South Africa’s Garden Route is famous and for good reason. It’s a relaxing mix of bustling seaside towns, languid lagoons, rivers, mountains, and miles of verdant forest. And all of this is spread out along a pristine and largely-protected coastline known for whale and dolphin sightings. You’ll need weeks to see it all, but it’s worth the drive even if you only have a few days.

kayaking in the garden route

Image: Johannes Hofzapfel

The main route runs along the N2 highway between Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth, with the stretch between Wilderness and Tsitsikamma the most forested and lush. It’s only 380 km long if you stick to the N2, but every few kilometers brings another seaside town or forest trail to explore. It’s best to stay in one place for a while and visit the immediate surrounds from there. Also, keep in mind the many activities on offer and where they’re based. Bungee jumping (the highest in the world at Bloukraans Bridge), paragliding, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and trail running – there’s plenty on offer for thrill seekers.

garden route leaderboardStaying in the Garden Route National Park is particularly worthwhile, especially the Wilderness and Tsitsikamma sections which have beautiful campsites and chalets. The towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are also great options, although they can get busy during the school holidays. Wilderness, Sedgefield and Nature’s Valley are quieter, but there’s really nowhere on the Garden Route where you wouldn’t want to spend a few days.

Most travellers opt for 4×4 rental South Africa to accommodate their travel plans.