Garden Route, South Africa, Indian Ocean
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Garden Route: Tips and Trips

Deutsche Fassung German translated articles

South Africa’s Garden Route had been on our list for a long time; in November 2023, the time had finally come. We flew from Johannesburg to George to start our road trip along the famous route. 

The Garden Route is one of the most breathtaking routes in South Africa and a true paradise for road trippers, nature lovers and adventure seekers. The route offers a mesmerising mix of lush forests, endless beaches, majestic mountains and charming coastal villages.

The road along the Garden Route is without potholes, safe and easy to drive, and several towns are within easy reach from the main road. This makes the route ideal for tourists wanting to experience South Africa’s diverse culture and friendly people. No other route in South Africa offers so many highlights in such a short distance as the Garden Route.

Our article presents some outstanding highlights along the Garden Route and provides valuable pro tips for foreigners and local travellers.

Sedgefield, Travel Buddies, Garden Route, South Africa
There are several mosaic art pieces in Sedgefield, on the Garden Route

Where is the Garden Route in South Africa?

The scenic Route stretches east of Cape Town along the coast of the Indian Ocean. Although it officially begins in Mossel Bay and ends in Storms River in the Tsitsikamma National Park, the section between Cape Town and Mossel Bay also harbours numerous sights. 

However, this article focuses on the towns and sections between Mossel Bay and Storms River on the Garden Route.

Buffels Bay, Garden Route, Ocean
View of Buffels Bay with a scenic and secluded beach on the Garden Route

Where does the name Garden Route come from?

It may be misleading initially, as some people imagine the Garden Route to be lined with magnificent gardens – although not 100% correct the garden route does in a way present a fascinating extended garden. 

The name has its roots in the imagination of the first settlers, who imagined the Garden of Eden with the lush green landscape, lagoons, rivers and forests. So, this is how the name “Garden Route” came about.

Wilderness, South Africa, Garden Route river views and little boat cruising by
The lush green landscape of the Garden Route. This photos was taken at the Fairy Knowe hotel

How to get to the Garden Route in South Africa?

We flew with Safair from Johannesburg to George, where we picked up our rental from Europe car booked through Check24  (not an affiliate – our preferred company for best prices) and started our road trip from there. For those with more time available, we recommend travelling from Cape Town towards Mossel Bay via the picturesque routes through Hermanus, Arniston and the de Hoop Nature Reserve.

In Hermanus, The Marine Hotel must be on your list of places to visit- perhaps even an overnight stay in this exclusive hotel is highly recommended. For more insights into the Marine hotel, you can visit our highlights on our Instagram page (@travelbuddies_lifestyle).

We also strongly suggest the unique Arniston Spa Hotel for a taste of beach combined with a countryside setting.

The de Hoop Nature Reserve, a jewel in its own right, deserves a separate article. Not only can you hike and mountain bike in this gorgeous national park, but you can also go whale watching. Treat yourself to some time out at the De Hoop, where you can indulge in tranquility in a country setting.

Hermanus, South Africa sea landscape Kleinriverberge on the Garden Route
Views from the Marine Hotel in Hermanus, South Africa

Is it safe to travel the Garden Route?

The tranquil Garden Route is one of the safest regions in South Africa and is, therefore, suitable for self-drive, particularly for single travellers or women. 

During our road trip over two weeks, we never felt unsafe on any of the roads. Although the Garden Route has a safe reputation it is advisable to adhere to the general safety guidelines, which we discussed in detail in our article “How safe is South Africa?”

Signs along the Garden Route alert tourists to potentially unsafe locations and walking routes that could potentially be unsafe in small groups.

Garden Route, Brenton on Sea sunset view bench to lookout to the sea
The Garden Route is one of the safest parts of South Africa. This photos was taken at the lookout point at Brenton-on-sea

How much time should you plan for the Garden Route?

We recommend eight to ten days trips to enjoy an extensive exploration trip on the Garden Route from Mossel Bay to Storms River. However, the exact duration will depend on the places you want to visit and the must-do activities on your list.

On our trip along the Garden Route, we spent nine days and would have liked to have had a little more time to explore the lesser known places along this fascinating route in more detail.

Garden Route, South Africa, Südafrika Wilderness views
Typical view along the Garden Route, this photos was taken from a lookout point in Wilderness

Where is the most beautiful places along the Garden Route - between Mossel Bay and Storms River

A trip from George to Oudtshoorn: A detour into the world of ostriches

We highly recommend visiting the following places along the Garden Route:

  • Oudtshoorn
  • Pinnacle Point for avid golfers
  • Wilderness (several scenic viewpoints)
  • Knysna (Lagoon cruises)
  • Victoria Bay near George (best secluded beach)
  • Brenton on Sea (incredible sunsets)
  • Plettenberg Bay (exclusive hotels)
  • Tsitsikamma National Park (scenic routes and hiking trails)

Our unforgettable Garden Route trip started with a worthwhile detour to Oudtshoorn, a town in a semi-desert known as the “Klein Karoo”; this town is at the centre of ostrich farming. 

The journey from George to Oudtshoorn took about one hour by car (approx. 70 km), which took us over the picturesque Outeniqua Pass. As we crossed the pass, we were treated to spectacular views of George and the surrounding gorges and mountains.

The impressive natural scenery with the imposing mountains in the background could also be fully explored (if time allows) regretfully we needed to reach our first destination at a specific time.

Oudtshoorn, South Africa gravel farm road
Deserted road between George and Oudtshoorn
Swartberge Nature Reserve, Klein-karoo, Garden Route, South Africa
Scenic landscapes of the Klein Karoo just outside Oudtshoorn

Oudtshoorn: the world of ostriches on the Garden Route

Oudtshoorn, picturesquely situated at the foot of the majestic Swartberg Mountains, is the largest town in the Klein Karoo semi-desert. 

This region is known for everything related to ostriches (i.e., ostrich meat, leather, and feathers). It’s no surprise that visiting an ostrich farm is one of the ‘must do activities’ in the Klein Karoo. 

After our stay at Wildehondekloof, we visited the Safari Ostrich Farm and gained interesting insights into ostrich farming. Check out our Instagram page’s highlights (@travelbuddies_lifestyle), for some video nice footage.

Oudtshoorn has much more to offer than ostrich-related activities, and also deserves a comprehensive article, to present several highlights of this town and the surrounding region. For example, there is the Cango Caves, Cango Wildlife Ranch, Rust-en-Vrede Waterfall and several wine farms.

We stayed at the Wildehondekloof Lodge in the Wildehonde Private Game Reserve. Our luxurious stay at this unique lodge will be the subject of a separate article in which we will share this exclusive lodge’s special features and activities in detail. You can read a related article: Top 5 accommodations on the Garden Route, NOW.

Wildehonde Kloof, Oudtshoorn, Wildehonde Game Lodge, Garden Route
The magnificent 15m pool at Wildehonde Game Lodge

Worthwhile stopovers between Mossel Bay and Knysna on the Garden Route

We enjoy stopping at several picturesque viewpoints, taking photos and exploring charming little villages during our road trips. And there are plenty of them along the Garden Route. 

In this section, we would like to summarise some of the most worthwhile stops.

Pinnacle Point Golf Course: More than just a Golfers' paradise on the Garden Route

Even if you don’t pick up a golf club, Pinnacle Point Golf Course is a well-known destination. This golf course has been recognised as the best in South Africa and enjoys an international reputation for being the most scenic course in the world.

Access to Pinnacle Point Golf Estate is not just reserved for homeowners or golfers. By making a reservation at the clubhouse restaurant, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the scenic cliffs and the Indian Ocean. 

There is an extraordinary mosaic tunnel near the restaurant with walls being decorated with impressively designed mosaic artwork. This project is ongoing and should be complete towards the end of 2024. They have made significant progress during our trip and it is only the roof that still needs to be covered.

Pinnacle Point Golf Coursse, Pinnacle Point Estate, Mossel Bay
Spectacular ocean and mountain views from the Pinnacle Point Golf Course
Pinnacle Point Golf Estate
Mosaic art in the tunnel at Pinnacle point. This project is still in process and is estimated to end mid 2024

Victoria Bay: An idyll at the gates of Wilderness on the Garden Route

We received an insider’s tip to visit the stunning beach at Victoria Bay.

Victoria Bay, just a stone’s throw from Wilderness, is a sheltered bay with a fine sandy beach. This bay is particularly family-friendly, as swimming here is very safe. There is even a playground for children to guarantee extra fun.

Those who don’t like the sand can also use the large sunbathing green lawn. But it’s not just family-friendly; this bay is heaven on earth for surfers. The local surf school provides daily surfing lessons (weather permitted). If you want to satisfy your appetite after an active day by the sea, there is a restaurant on the water’s edge at Victoria Bay Beach.

And if you are super lucky, you may find even accommodation on the small path adjacent to the ocean. We would have LOVED to stay here for a day or two.

Victoria Bay, Garden Route, South Africa, beach scenery with surfers
Some of the accommodation available on the sea shore at Victoria Bay, South Africa
Viktoria Bay beach
Viktoria Bay beach

Dolphin’s Point: a panoramic view just before Wilderness

Dolphin’s Point, a viewpoint on the N2 just before Wilderness, offers an impressive view of the Indian Ocean, Wilderness’s endless beach, the Kaaimans River’s mouth, and the famous Kaaimans River railway bridge.

Signs are visible at this viewpoint, warning tourists to be cautious and alert when walking down the footpath to the water’s edge. It is recommended to walk in large groups

Just up the road from Dolphin’s viewpoint there is a parking area next to the restaurant, locals usually park here to enjoy a dip in the river.

Dolphing's Point, Garden Route, South Africa
Kaaimans river train bridge

Map of Africa: Unique view above Wilderness

Another breathtaking viewpoint, the “Map of Africa”, is slightly above Wilderness. Although the last part of the road is a gravel road, it is in good condition and easily accessible by car. From here, you can enjoy a fascinating view of the mountains and forests. From here you can see the Kaaimans River too in the shape of the African continent.

Wilderness: A worthwhile destination for a day or two

Wilderness, South Africa
Idyll on the Touwes River in Wilderness. This photo was taken from the Fairy Know Hotel which lies on the bank of the river
A stay, for one or two days, in Wilderness is also highly recommended. There is something to suit everyone’s needs here – be it the picturesque (sandy and uncrowded) beaches on one side or the Wilderness National Park on the other. This location has numerous (and varied) hiking trails (The Kingfisher hiking trail is highly recommended), canoeing on the Touws River and paragliding. The Kingfisher Hiking trails takes you to Touw River Waterfall where you can swim in some of the rock pools.

Flat Rock: a spectacular viewpoint on the Garden Route

The Flat Rock viewpoint in Wilderness is an absolute must for lovers of spectacular views. Here, you can enjoy an unrivalled view of the cliffs. Enter “Flat Rock” in Google Maps and follow the wooden steps to the viewpoint to experience this impressive panorama.

Flat Rock, Widerness, Garden Route
The wooden path leading to spectacular views of Flat Rock. There is parking near the starting point

Sedgefield: a hidden gem off the beaten track on the Garden Route

Just under 40 kilometres from George lies Sedgefield, which has been spared from massive tourism. Travelling along the N2 on the Garden Route, there seems to be little reason to stop, as unassuming shops, supermarkets, and petrol stations line the road. But the true magic of this place only becomes apparent when you drive through Sedgefield towards the sea. Here, a small paradise opens to visitors with breathtaking views over the lagoon and endless fine sandy beaches along the coast. Look out for many sculptures decorated with mosaics along the roads in Sedgefield (see our photo of us in a beach buggy). 

The weekend Wild Oats Farmers Market is worth visiting if you need fresh produce, traditional baked treats, and flowers.

Sedgefield, Garden Route,South Africa
View of the Sedgefield Lagoon on the Garden Route
Sedgefield beach, Garden Route, South Africa, Soft sandy white beach with holiday makers sitting on the beach under a umbrelle
The prestine Sedgefield beach

Knysna

Knysna, next to Plettenberg Bay (the jewel of the Garden Route), is one of the most centrally located towns along the Garden Route. From here, many of the region’s highlights can be explored on day trips. Therefore, we highly recommend staying overnight in Knysna or Plettenberg Bay.

As the tourist heart of the Garden Route, Knysna stretches along approximately 20 square kilometres of the Knysna Lagoon. They are protected by the imposing Knysna Heads, two majestic rocks on either side act as a monumental gateway to the lagoon. Oyster farming is rife in these waters.

The Knysna lagoon serves as the perfect starting point for various boat trips. Also, some of the region’s most picturesque beaches can be found in the surrounding area.

Knysna, Garden Route, South Africa
View over Knysna

Our accommodation recommendations for Knysna:

The Turbine Hotel & Spa on Thesen Island is a unique place to stay. Built in a former power station, this hotel impresses with its original interior design. It also spoils its guests with a breathtaking view of the surrounding canals.

The St. James of Knysna, beautifully situated on the Knysna Lagoon, is ideal for pure relaxation. Service is paramount at this exclusive 5-star hotel with extra spacious suites, and the dedicated staff will help make your stay an unforgettable experience. This hotel (and Wildehondekloof) is a Cape Country Routes member offering great savings and deals.

The Turbine Hotel, Knysna
The Turbine Hotel Knysna
The St.James Hotel of Knysna - hotel on the banks of the Knysna Lagoon
St. James of Knysna

Plettenberg Bay: The jewel of the Garden Route

Plettenberg Bay, called Plett by the locals, is a favourite destination for foreign visitors and locals alike. Compared to Cape Town, the region has extensive, pristine beaches with warm ocean water. The Robberg Nature Reserve has charming boutiques and cosy restaurants. Plettenberg Bay is the party capital of the Garden Route, although it has many scenic and pristine beaches.

Plett is an ideal starting point for excursions to Storms River or Nature Valley due to its proximity to the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route, South Africa
Plettenberg Bay beach

Our accommodation recommendations for Plettenberg Bay:

The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay is an exclusive oasis of elegance and sophistication on the Garden Route. With breathtaking sea views and luxurious facilities, this hotel offers first-class accommodations for discerning travellers.

Southern Cross Beach House in Plettenberg Bay impresses with its idyllic location directly on the beach and offers guests an unrivalled seaside setting. With a charming and welcoming ambience, this beach house creates a relaxed atmosphere where guests can enjoy the beauty of the Garden Route to the fullest.

Look out for our follow-up article that reviews these world-class establishments.

The Plettenberg Hotel, Plettenberg, Garden Route
Beautiful view from the exquisite lounge of the Plettenberg
Southern Cross Beach House, Plettenberg, South Africa
The Southern Cross Beach House in Plettenberg

Tsitsikamma National Park: where the Garden Route officially ends

The Tsitsikamma National Park is a true paradise for nature lovers, stretching over 80 kilometres along a rocky coastline. It is also home to one of Africa’s last remaining primaeval forests.

Tsitsikamma National Park has many hiking trails; the 42 km Otter Trail is one of South Africa’s most famous hiking routes.

Anyone visiting the park should take the hiking trail to the suspension bridge over the mouth of the Storms River, which offers breathtaking views of the river and the sea. The Tsitsikamma National Park also offers a variety of activities, including kayaking and tubing tours. For adrenaline seekers, there is the highest bungee jump from the Bloukrans Bridge.

You can find more information about entrance fees and activities in the park here

Tsitsikamma National Park, Garden Route, Nature Valley
Nature Valley in the Tsitsikamma National Park

Conclusion

The exquisite Garden Route in South Africa is a fascinating and diverse destination that captivates nature lovers and adventurers. With its breathtaking scenery, from majestic mountains to picturesque coastal villages and endless beaches, the Garden Route offers a unique blend of natural beauty.

During a road trip along this route, you will experience the stunning coastal scenery and explore charming towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Wilderness. The various activities, from hikes in the Tsitsikamma National Park to boat trips in the Knysna Lagoon and exciting water sports, make the Garden Route a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

The local’s friendly hospitality, the abundant wildlife, and the historical and cultural highlights along the route make the Garden Route an unforgettable travel experience. Whether you prefer relaxing and enjoying the spectacular views or crave active sporty adventures or unique culinary experiences – the Garden Route offers something special for all travellers.

Wildehondekloof Boutique Hotel, The St James of Knysna Hotel, Safari Ostrich Farm and Ocean Sailing Charters are members of Cape Country Routes. Cape Country Routes (CCR) is an association of privately run hotels and activities in South Africa. It offers member travellers extraordinary deals and massive discounts when staying with Cape Country Routes members or booking one of their activities. 

For a complete list of the CCR members, visit the CCR website for exciting offers. You can also view the benefits of CCR’s membership for as little as R200 per year! Take advantage of these magnificent offers TODAY for next to nothing. PS. Its the ideal birthday of Christmas gift!

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About Author

Petra Top is a dynamic freelance travel journalist hailing from Altusried, Germany, who expertly balances her roles as a Motorsport enthusiast, translator, author, and social media strategist. Her expert skill set includes web designing, multilingual communications, and photography, enriched by notable memberships in international travel and food writers' organisations. Petra's life philosophy—"I travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape me"—captivates her audience, reflecting her passion for exploration and sustainable innovation at Travel Buddies Lifestyle.

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