The Perfect Garden Route Itinerary

The darling of South Africa, the Garden Route, is located along the stretch of coast between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. If you are considering traveling this route, brace yourself for an action-packed adventure. This is one of my favourite parts of South Africa so I thought I’d share my perfect itinerary so you can make the most of your time off. I’d recommend at least 2 nights in each location. An array of available accommodation options allows this itinerary to work with any budget. The best way to experience the Garden Route is to do a roadtrip so get your friends together and hire a car. Buses will get you to the main cities/towns but it will be challenging to move around within the towns without a car. 

1: Port Elizabeth

The Friendly City is probably the only city that is situated under an hour’s drive from Big Five reserves. Because this is a malaria-free area, the Eastern Cape is becoming an increasingly popular safari destination. Addo Elephant National Park offers excellent game viewing and as you guessed, elephants are often seen in huge numbers. You’ll almost always find a gathering at Hapoor Dam. It’s one of my favourite spots to sit and watch them play in the water. For a more luxurious and exclusive safari experience, head to Amakhala or Shamwari Private Game Reserves. PE is also about watersports and there are stunning Blue flag beaches for all you water-babies. One of my favourite things about PE is the trendy restaurant scene. Head to Stanley Street in Richmond Hill for a great choice of fine restaurants. My favourites include Muse, Mellas Dim Sum & Noodle Bar and Two Olives!

An elephant on patrol in Addo

An elephant on patrol in Addo

Off the beaten track 1: Jeffreys Bay is the surf mecca…so if surfing is your thing you have to stop here and surf Supertubes. There are great restaurants and surf shops throughout town – pop in at Die Kospot for delicious calamari!

2: Tsitsikamma

There are a number of ways to experience the serenity of the Tsitsikamma forest. Go for a Segway ride, a paddle up the Storms River or even a zipline tour through the forest canopy. There are numerous hiking trails to try out as well so pack a picnic and explore. Stay in Stormsriver Village for a back-in-time feeling. The famous suspension bridge in the National Park offers great photo opportunities. Kick back, relax and embrace the fresh air and stunning scenery.

Photo: Tsitsikamma Tourist Info

3: Plettenberg Bay

Adventure to the nth degree! From rock climbing and abseiling to canoeing and sailing – there is something for everyone. The beaches here are just too good to miss. Take a hike along one of the trails on Robberg to try spot seals and great white sharks in the bay. Don’t miss a fabulous tapas-style lunch at Bramon Wine Estate in the Crags. Head to Enrico’s Restaurant on the beach at Keurboomstrand and watch whales and dolphins from the deck while you sip on a cocktail. A dinner at Emily Moon is also a must; if you feel like a spoil, spend the night there too. You won’t regret it!

Photo: Africanyon

4: Knysna

This charming coastal town has that ”holiday feeling” all year round. The Knysna lagoon is fringed by sail boats, interesting artisanal shops and quirky restaurants. Take your time; park on Thesen Island and spend a day exploring on foot. If the water calls, there are numerous ways to venture out onto the lagoon. Take a drive to view the scenery at the Knysna Heads. You’ll have to try some oysters as it’s a local delicacy!

Photo: The Turbine Boutique Hotel

Off the beaten track 2: Route 62 is a scenic alternative to traveling along the N2 highway. The road is hugged by majestic mountains and leads to charming small towns filled with friendly people, unique art galleries and fabulous eateries. Don’t miss a gourmet milkshake at Diesel & Crème in Barrydale and maybe take a drive along the beautiful Swartberg Pass. Why not hire a Harley Davidson and experience this treasure to the extreme?

Off the beaten track 3: De Hoop Nature Reserve is a nature lover’s paradise. The lagoon brims with birdlife and stunning scenery. Walk down to the beach to watch whales calve, breach and splash close to shore. If you are looking for a more immersive experience, book your spot on the Whale Trail – a 5 day luxury hike which covers 55km of pristine fynbos-infused coastal beauty.    

One of the Big Seven

Whales at De Hoop

5: Southern-tip of Africa (Cape Agulhas)

This is a super-instagrammable stop! The proud lighthouse, sometimes stormy sea and salty breeze all combine to take you back in time to when explorers first arrived here. There are lovely wine farms in the area that also have excellent restaurants. But be warned, they are often closed on weekends so plan your trip carefully so you don’t miss out. 

The meeting point of two oceans

The meeting point of two oceans

Off the beaten track 4: Stanford is a small village nestled amongst beautiful mountains and is ideally located only a short drive from Hermanus, the whale capital of South Africa. Enjoy a river cruise, a horse ride on a protea farm or simply relax and embrace country life. Stay over on a working farm, indulge in excellent food and savour complimentary wines produced right in the valley. Don’t miss a picnic lunch at Klein River Cheese or a phenomenal dinner at the Manor House Restaurant. 

6: Stellenbosch

A visit to South Africa wouldn’t be complete without sipping on sophisticated wines in the heart of the vineyards in Stelllenbosch. There are so many estates to choose from and you can’t go wrong with any of them. But some of my favourites include; Middelvlei (they have a great traditional South African lunch menu); Vergenoegd (they use runner ducks to control pests!); Villiera (eco-friendly approach to wine-making); Blaauklippen (macaron and wine pairing – seriously). Each estate will have a different tasting fee but it will cost anything between R30 and R150 depending on the pairing.

Wine tasting at Middelvlei

Wine tasting at Middelvlei (Photo by Summerheart Photography)

7: Cape Town

What can I say, this cosmopolitan city is packed with exciting activities and magnificent sights. You cannot miss Table Mountain, but maybe hike up to avoid the crowds in summer? Don’t miss the  beautiful Bo-Kaap; sip on delicious coffee and tasty local treats while you take a stroll down the colourful streets. Drive along the famous Chapman’s Peak Pass for sublime views, devour delicious fish and chips in Hout Bay and then head to Cape Point, just watch out for those pesky baboons. Visit the dapper penguins at Boulders Beach but be warned that it can get quite crowded during peak season.   

The colourful Bo-Kaap

The colourful Bo-Kaap

There you have it! You could quite easily do this trip in reverse as well. If you are smart about it, travel during the shoulder seasons to save some money. Peak season stretches from October till the end of April but the weather is still great in May and September, albeit chilly in the evenings. Our Signature Soul Safari, Garden Route Explorer, hits most of these spots, so if you feel like a fun girls getaway, join us in September for an unforgettable road trip! A

The Perfect Garden Route Itinerary by Bush Marine Tours & Adventures