The Garden Route, South Africa: A picturesque trip that will break your Instagram
Posted by Avis on January 5, 2018|
The Garden Route is a popular and scenic 200 km stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa. It covers some of the best places in South Africa. It stretches from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River which is crossed along the N2 coastal highway over the Paul Sauer Bridge in the extreme western reach of the neighbouring Eastern Cape. Sun-kissed sandy beaches, outdoor sports, secluded lagoons, the mountains of the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma ranges, bushland, wildlife-spotting, buzzing seaside towns. and delicious local food – A Garden Route tour packs all of these experiences into a magnificent stretch of Indian Ocean coastline. Although, you will find a wide range of guided tours of the Garden Route, this easy, safe and friendly destination makes for a fantastic self-drive experience for families and romantics alike. The best way to explore the Garden Route attractions is with a car as you can make your own Garden Route itinerary & go at your own pace.
Leap off the world’s highest commercial bungee, explore the Knysna forests on elephant back, walk alongside a cheetah, swim in the sea with wild seals, go dolphin watching,
play on the country’s best golf courses, or simply stretch out on the sands of one of the area’s fine beaches – it is a ‘road trip that will break your Instagram.’
Cape Town Airport > Cape Winelands > Oudtshoorn > Mossel Bay > George > Knysna > Plettenberg Bay > Tsitsikamma national park > Port Elizabeth
This is an extended tour which starts from the picturesque city of Cape town
Tour Duration: With plenty of nooks and crannies in and around all the different towns, along with many outdoor activities and beaches to explore, realistically, 7-10 days is an ideal time to enjoy this trip of a lifetime.
Best time to travel: While there really is no best time to take the Garden Route, South self-drive trip with an all-year-round temperate climate, it gets very busy over Easter and the December holidays.
If you want to avoid the crowded beaches, take the Garden Route tour from February to April. Some activities along the coast are seasonal, so it also depends on what you would rather pick over others – whale watching season runs from July to October, 10-day Knysna Festival (a great mix of sporting events, food and live local music) is in July, hiking is better in winter. So you can say time around July is one of the best time to visit South Africa.
Car Recommendations: Garden Route travel attracts a wide variety of visitors and Avis has got a vehicle to suit your taste and match your budget. Whether you fancy a supermini or hot hatch, 7- seater van or a people carrier for the family – Avis ensures your perfect hire car is standing by on the tarmac.
Airport if you like to do the complete route or you can directly take the Garden route drive by renting your car from George airport and our friendly Brand Ambassadors will ensure that you’re out and about enjoying the sites and sounds of the Garden Route road trip in no time. You can drop your car at the Avis Centres at the Port Elizabeth Airport or Port Elizabeth Downtown Area.
Local Language: All signboards are in English and signboards are in English.
‘Keep left, pass right’ is the general rule of driving in South Africa. This also applies to the highway (freeway) driving.
Cars in South Africa are right-hand drive vehicles, with the gear shift operated with the left hand.
License Requirement: Drivers must have an international driver’s license and a minimum of five years’ driving experience to hire a self-drive in South Africa.
The wearing of seat belts is compulsory for all front seats and back seats (if present).
The general speed limit on South Africa’s national highways, urban freeways, and other major routes is 120km/h (75mph). On secondary (rural) roads it is 100km/h (60mph). Some Avis cars are available with speed limit indicators.
Driving in South Africa is straightforward, due to its well-developed road network.
The roads along this route are good quality, wide tar roads, and there is little other traffic.
All these driving information should be well kept in mind.
Cape Town: The Table Mountain
Image Source: India.com
Cape Town houses many tourist scenic beauties and Castle of Good Hope is one of the best tourist attractions in Cape Town. It is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa and has Military Museum and Iziko Museum which displays the history of the war and struggle. Other popular places to visit in Cape Town include Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, Clifton Beach, Cape Point etc.
Winelands: Enchanting Wine estates en route Garden Route
South Africa Self Drive Holidays
Set less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, it is a region of haute cuisine and one of the most renowned wines producing areas in the world. Head for the little French-Huguenot town of Franschhoek: olde-worlde and filled with some of the best restaurants in the country, together with numerous wine estates – the perfect first stop on the Garden Route tour.
Oudtshoorn: Ostrich Capital of South Africa
For the perfect South African self-drive holiday experience on the Garden Route, be sure to head north of George for a quick visit to Oudtshoorn, South Africa’s ostrich capital. However, it’s not all ostriches in Oudtshoorn; the area is also famous for Cango Caves. Take a walk through breathtaking, dramatically lit caverns, strike deeper into the hot, airless, inner recesses along ever narrower tunnels, and crawl, duck and squeeze your way through a fascinating subterranean world.
Mossel Bay: Safe swimming beaches, plenty to do
An old-fashioned seaside resort marks the start of the route. It is one of the only two places to try one of the country’s biggest thrills: cage diving with great white sharks. Mossel Bay is also famed for having a golf course where ‘you can see the sea from every tee.’ There is plenty to do in the area, here are some best places to visit in Mossel Bay – visit the Dias Museum Complex houses the 500-year-old Post Office Tree, hike the world-renowned Oystercatcher Hiking Trail for an unforgettable experience, cruise the Seal Island, view the Big 5 game in the malaria-free environment, Botlierskop and a lot more.
George: Top golfing destination on Garden Route
Slightly north-east of Mossel Bay is George, the largest of the Garden Route towns, also considered the industrial and business hub of the Southern Cape Region. Its main draw, however, is the fact that three of South Africa’s best golf courses are found here, including the peerless Fancourt Golf Estate – an 18-hole champion course designed by South African golfing legend Gary Player. For the more active traveller, best places to visit in George are the hiking and mountain biking trails, while canoeing down the Kaaimans river is a great opportunity to get close to nature, and abseiling down the river gorge is pure adrenaline.
Knysna: Unofficial capital of the Garden Route
Knysna, lazing on the shore of a shallow lagoon is at the heart of the Garden Route. With its own share of restaurants, shopping malls, and curio markets, Knysna is a popular destination for family holidays and car rental in South Africa makes the experience even better. Get up close to elephants at The Knysna Elephant Park and other animals at numerous wildlife sanctuaries, cruise the lagoon on a ferry, inflatable boat, yacht or kayak, enjoy the rush of adventure activities including whale watching, surfing, paragliding and bungee jumping, soak up the sun on a pristine beach in Sedgefield, Buffalo Bay or Brenton-on-Sea, get a taste of the renowned homegrown Knysna oysters – visitors are spoilt for choice. As they say, “In Knysna, all you have to do is to arrive, the rest comes naturally.”
Plettenberg Bay: A destination for all
You might ask, ‘What has Plett got to offer?’ And we will tell you, the better question is, ‘What is it that Plett doesn’t offer?’ Broad beaches with warm kid-friendly foamy waves, teeming wildlife and marine environment, more than a 100 species of fish occurring along its coast, a dramatic rocky peninsula, lush indigenous forest, a myriad adventure and other sporting activities including 18-hole championship golf courses, buzzing nightlife and high season cocktail circuit – it is rightly called ‘ The jewel of South Africa’s Garden Route region.’
Tsitsikamma National Park: Place to tame your fears
The Tsitsikamma national park, some 60 kilometres or an hour’s drive from Plettenberg Bay, is internationally recognized for its forests, which harbour and conserve the giant Outeniqua Yellowwood – one of the few true monarchs of the world’s forests. Home to plenty of adventurous activities from the world’s highest commercial bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge, The Otter Trail for adventurous hikers, the Storms River Adventure Center and the Tsitsikamma canopy tour, to the Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline adventure, scuba diving sites and the Woodcutters’ Journey – adrenaline junkies as well as nature-lovers will be enchanted by the Tsitsikamma National Park.
Port Elizabeth: ‘Friendly City’
Having reached the end of the Garden Route, you can either continue to Port Elizabeth or take a sharp left turn into South Africa’s interior – the Great Karoo – where thrilling Eastern Cape Big 5 safaris await. Being a malaria-free region, the Eastern Cape is certainly one of the best places for a hassle-free family safari. The most famous of the Eastern Cape reserves are Shamwari, Kwandwe Private Reserve, and the Addo Elephant Park.
For exclusive game viewing away from the crowds, stay at one of these – Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Amakhala Game Reserve, Pumba Private Game Reserve, Sibuya Game Reserve, Lalibela, Kariega Game Reserve, Great Karoo. The best way to explore the city of Port Elizabeth is by hiring a car rental in South Africa.
Garden Route accommodation is both plentiful and varied, and you can expect warm hospitality, great food, and even better views.
5-star hotel accommodation in the heart of the Franschhoek valley, complemented by the well-known Monneaux Restaurant and a number of luxurious guest services on offer in which to indulge and enjoy. Situated on the outskirts of the Franschhoek Village, just 1km from the main town, it is an ideal base from which to indulge your tastes in fine wines and world-class cuisine.
This property is an 11-minute walk from the beach. Showcasing an outdoor pool and views of the sea, Le Port Guesthouse is located in Mossel Bay, just 46.7 km from Wilderness. Free WiFi is available throughout the property and free private parking is available on site.
All rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV. You will find a kettle in the room. Each room is equipped with a private bathroom fitted with a bathtub. For your comfort, you will find bathrobes, slippers and free toiletries.
There is a shared kitchen at the property.
George is 38.6 km from Le Port Guesthouse, and Hartenbos is 8 km from the property. The nearest airport is George Airport, 30.6 km from the property.
An exceptional blend of modern luxury and classic elegance, Fancourt Resort Hotel offers 115 luxurious rooms and suites that cater to every need from families, individual travelers, golfing groups, conferences or special needs.
Rooms are situated around the facilities with views of the golf warm-up area, Montagu golf course or beautifully landscaped gardens. All rooms have a balcony and from whichever direction, the views are stunning.
If you enjoy luxury and sophisticated elegance, Leisure Isle Lodge will delight you. Savor the sights and sounds of Knysna from Leisure Isle Lodge, perfectly positioned on Bollard Bay near the majestic Heads. It is an exceptional retreat offering superb accommodation and uncompromising levels of service.
The five-star hotel, with its 35 beautifully appointed rooms and two family-style villas, showcases the most breathtaking vistas in Southern Africa, with views of the ocean, mountains and endless stretches of golden sand. Guests may enjoy world-class cuisine at The Plettenberg, where fresh seafood is the order of the day.
Nestled in the upmarket beachfront suburb of Summerstrand, No5 by Mantis is less than ten minutes from the airport and within 100 meters of the Indian Ocean.
No stone was left unturned to ensure that our ten exquisite suites are masterpieces of comfort and opulence. No5 by Mantis is superb accommodation for business conferences or pleasure, offering the service excellence that the Mantis Group is renowned for the world over.
Most noticeably Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay seem to be constantly buzzing all year round, with an abundance of festivals, attractions, markets and adventure activities.
1. Bayleaf Cafe
Rated by OfLocal as the top restaurant to visit during your next Garden Route road trip, The Bayleaf Cafe is hosted in an old renovated house, giving you a cozy, homely feeling. Serves your breakfast, brunch, and burgers with a combined French and Italian twist – there’s something for everyone’s taste at Bayleaf’s.
Where: 24 Cathedral Street, 6529 George, Western Cape, South Africa
Contact: +27 44 873 4422
2.East Head Cafe
The East Head Cafe located in Knysna provides you with spectacular views of the blue lagoon, sandstone cliffs, the Milkwood Forest and the coastal fynbos. You can sit both in and outside to enjoy this view. The restaurant believes in simple food packed with flavor and freshness – using the best local produce that they can find. Rated on OfLocal as one of the best restaurants in Knysna.
Where: 25 George Rex Drive, The Heads, Knysna, South Africa
Contact: +27 (0)44 384 0933
3. Ristorante Enrico’s
Ristorante Enrico’s is probably the best Italian fare you will eat on the Garden Route, in fact, some of the best in South Africa. Perfectly situated in the cozy village of Keurboomstrand, the restaurant has an enormous outdoor section that has views from every angle as well as a warm interior for when that South Easter blows. His slogan “any closer and you would get wet” is true as you sit sipping your wine watching the thundering waves crash into the rocks. The pizza is too delicious to even describe, as are the focaccia bread known as the ‘bomba’. Other top choices are the Rump Enrico, Kingklip Gamberi or his veal dishes. No bookings: just arrive and if you have to wait, it will be worth it.
Where: 296, Main Street, Keurboomstrand., South Africa
Contact: Tel 044 535 9818
4. Tapas and Oysters
If you’re looking for a Garden Route restaurant with lots of personality, Tapas and Oysters on Thesen Island in Knysna is the best place to go. The tapas menu is so full of mouth-watering titbits you can order a whole bunch of delicious things without having to choose only one dish: my kind of jol (I don’t make food decisions easily). The decor will keep you entertained with walls of cartoons and clever quips, or you can watch big screen sport and slug a draft. Keep an eye out for their half price sushi nights as there’s always a band and plenty of sushi to go around; for this, I would advise booking a table. My favorite dishes are their salt and rosemary bread, Spanish-style prawns and vegetarian melanzane.
Where: TH 29, Thesen Island, Knysna
Contact: Tel 044 382 7196
According to them, this is the closest beach restaurant on the N2 from Cape Town to Maputo, but this is not the main reason to visit Salina’s in Wilderness. Their seemingly endless menu is bound to leave you coming back to try the other ten dishes you wanted-but-couldn’t-order-everything at once, as well as the view down Wilderness’ magnificent beach which goes perfectly with a cocktail. Built with ecological sensitivity to the dune area, the restaurant has made its mark on the Garden Route. Try their calamari or aged sirloin steak for a guaranteed lip-smacker, or be more adventurous and dip into their curries or chermoula baked fish. I would book for dinner.
Where: 458 Zundorf Lane, Wilderness 6560, South Africa.
Contact: Tel 044 877 0001
Zucchini is the epitome of a quaint country Garden Route restaurant. Located in the Timberlake Organic Village alongside the N2, Zucchini is a foodie destination. Tantalising home-grown organic greens grace the menu and you will be enthralled by their country fares like stinging nettle pesto chicken salad, smoked gammon sandwiches or springbok frikkadelletjies. They also serve a great craft beer platter. Surrounded by equally interesting shops and a pretty garden, Zucchini makes for a delightful lunchtime sojourn. They’re only open for dinner from Thursday to Saturday.
Where: Timberlake Village, Wilderness, Garden Route, South Africa
The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (Afrikaans for Little Karoo National Arts Festival and usually abbreviated to KKNK) is an Afrikaans language arts festival that takes place yearly in the South African town of Oudtshoorn. The festival includes both the visual and the performing arts and is officially recognized by the South African government as a national arts festival. Based on the number of visitors, it is also the largest South African arts festival.
This very popular and highly colorful celebration is always a highlight on the international Gay Calendar. The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras offers four days of non-stop entertainment for Gay people as well as for everybody that have a need for superb entertainment, major partying or just having loads of light-hearted fun and laughter.
Knysna Speed Festival is sure to entertain any and all speed lovers from all across South Africa for a week of pure adrenalin and fun-filled action for the whole family! In addition to the Renault Knysna Hillclimb, events to be included in the festival are the Knysna Motor Show, the Knysna Kart Grand Prix, Knysna Slot Car challenge, Knysna Soap Box Derby, and the Knysna Speed Festival Charity Golf Day.
Marketed as the ‘Best 10 Days of Your Winter’, the Knysna Oyster festival is spread across two weekends that promise constant fun and activities for the whole family. The sports aspect of the Oyster Festival has evolved into two major sporting events – the Pick n Pay Cape Times Forest Marathon (half marathon), and the Pick n Pay Weekend Argus Rotary Cycle Tour, now a two-day event that is the biggest of its kind in the country.
This mountain bike event is a new event, inaugurated at the end of April 2015. Known as the Susan Deacon 7 Passes Weekend MTB, the race begins in George and follows the 7 Passes Route along the back roads through the indigenous forest, pine plantations, farmland and across historical bridges and rushing rivers.