Extensive volumes have been written on the Garden Route with all the many things you can do and see, so I will focus on the highlights that I very much enjoyed and hopefully it will give you some inspiration for your own planning.
Lets start with a map:
We ended the last leg of our road trip in Albertinia on an Aloe Farm and from there, we now head East towards Mossel Bay, the entrance to the Garden Route.
From here, the route follows the ocean for about 400km past Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma National Park all the way to Port Elizabeth or “PE” as it’s usually called.
Seems not that long, but the spectacular and extremely varied scenery along the way will make it seem much longer. You could spend months here….
Port Elizabeth is a larger city with an airport. Most people either start or end here.
Mossel Bay to Victoria Bay
From Mossel to Victoria Bay the Garden Route snakes along the spectacular coast line. It is stunning!
The roads are in excellent condition like everywhere in the Western Cape and the drive is a joy.
The biggest highlight on this stretch – and for many South Africans their absolute favorite spot – is Victoria Bay.
Mossel Bay has a lot of activities to offer, but is not that pretty. There are more picturesque and less crowded places along the way – and none as much as beautiful, secluded Victoria Bay.
On my next trip, I definitely plan to stay in one of the cottages or small B&Bs there. It is lovely.
Wilderness to Plettenberg Bay
Next, you pass through the adorable village of Wilderness with a bit of a hippie vibe – delicious veggie burgers included and a good base to explore the Garden Route from.
Another favorite spot is Knysna with a beautiful Marina and the iconic Knysna Heads.
Lots of things to do here, from hiking, paddling, beaching to exploring a few inland destinations in the mountains.
nice spot for breakfast…..
Nighttime in the Marina….
“Plett” as Plettenberg Bay is usually called is more posh – or wants to be. It can get a bit crowded with nouveaux riches – especially on the weekends – so has a somewhat different vibe. Nice, too, but I much preferred the lovely village vibe of Knysna and Wilderness.
The Crags – Monkeyland & Birds of Eden
Right past Plett comes an area called “The Crags” and it’s rich with wildlife activities, including an elephant sanctuary and dolphin/whale cruises.
For me, the highlight were two animal sanctuaries of a different kind: Monkeyland & Birds of Eden.
Both house an abundance of rescued animals, often from zoos and horrible conditions. Many are not native to South Africa, but the set up is amazing.
They are not in cages, but in a huge net covered jungle where they can roam freely and be wild again.
Visitors can walk the paths, but have to be accompanied by a guide at all times (Monkeyland) to ensure noone interacts, feeds, or otherwise mistreats the animals – as tempting as it is.
Storms River and Tsitsikamma National Park
One of the most stunning highlights along the Garden Route is Storms River at the Tsitsikamma National Park.
I let the pictures speak for themselves:
This concludes the most spectacular stretch of the Garden Route, but there are still a few more highlights on the way to Port Elizabeth…
St. Francis Bay
A delightful small community with little cottages and pleasantly less crowded. Another spot that I will explore further next time.
Jeffrey’s Bay – “J-Bay”
The famous surfer’s spot! – if that’s your passion, this is where you need to be. Just know that surfers occasionally get attacked and even killed by White Sharks who are plentiful here – most recently on camera during a high profile surfing competition. In that case, the victim survived, but that’s not usually the case.
Not the shark’s fault if I may say so – it’s their territory and we invade it at our own risk – just sayin’…..
From here, you can end the route in “PE” or continue North to Durban. Wouldn’t plan too much time on PE. The really amazing parts of the Garden Route are between Mossel Bay and Tsitsikamma and I would recommend planning at least a week (if not more) for this incredible region.
Addo Elephant Park
Another wonderful attraction near Port Elizabeth – and still usually considered part of the Garden Route – is Addo Elephant Park.
Addo is a National Park with an enormous abundance of elephants, especially around the water holes.
I dedicated another article with LOTs of photos just to Addo. Even if you have seen Kruger, Addo will be very different. Much smaller in size, but with amazing wildlife sightings and you can easily drive yourself.
The next leg of this South African Road Trip will lead us inland and into the mountains – very different scenery: