Garden Route



Technically, the scenic road known as the Garden Route, South Africa—famous for its beautiful wildflowers, forests and mountainous coastline—runs along the coast from Mossel Bay to the Storms River. However, we find the entire drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth to be spectacular. It takes three days to drive, but five days or longer would be much better so you can stop and enjoy the sights.

Begin in Cape Town and overnight at Mossel Bay, where Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias landed in 1488, after he had completed the first recorded rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. Mossel Bay, despite being a rather unappealing town, has the famous Post Office Tree, where sailors left letters hanging in a boot to be picked up by those headed toward the country of the addressee. The second day, drive to Oudtshoorn, overnight there and tour it in the morning, then drive to George for the next overnight. While in George, see the town museum.

The second day, drive to Oudtshoorn, overnight there and visit the intriguing Cango Caves and an informative ostrich farm in the morning. Then drive to the quaint and artsy town of Knysna, and on the way stop at Wilderness National Park. This is now part of the Garden Route National Park, which was established in 2009 by amalgamating the existing Wilderness and Tsitsikamma national parks and the Knysna National Lake Area. The Wilderness section is a 30-mi/50-km strip of glistening vlei (lake), river and marsh, sandwiched between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua Mountains. Once in Knysna, stop in at some of the craft shops and galleries, then spend at least an hour exploring in one of the nearby state forests. If you have time, take a boat ride around the Knysna Lagoon, also now part of the Garden Route National Park, and to the Heads—the impressive rocky promontories that lead from the lagoon to the open sea.

Plan to overnight in Plettenberg Bay, which is one of the most appealing holiday resort towns along the Garden Route with wide sandy beaches and a good choice of accommodations and restaurants. If time permits, visit Robberg Nature Reserve (great bird-watching and a small seal colony). The following day visit the numerous wildlife attractions along the N2 (the coastal highway), such as Monkeyland and Birds of Eden, where a variety of species can be seen in natural forest environments, or the Plettenberg Bay Elephant Sanctuary where there is the unique opportunity to walk with or even ride an elephant.

Stop at the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park for its giant trees, caves, and several hiking paths that require from one to seven days. There's good diving, snorkeling and fishing in the area, as well as seal colonies along the coast. Adrenaline junkies can't miss the bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge, located on the N2 in Tsitsikamma. At 710 ft/216 m, it is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world and maintains a 100% safety rating. Then head to Jeffery's Bay, which is not an attractive town but has one of the world's best surfing beaches—it was one of the locations for the '60s surf-film classic Endless Summer.

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