Garden Route Tours
Stretching 300 km, the Garden Route is South Africa’s botanical nook.
There is no place in South Africa quite like the Garden Route. It includes one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline that South Africa has to offer and crosses through numerous small, picturesque coastal towns. Named for its immensely diverse vegetation, most of which are indigenous to the area, the Garden Route is a myriad of lagoons, lakes, forests and mountains.
The route is quite a popular attraction, and when travelling our beautiful country, you cannot miss this rich landscape of quiet beaches, dense forests, and unique attractions. The journey begins 4 hours from Cape Town and winds its way up the Eastern Cape coast ending at the fairy tale Tsitsikamma Forest.
Mountains feature heavily on a tour of the Garden Route, with the rolling green hills being one of the major characteristics of the route. The mountains lie close to the windy beaches and bays, making guests feel as though they are in a different world. When travelling through the Storms River and Heidelberg, the route runs alongside the coastline and is dotted with lakes, golden beaches, indigenous forests and those magnificent mountains.
The Garden Route has a longstanding fascination with all who visit and the best way to get the most out of your time here is to enjoy a Garden Route tour. Garden Route tour packages take you to the most popular attractions along South Africa’s most popular coastal route.
With Southern Circle, you can look forward to the best safari on the Garden Route. Our Garden Route holiday packages will take you on a journey to the Congo Caves, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Post Office Tree and various other extraordinary Garen Route tourist attractions. You will be amazed when you see South Africa’s clear oceans, forests and the Little Karoo.
Whether you book a 3 Day Garden Route Guided Tour or 19 Day Grand South African Tour, there will be plenty of opportunities to explore all that there is to offer along the Garden Route. The magnificent Tsitsikamma National Park and beautiful town of Knysna never fail to impress our guests.
Some of the longer tours, such as the 10 Day Taste of South Africa Tour, will include Kruger National Park excursions as well as tours of KwaZulu Natal.
All those who travel the Garden Route can agree on one thing; it’s a mystical place unlike any other you will come across in South Africa. Our country boasts wonderfully unique landscapes that differ around every twist and turn. The Garden Route is no exception. The route has an oceanic climate, with mild summers and mild winters making it the perfect place to travel regardless of the time of year. You can drive for long stretches without seeing a soul, and the small towns that dot the path are famous for their hospitality and genuine warm vibes.
Some of the small towns you can stop over in along the way include Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley and Little Brak River. George is the largest city on the route and it serves as the administrative centre. Before you get the impression that you will spend most of your time here driving, you’ll be happy to know that there are numerous activities to do along the way. Along with hiking in the valleys, kayaking in the rivers that meander through the mountains and spending some downtime at the beach, more adventurous guests can go on tree top excursions through the forests. There is something for everyone along the way!
The Garden Route is South Africa’s biggest botanical garden and guests will never forget their travels here. You can explore the area with one of our Garden Route Tours.
A Brief History of the Garden Route
There are no political tales or something about how human history has transformed the Garden Route itself, into what it is. The history of the route is 100% natural. Those who discovered the beautiful path through the mountains did only that, discover. The rest is Mother Nature’s beautiful hand at work. Some of the attractions do, however, have some kind of history attached to them, whether it is a town sprung up from necessity or a natural attraction used as a shelter for the earliest inhabitants.
Guests enjoying a Garden Route tour will learn all about the history behind each attraction they visit.
Garden Route Highlights
The gorgeous, sometimes misty and cool, Eastern Cape weather adds to the adventure that guests can look forward to here. With a Garden Route tour, you will miss nothing and leave with a head full of memories and a heart full of love for the Cape. These are just a few of the big Garden Route attractions.
The Knysna Heads
The Heads have a fascinating history, and they have over the years become a fabulous attraction. These rocky peaks stand as sentries, dominating the landscape and giving guests the impression that these rocks are guarding the coastline and the small towns close to them. And guard they have, in their own way, as many fishermen and ships have met their untimely demise, dashed on the jagged rocks. For seafarers, the route past the Knysna Heads is a place where only brave men dare tread.
You don’t have to get up close to see The Heads. They can be viewed from numerous restaurants and those indulging in water sports in the area will find that The Heads are always in view. If you want to climb to The Heads, the East Head is the more accessible of the peaks and there are signposts along the way to guide you to it.
Between Storms River and Mossel Bay, guests can do a bit of whale watching. A boat ride is the best way to get a good look at the whales, while land-based whale watching is also possible, albeit not as effective as when on the lookout from other locations. There is also quite a large Cape Fur Seal population living close to the area, and if you plan your boat trip properly, you could see the seals along the way.
Pinnacle Point Caves
The ocean along the route has carved out a number of overhanging caves all along the coastline. On a small piece of the headland, close to Mossel Bay, there is a collection of such caves. These caves show evidence of human habitation some 40 000 to 150 000 years ago, making the caves an important historical attraction. The caves are breathtaking and can be explored to great depths. From the months of July to December, whales can be spotted from the cave. Booking a tour to the caves is a must, and booking will need to be done in advance.
Any adrenaline junkie has heard about Bloukrans Pass but you don’t have to chase the thrill of bungee jumping to see the pass for yourself. Home to what is considered the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, the Bloukrans Pass is also a beautiful attraction for those wanting to get a better view of the forests and winding rivers. The views you will encounter when travelling the pass are indescribable.
Named by the Khoisan because of the abundance of water, the Tsitsikamma National Park is situated in the heart of the Garden Route. About 30% of the park is covered in Fynbos while the rest of the park is characterised by indigenous plants. One could say that the Tsitsikamma National Park is a collection of everything the Garden Route is about; white tipped ocean breakers beneath cliff faces, rivers cutting through massive mountains, dense forests to explore, and so much more to see!
See the Garden Route for yourself when you join us on a once in a lifetime tour. Book your Garden Route Tour today.
Your Ultimate Guide to the Garden Route
A World of Experiences in one Garden Route trip
The Garden Route is an exquisite stretch of road between the Storms River in the Eastern Cape and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape. This winding journey has created one of the most exciting and beautiful ‘road trip’ experiences in the world. The variety of mind-blowing scenic beauty, from sun-drenched winelands to lush, ancient forests, majestic mountains, semi-arid desert and pristine beaches and seascapes is unsurpassed.
It’s not just the scenery that delights, it’s the opportunity to interact with wildlife such as elephants, whales, penguins and more. It’s the adrenaline junkie’s dream with bungee, scuba diving, ziplining, surfing, sandboarding, abseiling, paragliding, white water rafting, fishing and horse-riding opportunities. It’s the nature lovers dream too. The Garden Route in the Cape has been added to UNESCO’s World Network of biosphere reserves, with plenty of opportunity for tranquil river canoeing and forest hikes amongst an abundance of flora and fauna. The culture vulture is not forgotten – quaint and historic villages line the route.
Then there are wonderful opportunities for fine dining, and gorgeous Garden Route accommodation options every evening, from vibey backpackers, to cosy lodges and B n B’s, to world-class luxury hotels and spas.
You can self-drive the Garden Route or go on one of the excellent Garden Route Tours that operate seamlessly year-round. You can take it slow and meander, or whiz through, depending on your time frame. You can stay in different towns every night or base yourself in one place and take day trips. There are so many things to do and see along the way, so you can tailor your Garden Route trip to your favourite experiences.
The official beginning of the Garden Route is in Mossel Bay, but many travellers start from Cape Town on the N2. There are many routes, starting points and detours that you can take to customise your Garden Route experience according to your tastes, time limit and budget.
Map of the Garden Route
Towns and Attractions on the Garden Route
The order in which you will travel the route depends on how much of the route you will cover, how many detours you take, and where your starting and ending point will be. So, in no particular order, here are some of the gorgeous towns, attractions and activities you can enjoy on the Garden Route.
Knysna is a charming town that puts the beauty of nature front and centre. The town is nestled next to a beautiful lagoon that is a marine reserve, full of diverse fish species and the unique Knysna seahorse. It’s the perfect spot to drink in the great outdoors, with lakes, mountains and beach.
The famous indigenous forests in Knysna are the largest closed canopy forests in South Africa, and home to a diversity of Fynbos vegetation that includes 8000 plant species. There are wonderful, demarcated hiking routes in the forest. The forests used to be home to many elephants, but sadly, very few are left in the forest. However, the Knysna Elephant Park has brought orphaned elephants from the Kruger National Park back to Knysna and is also worth a visit. You can even walk with the gentle giants in the park.
The Knysna Heads are two dramatic cliffs that stand and protect the mouth of the lagoon and are well worth a visit with your camera.
The town of Knysna has a central street that is part of the N2, and lined with individually owned small shops and boutiques, full of original art and hand-made items. The narrow streets are surrounded by hills and mountains, all beautifully covered in indigenous vegetation. Restaurants and coffee shops abound, and you will have to choose carefully, as the dining is delicious! Artists and crafters are drawn to this exquisite natural scenery, and small studios and galleries provide opportunities to peruse original artworks.
For a spot of nightlife, the Knysna Waterfront boasts trendy bars, restaurants and clubs. It’s quite something to enjoy an evening cocktail while watching the sun set over the Knysna Heads.
Adventure seekers will not be disappointed staying in Knysna, as abseiling, canopy tours, sky diving and scuba activities are all available close to the town. Golfers will be in heaven with several world-class golf courses in Knysna and in neighbouring towns.
If you visit during August or September, the chances of seeing Southern Right whales on their migratory journey is very high.
When you hit Plettenberg Bay, you’ll know it’s time to kick back and spend some time on the beach. The pristine, white sand and clear, azure water will have you spending hours next to the waves, just lazing, or trying your hand at surfing.
The town is very popular with tourists during the high seasons and has a buzzing nightlife to boot. Even during the daytime, the town is a mecca of interesting shops and boutiques. There is lots to do for the adventurer – parachuting, bungee jumping, mountain biking, sand boarding and horse riding are very popular. Sixteen wine estates close by, a township tour or tavern tour and lots of seasonal events mean there is always something new and exciting to do when you come off the beach in ‘Plett’.
The historic town of George is nestled into the foot of the magnificent Outeniqua Mountain Range, surrounded by beautiful scenery. George is one of the largest towns of the Garden Route but it does not scrimp on charm and beauty.
The town centre is sophisticated, with a mall and all commercial amenities, but the wide streets and tranquil ambience make sure its attraction stays intact. Lovely shops, restaurants, outdoor cafes with mountain views, theatres and cinemas cater to all different tastes.
There are historical landmarks, excellent golfing facilities and stunning beaches and bays just outside of town, including Victoria Bay, known for its perfect surfing waves, great fishing and whale and dolphin sighting.
Other interesting and different activities can include strawberry picking, cheese tasting, a tour of a traditional Xhosa Village with singing, dancing, storytelling and home-brewed beer. There is a bird-breeding farm, the Outeniqua Country Hop (full of farm products, arts and crafts) and plenty of opportunities for hiking and exploring.
As with all stops along the garden route, adventure is never far away! You can go caving, climbing, abseiling, rafting, paragliding, angling and 4 x 4’ing, all within a few kms of the town.
Mossel bay is steeped in maritime history, from when Portuguese explorer Bartolemeu Dias landed here and named it ‘The Bay of Cowherds.’ It was renamed by a Dutch explorer later, who seemed to be delighted with the delicious mussels that were added to his crew’s diet. The Mossel Bay mussels are considered to amongst the finest in the world and must be sampled.
Staying with the explorers in history, one of the major town attractions is the ‘Post Office Tree’. An unfortunate Portuguese sailor lost his fleet in a storm, and recounted his woes on paper, which he then ‘posted’ in an old shoe and hung from a milkwood tree. This old shoe served as post office for years. The shoe is no longer there, but a shoe-shaped post box has been built under the tree, which is around 800 years old and has been named a National Monument. Post a letter or postcard here on your travels and it will be stamped with a special commemorative stamp.
Mossel Bay is sunny nearly all year round, and home to around 60kms of warm, golden beach stretches. Museums, archaeological excavations, bushman rock art, golf, boating and yachting, game reserves, shark cage diving and shipwreck diving are all available, making your Mossel bay adventure a full and exciting one.
Wilderness, Sedgefield and Nature’s Valley
Even the names of these small towns echoe the natural beauty of the towns and surrounds.
In Wilderness, bird calls fill the air, the beach is dazzling and the fynbos is everywhere. It’s a nature-lovers paradise, a place to take your walking shoes, binoculars, camera and mountain bike and get deep into the wilderness of rivers and forests. This is the place to breathe in the freshest of clean, pure forest air, kick back, ramble, bird watch or pull out a book and laze amongst nature’s glory.
Nearby, the pretty town of Sedgefield sits next to a lagoon. More gorgeous beaches, hidden nooks and crannies and gorgeous nature walks await. If you can, opt for a Saturday morning in Sedgefield, and potter around the fresh-produce markets, like The Mosaic Market, The Scarab Village Market or The Wild Oats Farmer’s Market, sampling home-grown fresh produce and life at a pace that you could certainly get used to.
Wildlife rehabilitation is a big part of the Sedgefield Community. Injured birds of prey are cared for at Radical Raptors, where amazing flying displays are held daily at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.
In Nature’s Valley, you can be forgiven in thinking you are one of the only people to have set foot in the tangled forests and wild beaches, such is the untouched nature of this reserve. There are many sanctuaries within a short drive from this town consisting of around 10 streets in total.
Storms River and Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve
Here is another wonderfully scenic town situated by a powerful river that snakes through the dramatic Tsitsikamma Mountain Range on its way to the Indian ocean. Adventure sports beckon, amongst the lush forests, indigenous trees and crashing waves and stormy seas. A suspension bridge above the steep cliffs and dramatic, thundering waves gives incredible lookout views.
Short walking trails in the Tsitsikamma National park appeal to some, while others opt for the strenuous but unforgettable 5-day Otter Trail along the rugged and wildly beautiful coastline. There are canopy tours, the world’s highest bungee from the Bloukrans River Bridge, fishing, tubing, kloofing and more for the thrill seeker.
Other Garden Route Road Trip Attractions
Oudtshoorn, Ostriches and the Cango Caves
Experience a change of scene and move away from the coast on a winding road through the Langkloof Mountains and emerge into the austere beauty of the Klein Karoo. This is ostrich country, and the giant, awkward birds are everywhere.
Ostrich farms and colourful farm stalls full of show-worthy plumes line your road, along with grand and extravagant Sandstone homesteads built in the old days from farmer’s ‘feather-fortunes’. You can look straight into one of these creature’s small, beady eyes at the Cango Ostrich Show Farm, and learn a bit about ostrich farming.
The Cango Caves limestone Chambers deliver a mystical underground world of stalactites, stalagmites and historical Khoi San paintings. A relaxed Heritage Tour is perfect for an informative exploration of the geological wonders and their evolution, as well as a chance to experience the amazing sound quality and natural cave acoustics. The Adventure Tour is for those who are happy to twist and wriggle into the limestone chimneys themselves. Time in Oudtshoorn would not be the same without sampling the delicious ostrich steaks for dinner.
For another change of scene on the Garden Route, you can head on to the Route 62. It’s the lekker, local version of the famous Route 66 in America. This one winds through the longest wine route in the Cape. Everywhere you look there are vintage burger bars, fabulous farm stalls and ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ towns, each with a unique story and a charm. Wine stops are an absolute must!
Your Garden Route Trip
Driving the Garden Route in South Africa is a pleasure, with well-kept roads and polite road users. You can DIY the journey or get a Garden Route Travel Guide or Garden Route Tour Package to suit you, leaving you free to just enjoy the scenery. When planning your Garden Route holiday, you can rest assured that Garden Route accommodation is plentiful, varied, friendly and world-class. You can travel the Garden Route on a budget or travel the Garden Route in luxurious style. Either way, the real star of the Garden Route show is nature in all her finery and glory, lovingly preserved by the custodians of the