South Africa’s Garden Route stretches along the coast from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River Mouth in the Eastern Cape. Named for its forests and diversity of plants, the Garden Route offers some of South Africa’s most scenic places to holiday.
The main towns along the coast are Mossel Bay, George, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, and each has unique attractions, but the best way to experience the Garden Route is to see them all. Simply driving along the Garden Route is a joy, and while it can be done in a day, those who stop along the way are rewarded with beautiful ocean views and great local hospitality. Beaches, forests, lakes and estuaries make up the Garden Route, in a number of reserves and national parks along the coast. The Garden Route National Park is worth exploring, with a host of activities available to visitors including hiking, birding, mountain biking and canoeing. Nearby Tsitsikamma National Park also boasts an incredible diversity of forest vegetation, and extends 5,5km out to sea, making it the first Marine national park on the continent.
Also a first in the Garden Route is Africa’s first slow-town, Sedgefield. With a popular Saturday market, Sedgefield is a laid-back lagoon-side town, with beautiful stretches of uninterrupted beach and plenty of small-town charm. The busier towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are very popular beach holiday destinations, attracting locals and tourists alike throughout the year.
The best time of the year to visit the Garden Route is between February and April, when there is the lowest chance of rain, with warm midday temperatures of 22 C /72 F to 30 C/86 F. September is also a good time to visit as the fynbos blooms in spring, but daytime temperatures can be cool, around 18 C /64 F. Knysna and Plettenberg Bay become especially busy in December and January, which is peak holiday season in South Africa. The Garden Route is a very popular destination for adventure sports. Each year locals and holidaymakers take to the skies, the trees and the sea to climb, sail and glide over the Garden Route. The wind conditions along this coast make it an ideal spot to paraglide. In Tsitsikamma, treetop canopy tours are the best way to explore the forest, and is a fun and safe family activity. South Africa’s highest bungee jump is also found in the Garden Route, on the Bloukrans Bridge. At 216m above the Bloukrans river, this is one of the world’s highest bungee jumps, attracting adrenaline junkies from all over the world.
The airport in George provides easy access to the Garden Route, and is a two hour flight from Johannesburg, and less than an hour from Cape Town. Accommodation varies from five-star beachside hotels in Plettenberg Bay to private mountain cabins in Knysna, there are options for all tastes and budgets.