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Exploring South Africa’s Garden Route


South Africa has some seriously impressive landscapes, but the Garden Route is justly one of its most celebrated. Named for its lush greenery and awesome vistas, it’s a corner of South Africa that should be high on your wish list. Stretching for 200km east of Cape Town, this is a great region to cruise through behind the wheel, stopping off to see the coastal scenery, enjoy convivial towns, and explore natural wonders on foot. Whatever your priority on holiday, you will find it on the Garden Route. Great food and wine, superb hikes, stunning wildlife, and lots of places to kick back and relax are all signature features of this tempting coastal haven.

One of the most appealing aspects of the route is the wild beaches, where the Indian Ocean waves are mirrored by the sweeping crest of the mountains behind the shore. There are many lagoons scattered along the coast, as well as rivers rushing headlong towards the sea, so there’s no shortage of adventurous water sports to experience. Officially spanning the coastal stretch from Mossel Bay to the Storms River Mouth, the Garden Route encompasses a hugely diverse stretch of coast where wildlife thrives, adding opportunities for spotting marine and land mammals as well as exotic birdlife to the list of attractions.

We’ve rounded up five of our Garden Route highlights to inspire you to get your South Africa trip booked today. This is a destination that deserves the hype.

Southern Right Whale breaching off Garden Route coast

Wilderness National Park

The whole of the Garden Route is a natural playground for the adventurous, but Wilderness National Park is extra appealing because it is home to numerous lakes, rivers, streams and lagoons which host a huge array of marine and avian wildlife.

There are plenty of options for watersports and hikes in the park, which spans the whole area between the mouth of the Touws River and the Swartvlei Estuary. The Touws River itself connects three of the National Park’s lakes: Langvlei, Elandsvlei and Rondevlei, which together are recognised as a Ramsar wetland – meaning it is of great importance to the ecology of the region. As well as hiking, the park offers opportunities for canoeing, fishing, and birdwatching.

Wilderness coastline, South Africa

Nature’s Valley

The Garden Route is hardly undiscovered, and often you will share the beauty of the landscapes with fellow visitors. Nature’s Valley, however, is an off-the-beaten-track corner of the route which is blessed with a stunning combination of forested glades, wild white beaches, and peaceful lagoons. Nature’s Valley is part of the Tsitsikamma National Park, tucked into a craggy section which hasn’t ever seen major development because of its inaccessibility.

Rivers have carved deep clefts into forested ravines, and the beaches remain untouched and blissfully empty. A small village near the mouth of the Groot River serves those who brave the hairpins to get here, and though facilities are minimal, they are no less charming. Nature’s Valley marks the end point of the Otter Trail, a flagship South African hike which winds west from Storms River.

Natures Valley Beach, south africaq

Tsitsikamma National Park

This stretch of the Garden Route should not be missed by keen hikers and birdwatchers, or indeed anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. It’s a stunning coastal region of humbling scenery and extensive wildlife, and merits a visit – especially if you’re keen to explore the local marine environment. The boundary of the protected zone extends 5km out to sea, and includes pristine reefs – ensuring there is plenty for divers to get excited about.

For those who prefer their marine thrills explored from dry land, you’ll often spot dolphins in the bays and, in the right season, pods of southern right whales in the waves just offshore. Canopy zip-lines in the forest are yet another exciting diversion available in Tsitsikamma National Park, for those craving a sense of adrenaline-fuelled adventure.

Coastline of Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa

Addo Elephant National Park

Located in the Sundays River section of the Garden Route, Addo Elephant National Park is the perfect pick for combining a trip along the iconic route with some big game-viewing in a safari setting. The park is home to around 550 individual elephants, as well as rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. You’ll have plenty of options for getting out into the park to look for these intriguing species, from self-drive safaris to guided game drives and horse riding trails. Birdwatching is also a major activity in the park, with up to 450 species present, as well as specialised birding trails and hides set up at key locations.

Baby elephant in Addo National Park, South Africa

Towns on the Garden Route

Plettenberg Bay is a typical example of the lovely, laid-back small towns scattered along the Garden Route, complete with plenty of expansive beaches right on its doorstep. Abundant activities are available in and around Plettenberg Bay, too, such as boat trips, excursions into the Robberg Nature Reserve, whale-watching, and visits to the Monkeyland primate sanctuary.

Knysna is another gem of a town, where restaurants along bustling quays offer excellence in wining and dining. There is no beach directly accessible at Knysna, yet the town retains its popularity by way of its endless waterside charm, easy access to the countryside and hiking trails, and several top-quality golf courses. It also enjoys a great climate all year round.

Storms River Village is another firm Garden Route favourite, with its peaceful and picturesque atmosphere that could easily tempt you to stay a while and relax.

Knysna, South Africa

Make it happen

Get your Garden Route holiday plans fixed up with the help of our knowledgeable local experts in South Africa. There’s so much to see and do in this beautiful region – to get an idea of what your bespoke itinerary might look like, send them a few details today.

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