High on the list for many Cape Town visitors is 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
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.
The first town on the Garden Route map of South Africa
The first town along the spectacular Garden Route is Mossel Bay. It’s year round mild climate is only one reason why it’s such a popular holiday town. The pastel coloured buildings, surfer dudes hanging out and old school ice-cream vans gave it an aura of the Cornish town Newquay.
Although with a golf course perched atop a cliff with dramatic views of the Indian Ocean, it’s now become a big hit with the golfing enthusiasts too.
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?!
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.
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.
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 make sure you book a table.
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. Because there are so many things to do in Plattenberg Bay I will be sure to post a separate review on the town very soon.
One of the main attractions for visiting Plett are its incredible beaches. Our sand and bucket day turned out a bit grey, but it didn’t deter us.
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.
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 sanctuary 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.
I couldn’t resist booking a slot at The Elephant Sanctuary, where we had the opportunity to feed, massage with a brush down and walk hand in truck with the gentle giants.
It was the most incredible experience as a family and left us with memories to last a lifetime. You can read about our special day with the elephants here.
Tsitsikamma National Park
The Tsitsikamma forest stretches east along the coast from Plettenberg Bay. It’s an enchanting vision of giant trees, dramatic mountains, deep river gorges and picturesque valleys.
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.
We followed a trail to The Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge, which is a remarkable piece of architecture.
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.
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.
Addo National Elephant Park
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!
On our three day safari and 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 come 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.
Our safari home was at River Bend Lodge, a charming homestead offering the perfect beginners safari for families.
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! There will be a review up on the blog soon.
We were all completely seduced by the breathtaking natural beauty of this region sweeping eastwards along the coast of the Cape to Port Elizabeth. It’s certainly a road trip not to miss when visiting this amazing country.
Have you driven along The Garden Route? Would you consider it? Let me know in the comments box below.
Below are more posts from my South African adventures:
Here are some easily bookable activities to help plan your trip:
Where would we be without our Lonely Planet Guidebook!
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