A road trip from Cape Town up the Garden Route, which is regarded as the most beautiful region in the county, is a magnificent combination of sensational beaches, shimmering lagoons as well as indigenous forests with a scattering of welcoming towns and a scenic ocean-hugging highway.
There is nothing better than exploring the Garden Route with a hired car from Drive South Africa, giving you control and the pace set is entirely up to you. There are plenty of opportunities and activities along the way, from hiking to eco and whale watching tours, to exploring caves and deserted sandy beaches.
From Cape Town, it is less than 400km (240 miles) to Mossel Bay, the official start of the Garden Route. The route meanders between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua mountain ranges, creating contrasting, yet equally stunning views on either side.
The route is set up for seasoned road-trippers as much as first-timers, and the only challenge you will encounter is deciding whether to devote four days or fourteen days to the trip.
Some Garden Route Road Trip Facts
Start/ End Location - Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape, or vice versa.
Length of Time - Recommended self-drive can start at three days and range up to fourteen days. Duration spent along the Garden Route is dependant on how much time you have and many stops you want to make along the route.
Best time to go - November to March has the warmest weather and is the most popular time to visit. September to October offers fantastic opportunities for whale watching.
Top Garden Route Towns
From Mossel Bay, you will continue for about 60km, and you will find yourself gazing down at miles of soft sandy golden beaches which stretch away to the distant horizon.
Bird-filled wetlands surround Wilderness as well as thick indigenous forests. This lovely seaside town is a paradise for nature lovers and within easy reach of the larger and more popular hubs of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
Wilderness is a small but charming town with a couple of good restaurants.
A short 20-minute drive from Wilderness and you will reach the sleepy little town of Sedgefield, with the calm waters of its coastal lagoon and a fantastic oversized paddling pool, which is ideal for the children to enjoy. If you are nearby on a Saturday morning, then don’t miss the Wild Oats Market for a hearty farmer’s breakfast and a fun outdoor atmosphere.
Another 20-minute drive and you will cross a low bridge which leads you across the Knysna Lagoon and into Knysna.
Knysna is one of the bigger towns along the Garden Route and has made a name for itself as a foodie and cultural centre with breathtaking coastal scenery that includes the Knysna coastal lakes and Knysna Heads.
Why not take a ferry to the Featherbed Nature Reserve or a boat trip to “The Heads”. You have a choice of restaurants in the buzzing Waterfront - a food lover’s dream.
Plettenberg Bay is an authentic seaside holiday town and is known for its breathtaking beaches and crystal blue water, making it one of the country’s top local tourist spot.
Spend your days on the beach or set off on an ocean safari to watch dolphin leap through the foamy waves. Also worth a visit are the nearby wildlife sanctuaries of Monkeyland ad Birds of Eden.
Plettenberg Bay has so much to offer outside of the town itself. This Garden Route location means there is plenty to see and do.
Storms River and Tsitsikamma
The Tsitsikamma National Park is approximately 60km or an hour’s drive from Plettenberg Bay.
On the way to Tsitsikamma National Park, you will come to the Bloukrans Bridge, where an instant thrill awaits you. The highest commercial bungee jump in the world. BUNGEE
This area is a treasure trove for outdoor adventurers. From a rough and rugged coastline that is home to the country’s oldest marine protected area to numerous hiking trails, birding in the coastal forest, dolphin and whale spotting from multiple clifftop viewpoints, kayaking, snorkelling, diving or boat cruises into the Storms River gorge - the list is almost endless.
Garden Route highlights
- Spectacular coastal scenery including the iconic Knysna Heads and lakes.
- Miles of soft sand or rocky beaches to enjoy.
- Varied and abundant marine life, including migrating southern right and humpback whales.
- Escape into the verdant Outeniqua Mountains.
- Explore the unspoiled Knysna forest, home to free-roaming forest elephant in the Harkerville section, and the 800-year-old Big Tree in the Tsitsikamma section.
- Charming towns with a range of accommodation, fantastic restaurants and plenty of attractions including local artisans, and annual food and lifestyle festivals.
- Plenty of mountains, forest and coastal hiking and mountain biking trails through the Garden Route National Park, including the world-famous multi-day Otter Trail.
- Adrenalin activities including the world’s highest bridge bungee jump, kayaking, surfing and black water tubing on the Storms River, not to mention coastal and estuary boating, angling, bird watching and forest canopy tours.
The Garden route has such a wide variety of things to do and places to explore. Every Garden Route road trip will have unique highlights which will create endless memories.
Pack the car, roll down the windows, turn up the music and enjoy your road trip and drive safe.