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South African Garden Route Travel Plan Guide 2023

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2023)

The Backyard Route (Afrikaans: Tuinroete), the South African Garden Route is a 300-kilometer (190 mi) stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa which extends from Witsand within the Western Cape to the border of Tsitsikamma Storms River within the Eastern Cape.

In this article, I am going to talk about the South African Garden Route travel plan.

The identity comes from the verdant and ecologically various vegetation encountered right here and the quite a few estuaries and lakes dotted alongside the coast.

Access

The Garden Route is typically explored as part of a self-drive tour in the Western Cape region of South Africa. It is accessible through a 6-hour drive from the Cape Winelands area (often the first stop), however, this trip can be paused at the lovely town of Swellendam, which typically cuts the driving time from the Cape in half. The Garden Route may also be reached by air, with regular flights to George (from Cape Town and Johannesburg) and Plettenberg Bay (from Cape Town).

What is the South African Garden Route

One of the most well-liked travel locations in South Africa is the Garden Route, a stunning area of the Western Cape. Given its fame, one may assume this to be a large region, but in reality, it is just 204 km from the town of Mossel Bay in the west to the Storms River Mouth in the east, making it very tiny. With craggy mountains, lush woods, stunning beaches, quaint towns and villages, top-notch golf courses, and incredible things to enjoy, the region is immensely diversified.

When planning a vacation to The Garden Route, it is simple to become overwhelmed by everything there is to see and do and end yourself skipping out on some of the experiences you want to have. Our comprehensive guide to the Garden Route will tell you where to go, where to stay, and what to do to make the most of your time there.

It contains cities similar to Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Mossel Bay, Great Brak River, Little Brak River, Wilderness, Sedgefield, and Nature’s Valley; with George, the Backyard Route’s largest metropolis and principal administrative center.

Just lately the cities of Albertinia, Riversdale, Heidelberg, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, De Rust, and Uniondale have been added to the Backyard Route district and municipality.

There’s a 300-kilometer stretch of coastal street on the southwest tip of South Africa considered probably the most lovely area within the nation. Generally known as The Backyard Route, the street journey will get its identify from the Backyard Route National Park that it covers, the various vegetation and wildlife, and the abundance of lagoons, lakes, mountains, forests, and seashores alongside its winding roads.

Dwelling to nearly a dozen nature and marine reserves, a street journey on the Backyard Route affords loads of alternatives for actions alongside the best way, from climbing to eco and whale watching excursions to exploring caves and abandoned sandy seashores.

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The route meanders between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua mountain ranges, creating contrasting, but equally beautiful views on both sides.

The plush greenery of the indigenous forests meets the jagged cliffs and the sprawling coastal vistas, producing the kind of panoramic views solely present in magazines.

Mountains crowd near a shoreline dotted with seashores and bays and vividly colored wildflowers delight the attention.

Between Heidelberg and Storms River, the Backyard Route runs parallel to a shoreline that includes lakes, mountains, tall indigenous forests, amber-colored rivers, and golden seashores.

Meandering trails are adopted by hikers, the forests invite lengthy, leisurely drives, and the lakes and rivers lend themselves to swimming boating, and fishing.

A variety of leisure choices, spectacular surroundings, and gentle local weather assure unforgettable vacation expertise when visiting the Backyard Route in South Africa.

It has oceanic local weather, with delicate-to-heat summers, and delicate-to-chill winters.

It has the mildest local weather in South Africa and the second mildest local weather on the earth, after Hawaii, in keeping with the Guinness Guide of Data.

Practicalities

The average traveler stays on The Garden Route for four to six nights, and while it may be tempting to attempt to stay in two (or even more) different places, you don’t actually need to. The majority of lodging options are easily accessible from both lodging options and activities, thus it usually serves the interests of most tourists to remain in one location so they can become comfortable and enjoy it.

For touring The Garden Route, one has to have their own vehicle due to the difficulty of moving about, the distances involved, and the nearly total lack of taxi services. Although pricey and often lacking in the spontaneity that makes trips to the region so pleasurable, guided excursions are an option.

Temperatures hardly ever fall under 10 °C in winter and barely climb past 28 °C in the summer.

Rain happens year-round, with a slight peak within the spring months, introduced by the humid sea winds from the Indian Ocean rising and releasing their precipitation alongside the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains simply inland of the coast.

The Route is sandwiched between the aforementioned mountains and the Indian Ocean, with mountain passes, together with the Outeniqua Cross, linking the world with the arid Little Karoo.

The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma indigenous forests are a singular combination of Cape Fynbos and Temperate Forest and provide climbing trails and eco-tourism actions.

Practically 300 species of birdlife are to be present in quite a lot of habitats starting from fynbos to forests to wetlands.

In 2017 the Backyard Route of the South African Garden Route was added to UNESCO’s World Community of Biosphere Reserves.

The South African Garden Route: What to see?

The Backyard Route Street Journey Really useful Itinerary – 5 days

There are dozens of sights, actions, and normal pit stops alongside this route. The itinerary actually relies on how a lot of time you could have and what you need to do.

It’s additionally value noting, that whereas Cape City is just not technically on the Backyard Route (it ends properly earlier than that in Mossel Bay), most excursions will use the beginning or endpoint as Cape City.

It’s because Cape City is a more handy place to start out/finish excursions in than Mossel Bay, and the town, in its personal proper, can be one of many high points of interest in any South Africa tour.

Beneath you may try an advisable Backyard Route self-drive itinerary for five days, together with all of the highlights, and can’t miss points of interest. Cape City is the endpoint for this tour.

The beginning of the Backyard Route, Mossel Bay, is around 400km from Cape City whereas Storms River is around 200km from Port Elizabeth – many individuals select to cease within the Winelands and or Hermanus for an evening initially to discover these areas and benefit from the coast street at leisure earlier than getting again on the N2 to Mossel Bay.

Alternatively, you may fly to George and begin your exploration there.

In addition to lovely seashores, lagoons, and coves, there may be an additional indigenous forest, lovely flowers (therefore its identity), and quaint cities.

Offshore there may be the prospect to see Southern Proper Whales, dolphins, nice white sharks, and African penguins.

Onshore there are nature reserves, vineyards, and a number of points of interest and museums.

There’s a string of nice locations to remain on the Backyard Route, all having fun with a pleasing temperature all year long that ranges from 13-25 levels.

Mossel Bay is small and atmospheric, with wonderful seashores and a museum about Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese explorer who found the route across the Cape.

A keep in Oudtshoorn permits the prospect to discover the flanking mountains, a visit as much as the Swartberg Cross being properly definitely worth the effort.

You possibly can’t go to Oudtshoorn without visiting the ostriches; the city is the center of the South African Ostrich business with a number of giant farms producing feathers for the world’s hats and really giant eggs!

The small city of Wilderness lies about 10 miles from George and is dwelling in the Wilderness National Park.

This 26,000-acre reserve incorporates 5 rivers, 5 lakes, and practically 12 miles of rugged shoreline, making it a wetland reserve of worldwide significance. Probably the most well-known city on the Backyard Route is Knysna.

Located on the sting of an enormous estuary it’s flanked by swathes of indigenous forest, it’s laid-back and an important place to remain for a few nights to benefit from the many actions and points of interest on provide.

Lastly, there may be Tsitsikamma, a space within the Jap Cape of rugged magnificence. Sandy seashores and rocky crags, gorges, forests, and rivers all mix to make an unspoiled panorama that varieties a part of a marine Nationwide Park.

Every week permits the customer to get pleasure from a Backyard Route vacation at a leisurely tempo, staying in the primary cities and exploring the shoreline of this lovely space. A Backyard Route self-drive combines best with a keep in Cape City.

When to go

The climate along the Garden Route is distinctly “European” (but in reverse), with warm, usually dry summers, nice springs and autumns, and chilly, occasionally drenching winters.

Here, the months of November through March are considered summer because of the pleasant, warm weather and infrequent rain. When traveling during this period, it is wise to reserve accommodations well in advance, especially around the popular holiday seasons of Christmas and New Year.

Although it is notably quieter with some restaurants closed and certain events not taking place every day, April and May are still excellent months to visit. Prices are inexpensive since June and July are generally calm, although some hotels are closed and other activities are completely suspended. When the temperatures rise and residents start preparing for the warmer summer months ahead, business picks up again in September and October. August is a bit busier than a previous couple of months.

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The South African Garden Route: Travel plan

For an excellent vacation fly into Cape City for just a few nights, and drive the Backyard Route after which keep 2-3 nights at a safari reserve within the Eastern Cape – you may fly out of Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg on your flight dwelling without having to again observe.

Our favorite reserves within the Jap Cape are Kariega and Shamwari however all of the Eastern Cape reserves provide the big 5, quite a lot of lodge and tented camp lodging, in addition to non-public villas. They will all be reached inside around a 2 hours drive from P.E.

Day 1: Port Elizabeth to Knysna

Journey by the Tsitsikamma Forest and alongside the coast to the seaside city of Knysna. There are many viewpoints and scenic stops to make alongside the best way.

Keurboomstrand, a small vacation city with a chilled-out vibe, is ideal for leisurely strolls on the lengthy seaside that stretches all the best way to Plettenberg Bay.

This bay can be valued as a cease for the vigorous seaside environment, water game actions, nature reserves, and climbing trails.

Stick with it one other 30 kilometers and keep the evening in Knysna.

Day 2: Knysna to Oudtshoorn

A ship cruise on the Knysna Lagoon is advisable. Highlights embody views of the sandstone “Heads” that guard the lagoon’s entrance and the pristine seashores and forests that lay simply past.

Go to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, providing nature walks alongside the coast, by the forests and fynbos (shrubs and vegetation native to South Africa), with an exploration of historic sea caves.

There’s additionally the choice of climbing to view the “Heads” up shut and private, which can elongate the itinerary.

The following portion of the street takes guests by the mountainous Outeniqua Cross. The twists and turns hold drivers on their toes and the views over the ocean framed by limitless mountains are nothing in need of unbelievable.

Arrive in Oudtshoorn, named the Feather Capital of the World resulting from South Africa’s ostrich farming business being centered here.

Take an ostrich farm safari to view these attention-grabbing birds and study their relevance in South Africa. Keep the evening in Oudtshoorn.

Day 3: Oudtshoorn to Struisbaai

Tour the Cango Caves, the oldest vacation attraction in the nation. The beautiful pure surprise is situated within the limestone cliffs parallel to the Swartberg Mountains, simply outdoors of Oudtshoorn.

These caves are a few of the most interesting examples of dripstone caverns, with spacious rooms and gigantic limestone formations.

Excursions of various levels can be found. There are newbie stage excursions in addition to superior “adventurous” excursions, however, they should be booked upfront as there are solely a sure variety of guests allowed per day.

After the caves, cease in Mossel Bay. This charming port city of 130,000 is strictly midway between Port Elizabeth and Cape City.

Benefit from the 60 kilometers of seashores, a number of climbing trails with beautiful views, whale watching (relies on the season), and historic websites just like the Submit Workplace Tree or the Diaz Museum.

In search of one thing extra enjoyable? Wine tasting, {golfing}, and purchasing are additionally obtainable right here.

After a full day of exploring, proceed to Struisbaai, the place you may spend the evening.

Day 4: Agulhas to Hermanus

Only a few miles west of Struisbaai is Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.

Here you may go to the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, the third oldest in South Africa and the second oldest nonetheless in use in the present day.

You possibly can go to the high of the lighthouse and luxuriate in a wonderful view of the ocean and the encompassing coastal space.

From right here, drive inland to Napier, looping again around to the coastal metropolis of Gansbaai. That is the place to go Nice White Shark cage diving, in the event you dare!

Drive alongside Walker Bay to the city of Hermanus. This city is called the Whale Capital, as it’s an excellent spot to do some whale watching (once more, your luck of recognizing these light beasts is bigger throughout the winter and spring seasons).

A substitute for whale watching is the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, good looking space with loads of flora, fauna, and strolling trails with a surprising view of Walker Bay.

Where to stay

What you want to accomplish while you are there will determine where is the finest base for you to explore The Garden Route.

There are just 5 main locations to stay in, however, there are a few adorable tiny fishing towns strewn throughout. In this article, we’ll concentrate on the most popular lodging options because tiny towns are more often destinations for vacation houses than for business hotels or B&Bs.

We have chosen some of our favorite places to stay in each location.

1. Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, or just Plett as it is popularly known, is an affluent beach town located at the eastern end of the region. It is perhaps the most well-known of the towns on the Garden Route. The distinction between Plett and the other Garden Route towns is obvious, with a distinct “holiday village” vibe predominating, especially in the summer when roads are congested, restaurants are crowded, and there is hardly any sand on the beach – picture Cornwall during the summer break from school and you’ll get the idea.

You will find a delightful coastal town outside of these extremely busy months, full of wonderful places to stay, many good restaurants, and a plethora of things to enjoy. Plettenberg Bay is unquestionably the place for you if you desire to be in the center of the activity and vacation in the most upscale locations.

  • The Plettenberg

The Plettenberg, one of the Garden Route’s most well-known accommodations, is a superb place to stay and is perched on a headland with views of Plettenberg Bay’s beaches. The hotel is divided into two areas: the main section, which includes the bars, restaurants, swimming pool, and some of the rooms, is on one side of the road, while the other portion is in another building. Due to customers frequently unwinding in their rooms and taking in the views rather than congregating in one location, the hotel seldom seems unduly crowded.

There are few better spots in South Africa for some relaxation than this genuine gem of a hotel, which has excellent food, pleasant service, and one of the greatest swimming pools around. It is simple to understand why Plettenberg Bay is so well-liked by honeymooners and South African families traveling together when these factors are combined with the ease of access to the town’s restaurants, stores, and beaches.

  • Tsala Treetops

On the journey from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay, a little brown sign that directs you to Tsala Treetops is simple to miss. This is quite unfortunate because it is one of the most recognizable and in-demand accommodations in the area (and in South Africa overall).

The luxurious suites, which offer huge bedrooms, indoor living spaces, and fireplaces for the region’s occasionally chilly evenings, are located in a serene setting overlooking the forest canopy. The hotel’s decking areas, some of which have their own private plunge pools, are shielded from passing guests and staff, giving it a very private atmosphere. More marriage proposals have taken place on these decks than at most other hotels in the nation, making it a very popular destination for South African honeymoons.

Visitors from all across the region frequent the superb Zinzi Restaurant, and the fact that Tsala guests are given preference makes staying here an even more alluring choice. Tsala should be at the top of your choice of places to stay since it is lovely, iconic, and an excellent bargain for the quality it offers.

2. George

George is the region’s commercial center and home to the primary airport, much like Mossell Bay. There aren’t many tourist attractions or lodging options here, but the Fancourt Estate is where you’ll find two excellent hotels and three top-notch golf courses—the Montagu, Outeniqua, and Links—the latter of which hosted the 2003 President’s Cup. There isn’t a better location for golfers than George because there are several additional top-notch golf courses nearby. However, for tourists with other interests, the further east they drive along The Garden Route, the better.

  • Fancourt Resort

Fancourt is made up of the bigger Fancourt Hotel and the smaller, cozier Manor House, both of which can be found on the outskirts of George, the principal town along The Garden Route. The main hotel’s rooms have views of the Fairways, one of the resort’s three golf courses, with the Outeniqua Mountains framing the views back to them. If you’re looking for seclusion and personalized attention, The Manor House is a nice alternative, but whichever you select, you’ll be in excellent hands.

Image Credit: www.naturalworldsafaris.com

3. Wilderness

One of the most popular sites for travelers to stay in this magnificent region of the coast is the quaint town of Wilderness, which is only a short drive east of George. The Touws River’s mouth, where it meets the Indian Ocean, is where the majority of the hamlet is situated, thus there are many excellent riverfront accommodations and eateries to choose from. Even if you don’t stay here, the town is known for having some of The Garden Route’s greatest eateries, making it a perfect place to stop for lunch.

The alternative option for lodging is along the beachfront, where there are a number of fine hotels and lovely B&Bs. These establishments provide amazing views and convenient beach access. There are numerous enjoyable activities in the area, many of which center around the river, but there are also some excellent walking, horseback riding, and hiking paths to explore, as well as excellent watersports on the beach.

  • Views Boutique Hotel & Spa

One of the newest additions to the Garden Route lodging market, Views is a charming beachfront hotel just outside of the sleepy hamlet of Wilderness. It has unrivaled views of the Indian Ocean.

This is a fantastic option if you’re seeking top-notch lodging on the less traveled side of The Garden Route since it has direct access to the seemingly endless stretch of beach in front of it, beautifully constructed accommodations, and amazing meals (particularly seafood).

The hotel is conveniently close to all of Wilderness’s attractions, and the N2 serves as the area’s main thoroughfare, making it simple to see sights farther away. This makes Wilderness and Views a very popular destination.

4. Mossell Bay

The sizable beach village of Mossell Bay marks the western terminus of the Garden Route. It is not without its charms—recognized for its expansive beaches and sizable working harbor—but it may feel quite crowded, especially during the summer, and tends to draw more residents than foreign tourists. Although there are better spots for tourists to stay, this area is worth considering because it has some excellent restaurants and Pinnacle Point is home to one of the top golf courses in the nation.

4. Knysna

The Garden Route continues with travelers staying at the town of Knysna, which is undoubtedly the ideal place for those seeking the best “all-around” experience of everything the area has to offer. Geographically, it is located in the midst of the Garden Route, making it simple to travel to all of the nearby towns and attractions, which seldom takes longer than an hour.

The variety of lodging options is also a major draw, with several magnificent B&Bs on the hillside above the town luring those searching for homes with a sense of the area. A smaller counterpart of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, the Knysna Quays area offers a fantastic range of hotels, stores, restaurants, and cafés, as well as a number of activities that leave from there. The annual Knysna Oyster Festival, which typically takes place in July, honors the lagoon’s reputation for producing some of the greatest oysters in the world.

  • Belvidere Manor

Belvidere Manor, a lovely ancient home on a hilltop overlooking the Knysna Lagoon, has a very English air to it thanks to the tidy cottages positioned on each side of the expansive lawns that slope down the mountain. Ideally suited for individuals on longer trips who prefer to spread out a little, they are well-spaced from one another and provide a delightful sense of seclusion.

The grounds are a great location to unwind and take in the sunshine (as well as the views), and the beautiful pool in the middle is usually a favorite with visitors. The cuisine is distinctly South African and emphasizes locally obtained, seasonally appropriate ingredients, with seafood playing a key role.

The charming on-site Bell bar is a nod to Belvidere’s fascinating past and a terrific place to meet other visitors in the evenings. Any vacation to The Garden Route would be enhanced with a stay at Belvidere Manor thanks to the outstanding personnel.

Things to do at The Garden Route

With a variety of activities and experiences to enjoy wherever you go, the Garden Route is known as the adventure capital of South Africa. Naturally, the varied activities available draw a wide range of individuals, but some of our favorites are:

1. The Featherbed Tour

The opportunity to explore the Featherbed Nature Reserve, which is located on the “western head,” or promontory on the opposite side of Knysna Lagoon, is one of the city’s top attractions. A visit here includes a very fascinating stroll as well as a delightful boat across the calm waters of Knysna Lagoon. This area is home to a wide variety of indigenous fynbos, a resilient native plant, as well as tiny antelope, reptiles, and a huge diversity of wildlife.

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2. Play Golf

The aforementioned Fancourt is home to three of South Africa’s top golf courses, including the legendary Links, which is recognized as one of the best in the world. Beyond this, there are some outstanding layouts in Goose Valley, Pezula, and Simola in Knysna, as well as Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay (Plettenberg Bay). On The Garden Route, there is always a fantastic golf course nearby, and the value is outstanding.

3. Visit Tsitsikamma Forest

The Tsitsikamma Forest, where a range of activities may be done, is one of The Garden Route’s most notable features. Some of the best views the region has to offer may be found by climbing across the Storm’s River Suspension Bridge and up to the top of the nearby headline.

If you prefer adventurous sports, the ziplining route across the tree canopies is one of the most famous in the area and a must-do. The world’s highest commercial bungee jumping facility is located next to the Bloukrans Bridge; it’s not for everyone, but for some, it’s a must-do experience!

4. Go for Ocean Safaris

An “Ocean Safari,” which is run out of Plettenberg Bay, is an excellent opportunity to learn about the diverse and rich marine life around the South African coast in the Garden Route. Sharks and dolphins are frequently spotted in the area throughout the year, and taking one of these boat tours is a wonderful chance to learn more about some of the Indian Ocean’s most perplexing inhabitants.

Boat cruises provide a fantastic opportunity to interact closely with whales, especially Southern Right Whales, which are frequently seen in Plett between July and November. These excursions provide the opportunity to view the sizable colony of Cape fur seals that reside on the Robberg Peninsula throughout the year.

Other Activities

Numerous walking, hiking, horseback riding, and bike routes, the opportunity to kayak on gently flowing rivers, or the ability to try your hand at a variety of watersports like stand-up paddleboarding are just a few of the other activities available in the area. Along the route, you may stop at places like the Birds of Eden Project, Monkeyland, and the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary. Smaller communities like Sedgefield, Brenton-on-Sea, and Nature’s Valley are also wonderful places to explore and immerse yourself in the easygoing lifestyle that the region is known for.

Final thought

All things considered, despite its modest size, The Garden Route is one of the most diverse and stunning regions of South Africa, offering a staggering variety of attractions and lodging options. There is always plenty to do here, whether you want to go exploring or just relax by the pool, play some world-class golf, or bungee jump from Bloukrans Bridge.

Keep the evening in Hermanus. I hope this article on the South African Garden Route was worth reading.

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