The Garden Route

It’s clear why South Africa’s Garden Route was awarded its namesake

Full to bursting with stunning scenery, rolling green hills and picturesque beaches, this region is well worth a visit. It is best explored behind the wheel, providing you with the perfect opportunity to discover all that the 200 km region has to offer. From national parks to quaint coastal towns and towering mountains, there’s something for everyone and we’ve rounded up a few of our highlights.

The Garden Route National Park

Largely comprised of the land from two, previously separate, National Parks – Tsitsikamma and Wilderness – the Garden Route National Park is the ideal destination for those interested in outdoor activities. Hire a kayak and paddle up the Storms River, spot numerous species of bird from the hides surrounding the Rondevlei, Langvlei and Eilandvlei lakes, or lace up your walking boots and tackle the well-known Otter Trail. Spanning the Park’s coastline for 44 km there are several entrance and exit points, meaning you can choose between hiking a smaller portion of the trail or committing yourself to its full length.

Addo Elephant National Park

Addo is the third largest National Park in South Africa and was originally set up to protect the remaining eleven elephants which lived there in the early 1930s. Fast forward to today and it is the only National Park in the world to house the African ‘big 7’, including over 700 elephants, 48 critically endangered black rhinos, lions, buffalo, leopard and, more recently, whales and great white sharks after the Park’s boundaries were expanded.

Catch a glimpse of these beautiful animals on a game drive, traversing the park in a 4×4 as you spot lions lounging in the grass or mother elephants tending to their calfs. For a truly unique experience be sure to take part in a night safari, where you have a better chance of seeing some of Addo’s nocturnal residents such as leopards, hyenas and bush babies.

The towns of the Garden Route

The towns and villages dotted throughout the Garden Route have a distinctly laid back vibe and make wonderful bases from which to explore the region. If you’re a keen golfer then be sure to check out Knysna, which has several world class courses as well as charming markets, fantastic boating opportunities and refreshing coastal hikes. The town is situated around the Knysna Lagoon, and whilst there are no beaches here the Knysna Waterfront Quays is particularly pretty.

A short 32 km along the coast from Knysna, is the equally picturesque Plettenberg. Based around the glittering Plettenberg Bay, this town is well known amongst surfers for its consistent waves. However, if surfing is a little out of your comfort zone there is also the opportunity to go whale watching, with southern right whales commonly spotted off the coast between the winter months of June and July. Both Knysna and Plettenberg benefit from a mild climate year-round, with average highs in the mid-twenties and average lows in the mid-teens (celsius).   

Cango Caves and the Swartberg Mountains

The Cango Caves are an extensive cave system nestled in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains, spanning roughly 4 km from its entrance to its conclusion. If you’re at all interested in history then the ancient paintings hidden within the caves are truly fascinating and indicate that humans used these expansive caverns as early as 50,000 years ago. Tours of the caves run regularly and once you’re finished continue onwards to the rocky peaks of the Swartberg Pass. Cutting through the centre of the ochre coloured mountains, the pass is worth driving through solely for its stunning geological scenery. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the imposing Wall of Fire – a 700m quartzite cliff face which looks out over the winding road below.

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