Garden Route in South Africa
From Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Tsitsikamma’s Storms River, the iconic Garden Route in South Africa stretches 300km along what is considered one of the world’s best coastlines.
Everything you need to know
The iconic Garden Route in South Africa stretches along 300km and is considered one of the world’s best coastlines. In addition to golden beaches, rocky coastlines and charming towns, there are also national parks and game reserves. These are just a few of the reasons it is so famous.
This breathtaking route is best explored on a self-drive expedition and we recommend a few days (or more) to take it all in. There is adventure around every corner as you wend up the coast. Activities include scuba diving, whale watching, hiking and even a Big Five safari. In short, it is a section of South Africa that has inspired thrill-seekers for centuries and should be marked on every African travel bucket list.
Where is the Garden Route located?
The Garden Route is a 190 mile (300 km) stretch of coastline along the southeast of South Africa. The route officially begins in Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and ends in Tsitsikamma’s Storms River.
When to visit the Garden Route
Between February and April/May, the crowds thin out and the weather is great which makes these months optimal times to visit.
Peak season (November – March)
Peak season along the Garden Route is between November and March when visitors can expect hot and dry summer weather. Though it can get windy, it seldom rains during this time. Beaches are generally very crowded during December and January.
Low season (June to August)
June marks the beginning of winter. From June to August the weather is colder and there is more chance of rain, meaning very few crowds as a result. Despite the cold, the rugged coastlines along the Garden Route are lush and beautiful during this time.
Shoulder Season (September – November)
Spring runs from September to November and brings with it warm and sunny days. This is also the time when whale watching is at its peak and travelers can look forward to sightings of southern right whales.
Some of the Garden Route’s top destinations
Gondwana Game Reserve
Gondwana Game Reserve would be an ideal first stop on the Garden Route. Located just 20 minutes inland from Mossel Bay, it is the only free-roaming Big Five private wildlife reserve in the region. Unlike the typical bushveld, the undulating valleys of Gondwana are covered in bright indigenous fynbos and surrounded by the ancient Outeniqua Mounatins. There is a range of five-star luxury accommodation on offer at Gondwana which include a private exclusive-use villa. In addition to guided game drives, walking safaris and mountain biking, there is also a Junior Ranger experience for the kids on offer at the reserve.
The charming town of Knysna is a popular destination for travelers on the Garden Route. As well as offering a huge selection of outdoor activities, Knysna has fantastic restaurants and luxury accommodation. The town is situated alongside a large lagoon between two imposing rocky ‘heads’ and, as a result, is a strikingly beautiful area. These two extraordinary mountain cliffs mark the entrance to the lagoon and flank a channel of dangerous waters leading out into the sea. This natural paradise is home to golden beaches, lush indigenous forests and the world-renowned Knysna Oyster Festival – a celebration of the most delicious oyster you’ll ever taste!
The bustling town of Plettenberg Bay is a popular holiday destination on the Garden Route. This horseshoe-shaped bay offers an array of great restaurants, shops and luxury accommodation to suit all needs. While the bay plays host to sheltered beaches with warm waters which are ideal for swimming, the rugged coastline of the Robberg Peninsula is great for hiking. Visitors can expect sweeping views of the ocean and plentiful marine life in the waters below. There are also heaps of water-based activities in Plett – as it is more commonly known – including some of the best boat-based whale watching in the country.
Tsitsikamma is a local Khoisan word which means “place of abundant or sparkling water”. The Tsitsikamma National Park marks the end of the Garden Route and is located on the border of the Eastern Cape. This breathtaking region is home to dramatic coastal scenery, lush indigenous forests, reefs and an abundance of marine life. It is a shining example of Mother Nature at her most pristine and untamed. The region offers an array of land and water-based adrenaline activities which include Africa’s highest commercial bungee jump. There is also the thrilling suspension bridge across the Storms River Mouth and the world-famous Otter Trail – one of the best multi-day coastal hikes in the world.