Ultimate Garden Route Travel Guide
The Garden Route is one of the most beautiful scenic routes in South Africa. It is used as both a route up to the Eastern Cape and as a destination itself. But how long does it take, where do I stop, and is it a good trip?
Where is the garden route?
The Garden Route is a route along the Eastern Coast of South Africa. Starting in Cape Town and ending in Port Elizabeth. It follows the National N2 road along the route. But there are many other variants of the route to see the different sites along the way such as Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn. The reason it is so beautiful is the mountainous terrain that reaches the majestic ocean. It also hosts many different vegetation and environments such as the farmlands north of Cape Town, and the Green Forests near Knysna.
The N2 route is approximately 750kms from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. This means without stops it will take about nine hours to travel along the route. But when you are on holiday, you want to stop and see the sites, take pictures and make memories. So, let’s discuss where you should stop.
There are so many good stops along the way, that it is hard to only mention a few, so here are a few of my favourites:
1. Monkeyland – Plettenberg Bay
Monkeyland is a sanctuary near Plettenberg Bay where you can get up close and personal with some Monkey Business. They have built a huge dome allowing the monkeys to roam free inside the area. You can take a guided tour through the dome where the guide will point out and inform you about the species of ape running over your feet!
2. World of Birds – Plettenberg Bay
Similar to the Monkeyland, and right next door. You have Birds of Eden. Here you can take a walk inside their huge dome, along the wooden path as the birds fly right over your head! This allows fantastic pictures and a unique experience.
3. Cango Caves – Oudtshoorn
The mystical and breathtaking Cango Caves rock formations are something not to be missed! Just near Oudtshoorn is where you will find this stop, and it has daily guided tours exploring the cave. It has different tours depending on your comfort level.
4. The Beaches of Wilderness – Wilderness
Wilderness falls between George and Knsyna along the route. It is a small village made up mainly of holiday homes. The beaches in Wilderness are something from a movie! Endless and picture-perfect! Take a walk or a run along the beach when you pass through, you can thank me later!
5. Knysna Lagoon and Waterfront – Knysna
Knysna is a stunning little town built around a lagoon. This gives it a unique town layout with multiple islands. The waterfront is the heart of Knysna where there are many restaurants along the edge of the lagoon. There are also boat tours that will take you up to the river mouth.
6. The Big Tree – Knysna Forest
The Big tree is a 36m high tree within the indigenous Tsitsikamma forest. It has a beautiful walkway under the forest canopy where you can see the big tree and potentially some local wildlife. Beware of Baboons and Monkeys in the area, and DO NOT FEED THEM.
7. Addo Elephant National Park – Port Elizabeth
Just outside Port Elizabeth is Addo. Addo is home to the big 5 and many other species of wildlife. As its name suggests it has a large population of Elephants! If you are not going on to a Safari after the Garden Route, I would recommend making this stop!
The Perfect Trip
In my experience, the best way to see the Garden Route would be to do it in seven days But it can be done in as little as two or three days if in a hurry. I would start by driving and spending two nights in George. Here you can explore the Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay, and George Areas.
Following this, spend a night in Knysna to explore the Knysna and wilderness areas. Then two nights in Plettenberg Bay exploring the Plettenberg and Tsitsikamma area. Last off, one night in Addo Elephant National Park. This will give you the real Eastern Cape bush experience!
The Garden Route is definitely worth the trip! On its own, or as part of a longer-term tour plan, it is a journey like no other. Rent a car with Drive South Africa and explore! You will go home with pictures and memories, with a wish to do it again. I have done the Garden Route around four times, and can’t wait to do it again!