Blyde River Canyon

The Garden Route is one of South Africa’s most famous road trips and for good reason. It is astoundingly beautiful, there is lots of fun activities to do and quite a few things to see, both in the form of quint artsy towns and impressive natural wonders.

 

Where Does The Garden Route Start and End?

The official garden route starts in Mossel Bay (Western Cape) and ends in the small town of Stormsriver (Eastern Cape) a 203km journey according to Google Maps.

However many people add on k’s from Cape Town to Mossel Bay and from Stormsriver to Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) making the total a 749km’s in length.

 

When is The Best Time To Do The Garden Route?

Your best bet is to go between South African spring and summer months (September – February ).

You can expect high rainfall in the western regions of this route (Like Cape Town) in the autumn and winter months (March – August). The eastern part e.g. the Tsitsikamma area has more rainfall in summer, like Port Elizabeth.

Temperature Wise. Summer months (October to March) are nice and warm as it rarely gets as hot as in Cape Town or Swellendam with avg. daily temperature +24°C-30°C. Spring and Autumn (September, April, and May) are cooler +17°C-23°C. Winter months (June – August) between +16°C-20°C.

 

What are the Main Attractions along The Garden Route?

There is so much to see and do along the Garden Route so it is recommended to take at least 6 days or more to see it all.

From North to South

Gqeberha (previously named Port Elizabeth), and colloquially referred to as P.E., is a major seaport and the most populous city in the Eastern Cape province.

Jeffrey’s Bay (nicknamed J-Bay) is your next stop. It is famous amongst surfers as a surf capital due to the right-hand point break at Supertubes Beach

Now entering the official Garden Route:

Tsitsikamma National Park is your next stop. Here you will find The Bloukrans Bridge, a epic 216m bridge bungee jump and also the Suspension Bridges.

A little futher on you will come into Stormsriver village. The villages unique charm combined with various accommodation options, restaurants and adventure activities makes it a popular stopover for travellers along the Garden Route.

Birds of Eden – Free-flight sanctuary under a 5-acre mesh dome featuring 200+ bird species, with self-guided walks

Plettenberg Bay – a beach town and an adventure capital of the Garden Route; canyoning, diving, hiking, snorkeling, bodyboarding, canopy tours everything to keep you busy for a couple of days.

Knysna – a beautiful town at the lagoon, with some great lookout points, restaurants, and water activities (kayaking, boat tours).

Sedgefield – cozy beach town with long white sand and a usually empty beach, many accommodation options, and a couple of restaurants and bars. Great place for chilling, running on the beach, swimming, or SUPing around.

Ebb & Flow, Wilderness National Park – a great place for camping at the river bank, with several hiking trails and kayak rentals. Day visitors are allowed.

Wilderness – a small cute town with many guest houses, restaurants, and a couple of paragliding schools.

7 Passes Drive (George), an old road that connected George and Knysna, with a couple of bridges and narrow passes through the canyon.

Ostrich farms, Oudtshoorn.

Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn – a massive system of caves and tunnels.

Mossel Bay – a nice town with some cool things to do, a couple of nice restaurants, good surfing, and nice beaches.

Official End of the Garden Route:

Hermanus – a coastal town on the way from Cape Town to the Garden Route. Whale watching in Hermanus is between July and September. It’s a nice stop with beautiful sea views, great seafood restaurants, good wine, and a relaxing holiday vibe.

Franschhoek is a town in South Africa’s Western Cape with centuries-old vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture. Trails wind through flowers and wildlife at Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve to views over Franschhoek Valley.

Cape Town – The big city with everything to do

Elephants

Gqeberha(Port Elizabeth)

Things To Do and See

Just 30min drive from Gqeberha is Addo Elephant National Park, the third-largest national park, is not only home to the traditional Big Five, but the Big 7, which includes the Southern right whale and Great white shark in its marine environment.

Hobie Beach – A very popular choice for surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers, Hobie Beach plays host to festivals like ‘Splash Festival,’ Beach Volleyball and World Boardsailing Championships. It’s also great for those wanting to walk the boardwalk or Shark Rock Pier.

King’s Beach – From the harbour to Humewood lies King’s Beach. Ideal for body surfing, sunbathing, and swimming, this beach is a fan favourite. It especially comes alive on Sundays when Beach Front Traders set up shop, ‘picnickers’ make use of the newly upgraded park, and the snack bar is in full swing for those looking for a sweet treat.

Sardinia Bay is an excellent choice for those in the mood for a long beach walk or horse ride along the stretch of coastline. Snorkelling and scuba diving are encouraged as the sealife is abundant, and picnic spots beckon those wanting to while away the day by the ocean.

Roseate Tern Hiking Trail – Based in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve in Summerstrand, the Roseate Tern Hiking Trail is a 9 km circular route. It takes you past natural dune vegetation, a lighthouse built in 1851, and a bird hide that’s perfect for enjoying the vibrant birdlife.

St Croix Island Penguin Colony
St Croix is an island off the coast of Gqeberha, that is home to the largest African penguin colony in the world. The island is a penguin sanctuary and is part of an experiment to study the effects of fishing on penguin breeding and foraging behaviour. Boats aren’t allowed to land on the island, but you can book a boat cruise that takes you close enough to see the penguins.

 

Places To Eat

Muse RestaurantOne of the best high end restaurants in Gqeberha that has a focus on an ever-evolving seasonal menu.

Grass RoofA farm-to-table restaurant, farmstall and bakery. With its pitched roof covered with grass and wild flowers, offers great meals, is fully licenced and has a tractor and jungle gym to keep the kids happy.

Beer Yard – A favourite place among locals to get craft beer and a hearty meal

Backstreet Grill – A Steakhouse that offers flame grilled succulent steaks to sizzling seafood dishes, every plate is served with a unique blend of spices and herbs that will tantalise your taste buds.

Mellas Dim-Sum & Noodles Bar – A authentic Chinese culinary experience

For a Full List of Places to Eat in Gqeberha/ Port Elizabeth click here…

Jeffrey’s Bay (J-Bay)

Things To Do and See

African Dawn – Situated between Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth lies African Dawn a truly beautiful bird and wildlife sanctuary, featuring a endangered cat breeding program and rehabilitation centre. Over 200 species of birds and animals including the illusive Knysna Loerie, the majestic black eagle, beautiful servals, cheetahs and many more. With the largest aviary in the Eastern Cape, all bird lovers will be spoiled. And for the kids (or big kids too!) they have interactive experiences, you can feed the wallabies, cuddle with a lynx kitten or have some hands on time with a serval.

Shell Museum – Jeffreys Bay has always been known for its beautiful shells so it stands to reason that the town should have a Shell Museum. The more than 600 shells from species all of the world makes it one of the largest shell collections in South Africa and attracts shell fanatics from all over the globe. Housed in glass cases is a huge variety of shells including the legendary cowrie, the rare paper nautilus, tiny baby jam tarts and a new species of cone. Local shells and shell craft can be purchased just outside the museum from the shell shops and stalls

Jeffrey’s Bay Surf Musuem
Waves at J-Bay are the most dreamed about waves on South Africa’s coastline and living up to its legend J-Bay sends famous ‘Super Tubes’ to shore; a point break right-hander wave… with the occasional dolphin or whale audience to make for radical witnesses The Surf Museum goes ‘off the lip’ with original newspaper clipping, authentic magazine articles and photographs tracing the history of the sport and its heroes in J-Bay waters. The development for the sport is tracked from a fun bet-you-can’t-stand-on-that past-time to a technical water carving rush.

Sandboarding – Always wanted to try some form of boarding but cant stand on a rolling wall of water and the ski slopes of the Alps are a bit too far away? Sand boarding is the next best thing then! You can start on the easy slopes until you get into the swing of things and slowly advance higher up the dunes for a more exhilarating ride. Boards are available for hire so all you need to do is arrive ready and able! There are a number of companies offering sandboarding in J-Bay so pick one and hit the dunes!

Learn To Surf With Jbay AdventuresThe JBay Adventures surf lessons last for two hours, are conducted by experienced surfers that are highly qualified, and include all of the equipment necessary (a suitable surfboard and wetsuit) to take on the waves. These instructors have worked at surf camps all over the world, and have taught many a visitor to feel the exhilaration of catching waves.

 

Places To Eat

Die Walskipper restaurant in Jeffreys Bay is right on the beach. The food is scrumptious, cooked on open fires or in clay ovens and definitely the best seafood in town.

De ViswijfDe Viswijf is a Family Restaurant in Jeffreys Bay. It has breathtaking views over the bay, the distant mountains and one of the several world famous surf breaks in Jeffreys Bay namely Kitchen Windows.

Potter’s Place – This bright orange house with a blue roof and blue picket fence gathers all folk and all activities. This spot is a Jeffreys Bay landmark having stood strong in its popularity despite numerous new developments. Time spent here is a combination of student party life and a day in Gran’s kitchen. The coffee shop and restaurant is fully licensed and as a result in good conscience offers a Hangover Special Breakfast or if you spent the entire contents of your piggy bank rocking with the band the night before may I present the Poor Butt Breakfast.

Kitchen Windows – A beachfront restaurant with some truly delicious food.

For a Full List of Places To Eat in Jeffrey’s Bay click here…

Tsitsikamma National park

Things To Do and See

Storms River Mouth and Suspension Bridges – The short hike to the suspension bridges in the Tsitsikamma National Park is a relatively easy one, with a wooden walkway through the forests. You can hear crashing waves as you go, and the beauty of and from the suspension bridges is truly a feast for the eyes. You can either turn around and head back to the campsite area, claim one of the little blue-water bays as your own, or keep hiking the trail up to the mountain peak for insane panoramic views of the ocean and hills.

Bloukrans Bungee JumpFace Adrenalin Bungy operates the Bloukrans bungee jumping near Plett. Situated at the Tsitsikamma Forest Village Market, just 40 km east of Plettenberg Bay along the N2, you will find the Bloukrans River Bridge – and the ultimate thrill.

Go Canyon Abseiling – The setting for the adventure provides all the natural features for a superb abseiling experience. Certain geological processes have formed giant slabs of rock that rise up like a dragon’ s back. With airy drops on either side, you will navigate your way across these scaly giants where the placement of catwalks over deep cracks will either reassure or intimidate you. If you have the presence of mind at this point you can admire the magnificent 360-degree views.

Do a Canopy TourThe adventure commences with a thorough briefing explaining safety and the provided equipment. Suitable for ages 7 – 70, weighing up to 120kg (no pregnant woman allowed) this activity is a gentle glide across ten cabled slides to ten wooden platforms built high up in the trees. These lookout decks provide a resting place for you to breathe in the dense greenery and stand in awe of the view. Giant ferns grow below your feet while water streams loop the massive trunks. Your guide will educate you on the ecosystem and its rare ecology from 30 meters above the forest floor. This fantasy forest flight fills three hours with magnificent swinging scenery and will be one of the most memorable experiences in a year that contributes another ring to your tree of life.

Kayak and Lilo – One of the most popular activities in the Tsitsikamma National Park is taking a kayak or lilo up Storms River. You get to explore further up the Storms River Gorge, deep caves, and bottomless pools while hearing only the calming sounds of being in nature.

 

Places To Eat

Tsitrus Cafe Stormsriver – Enjoy the colourful and cosy interior, with it’s wood burning pizza oven and small fireplace. Shop for gifts of local craft and interesting items. Sample some craft beer or locally produced cheese.

Marilyn’s 60’s Diner – This all-American diner serves gourmet milkshakes and juicy big burgers. It celebrates the 60s era with a jukebox and classic cars and motorbikes and is an experience as well as a spot to eat.

Cattle Baron – Tsitsikamma National Park Restaurant With the waves crashing just metres below and views of the Storms River Mouth and surrounding mountains, Tsitsikamma Restaurant has a winning formula in terms of its setting. This spacious eatery is flanked by the souvenir shop and the beach, which is usually teeming with young and old from all over the world. There is a large outdoor section for those wanting to smell the fresh sea air and feel the cool breeze while they eat, as well as a smaller indoor section. The entire area is sheltered.

 

For a Full List Of Places to Eat In Tsitsikamma click here…

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay

Things To Do and See

Visit Cairnbrogie Farm – This farm is the ultimate destination for outdoor lovers. They offer hiking trails, mountain bike trails, horse and pony rides, dog walking trails, fishing spots and birding spots. There’s also a cafe for delicious after-activity coffee and treats. The area boasts about 100ha of coastal fynbos and spectacular scenery.

Eat and shop at Market on MainIf you love browsing unique, locally-made items, amazing food and drinks plus a very lekker vibe, Market on Main is the place to be. This hotspot in the middle of town offers anything from pizza and sushi to jewellery and home decor, and of course an array of drinks.

Hike Robberg Nature ReserveThis reserve is one of the most popular coastal nature reserves in the province, and not without reason. You’re guaranteed astounding views, crystal clear rock pools and clean beaches. Dolphin and whale sightings are not off the table either. Visitors have a choice of three trails on offer, ranging from a 30-minute stroll to a four-hour hike. The reserve also extends 1.8km offshore, providing protection to vulnerable marine animals.

View art at the Art Source Africa/Dallas Smith GalleryArt enthusiasts will not want for spectacular art in Plettenberg Bay. The Art Source Africa/Dallas Smith Gallery in Main Street features incredible works by world-renowned artists Dallas Smith and Michelle Bestbier, as well as some unique paintings by artists Hesty, Zachary Smith and fascinating sculptures by Timothy Smith. You might even meet the artists in the gallery when you pop by!

Explore Keurbooms Beach

Browse sculptures at Bronze Fields FoundryMore art, this time amazing sculptures by Robert Leggat and his son Brendan Leggat. Their working farm also doubles as their workshop, bronze foundry and sculpture garden. Robert is the artist behind the famous life-size bronze sculpture of a dolphin and calf in Plettenberg Bay’s town centre. Robert and Brendan work with various mediums, combining bronze, silver and stainless steel with great skill. They also do commission works for other artists. Those interested can visit by appointment, and even attend a bronze pouring by prior arrangement.

Snorkel with sealsNow back to the ocean! Plett is known to be home to many marine animals who frequent the shores, like the playful seals who live among the kelp and rocks. Plett Seal Adventures will take guests on a guided snorkel tour to witness the fascinating lives of seals, while learning more about them. The trip includes a boat ride, wet suit and gear, snorkel tour and pictures of the excursion.

Monkeyland – Monkeyland is one of its kind sanctuary where previously captivated primates such as monkeys and apes can roam freely in their natural habitats. The sanctuary is built on a 12-hectare indigenous forest land located near Plettenberg Bay in South Africa. It is home to over 500 monkeys and 11 primate species. Tourists can explore the forest and take one-hour tours or monkey safaris. The 128-metre suspension bridge is the adventurous highlight of the sanctuary, where small apes called Gibbons can be seen swinging along.

 

Places To Eat

Nineteen 89 This charming and inviting restaurant warmly welcomes guests with its dedication to serving exceptional breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner options, all carefully prepared and using only the finest locally sourced ingredients. With a passionate focus on seafood, grills, and salads, Nineteen89 ensures that each dish on its menu delivers a delightful explosion of flavours, leaving taste buds craving more.

The Table Restuarant – This intimate restaurant is the perfect gathering place for friends, families and foodies because of its indoor and outdoor dining options, kiddies play area and cosy atmosphere. Spoil your taste buds with The Table Restaurant’s popular thin-base, crispy pizza, handmade pasta and signature dishes like ostrich paired with a delightful chilli and chocolate sauce, as well as prawns, served in a unique pizza basket.

The Sanctuary Restuarant  –

The Fat Fish – A Plett household name, this local favourite is a spot that seafood lovers simply must visit.

The Lookout Deck – Nestled between the majestic Lookout Rocks and Lookout Beach and with the namesake deck situated right on the beautiful beach, The Lookout Deck’s seaside location is hard to beat. The diverse menu features an array of mouthwatering options ranging from woodfired pizzas, burgers, delicious snack platters, refreshing salads, excellent seafood dishes and perfectly cooked steaks from the grill. Additionally, this vibrant restaurant takes great pride in its impressive selection of wines and wide range of exotic cocktails.

Nguni Restaurant –  A restaurant that celebrates our country’s diverse culinary heritage. Located in a historic building that served as a dairy, Nguni offers a nostalgic charm with an unmistakable African flair. This intimate restaurant offers beloved classics like Bobotie, biltong, springbok, Karoo lamb, ostrich, and more. Nguni’s skilled chef skillfully infuses a modern twist into each plate resulting in flavourful curries, colourful vegetarian creations, and tender game meats that are expertly cooked and tastefully presented.

 

For a Full List Of Places to Eat in Plettenberg Bay click here…

Knysna

Knysna

Things To Do and See

Seven Passes Road – This beautifully scenic road trip takes you from Knysna to George via seven passes. Pack snacks and cool drinks and drive slowly along dirt roads to soak up the stunning mountain scenery.

Prince Alfred’s Pass – The longest publically accessible pass in South Africa should most definitely be on your Knysna to-do list. The pass joins Knysna to Uniondale and gives you unrivalled views as you drive.

Hikes:

  • Circles in the Forest
  • White Elephant Trail
  • Garden of Eden
  • Kranshoek Hiking Trail

Knysna HeadsThe Heads are an iconic point in Knysna, where there are views of the lagoon meeting the ocean between the two mountains. It is one of the essential things you need to do when visiting Knysna. The entrance is free, and if you’re there during the low season, you can pack a picnic and enjoy the views with delicious food.

Whale watching – Knysna is surrounded by the stunning blue Indian Ocean and whale watching is one of the most popular activities here. The best time is July to December as Southern Right and Humpback whales migrate here during this season. You can watch whales from one of the viewpoints or opt for one of the many cruises for close encounters.

The Motorcycle Room – The Motorcycle Room is a museum dedicated to vintage motorcycles. It is located on the top floor of the Parking Shed on Long Street in Thesen Island. Their extensive collection of over 100 bikes includes old classics, motocross, vintage enduro bikes, superbikes and a wide variety of custom bikes.

Beaches:

  • Brenton Beach
  • Buffalo Bay

Places To Eat

île de païn île de païn is a buzzing café-style restaurant situated on Thesen Islands, surrounded by the picturesque Knysna Lagoon. Expect a warm welcome and a feast for all the senses.

Trinity CoffeeAn Artisan coffee shop with delicious food to boot

Knysna Gin Distillery The Knysna Distillery & Gin Bar boasts with award winning craft gin, distilled the traditional way with a flame & copper pot still.

Dry Dock – Restaurant situated in the Knysna Waterfront offering the freshest seafood,tempting salads,sushi,fusion cuisine & sinful desserts.

East Head Cafe

Cafe Mario Best Italian Food in town

 

For the Full List of Places To Eat in Knysna click here…

Cango Caves

Oudtshoorn

It’s up to you to keep driving along the coast  or take a detour and go to Oudtshoorn, about 160 km return. The main attraction there is the Cango Caves, an impressive system of caves and tunnels. Some caves are huge with many stalactites and stalagmites and other strange rock formations, some are small.

Things To Do and See

Cango Caves -Nestled at the foothills of the Swartberg range near Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves stand as a magnificent testament to nature’s artistry in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. This intricate cave system, estimated to be around 20 million years old, is carved into a dense limestone layer, presenting an awe-inspiring underground wonder. The Cango Caves, renowned as South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction and one of the largest show cave systems in Africa, have captivated visitors for centuries. Their unique geological formations, unusual in this region, are believed to have formed due to faulting, creating an otherworldly underground landscape.

Meerkat Adventures – Meerkat Adventures, a must-do experience in the area, leaves guests with a deeper understanding and appreciation of these adorable animals. The tour includes comfortable seating arrangements near the burrows, ensuring a relaxed and enjoyable observation. It’s an exceptional opportunity to witness the natural behavior of meerkats up close, making for a memorable and heartwarming encounter in the wild.

Cango Wildlife Ranch Discover the Cango Wildlife Ranch, an exceptional conservation center in Oudtshoorn, originally established as a crocodile show farm in 1977. This sanctuary, now home to over 90 different animal species, focuses significantly on the preservation of endangered animals, including the majestic cheetah. Its evolution into a hub for both conservation and education makes it a highlight for anyone visiting Oudtshoorn.

Visit an Ostrich Farm – There’s a few of them in the area. Pick one and spend the day learning about these amazing birds.

Places To Eat

Brian’s Grill And Family Restaurant

Cango Woodfired Pizzas

Nostalgie Restaurant

Jemima’s Restaurant

For A Full List Of Places To Eat in Oudtshoorn click here…

Lighthouse in Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay

Things To Do and See

Visit Bergsig Private Game Reserve

Swim at Santos Beach

Cape St Blaize Lighthouse ComplexSituated in Mossel Bay, the Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse stands 15 meters above a wooden deck, offering breathtaking views. More than a maritime navigational aid, it serves as a unique dining venue where up to 85 guests can enjoy breakfast, light lunches, and sun-downers.

Point of Human Origins This significant archaeological site, located at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, offers a window into the earliest artifacts of modern human beings. The site, set against the scenic backdrop of seaside caves, is an ongoing source of significant archaeological discoveries, continually shedding light on the origins of modern humans. The caves, cozy and sheltered, offer a stunning setting for understanding the human past and enjoying the natural beauty of Mossel Bay.

 

Hikes:

Wolwedans Dam Hike

The Oystercatcher Trail

St Blaize Trail

Mossel Bay ZiplineAs the world’s longest over-the-ocean zipline, the Mossel Bay Zipline presents an unparalleled adrenaline rush. Spanning approximately 1100 meters in length and reaching speeds of up to 90km/h, it allows participants to soar over the bay, providing a unique vantage point to appreciate the area’s stunning coastal scenery and marine life.

Visit the Dias Museum – A Portuguese explorer named Bartolomeu Dias made land at the current location of the Dias Museum Complex. In 1488, he became the first European to circumnavigate Africa’s southernmost point and later established the trade route between Europe and Asia. “Angra dos Vaqueiros,” meaning “The Bay of Cowherds,” is the name he gave to Mossel Bay. You may learn about Bartolomeu Dias’s life and exploits and view various reconstructions of his ship at the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex.

Make a Splash at Dias Waterpark

Places To Eat

Carola Ann’s

Café Gannet

Kaai 4

The Blue Shed Coffee Roastery

Route57 Market

Baruch’s Coffee Roastery

For a Full List of Places To Eat in Mossel Bay click here…

Whale Watching

Hermanus

Things To Do and See

Take a hike at Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Go whale-watching – By far the most popular activity during whale season (June to November) is Hermanus whale watching. This is when you can usually see southern right whales, which come here to mate, calve and raise their young before returning to the Antarctic to feed. That’s not to say that if you visit outside these months you won’t see any whales – humpbacks, Bryde’s whales and dolphins occur at Hermanus all year round.

Visit a museum – Don’t miss a visit to the museums in Hermanus.

The Old Harbour is an open-air museum below the main square that depicts the history of the fishing and whaling industry around Hermanus. See some restored old fishing boats, the jetty and the tables where fish was gutted and cleaned, as well as indoor displays in stone buildings where fishing shacks used to stand in days gone by.

De Wet’s Photo Museum – The De Wet’s Huis cottage at the Fishermen’s Village houses a photographic exhibition of old Hermanus dating as far back as the beginning of the last century and includes many photos printed from glass negatives taken by the famous photographer T D Ravenscroft. In 1983, the old Dutch Reform Sunday School was dismantled by the museum staff and moved to Fisherman’s Village, where it was rebuilt (stone for stone and using the very same timber). This is where it stands today as De Wets Huis.

Walk the Cliff Path – Take a walk along at least part of the Cliff Path that meanders alongside the sea and the rocks for more than 10km – you’d be crazy to miss it.

Go Sea Kayaking in Walker Bay

Places To Eat

Fabio’s Ristorante

Burgundy Seafront Restaurant

The Marine

Fisherman’s Cottage

Char’d Grill and Wine Bar

La Pentola

For a Full List of Places To Eat in Hermanus click here…

So there you have it. Your Guide to The Garden Route, one of the most beautiful roadtrips in South Africa. An awesome adventure that should be on every South Africans Bucketlist.

Thanks for Reading, 

and don’t forget to always 

– Chase The Adventure – 

 

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