Where the Karoo’s quartzite mountain range on the one side and the pristine white beaches of the Indian Ocean on the other the official Garden Route stretches along South Africa’s south eastern coastline from Mossel Bay to Storms River just east of Plettenberg Bay, unofficially from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The beaches, forests and lakes of this area offer an amazing diversity of landscapes and wild flowers.
There are a number of ways to do the Garden Route, but this really depends on how much driving you want to do. These are the two ways we recommend doing it.
The first way and what we recommend to most of our clients is to fly from Cape Town to George (the Garden Route’s main city). From George the distance to Port Elizabeth is just over 300km and would take about 4 hours, so more of a Garden wander. The best way to do this version of the Garden Route would be to spend one or two nights in Knysna and then the same in Plettenberg Bay, and from there drive to Port Elizabeth from where you would fly up to your safari destination. This Knysna and Plettenberg bay are at the heart of the Garden Route and give you the best access to the many activities on offer.
Alternatively, for those who don’t mind an extra bit of driving, you could drive the whole way from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, the distance is just under 800km and would (if doing it straight which of course you wouldn’t) take about 10 hours. The way to do this would be, from Cape Town drive to Hermanus (particularly between June and October for whale watching), spend one or two nights in Hermanus and then do the long five hour drive to Knysna and continue the Garden Route as per above.
Hermanus is widely recognised as the whale watching capital of the world. Between June and October all five major species of whale migrate around the Cape. The whole bay from Hermanus to Gansbaai is stunning, but in our opinion one of the best places to watch the whales from is De Kelders.
Knysna is a town which has been made famous by its July Oyster festival and its impressive Knysna heads, the treacherous entry to Knysna lagoon where many an ancient sailing vessel met its doom. From here you can find a rich diversity of flora and fauna by exploring the Featherbed Nature Reserve.
To the east of Knysna Plettenberg Bay is probably the last completely worthwhile stop on the Garden Route. It’s a beautiful beach town, great as a base for a number of activities including Elephant and Monkey sanctuaries and beach activities. However the town is now a bit build-up and modernised, for a quieter/higher-end town the neighbouring Nature’s Valley is the better bet.
There are a whole host of activities that you can do from Plettenberg Bay, and these are particularly ideal for kids.
The Tsitsikamma National Park forms part of the greater Garden Route National Park and is home to the famous tree-top canopy tour. This is a great day trip to do from Plettenberg Bay.