and historical tributes, Swellendam is nothing short of enchanting. Gift yourself (and your family) a leg stretch to experience our country’s third-oldest town, which packs a wild punch with its nearby nature reserves and trails for you to explore.

What to Do in Swellendam

Here's what we love doing when we're in town.

Swellendam landscapes

Swellendam is a scenic wonder

Creative Crawl

Spend time appreciating the town’s finest art at the Bukkenburg Pottery Studio, Kunstehuijs Fine Art Gallery, and the Village Market, where you may even walk away with a purchase or two. Why not practice your artistic hand, capturing one of the most photographed churches in South Africa – the town’s Dutch Reformed Church? 

Dutch Reformed Church in Swellendam

The Swellendam Dutch Reformed Church is one of the most photographed churches in our country

Pay Homage to History

Learn about the town’s long history at one of its historical sites, such as the Drostdy and Mayville House Museums.

Action-Packed Activities

Get active in the nearby Marloth Nature Reserve and Bontebok National Park, where you can hike, mountain bike, and horse ride.

The Marloth Nature Reserve

The perfect outdoor setting, Image Credit: A Moderate Amount of Nature

All Things Nice Knysna

No journey through the Garden Route is complete without a stopover in Knysna. This small town oozes charm and has so much to offer that we suggest staying for at least two to three days. Knysna is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, including its famous lagoon and the iconic Knysna Heads. The town is also a haven for food lovers, with a thriving culinary scene that showcases fresh seafood and local delicacies.

What to Do in Knysna 

Expect a lot of fun in Knysna with these our favourite activities and must-sees. 

Boat cruise in Knysna

Knysna will float your boat, Image Credit: Magic Lagoon Charters

Explore the Knysna Heads

Marvel at the impressive sandstone cliffs that form the entrance to the Knysna Lagoon. Take a boat tour, a scenic drive or a hike to get the best views.

View of the Knysna Heads

Enjoy the view of the Knysna Heads

Visit Featherbed Nature Reserve

Accessible by ferry, this reserve offers guided walks, hikes, and stunning views of the lagoon.

Indulge in Fresh Seafood

Knysna is famous for its oysters. Visit a local seafood restaurant on the waterfront to savour these delicacies. Imagine feasting on fresh seafood and an ice-cold glass of bubbly as you gaze out at the deep blue sea? Bliss.

Oysters and bubbly

Oysters and bubbly? Yes please! Image Credit: Ocean Sailing Charters

Shop at Knysna Waterfront

Discover a variety of shops, boutiques, and galleries at the Knysna Waterfront, offering unique souvenirs and handmade crafts.

The waterfront in Knysna on the Garden Route

The Knysna Waterfront is a hub of fun activities

Plentiful Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, fondly referred to as "Plett" by locals, is the gift that keeps on giving. With its pristine beaches, lush surroundings, and a plethora of outdoor activities, it's a destination that appeals to beach lovers, surfers, nature enthusiasts, and adventure seekers alike. The town is renowned for its relaxed atmosphere and offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

What to Do in Plettenberg Bay 

Here are some of the many things that you'll enjoy doing in Plettenberg Bay.

Plettenberg Bay's beautiful landscapes

Beautiful views all around

Robberg Nature Reserve

Hike along the scenic trails of Robberg Peninsula for spectacular, uninterrupted vistas of the ocean and its surrounding hills. You might even get the opportunity to spot seals and dolphins.

Hikes in Robberg

Hike through Robberg to get the best views

Visit Keurbooms Beach

Enjoy the sun and sea on the pristine shores of Keurbooms Beach, perfect for swimming, beachcombing, and watersports.

Adventure Activities

Plettenberg Bay is a hub for adventure seekers. Try bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge, which is the world's highest commerical bridge, as well as zip-lining through the treetops, or kayaking along the Bitou River.

Bungee off the Bloukrans Bridge

Bungee off the Bloukrans Bridge

Pack Your Bags, We’re Going on a Garden Route Road Trip! 

These destinations are just the tip of the iceberg! There's so much more to see and do along our beloved Garden Route. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie, a nature enthusiast, or someone who appreciates the charm of small towns, the Garden Route road trip promises an unforgettable journey. 

So, reach out today, and let our Travel Experts tailor the perfect itinerary for you! 

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About the author 

Tania de Kock

Tania has always been an avid reader, which ultimately led to her life-long dream of becoming a best-selling author. She loves travelling, super spicy food, South African wine, and cats! When she's not reading with a glass of wine, you can find her at the nearest beach or camping, running or hiking in the mountains.

  • I know the area well having been brought up in PE and George. I now live in the UK, but seeing your piece makes me very happy. Well done on a lovely piece of advertising.

    • Hello Alan,

      Thank you for engaging with us.
      We love our home dearly, and sharing it with the world is a privilege and a great delight. We are so happy we reminded you of home and hope you’ll be visiting and experiencing it as soon as possible for yourself.

      Usale kakuhle eNgilane.

      Best regards
      Unathi

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