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Top 5 stops on the Garden Route in South Africa

High on the list for many Cape Town visitors is the chance to experience one of the world’s most spectacular drives. We were no exception and couldn’t wait to hit the 200 mile scenic road which winds around South Africa’s southeastern coastline. Here are five places I think should be on your Garden Route South Africa itinerary as you cruise along this African paradise.

A Cape Town itinerary

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

We drove from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth past forested mountains, sprawling wetlands, beautiful lagoons and white-sand beaches with charming towns dotted all along the route. It’s the place for adventure seekers and nature lovers with plenty of opportunities to spot some incredible wildlife and experience thrill seeking activities. Being a malaria-free zone it’s a firm favourite for families too. Hurrah to not dealing with pesky mozzies.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

The first town on the Garden Route map of South Africa

Mossel Bay

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

The first town along the spectacular Garden Route is Mossel Bay. Its year round mild climate is only one reason why it’s popularity as a holiday town. The pastel coloured buildings, surfer dudes hanging out and old school ice-cream vans gives it an aura of the Cornish town Newquay.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Although with a golf course perched atop a cliff with dramatic views of the Indian Ocean, golfing enthusiasts are big fans of the area too.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

For the daredevils among you, Mossel Bay is also one of the only two places in South Africa from which visitors can go cage diving with great white sharks. If you dare?!

Knysna

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Knysna lagoon

When you drive alongside the impressive lagoon on your approach to Knysna town, it’s easy to see why many call it the unofficial capital of the Garden Route.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Sandwiched by the lagoon and the lush forest you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do in Knysna specifically outdoor activities. Whether it’s hikes and short strolls in the forests or canoeing, fishing and sailing on the waters.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Knysna Heads

We were only there for a day trip so headed straight for the famous landmark the Knysna Heads, a pair of sandstone cliffs which separate the Knysna lagoon from the surging ocean. There’s also the gorgeous East Head Cafe overlooking these fantastic views. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and the girls were happy with the small outside play area. Obviously it’s incredibly popular, so book in advance.

Plettenberg Bay

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

The seaside town of Plettenberg Bay, or Plett as it’s commonly known, will treat your eyes to mountains, pristine beaches and the deep blue Indian Ocean. We spent two nights in a Plettenberg Bay hotel called Hog Hollow Country Lodge.  Located in a private nature reserve, it provided a great base to explore the area.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Plett is known for its incredible beaches. Our sand and bucket day turned out a bit grey, but it didn’t deter us.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa
Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

The temperatures were still mild enough for the girls to frolic around on the beach in their swimsuits whilst Mr S and I drank in the truly impressive coastline vistas. The coastline here is also where many encounter whales in their natural environment.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

With our Plett accomodation set on the edge of an indigenous forest near an area known as The Crags, we took the opportunity to explore the unique activities on offer. Animal lovers can get up close and personal with a number of sanctuaries in the area. You have Monkeyland, home to 11 different species and Birds of Eden the largest free flight aviary in the world. It’s a great treat for the kids and adults alike.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

I couldn’t resist booking a visit to The Elephant Sanctuary, where we had the opportunity to feed, massage with a brush down and walk hand in truck with the gentle giants.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

The elephants often rescued from atrocious conditions or orphaned will live out their are lives here, as they would no longer survive out in the wild. It was the most incredible experience as a family and left us with memories to last a lifetime.

Tsitsikamma National Park

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

The Tsitsikamma forest stretches east along the coast from Plettenberg Bay. The most enchanting vision of giant trees, dramatic mountains, deep river gorges and picturesque valleys.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

From zip lining on a canopy tour to hiking through winding nature trails or bungee jumping from the world’s highest (216 metres) commercial bungee jump location at Bloukrans Bridge. Trust me, there’s plenty to tempt your adventurous side.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa
Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

We followed a trail to The Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge, which is a remarkable piece of architecture.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

It hangs over the churning waters of the Storms River Mouth, spanning 77 metres. Originally built in 1969 and has since been rebuilt to ensure its safety.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa
Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

It was thrilling to stand a mere seven metres above the burbling river as it enters the frothy Indian Ocean. I could have stood forever mesmerised by the beautiful seascape, if it wasn’t for the constant stream of people walking across.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Addo National Elephant Park

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Drive a little further past Port Elizabeth and you’ll arrive at Addo National Elephant Park, home to the Big Five and one of the densest elephant populations in the world!

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

On our three day safari we saw four – the elephant, lion, cape buffalo and rhino. The fifth, the leopard is so elusive even the lodge staff asked us to radio in if we spotted one, so they could drive out! We were lucky enough to experience a true David Attenborough moment, an incredible lion kill. You can read about in my post 7 tips for an incredible family safari.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Our safari home was at River Bend Lodge, a charming homestead offering the perfect beginners safari for families.

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

You don’t even have to leave the lodge sometimes to view the wildlife. I adored hanging out on the cottage veranda with a cup of rooibos watching herds of elephants amble by – spellbinding!

Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

We were all completely seduced by the breathtaking natural beauty of this region sweeping eastwards along the coast of the Cape to Port Elizabeth. A road trip not to miss when visiting this amazing country.

TRAVEL TOOLKIT TO HELP PLAN YOUR TRIP

Have you driven along The Garden Route? Would you consider it? Let me know in the comments box below.

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Top 5 stops on the Garden Route of South Africa

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links whereby I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support! See my disclosure policy here.

34 Comments

  • Jon 27th November 2017 at 2:04 pm

    South Africa is such a lovely place and these photos really show it off!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 27th November 2017 at 9:22 pm

      We had the best family holiday. So welcoming too.

  • Sonia Cave 27th November 2017 at 2:48 pm

    These places are all so stunning and beautiful. Thankyou for sharing I had no idea about them

    • Sima Sthanakiya 27th November 2017 at 9:23 pm

      I was completely blown away by all our stops along the route. Now you can out them on your wanderlust list too Sonia.

  • Dean of Little Steps 27th November 2017 at 7:11 pm

    That looks absolutely amazing! Would do anything to be there right now especially since it looks really warm and inviting 🙂

    • Sima Sthanakiya 27th November 2017 at 9:24 pm

      Oh gosh me too. Wish I had a rewind button.

  • Justine 27th November 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Love the photos. The places you visited look simply gorgeous.

    • Sima Sthanakiya 27th November 2017 at 9:24 pm

      Thank you Justine, such a beautiful part of the world.

  • Lyndsey O'Halloran 27th November 2017 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t really know that much about South Africa. It looks beautiful though

  • Ana De- Jesus 28th November 2017 at 12:02 am

    The TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK looks absolutely magical and I love how you can go ziplining too! Such beautiful photos x

    • Sima Sthanakiya 29th November 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you Ana. I wish we had more time there though there was so much to do!

  • DJT @ Thinking Thrifty 28th November 2017 at 1:13 am

    Looks like a beautiful place to visit. Your photos are stunning!

  • Angie 28th November 2017 at 9:29 am

    We stayed in Plettenberg bay but we were gutted that we didn’t see anything cos the weather was so bad!

    • Sima Sthanakiya 29th November 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Oh no, that’s a shame Angie. Ensuring that that there is always a next time!

  • Nadia 28th November 2017 at 9:35 am

    I visited SA many years ago with my family. My stepdad was born there so he knew his way around. It was a beautiful country back then, too. Gorgeous photos!

  • Anosa 28th November 2017 at 4:52 pm

    It looks absolutely gorgeous! Its really nice to see you have gone to a sanctuary rather than somewhere that rides elephants, it makes me so mad when people do that. My husband is form Zambia and we plan to go soon so I can meet the family and then explore some nearby countires including this great one!

  • Charlotte 29th November 2017 at 11:08 am

    wow! These places are stunning and definitely giving me the wanderlust! I now have a few new places to add to the bucket list!

  • Kara 29th November 2017 at 11:27 am

    The Elephant Sanctuary looks amazing, they are my favourite animals and those views in your photo’s – wow!

  • Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays 1st December 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Wow that looks like an amazing drive although I think that I will give diving with sharks a miss if that’s OK? I love the beware elephants road sign. Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids

    • Sima Sthanakiya 3rd December 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Yes, I’d loved the elephants signs too. Love to have one for my home!

  • Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) 1st December 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Wow – the safari sounds incredible. I saw four of the big five in Etosha, Namibia, but I didn’t get to any of the South African wildlife parks. I’d like to change that! Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

    • Sima Sthanakiya 3rd December 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Oh Namibia is on my list of places to go, especially along the skeleton coast.

  • scots2travel 1st December 2017 at 7:59 pm

    My husband would love to do this, but I just want to ask if you felt safe at all times? Every country has its risks but when I’d advised that it’s a great place to visit, as long as you’re in your hotel before darkness falls it puts me off, especially with kids. #CulturedKids

    • Sima Sthanakiya 3rd December 2017 at 2:02 pm

      We felt totally safe on our holiday from being in Cape Town to driving along the Garden Route. There is nothing to fear when you’re on the tourist paths. A lot of the things you hear and read is scaremongering half of the time. Like travelling anywhere in the world you need to be sensible and have your wits.

  • Katy 3rd December 2017 at 1:54 am

    Sima, I had never heard of many of these places until now and as a result I’m itching to go. The elephant sanctuary sounds amazing and the nature is incredible. #culturedkids

    • Sima Sthanakiya 3rd December 2017 at 1:59 pm

      Ahh Katy…love inspiring wanderlust in others.

  • Leona 3rd December 2017 at 4:45 pm

    I love the garden route. We didn’t do the elephant sanctuary but wish we had

    • Sima Sthanakiya 3rd December 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Yes, so beautiful, where did you stop off Leona?

  • Maggie 4th December 2017 at 1:10 am

    I was literally reading about The Garden Route today! Definitely need to add South Africa to the 2018 Travel Bucket list! xx

    • Sima Sthanakiya 4th December 2017 at 8:57 am

      Oh you do! It’s such a gorgeous drive to do with some great stop off points.

  • Annabel 4th December 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Sounds like a lovely trip. The coastline looks stunning. I might pop over to your post about safaris now, I’m interested to hear how you got on with young kids in tow! #Culturedkids

  • Reena @ The Lifestyle Enthusiast 5th December 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Ah you ALWAYS give me wanderlust! South Africa looks so epic and it’s now super high on my bucket list. The Elephant Sanctuary experience sounds out of this world – i’d love to do it! Maybe South Africa honeymoon..!? Will have to send this to the Doc 🙂

    • Sima Sthanakiya 6th December 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Definitely need to slip my South African adventure posts to the Doc. It would be an amazing honeymoon destination! x

  • Glyn Bawden 1st May 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Great post Sima. We were fortunate to travel the Garden Route for my wife’s birthday last year.( have a look at my posts on travelfoodandotherstuff.com) We went from Cape Town to Botlierskop Game Park and back to Hermanus. I’d love to return and you’ve given me some great ideas for future trips.

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