site zip: AF ZA GRJ 0022 | neighborhood: Overberg, Cape Town and Winelands, Eastern Cape | region: South Africa, More>> |
Background shade
Family Travel
VolunTourism
Adventure Activities
Wildlife and Safaris

Garden Route Travel Guide | South Africa

Honeymoon & safari destinations Cape Town and Region
Breathtaking mountain and coastal scenery, fishing harbors, sandy beaches, winelands and restaurants.


If you are the primary supplier of an exciting local tourism or 'voluntourism' product, we would like to hear from you! i.e. for local content relating to eco-tourism, adventure and experiential attractions supporting sustainable tourism practices. Publication is subject to meeting content requirements.

Contact Us!
This Website is a Collaborative Project.
Right to publication on this site is reserved.

Travel Info Wanted

The Garden Route at a Glance

Africa's Garden of Eden - Mountains, forests, lagoons and sandy shores crowd together to provide an ideal vacation destination for leisure, families, active adults and adventurers.
Read More: Highlights of the Garden Route | Activities and Attractions | Video Showcase

Garden Route map

Calendar of events
Tours to this country Garden Route Tours (photo jounrnals)
Honeymoon & safari destinations Route 62 and the Klein Karoo - Western Cape
Historic little towns, breath-taking mountain passes, food and wine, limestone caverns and nature trails
Honeymoon & safari destinations The Cape Overberg region - South Africa
'Over the Mountain' - a scenic region at the tip of Africa with mountain ranges, whale watching and shark cage diving.
Honeymoon & safari destinations The Cape Peninsula
"The Fairest Cape"
Cape Peninsula and Cape Point where two oceans meet, fishing harbors and wave-swept coves.

Map of Garden Route and view of Knysna Keys
Background shade
Food & Wine Tours
Spa Resorts
Golf Tours

Other Special Interest Activities

 

 

 

 

Highlights of the Garden Route

Situated along the southern shores of Africa, the Garden Route stretches a mere 150 miles, yet provides an abundance of attractions and activities.

Top class restaurants, a superb range of accommodation, unspoiled and uncrowded shores with safe bathing, sandy beaches and shoreline trails for hikers. Beautiful shells adorn the sand and glimmer as the sun catches them emerging with the tide. The region offers marine adventures - and great surfing and kite surfing. Indigenous forests provide hiking trails and exciting adventure activities.

PGA-rated golf courses and spa resorts round off a truly extensive menu of attractions.

Getting There - George Airport is the hub for flights in to the Garden Route from Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Just some of the activities and attractions of the region:

The Garden Route West of George

Championship golf courses
Sheltered coves
Beaches
Surfing
Trails along the shore
Ocean kayaking
Abseiling
Stunning mountain passes and scenery
Mountain trails
Luxury spa treatments
Exploring limestone caverns
Experiencing a switchback route across a historic mountain pass

Garden Route East of George

Stunning scenery and photo opportunities
Coastal and forest trails
Monkeyland primate sanctuary in a natural forest setting
Elephant Back Rides and elephant interaction
Scenic cruises and Ocean Safaris
Whale watching from land, sea or air
Surfing and kite surfing
Canoeing
Forest Canopy Tours
Arts and Crafts and country markets
Sun and sand on magnificent beaches
Luxury spa treatments
Championship golf courses
Paragliding

Activities and Attractions


The Garden Route

George - Herolds Bay and vicinity
Sandy bays and championship golf courses
Country Routes - Klein Karoo - Prince Albert
Mountain passes; Oudtshoorn's ostrich showfarms, arts and craft, wildlife and crocodile farms; the spectacular limestone caverns of Cango Caves; the switch-back route across Swartberg Pass; historic Prince Albert; Meiringspoort.
Mossel Bay and vicinity
Beaches; maritime tales and historic landmarks; coastal trails; St Blaize Cave and its exciting archaeological secrets.
Wilderness to Knysna
Wilderness - beach and lakes, coastal trails and outdoor activities; Sedgefield's Scarab Village and Saturday Market; arts and crafts; the popular holiday town of Knysna and its breathtaking lagoon panoramas; Featherbed Nature Reserve; and the Knysna Heads.
Knysna to Plettenberg Bay
Garden of Eden forest walk; Knysna Elephant Park; quaint roadside shops and stalls; Ocean Safaris; beaches.
Plettenberg Bay to Nature's Valley
Monkeyland primate sanctuary; and Birds of Eden.
Natures Valley to Storms River
Adrenalin adventures: Forest Canopy Tours, Storms River adventures, one of the world's highest bungy jumps; hiking trails.

Storms River coast line

Above: Indian Ocean shore near Storms River Mouth, Garden Route.

Top of Page

George - Herolds Bay and Vicinity

The city of George is the gateway to the Garden Route for visitors arriving by air.

Championship golf courses are centrally located in this region. The Links Golf Course at Fancourt hosted the President's Cup in 2003. Mountain and coastal backdrops add a scenic ambience to courses designed by world champion Gary Player.

Fancourt Golf course and Links

The secluded and sheltered sandy bay and coastal village of Herolds Bay attracts vactioners and day visitors from George and surrounds. The bay provides bathing, surfing and fishing.

Golfers again are well catered for. The 18 hole Ernie Els signature golf course is built around the natural landscape between river and Indian Ocean.

Back to Activities and Attractions

Country Routes - Klein Karoo - Prince Albert

Majestic mountain ranges form a formidable barrier to the hinterland along most of the length of the Garden Route. A day trip across the mountains is to experience the stark contrast between lush coastal forests and the arid beauty of the Klein Karoo region, with its curious ostriches, the spectacular Cango Caves and three breathtaking mountain passes along the route.

George is the primary gateway to Oudtshoorn and the Klein ("Little") Karoo from the Garden Route. The Klein Karoo defines a broad arid valley bordered by the Swartberg Mountains to the north. This is a highly recommended trip to take when you're vacationing along the Garden Route. An added bonus - if it's cloudy along the coastline, the Klein Karoo can be bathed in sunshine, being in the rainshadow of the coastal mountain ranges.

Our recommended route crosses the mountain range towering behind George, via either the Outeniqua or Montagu passes. The scenery along both these mountain crossings is stunning. The road decends north to a flat plain with fields of hops plantations and ostrich farms. The town of Oudtshoorn offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about ostriches at several show farms.

Cango Caves is a particularly impressive set of limestone caverns 18 miles north of Oudtshoorn. The Cango Cave complex consists of three systems of limestone caverns, filled with a fairyland of stalactites, stalagmites and helictites. Two guided tours are available. The one hour standard tour explores the first six chambers and a 90 minute adventure tour for the physically fit follows a more strenuous route through the mountain.

A must-see (and do) attraction a little further north of the Cango Caves is the 17 mile long Swartberg Pass, a spectacular gravel road mountain pass that crosses the 5,000 foot (1 583 m) summit in a series of sharp switch-backs. The pass is carefully preserved and is a national monument. The road is hewn out of the solid sandstone of the mountain. Take the time to pause at safe pull-out spots to look at the contorted folds and swirls on this ancient red limestone - and to catch your breath at the stunning views. Hiking routes are available on the mountain (permit required), with spots to pull off for a picnic along a tranquil river flowing at the foot of the pass on the northern side.

Swartberg pass descends into the quaint Karoo town of Prince Albert, offering accommodation, refreshments and meals. For a day trip out from the Garden Route, the recommended return route is over Meiringspoort (Meiring's Pass), another breathtaking and very different mountain pass to experience.

Mountain passes - fynbos and Swartberg Pass


Arts and Crafts

Crafts produced by local artists are available to admire or buy, at craft markets and roadside stalls along this country route and along the Garden Route - particularly near Knysna.

Arts and crafts along the Garden Route

Back to Activities and Attractions

Mossel Bay and Vicinity

The coastal town of Mossel Bay is the historical capital of the Garden Route and is a popular vacation resort with South Africans. The ancient mariner and explorer Bartholomew Dias was the first European to discover the Bay in 1488 - but the first residents of the area were the Khoisan, a nomadic people who left evidence of their presence in St Blaize Cave, below the lighthouse. The cave marks the starting point of a coastal walking trail to the nearby conservancy of Dana Bay, set in the heart of the Cape Floristic Region (aka Cape Floral Kingdom). The region offers good bird life and miles of open sandy beach.

Back to Activities and Attractions

Wilderness to Knysna

Nature lovers and families with a preference for a quieter vacation willl love everything that Wilderness has to offer. The miles of beautiful broad sandy beaches and the expanse of the lagoon sets the stage for a number of activities to soak up the ambience

Wilderness - Garden Route

Recreational activities in Wilderness include hiking, birding, canoeing, hanggliding, paragliding, fishing, boating, water skiing, horse back riding, whale-watching (seasonal) - and the enjoyment of the wide beaches, Indian Ocean and great scenic vistas. Dolphin's Point provides views acrosss ocean and the Kaaimans River mouth, a popular spot for photo opportunities as well as spotting dolphins and Southern Right whales (winter months). Sadly, the rail line along the coast was damaged by heavy rains, so the steam train that used to run scenic trips between George and Knysna is no longer operational.

A 5-day guided coastal walk follows the shoreline east along the Garden Route to Brenton-on-Sea, near Knysna. The route traverses beach, forest, wetland, dune forest and fynbos (heather) - with some canoeing and overnight accommodation en-route. Half-day trails are also offered - and guided moonlight nature walks on the beaches at low tide to discover the secret activities of crabs and other smaller creatures.

East of Wilderness, take a detour off the N2 coastal highway to see the Woodville Big Tree, a giant Yellow Wood estimated to be 800 years old and 100 feet high (31 meters). A mile-long (2 Km) shady trail traces a loop through the forest, away from the tree and back to a picnic area at the park entrance.

800 year-old tree - and Scarab Market, Sedgefield

The coastal village of Sedgefield is located at the mouth of Swartvlei, a large expanse of water contained between high fossil dunes and the ocean. Scarab Village, an arts and crafts market alongside the main road, offers home-made cheese, jewellery and paper made from the fiber extracted and refined from elephant droppings! The cards and art produced from this attractive paper make great and unusual souvenirs. This is also the site of a popular weekly Saturday market, one of the top attractions in the region for arts and crafts, fresh produce and home-made food products.

The town of Knysna is one of the most popular holiday destinations along the shores of the Southern Cape. The natural beauty of the huge expanse of lagoon, surrounding forests and mountains all make this an absolutely stunning destination. The town itself is a blend of commercial main street and small-town charm and hospitality, with craft shops, boutiques and sidewalk cafes. Accommodation and restaurant options in and around Knysna meet the full spectrum of travel styles from budget to high end luxury.

Highlights of Knysna include:
The Knysna Lagoon - boating, fishing, recreation and wonderful panoramas, reflections and ambience to inspire the most jaded of photographers.
The Knysna Quays - interesting shops, restaurants, accommodation options and a small boat harbor in an attractive waterfront setting. This is also departure point for lagoon cruises, sailing charters and sightseeing trips across the water to Featherbed Nature Reserve - and cruises to the Knysna Heads (the narrow ocean passage and towering sandstone headlands separating estuary and ocean).
Featherbed Nature Reserve - a privately owned conservation area situated on the western Head. Guided excursions across to the Reserve are only available by ferry. The trails on the reserve suit all ages and fitness levels.

Knysna Keys

The Heads - The eastern Head can be reached by road - to the beaches and rocks at the foot on the head or to view sites high above ocean and estuary. Look out points provide sweeping views across the Indian Ocean, shores, the cliffs and sea caves of the western head, Knysna Lagoon, Leisure Isle and the town of Knysna. A visit to The Heads is highly recommended.

Knysna Heads (Featherbed Reserve) - and Rasta community

Hiking is most spectacular in the Tsitsikamma National Park just north of Knysna. This region, known as the "Garden of the Garden Route”, is home to antelope, bush pig, honey badgers, many species of bird and even leopard. A number of short hikes are available from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Pezula Championship Course is perched high above the lagoon on the same geological formation that comprises the Heads. Views over the fairways and greens and across the ocean are breathtaking. This award-winning 18-hole course rates amongst the best and most scenic golf courses in the world.

Environment impact and restoration of indigenous flora (specifically the fynbos heathers) was a high concern during the establishment of the golf-resort complex that is Pezula. Over 8,000 plant species grow within the fynbos biome, which occurs over only 1% of the Southern Africa subcontinent.

Pezula Golf Course - Garden of Eden

Back to Activities and Attractions


Knysna to Plettenberg Bay

Swathes of indigenous forest are evident between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, 20 miles (32 km) to the East. Country roads that lead inland off the N2 coastal highway meander through spectactular densely forested landscapes. However, visitors don't have to venture off the N2 to get a good perception of this forest environment with its luxuriant undergrowth and emerald green giant ferns. Stop at the Garden of Eden, an enchanting stretch of forest next to the coastal highway. There is a small entrance fee charged at the gate and boardwalk sections of the trails are suitable for wheelchair access and are provided with handrails. Information boards provide information on flora and fauna to be found in the forest, with several trails to choose from.

The elusive and beautiful Knysna Lourie is a turaco that is indigenous to these forests, with its elegant rounded crest, tipped with white.

Fynbos (heather) and a pair of Knysna Louries

These forests were once the domain of wild elephants. Park authorities believed that there was only one surviving elephant in the wild, thought to be between 25 and 35 years old. Recent DNA evidence suggests that there may be as many as five or six. Hikers occasionally come across telling evidence including elephant dung, but the elephant(s) remain reclusive, moving quietly through the dense forest.

Knysna Elephant Park however provides a home to elephants in need - and the opportunity to get close to these gentle giants in their natural forest environment. Interact with the elephants as they browse freely among the trees. They enjoy a free-range controlled environment, where they get to walk and browse as they would do in the wild, but under the necessary supervision of handlers.

Knysna Elephant ride

Tour options include a variety of experiences. The Daily Tour provides the shorter experience of meeting, feeding and interacting with the elephants. Elephant Back Rides or Walks provide a longer experience, while the Exclusive Sunrise / Sunset Safaris and Sundowners provide more private and intimate encounters.

Knysna elephants

Also along this stretch of the N2 are a number of roadside shops and stalls, that sell anything from refreshments and furniture to arts and crafts.

Roadside shops and beach at Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay ("Plett" to locals) is a popular vacation destination, known as the Jewel of the Garden Route. Plettenberg Bay offers miles of sweeping sandy beaches, lagoons, estuary and indigenous forests.

The Robberg Nature Reserve located on a dramatic peninsula of rock and sand is home to a Cape fur seal colony. The Reserve is also a preserve for fynbos and provides spectacular views.

In 2010, Plettenberg Bay received two accolades in the annual TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards.  It was voted the third best Beach and Sun Destination in Africa and also made the top ten list in the Outdoor and Adventure category when it was voted as the eighth most popular wildlife destination in Africa. 

Activities available in the immediate vicinity include skydiving, sailing, surfing, scenic flights over the shores and ocean, a local game reserve and Ocean Safaris. Ocean Safaris' guides maneuver guests up really close to seals, dolphins, whales and sharks.

Back to Activities and Attractions

Plettenberg Bay to Natures Valley

Monkeyland is the worlds first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary, located 12 miles to the east of Plettenberg Bay. Fifteen different primate species call the sanctuary home, with 9 of those species roaming wild in the Monkeyland forest. This is a wonderful destination for kids of all ages and is the top ecotourism attraction on the Garden Route. Primates at the sanctuary include Lemurs, Gibbons, Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys and Capuchin.

Monkeyland has captured the hearts of visitors in its efforts to rehabilitate and free previously caged primates.

Activities and attractions include guided safaris along trails winding through the forest; primates chattering and calling in the forest canopy above; and crossing a 420 foot long suspension bridge along the way. A restaurant and curio shop are available inside the property, with occasional monkey business befalling the unwary diner on the terrace.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden

Birds of Eden is located next to Monkeyland - and is a huge, covered aviary encompassing an area of 8 acres (3.2 ha) and with a 0.75 mile (1.2 km) walkway. The sanctuary is home to over 3,000 birds (280 species). It’s free-flight capacity is larger than any individual free-flight dome in the world, including the World famous Kuala Lampur & Jarong Bird Parks.

Back to Activities and Attractions


Natures Valley to Storms River

Visitors enter the realm of high adrenaline adventure along this stretch of the Garden Route.

The Word's Highest Commercial Bungy Jump - Leap into the void 708 feet (216 meters) above the Bloukrans River. The bungy jump off Bloukrans bridge near Stormsriver is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. A Flying Fox adventure (a 650 foot long cable slide) is also available at the site.

Canopy Tours (Tsitsikamma Forest) - The adventure starts on a platform 100 feet (30 meters) above the forest floor where a trained professional harnesses you to a series of cables to glide from tree to tree. This is a truly unique way of exploring the indigenous forest, and sightings of the Knysna Loerie or the Samango monkey are not uncommon. On the tour, your guide will point out the ecology of the trees and giant ferns below.

Canopy Tours - and Face Adrenaline Bungy

Hiking at Storms River Mouth - Enjoy the wild beauty of this rugged coastline on a series of short trails for day visitors. The Otter Trail (5 days, 4 nights) starts here at the river mouth and traverses indigenous forest, coastal landscapes, tidal pools rich in marine life, river mouths, valleys and stunning natural scenery.

Sorms River Mouth

 

Top of Page

10 More Things to do
when visiting The Garden Route

 1 Scuba diving and snorkeling
 2 Cycling and mountain biking
 3 Limestone cavern tours at Cango Caves
 4 Abseiling
 5 Sea kayaking
 6 Surfing school and para surfing
 7 Hang gliding
 8 Take a culinary tour and enjoy local dishes and recipes
 9 Take an Ocean Safari
10 Relax and enjoy sun and sand on one of the many sandy beaches


Garden Route
Hotel Accommodation

The Point Hotel Mossel Bay
4-star Hotel built on the rocks above a huge natural rock pool and ocean. Watch whales (in season) and dolphins from your balcony.

Garden Route hotels: South African Hotels.com
 
 
 


Garden Route Accommodation
Guest Houses, B&Bs
and Self Catering

Mossel Bay - NAA-SA (National Accommodation Association of South Africa)
George - NAA-SA
Knysna, Garden Route, South Africa | ShowMe Knysna Accommodation, Property and more in Knysna, South Africa
Knysna - NAA-SA

Plettenberg Bay - NAA-SA

Aberni on Sea  Plettenberg Bay
4-star B&B and Self Catering Accommodation, 50 metres from stunning Robberg beach.
Bosavern Guest House Plettenberg Bay. Upmarket 4 Star graded guesthouse set on a cliff, offering spectacular views of the ocean.
Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route, South Africa | ShowMe Plett Accommodation, Property and more in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
 


Accommodation


 
 


Garden Route
Tours and Transfers

Gecko Transport and Tours: Gecko Transport and Tours offers you the ideal way to see the Garden Route airport transfers Oudtshoorn Tour.
 
 
 


Nature and Attractions

Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary is the world's first free roaming multi-specie Primate Sanctuary. A top eco-tourism attraction in the Garden Route of South Africa.

Birds of Eden is the largest free flight bird aviary in the world. A top eco- tourism attraction in the Garden Route of South Africa.
 
 
 


Activities


 
 
 
 


Golf and Spa

 

 
 
 
 


Markets, Arts and Crafts

 

 
 
 
 


Wilderness, Trails
and Wildlife

 

 
 
 
 


Garden Route Cuisine

 

 
 
 
 

| Travel Links | African Travel Marketing Network (LinkedIn Group) |