Some coastal road trip routes, like Calfornia’s Big Sur, Australia’s Great Ocean Road or the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, need little introduction - they’re already world renowned as some of the most incredible journeys on Earth. Others have somehow managed to fly under the radar in spite of their obviously amazing qualities, and South Africa’s Garden Route is just such a journey. Most Garden Route road trippers will start their journey from Cape Town
before heading east along the N2 for Mossel Bay where the route officially begins. Although many South Africans are familiar with the attractions of the Garden Route, it has a much lower profile overseas - a fact which I believe desperately needs to be remedied. Requiring little more than just a South Africa car rental
to enjoy, this remarkable and incredibly diverse route should be on the to-do list for any keen road tripper.
Starting in Mossel Bay and running through to Stormsrivier, the entire Garden Route could be traversed in around two and a half hours but that would entirely pass over the real reason for arriving in this region: exploring the multitude of different environments and attractions that this coastal journey has in store for you.
The Garden Route does have spectacular scenery, but that’s far from the only reason to make this trip. Most will take this iconic South African road trip to dive into the many different experiences on offer. Below you’ll find just some of the amazing things to see and do along the Garden Route - remember that you can easily modify or expand your own itinerary to suit your schedule and interests.
Mossel Bay: This harbour town at the western edge of the Garden Route is a great place to stop for a while after the long drive from Cape Town. Hitting the beach will be a top priority for many holidaymakers, but that’s far from the only thing attraction in Mossel Bay. Keen golfers will find themselves right at home here thanks to the renowned Pinnacle Point Golf Estate. This upscale golf resort allows visitors to truly relax in style. Those seeking adventure can get up close and personal with great white sharks within the safety of a submerged cage.
Less than an hour down the N2 from Mossel Bay, you’ll come across the city of George
, the largest settlement on the Garden Route. If you’re planning a winter trip, try to line up your visit with the George Cheese Festival, an annual event which celebrates cheese, wine, chocolate and various delectable pairings of those three. If you have a little time to spare, take a day trip from George out to Oudtshoorn where you can visit one of the many ostrich farms for a quintessentially South African experience. If it’s natural beauty you’re seeking, book a tour of the Cango Caves instead - these caverns were formed in a time when dinosaurs still walked the earth and are considered one of Africa’s premier natural wonders.
Wilderness: Just a little to the east of George is the seaside town of Wilderness. It will come as no surprise that this is the perfect spot to stop for a few days and just get away from it all. The lagoons and long white sand beaches of Wilderness inspire relaxation and reflection - paired with the extremely mild climate that characterises the Garden Route, these attractions make Wilderness all but irresistible.
Knysna: While those who didn’t get enough golfing in during their stay in Mossel Bay can visit one of Knysna’s several world class golf courses here, this town is primarily known as the Oyster Capital of South Africa. Those travelling the Garden Route in June/July will likely encounter the ten day Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, the town’s enthusiastic celebration of these shellfish delicacies. Even if you’re not wildly enthused about oysters, this fest includes a little something for everyone, from night markets to wine tasting to a braai (BBQ) competition!
Plettenberg Bay: This is a fantastic place for wildlife lovers to base themselves for a day or two. Aside from Plettenberg Bay’s abundant marine life, there are also a number of amazing wildlife destinations just outside the town. Monkeyland, the Elephant Sanctuary and Birds of Eden (the largest free-flight aviary in the world) are all within an easy drive from Plettenberg.
The final leg: It’s less than an hour’s drive from Plettenberg to the end of the Garden Route at Stormsrivier, but before you finish up your trip take the opportunity to rise above ground level for some truly unforgettable experiences. Thrillseekers have to stop at Bloukrans Bridge, the location of the highest commercial bungy site in the world, at a staggering 218 metres. Those who’d prefer a slightly more scenic (less terrifying) experience won’t want to miss out on the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour, which leaves from Stormsrivier. This exhilarating eco-adventure will see you ziplining from treetop platform to treetop platform, 30 metres above the ground. Not only is this great fun, but it will also give you a unique insight into the forest’s rarely seen canopy ecosystem.
If you want to continue your journey east from Stormsrivier, Port Elizabeth
makes for a convenient final destination, or even a launching pad for further adventures exploring the game reserves of the Eastern Cape. With a Cape Town Airport car rental, the wonders of South Africa are at your fingertips.
Not interested in visiting South Africa? Take a look at the car rental options available from New Zealand
, the UK
, Australia car rental
and start your journey from destinations like Christchurch