The Garden Route in the Western Cape is one of South Africa's main tourist attractions and is generally considered to stretch from Mossel Bay to Storms River along the Indian ocean.
The Garden Route is bounded on the south by the coastline of the Indian ocean, and to the north by the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains.
- 1 Mossel Bay — this is where Bartolomeu Dias set foot ashore in 1488 and South Africa`s first post office was founded in 1500.
- 2 George — the largest town along the Route.
- 3 Knysna — one of the most popular tourist destinations, famed for its forests and lagoons.
- 4 Plettenberg Bay — popular with beach-lovers
- 5 Nature's Valley — one of the few remaining areas of truly outstanding natural beauty along the Garden Route
- 6 Storms River — the gateway to the Tsitsikamma National Park.
- 1 Tsitsikamma National Park — encloses one of the most beautiful coasts in South Africa between Storms River and Nature's Valley.
- 2 Tsitsikamma — one of the Cacadu District's seven wonders, the area is covered in large tracts of indigenous forest and Fynbos with deep river gorges
- 3 Wilderness — a holiday resort renowned for its tranquil sea, seemingly endless beaches and natural lakes and lagoons
The Garden Route is the name given to the 170 km Mossel Bay to Storms River section of the 700 km route between Cape Town and Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). This route, which runs roughly east-west, lies between the Indian Ocean to the south and the Langeberg-Outeniqua mountain range to the north. The mountain range is between 10 and 30 km from the sea. On average, the area receives 700 mm rain per annum with average summer high of 25°C and, at sea level, an average winter low of 7°C, though snow is often seen on the mountains during the winter months (July-August). The sea, which is fed by the warm Mozambique current has a typical temperature of 21°C.
Since there are no easy routes inland from this section of coastline, the area has not attracted much industry other than forestry. With the development of good roads during the last 50 years it become one of South Africa's popular tourist areas.
There are regular domestic flights to George and Port Elizabeth. The nearest international airport is in Cape Town.
The Garden Route is part of the N2 (highway linking Cape Town to Durban and beyond). It is easily reached from
- Cape Town : Follow the N2 highway eastwards for 350 km to arrive at Mossel Bay.
- Durban, Port Elizabeth : Follow the N2 highway westwards (150 km from Port Elizabeth) to arrive at Storms River.
- Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein : Follow the N1 southwards as far as Colesburg, then follow the N9 (in total about 600 km from Bloemfontein). Either take the R339 at Uniondale for Knysna (70 km) or, when the N9 terminates, take the N12 for George (20 km)
- Kimberley : Follow the N12 southwards for about 620 km for George.
The main companies offer regular services along the Garden Route from Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The region is also on the Baz Bus route.
The best way to tour the Route is by car. You can hire a car all the major towns along the Garden Route, but be aware of one-way fees for rental cars.
Classic Rail is working to restore service on the narrow-gauge steam train line (the Choo-Tjoe) between George and Knysna.
- Otter Trail, Storms River, ☏ +27 12 428-9111, [email protected]. The Otter Trail is a hiking trail along the Garden Route coast and is named for the Cape Clawless Otter which occurs in this region. This trail is widely regarded as one of the finest in the world and stretches from Storms River Mouth in the east to Nature's Valley in the west, is 26 km long as the crow flies and 41 km as the hiker walks. Walking the trail takes 5 days, and the 4 nights are spent in comfortable huts with superb views. Booking is necessary months in advance.
- Tsitsikamma Mountain Trail, Nature's Valley, ☏ +27 42 281-1712, [email protected]. The Tsitsikamma Mountain Trail journeys through lush forests and mountain fynbos. Ancient river gorges and abundant rivers and streams provide plentiful swimming opportunities. Beginning in Nature’s Valley and ending 60-km further at either the Storms River Bridge or Village, this six day, unidirectional trail takes hikers through the heart of the Tsitsikamma Mountains. Shorter variations (2,3,4 or 5 days) are possible as each of the five overnight huts has its own unique access route. Advance booking is usually necessary.
- Outeniqua Trail, Beervlei, ☏ +27 42 281-1712, [email protected]. This spectacular trail can be conquered as a series of day walks or over a full seven day period, starting at Beervlei in the upper reaches of the Park and ending at Harkerville in the East between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. This trail carves its way in the cool shade of undulating indigenous forest with rustic huts, a stop-over, for those endeavouring the seven day trek, or as an alternative starting point for those day walkers relative to the level of challenge you desire. The overnight cabins are regularly stocked with firewood. Water and rudimentary bedding are supplied to complete that outdoor experience. A portage service may become available in the near future at an extra fee. A minimum of two to a maximum of 24 hikers are allowed on the trail at any one time. Advance booking is necessary.
- Ocean Safaris, Plettenberg Bay, ☏ +27 82 784-5729, [email protected]. Sightings of whales throughout the year. Southern Rights and Humpbacks - July to December. Brydes Whales all year round but more prolific during the summer months. Dolphins include Bottlenose, Humpback and Commons. Cape Fur seal colony on Robberg Peninsula.
- Quad Adventures, ☏ +27 72 303-9011. Camp under the stars in the wild after a day of winding through dramatic mountain terrain of the Garden Route to the vast open spaces of the Little Karoo. Choose between 4 wheels or 2 and enjoy hours or even days of adventure. Tours range from a 25 minute introductory route through beautiful valleys to overnight all-out action deep in the wild.
- Timberlake, Halfway btw Wilderness & Sedgefield (look out for wooden cabins on left if coming from George direction). 9:00-17:00. Specialist retail cabins including: Confectionary, Cheese, Wine, 100% organic Health Shop, Fairy Gem, Eden Nursery with four fantastic eateries: Cafe d'Afrique coffee shop, Zucchini restaurant, Oyster Shack and Country Deli.
- La Carla mask atelier, [email protected] (between plett & knysna, on N2, 6km outside plett), ☏ +27 82 499-6295. 9AM-5PM. The studio specializes in creating Unique Handcrafted Venetian Carnival Masks, next door to the Hot Chocolate Cafe. studio and shop open to public R125 - R1500.
As a main tourist destination there are many restaurants for every taste. Enjoy superb fish from the ocean ; Knysna is the place to taste some oysters.
- Hot Chocolate Cafe, HH 32 Holt Hill Plettenbergbay (between Plettenbergbay & Knysna), ☏ +27 760544945. 9-5. delectable Belgian chocolate products handmade on premises. 25.
There is no shortage of all kinds of accommodation but book ahead on weekends / holiday. Especially during the summer the Garden Route is a popular holiday destination, not only for foreign tourists but also for South Africans.
If you are backpacking, the area has numerous hostels. Campers will find excellent facilities at sites like the Ebb and Flow campsite in Wilderness,  [dead link]. The Tsitsikamma sites at Storms's River mouth and Nature's Valley are also places of scenic beauty, and out of season can be havens of peace where otters appear on the beach  [dead link]. If its elephants that you're after then the best place to stay in is the Main Camp  located in the Addo Elephant National Park.
Compared with the larger cities the towns along the Garden Route are quite safe. As always use your common sense. Driving at night is fine.
- Go ahead for Cape Town or Port Elizabeth.
- Jeffreys Bay is well-known for its surfing beaches.
- Visit an ostrich farm at Oudtshoorn (50 km north of George).
- Visit the Little Karoo - an valley 40 km north of the Garden Route demarcated by the Outeniqua Mountain range.