The Garden Route* is one of South Africa’s most famous and loved road trips, spanning a large number of stunning coastal towns and cities between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
Along the way, you’ll find everything from bustling and busy like Cape Town to serene and quirky like Wilderness, or old-town charm at one stop to modern and trendy at the next – all this with either a backdrop of the ocean or a luxurious safari lodge, surrounded by nature.
Approximately an hour and a half out of Cape Town is Hermanus, a town best known as South Africa’s whale-watching capital. Southern right whales migrate here from Antarctica to mate and breed around June, and will be seen until November. These whales are such an attraction that there is even a Hermanus Whale Festival that takes place annually around September. One has the option of whale-watching from the ground, or even taking a specialised whale cruise to get even closer to the magnificent creatures.
At halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is the harbour town of Mossel Bay, which for that very reason, is a very popular stopping point on the Garden Route. With its rich history, there are museums and heritage sites to visit. There are also beaches, game reserves and fascinating activities, such as a visit to the Cape St Blaise Caves or to the shark aquarium.
Next is a cluster of stops which are close together – George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, and Knysna – sitting between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. Here, one will find all of the most breathtaking views, complemented perfectly by sunsets, be it over a beach or lush green mountains. Over and above the beaches and golf courses are craft markets and outdoor activities. From hiking to horse-riding on the beach, and from to paragliding to strawberry-picking, there is something for everyone.
Knysna is also famous for its annual Oyster Festival, which draws in people from all over the country. The Knysna Elephant Park promises an astonishing experience with the biggest of the Big 5. Then, situated between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay is the Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary, which allows you to get close to the wolves in an interactive tour through the wolf enclosures.
The Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route includes the Bloukrans Bridge Bungee, which is one of the highest commercial bungee jumps in the world at 216 metres high. For those not up to such a great leap, but still looking for some adrenalin-inducing fun, there is the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour. This is the first of its kind in Africa, and shows off the glorious rainforest filled with Outeniqua Yellowwood trees as you zip-line from one to the next.
The final stop is the ever-growing city of Port Elizabeth, also known as Nelson Mandela Bay and The Friendly City, where one can choose between beaches and safaris, as well as many unique restaurants and charming local shops. A Garden Route tour is a road trip for the books, where you’ll end up leaving a piece of your heart at each stop.
*Although technically the Garden Route is from Mossel Bay to Storms River, East Cape Tours have unofficially extended it to include more stops between the bustling cities of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
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