Rocky mountain outcrops, blue hills covered in Fynbos, coastal lakes, wetlands, deep mossy forests, breathtaking beaches and dramatic river gorges. Where else would you find all this natural beauty but in the Garden Route. South Africa is most famous for what became an unofficial national symbol; Table Mountain in Cape Town. But there is so much more to this country. The Garden route stretches through 200 kilometers in the Western Cape. It is one of the most diverse of the provinces, covering both the Garden Route and The Wild Coast.
Garden Route Hotels
It is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, and it is not difficult to see why.Flanked by the Outeniqua Mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south, the Garden Route is a bright emerald on an otherwise harsh stretch of land. The climate is mild all year round, with moderate rain fall during the winter months between June and August.The best way by far to explore the area is by car. Sure, there are luxury coach trips you can book, but this does not give you the freedom to explore this area at its utmost. Two international airports grant you access to the area, with Cape Town being the biggest.
Where is the Garden Route?
Your arrival will depend on where your trip to the Garden Route will start. Leaving Cape Town, the N2 highway curves for some 500 kilometers towards the Garden Route. When travelling from Cape Town, be sure to take some time to explore the wine route. Make sure you experience the best of both worlds. After all, South Africa boasts world- famous wines.
Departing from Port Elizabeth, the official end of the Garden Route will now be your starting point, heading towards Cape Town. Regardless of which route you take, it is easy to forget about the disputes as to the official start and end point of the route. Not discounting smaller coastal towns and hidden lagoons, the official Garden Route will take you through the following main places of interest;
Plettenberg is one of the buzzing cities on the Garden Route. Stretchy beaches, great golf courses and packed with marine life, you will not be disappointed. It is one of the highlights of the route. There are many interesting places to discover just outside of Plettenberg. The Elephant Sanctuary, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden must be on your hot list if you love wildlife. Monkeyland is a multi-species sanctuary where primates roam freely. Guided walks can be arranged to meet the species up close and personal.
Though it has no claim on the Garden Route, only a couple of miles inland you will find the Little Karoo, the start of a dusty desert, and Oudshoorn. Oudshoorn is a small town, and is a stark contrast when leaving the coastal path. If you fancy a ride on an ostrich, here is your chance. Ostrich farms are a dime a dozen here. The Congo Caves is another highlight of this area. Better not be claustrophobic, those caves get pretty intense. Oudshoorn is synonym for one thing though. The Little Karoo National Arts Festival.
Considered as the official starting point, Mosselbay has fantastic beaches. If history is your thing, Mosselbay has a few interesting museums as well as the location of the famous Postal Tree. For the adventure junkies and more adventurous spirit, this is also the place to go cage diving with Great White sharks, or go for a bungee jump. The highest bridge swing in the world is situated just outside of Mosselbay.
Another historical town, George is slightly smaller than Mosselbay, but is surrounded by the most beautiful pristine forest. Whale watching can be done from one of the many view points. Be sure not to miss Victoria Bay, a small little bay where you can spend a lazy afternoon walking on the pier, or hiking up the mountain passes.
Leaving George behind, the name Wilderness should say it all. You should definitely stop here for a day or two. Unspoiled beaches stretch endlessly, and the little town is cozy and intimate. The ocean is filled with wildlife, including dolphins and whales in abundance. It is also ideal for bird watchers.
Between the mountain pass of Wilderness and Knysna, don’t forget to stop at Big Tree. It is a little of the beaten track, so ask around, but well worth the detour. Big Tree is 31 meter tall Yellow Wood, and is well over 800 years old.
The moment you approach Knysna, the first thing you will notice is the lagoon surrounding you. Even more impressive is the Knysna Heads; two huge sandstone towers that guards the ocean inlet. Head towards the heads for one of the best restaurants and get-together hot spots in town. Build in the inlet; you have a panoramic view of Knysna, the mountains and the ocean. This is also the place to be if you are looking for a night on the town. You will be spoiled for choice. The center is lively and bustling with activity.
If you are in the area, be sure not to miss the annual oyster festival late June.
Years ago, elephants still roamed freely in the dense forest. Today, Tsitsikamma is a national park. It is one of South Africa’s oldest marine reserves. Hikers from all over the world come here to traverse this area. Bloukrantz, between Knysna and Tsitsikamma is also worth a mention. It is the highest bungee jump in the Southern hemisphere. If death defying leaps leave you cold, the Canopy Tours offer a less strenuous experience. You get to zip along cables from platform to platform, high up in the treetops.
Golf on the Garden Route
Another extremely popular tourist attraction in this part of South Africa is golf. With world-class golf courses to be encountered across the entire route, set against backdrops of breathtaking beauty, your only limitations are the number of holes you can physically play in one vacation.
Whether you like playing with a view of the ocean, amongst rolling hills or in the shadows of mountains, there’s a course that’s perfect for you. In fact you don’t even have to plan your holiday around the courses that you wish to play, you can simply book a golf tour package holiday that plans your holiday excursions around your golf!
There are so many options available to golfers that you’ll wonder why you didn’t plan a golf holiday like this before, especially considering the quality of courses available, including those designed by the likes of Ernie Els and Jack Nicklaus. Click here if you wish to see all featured golf resorts in South Africa.
Who Should Go?
So, who should visit the Garden Route? Well, everyone! It caters for the hardiest of adrenaline junkies to the most placid nature lover. If you are more culturally inclined, there are township tours, old building to explore, museums, craft market and art galleries. It’s the golfer and hiker’s dream destination. Discover new tastes. Try the local cuisine. Have some ostrich meat. Indulge in the some of the best yet affordable wines. The scope on environmental variation and activities is so vast in the Garden Route, that there will be something in it for everyone.
There is a word of precaution though. If you wish to spend your days swimming and lazing on sunny beaches sipping cocktails, perhaps then the Garden Route is not for you. The water is freezing cold, and certain areas, especially George, gets misty early mornings and afternoons.
People visit the Garden Route to experience the variation without having to travel vast distances. Traveling through this piece of paradise, you will feel revitalized.