Planning a trip along The Garden Route in South Africa is no mean feat.
Spanning a whopping 300km from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape of South Africa to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape, this diverse, scenic and primitive stretch of coastline offers so much to explore that it’s hard to prioritise and whittle down where to stop off and where to miss – especially if you only have a few days to do it!
When my Mum, sister and I visited Cape Town earlier this year, we put aside 5/6 days to uncover The Garden Route and The Winelands (we’ll come to this in another post), which gave us approximately 3 nights and 3 days to squeeze in as much as we possibly could along the coastline.
Please note: where we chose to visit was by no means extensive and there are loadssss of other places you can stop off along The Garden Route. This itinerary is based on the places we decided we wanted to visit most.
Knysna – 1 night
Cape Town – Knysna: approx. 330 miles/8 hours
Accommodation: Bayview Studio
Brace yourself – this is a longggg drive. The stretch of road running from Cape Town to Knysna is very flat, very straight and very boring. However, it is easy and has some great spots to stop off at along the way. About 3 hours into the journey we found a lovely lunch spot in Swellendam called Old Gaol, which had a great outdoor seating area and served up delicious fresh roosterkoekes (traditional South African open sandwiches).
Knysna is probably one of the most popular stops on The Garden Route and is renowned for its number of English expats and tranquil lagoon. The hub of this town is on the waterfront where you’ll find an abundance of seafood restaurants, shops and boat trip kiosks. If you’re going to do anything whilst in Knysna, it should be to take a boat trip out to ‘the heads’ – the two sandstone cliffs, which connect the lagoon with the Indian Ocean.
We chose to go with a more expensive yet, quieter 1 1/2 hour trip on a catamaran. We booked our trip through Featherbed, who cover four different boat experiences and bought our tickets the morning of our trip at their kiosk opposite the main car park (it’s hard to miss).
The catamaran was spotless and offered a bar service (10.30am isn’t too early for a beer when you’re on vacay… is it?) and bean bags on the netted front of the boat. There were only two other couples on the trip with us, which meant it was peaceful, relaxing and very enjoyable. We managed to go through the turbulent heads (this can be extremely dangerous depending on the weather and tides) and even spotted a seal on the way back in!
Tsitsikamma National Park – 1 night
Knysna – Tsitsikamma National Park: approx. 57 miles/1 hour 30 mins
Accommodation: Love Earth Farm
Tsitsikamma National Park is a wild expanse of protected flora and fauna located towards the end of The Garden Route. From dense forest and winding rivers to deep gorges and untamed coastline, the diverse landscape in Tsitsikamma is a nature lovers haven.
You can trek, bungee jump, kayak and zipline all within the vicinity of the park, making it the perfect spot for someone wanting to combine their love for nature with adrenalin. Unfortunately, we only had one night and one morning in the park so opted to forgo the activities and instead, walked along the Mouth Trail to Tsitsikamma’s iconic suspension bridges and then up the Viewpoint Trail to a lookout point. This is a good route to follow if you only have a few hours to see the park.
Entry to Tsitsikamma is 143 rand (approx. £7.50) for non-residents and 59 rand (approx. £3.10) for residents and can be purchased on arrival. We stopped off at Plettenberg Bay for lunch at the Lookout Deck restaurant, which had fab views across the bay and lovely fresh seafood and salads.
Oudtshoorn – 1 night
Tsitsikamma National Park to Oudtshoorn: approx. 132 miles/4 hours 15 mins
Accommodation: Africa Inn – Chalet 1
Oudtshoorn aka. the ostrich capital of the world is located inland in the Little Karoo region of South Africa. The drive from Tsitsikamma to Oudtshoorn offers a completely different facet to South Africa’s landscape and sees the lush vegetation of the coastline turn into a flat, dry and desert-like vista.
The main thing to do in Oudtshoorn is to visit an ostrich farm. Due to the area’s dry climate, it is the perfect place to rear ostriches so is covered in farms harvesting feathers, eggs and meat. When we visited, we went to Highgate Ostrich Farm (187 rand, approx. £9.80) as it was rated highly on TripAdvisor. We were given a 1 hour 15 minute tour of the farm and workshop by a lovely, professional guide.
The highlight of our time in Oudtshoorn was the Air BnB we stayed in (THAT VIEW) and our dinner at Nostalgie, which I would highly recommend.
From Oudtshoorn we drove to Robertson where our winelands experience began (stay tuned)…