A kaleidoscope of colors, wildlife wonders and scenic landscapes await on the famous South African Garden Route. Stretching over 300km through diverse, fynbos covered landscapes, from Mossel Bay to Storms River, there are many points on the route to stop off and experience what each place has to offer. We’ve includes our favorite spots, things to see and where to stay below.
Top places to see
The first stop on the garden route is Mossel Bay, an idyllic town known to have the world second mildest climate (next to Hawaii) and is a perfect place to stop to take in the rocky shores and experience its laid back culture. A short boat trip away brings you to Seal Island which as the name suggests is where you can view these creatures lapping up the warm rays on the rocks.
Better known as the ‘Gateway To The Garden Route’ is the city of George. There are various nature hikes nearby as well as museums and stylish restaurants to indulge in. This is also the place to stock up on supplies for the rest of the Garden Route journey.
Victoria Bay & Wilderness
If you’re a keen surfer, Victoria Bay is the perfect place to catch a few waves before you journey onto the next stop – Wilderness. At the heart of the garden route and located between the beautiful Kaaimans River and the dramatic Goukama Nature Reserve, Wilderness is one of the most popular stops on the Garden Route. Famed for its calm ocean, pristine lakes, white sandy beaches, breathtaking lagoons and of course the wild countryside.
This simple seaside town is native land of the Khoikhoi people and was once at the forefront of the gold rush. If you visit between June-July the famous Knysna festival is a must do experience! During your stay here, explore the Knysna Lagoon which stretches over 18sq.km and is home to over 200 species of fish and a vast array of birdlife, ideal for wildlife lovers. There are also two beautiful sandstone cliffs known as ‘The Heads’ and much like the name suggests, resembles the shape of human heads!
Better known by South Africans as “Plet” this Garden Route stop is an ideal destination to wildlife watch both on land and out to sea. During the months June-July, you are pretty much guaranteed to see whales out on an ocean safari. Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is also ideal for the safari lover, the reserve is home to a variety of species including; lions, hippo, rhino and buffalo and is easily accessible for self-drives.
Nestled in the foothills of the Tsitsikamma Mountain range lies Natures Valley, a picturesque village along the Garden Route. The famous otter trail ends here and many hikers choose to relax and stay here in Natures Valley after their long journey. Being located in the heart of the Garden Route National Park, the area is a wildlife haven, with many bird and animal species residing here, from Knysna Turacos to Honey Badgers. Explore on a hike, a canopy tour or even an ocean boat cruise, there are many things to experience at this stop on the garden route.
Flora & Fauna
The Garden Route has some of South Africa’s most scenic areas, with its diverse landscapes home to a vast array of ecosystems including mountain, forest, lake, and of course, fynbos. The Cape Floral Kingdom is a UNSECO World Heritage Site and is in fact the smallest floristic kingdom in the world, home to over 9,600 species including fynbos found in every color shade and the national flower, the king protea.
The country’s national tree is the Yellowwood, and it’s found in abundance along the route, the most famous being over 30 meters high and a trunk circumference of 9 meters. Also known as “The Big Tree” it’s thought to be over 800 years old and you can view it on a hike in the Tsitsikamma. The best place to view the countrys best flora is in the Garden Route National Park, which include Tsitsikamma, Wilderness and Knysna.
For nature lovers the Garden Route is a must-do travel experience during a visit to South Africa. Some areas in the country are of course more well-known for the typical big-five experience which you can find in our “Top Destination Section”. However nature is also found in abundance here on the famed Garden Route with over 85 species including the iconic elephant found in the Garden Route National Park.
There are also over 15 different species of whales and dolphin are can be seen along this coastline of South Africa and between May to December the Southern Right Whale can be seen making their journey along the coast to give birth.
Bird enthusiasts flock to this area, and rightly so, with over 371 species found soaring the skies or fluttering in the fynbos. The Langvlei and the Rondevlei lakes are considered one of the best locations to see a variety of species from the hides dotted around the lakes. The elusive Knysna Turaco and the Narina Trogon can be both seen and heard in certain areas along the route if you’re lucky. There are also a total of 22 raptor species, including the Forest Buzzard, African Cickoohawk, and the Crowned Eagle.
A popular garden route stop guide includes the following if driving from the beautiful city of Cape Town;
• Cape Town
• Mossel Bay
• Plettenberg Bay
• Natures Valley
• Bloukrans Bridge
• Storms River
The Garden Route may be famed for being an exciting road trip journey, however there are many activities to suit everyone during the trip, from the adrenaline seeker to the wildlife lover. We’ve included a list below of the most popular activities;
• Whale & Dolphin Watching Boat Cruise • Seal Island Boat Cruise • Abseiling into the Kaaimans River • Black-water tubing & Kayaking down the Storms River • Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour • Horse-Riding in Wilderness • Scenic-Flight • 5-Day Otter Trail • Cango Cave Tour • Ostrich Farm Visit • Beer Tasting in Knysna • Quad Biking in George • Sky Dive in Mossel Bay • Bloukrans Bridge Bungee Jump • Game Drive in Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve • Craft Markets & Cultural Tours • Dive with Great Whites in Mossel Bay • Bird Watching & Nature Trails
Our favourite lodges
Tsala Treetop Lodge
Accommodation; Stone, wood & glass suites tucked into the forest canopy. All have bedroom, bathroom & sitting room with fireplace. Villa has two bedrooms, each with en-suite bathroom.
Room type; Double or twin beds (customers choose). Aircon. Private plunge pool / jacuzzi.
Bathroom; Toilet, double wash basin, bath & large walk-in shower.
Location; On a ridge overlooking the estuary, 3km from Knysna harbour.
Meals; Buffet style breakfast and lunch, plated dinners, à la care.
Lodge facilities; Restaurants, pool, library, social bar with internet work stations, gym, conference centre.
Activities; golf, hiking, sea kayaking, snorkelling, tennis, sailing, water skiing, horse riding, shark cage diving, and much much more.
Price Range; 100-200$ pppn, on dinner bed & breakfast basis.
Hunters Country House
Accommodation; Regular 25m2 rooms, and multiple types of suites ranging from 45m2 / 85m2 (single bedroom) to 90m2 / 125m2 (double bedroom). Both types of rooms are available with or without private plunge pool.
Room type; Double or twin beds (customers choose). Aircon, fan & heater. Fireplace. Wifi.
Bathroom; All rooms have en-suite bathroom. Toilet, double wash basin, bath, shower. Family suites; one bathroom with bath, the other with shower.
Location; Between Hermanus & Gansbaai.
Meals; Buffet style breakfast, à la carte lunch & dinner. This lodge uses the freshest ingredients, sourced as close to Grootbos as possible, with many coming from their own organic farm on the reserve.
Lodge facilities; Restaurant, pool, library, bar, spa.
Activities; Fishing, horse riding, whale watching, surfing, cycling; wine tasting, golf, and much more.
Price Range; 250-300$ pppn (one bedroom suites), 1850-2150$ (luxury family suite), 1600-1850$ (family suite). All meals included.