South Africa's Garden Route - Planning the Ultimate Road Trip

This is not your average road trip route; with breathtaking beaches, iridescent lagoons, indigenous forests, and small and large welcoming towns and villages, this is a route like no other. Boasting beautiful landscapes and memories that will last a lifetime, this simple, scenic, ocean-hugging highway guarantees detours and pit stops showcasing the region’s beauty, culture and hospitality.

The Garden Route 🗺️

Stretching for 124 miles through the Western Cape between Mossel Bay and Storms River, this route is perfect for anyone who wants to spend some time road-tripping! Whether you’re a first-timer or a season road tripper. Taking its name from the Garden Route National Park that the route covers, the diverse vegetation and wildlife, and the abundance of lagoons, lakes, mountains, forests, and beaches along its winding roads that road-trippers will experience, this name sure is fitting!
A trip along the stretch of coastal road gives travellers plenty of opportunities for activities. If you are a nature lover, a thrill seeker, or just one or the other, this trip has an abundance of treats for you. From whale watching to exploring caves and desert beaches, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this trip. The challenge most travellers have on this trip is to devote a minimum of four travelling days or a fortnight to partake in the activities and sightseeing on this excursion.
Map illustrated by Guillermo Trapiello

Mossel Bay

Despite most jetting into Cape Town, the journey officially starts in Mossel Bay. This is the western gateway to the Garden Route. It is a sleepy coastal town with pretty beaches. Known for its rocky shores to the south and the wide Santos Beach to the north, this start point can be identified by the 19th-century Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse that sits at the point of its peninsula, providing unparalleled views of the surrounding sea. Travellers can climb the St. Blaize Lighthouse to take in the views mentioned and Hike the St. Blaize Trail to see further breathtaking views.
Mossel Bay

George

The historic timber town of George lies 30 minutes down the coast from Mossel Bay. This is the Heart of the Garden Route and the capital of the Southern Cape. George is the ideal hub to explore its surrounding areas' diverse scenery and natural wonders. Here travellers can visit the  Botanical Garden that characterizes the Cape Floral Region, recognized by UNESCO for its staggering biodiversity. While the region only spans 0.5% of Africa, it contains 20% of the continent’s plant species.
Botanical Gardens, George

Knysna

Knysna is a little gem of a town in the middle of the Garden Route. Looking out over a natural lagoon formed between two sandstone headlands, its waterfront is a lively hub of eateries serving up dishes using fresh produce from the waters surrounding the location. It is a culinary hotspot famous for its 10-day Oyster Festival in late June and its pretty landscape. A stunning tranquil lagoon dotted with sailing boats. Spend a day or two in Knysna, savouring its upmarket restaurants, renting mountain bikes and exploring the surrounding wilderness.
Knysna, South Africa

Wilderness National Park

Wilderness National Park calls to all nature lovers and activity seekers. Here campers, hikers and kayakers can make the most of their talents and the surrounding landscape. This is located around the seaside town of Wilderness between the larger towns of George and Knysna and is a protected area of South Africa forming part of the Garden Route.  Its wetlands are rich in exotic birds and its forests are threaded with hiking routes that meander between waterfalls.
Wilderness Camping, South Africa

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is famous for its breathtaking beaches, half an hour further east. Here, you will find sandy coves popular with surfers that sit beneath the cliffs, with waters that teem year-round with migrating whales and dolphins. Stop in at Birds of Eden - the world’s largest free-flight aviary - a sanctuary to over 3,000 birds. Stop off for something to eat at the popular restaurant Enrico Restaurant for seafood and Italian.
Robberg Island, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Storms River

The eastern terminus of the Garden Route is Storms River village, 50 minutes from Plettenberg Bay. The name of this South African location is quite fitting when observing the rugged appearance of the rocky landscape here. Home to the dense, mountainous Tsitsikamma Forest, this spot can provide you with zip-lining experiences like no other, as well as kayaking expeditions through gorges and the world’s highest bungee jump (709ft) at Bloukrans Bridge. This is the ideal final spot if you’re starting at Mossel Bay, with a plethora of adrenaline filled activities waiting for you to partake in.
Storms River, South Africa

How Long Does It Take? ⏰ 📅

The Garden Route could be done in one day but that may mean you might not be able to make the most of and experience the brilliant places of interest at each checkpoint of this route. Therefore, when you include stops, the main route requires at least 3 or 4 days to see it properly. However, the journey can take as long or as little as you want it to. This depends on your personal travel preferences, how much time and money you have to spare.

When Is The Best Time To Go? 🌤

The best time to go to the Garden Route, South Africa, is whenever you are ready. This is an entirely individual expedition that can take place whenever. This route is gorgeous all year round, with temperatures rarely dipping below 18°C. They peak between Nov-Apr, which is the South African summer, also found to have been the most popular time in which travellers partake in this route. Considering this is a coastal route, it is always best to pack a raincoat as you never know what Mother Nature will do!

Starting from Skratch? Here are a Few Tips to Get you Started:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/partner-content-ultimate-road-trip-garden-route

Garden Route Road Trip Facts

Start/End

🗺 Port Elizabeth (the Eastern Cape) to the Mossel Bay (the Western Cape), or vice versa.

Distance

🥾 124 miles

Length

⏰ Self Tours - 3 days and range up to 14 days (Depending on your time & budget)

When To Go?

⛅️ Summer (November – March) - warmest weather (most popular)

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Imogen Kemp
August 30, 2022
posted in
JOURNEYS

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