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The Gap Year Blog

That’s how you travel the Garden Route

9 Jul 2019 13:50 PM

Photo Credit: Pixabay | ADD

Edited with permission by Frontier

White sandy beaches, picturesque lagoons, lakes, rolling hills and a few mountains. The Garden Route on the southwest tip of Africa is one of the top travel destinations in South Africa and high on the must-see list. Spot whale and dolphins when in season, wander along the coast and into the country on an endless network of footpaths and be seduced by its natural beauty.

The distance from Mossel Bay, a 130.000-soul harbor town, to Storms River is just about 200km but packed with beautiful landscapes and things to do. The Garden Route gets its name from the Garden Route National Park that it covers. It meanders between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua mountain ranges creating stunning views on either side of the road.

You can simply drive down Garden Route in one day. That si definitely great, but then you would miss out on all the beautiful picnic spots, viewpoints and fun activities for travel junkies, adrenaline lovers, bathing belles as well as nature lovers. How about mountain biking in the Harkerville Forest, black water tubing down the Storms River or bird watching in the Wilderness National Park?

There is a lot to do and see along the Garden Route.

Alternatively, you can also just relax and soak in the South African sun on one of the excellent beaches that are dotted along the 300km of coastline. You don’t have to start the route in Mossel Bay, you can also start in Cape Town and extend it by driving along the coast to Cape Agulhas.

Best time to travel the Garden Route

You can travel the Garden Route in two days, but we would recommend spending at least a week to immerse into the natural and diverse beauty of this location. Of course, it is also possible to stretch it to a 10 or even 14-day road trip. The best time to travel the Garden Route is in the South African spring and summer, from October to April.

During these months you are better off staying dry as the area is one of the richest rainfall regions. During that time, you can prepare yourself for daily temperatures around 25 to 30 C – perfect for swimming but sunscreen and headwear are essential!

How to get around

As you probably already have noticed, the best way to explore The Garden Route is by car (although you also have the possibility to go by bus, but you are less flexible, and it can become very sticky in summer). As all roads are in a good condition, you do not need a 4x4. Any stable car will do. Just pay attention and stick to the speed limits, especially near town and communities – for safety reasons and speed cameras.

You will find a hostel in almost every town or village you pass. However, the best and most common way to spend the night is to camp. It is the cheapest way to get around and there are some amazing campsites along the way. In South Africa you usually pay the camp per site and not per person.

Here are some things you should definitely do when you travel the Garden Route:

  • Hermanus – In Hermanus you can spot Marine Big – African Penguins, Cape Fur Seals, Dolphins, Southern Right Whales and Great White Sharks. The town is known to be the best land-based whale watching point in the world. 
  • Mossel Bay – This relatively small harbour town on Africa’s Southern Cape is one of South Africa’s touristic hot spots and thus well equipped with adventurous activities. Every fantasy will be satisfying here. Activities include abseiling, scuba diving, shark-cage diving, sailing, quad-bike riding, dolphin watching, sand surfing or exploring the Oyster Catcher Trail. 
  • Cango Caves – A guided tour through the Cango Caves is stunningly beautiful. Crawling through the tunnels in nothing for claustrophobic people or people with back problems but you’ll forget all the pain once you see the Crystal waterfalls, pipe organ formations and giant stalactites and stalagmites. 
  • 7 Passes Drive – Don’t miss the scenic 7 Passes Drive! This 75km drive from the George end through to Knysna twists and turns through indigenous forests and gorges. Take two or three stops, take pictures, enjoy the spectacular views, have a coffee and stop to engage with some locals in the latest news. This round trip literally slows your journey down and lets you enjoy life. 
  • Hackerville Coastal Hiking Trail – The two-day hiking trail between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay is nothing any conventional two-day hike. The trail is only 27km long but exciting and leads you across wooden bridges, though soaring heights and along steep cliffs. Ladders and chains included. 
  • Wilderness National Park – Tucked away in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains is the Wilderness National Park, a fascinating combination of lakes, rivers, lagoons, sandy beaches and the ocean against a backdrop of thriving forests and lush mountains. Go hiking or canoeing and feel one with nature while staying in the Ebb and Flow Shelter. 
  • Elephant Walk at Diepwalle – The Park is designed to allow injured or dislocated elephants recover and socialize. The walk starts and ends at the Diepwalle Forest Station. It is an easy walk that offers a number of route options (7km, 8km and 9km). You go with a guide and might see and elephant or four, maybe not depending on how many elephants the park has at the time of your visit. 
  • Plettenberg Bay – Another tourist hot spot. Even though Plettenberg Bay – or Plett as people like to call it – is a resort. Although it can be very busy, check it out. It has some nice offers and many tours start from here. 
  • Tsitsikamma National Park – 80km of protected coastline with indigenous forests and a dramatic coastline. Tsitsikamma NP is Africa’s oldest and biggest marine reserve preserving dolphins, porpoises and Cape Clawless Otters.

The Garden Route is so divers and probably one of the most picturesque and remarkable road trips you’ll ever do. The distance from Mossel Bay to Storms River is only 200km but the range of vegetation, wildlife and outdoor activities are stunning.

By Desiree Schneider - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!