The Garden Route in South Africa is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world and is an absolute must see on any South African road trip. Having spent three weeks exploring the country from East to West we couldn’t wait to embark on our much anticipated drive along the Garden Route towards Cape Town. The spectacular coastal drive stretches from Storms River Mouth in the Eastern Cape to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and it was love at first sight as we set off to explore the best sights. Read on for a round up of our favourite stops and some extra recommendations if you want to venture a little further off the Garden Route!
Our must see stops on the Garden Route!
We started our journey at Storms River Mouth (A) which marks the very start of the Garden Route and loved the spectacular Bloukrans Bridge (B), so much so that Dave decided to mark the occasion with a bungy jump of the bridge! We spent an incredible evening in the beautiful Plettenberg Bay (C) watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean and made a stop at Knysna (D) to cruise out to the Knysna Heads. The Map of Africa in Wilderness (E) secured its spot as one of our favourites and we loved the Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay (F) where the Garden Route comes to an end.
We’ve listed our stops in the direction we drove which was towards Cape Town. Reverse the order if you’re starting the journey from Cape Town!
Renting a Car in South Africa
Renting a car in South Africa is the best way to explore the country and the Garden Route, plus driving is relatively easy in the country (check out our tips on driving a rental car in South Africa). Having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace a see place that are simply not possible on group tours or public transport.
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1 | Storms River Mouth
Storms River Mouth is the dramatic starting point of the Garden Route where the Storms River enters the Indian Ocean. Tucked away off the main road in the Tsitsikamma National Park sits this breathtaking stretch of coastline where the Indian Ocean relentlessly pounds the headland. There area some amazing hikes up through the gorge and a stunning rope bridge for the adventurous types!
Sundowners in hand we watched the sunset and toasted a spectacular start to the Garden Route!
The best hotels in Storms River are:
Storms River Mouth is located in Tsitsikamma National Park, a South African National Park.
2 | Bloukrans Bridge
The architecturally stunning Bloukrans Bridge is, at over 200 metres, the highest in Africa and arches dramatically over the gorge below. As well as being visually stunning, it is also home to one of the highest bungy jumps in the world. Dave immediately signed up, leaped off that bridge like a pro and had the time of his life so if you’re feeling brave … bungy jump!!
3 | Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Bay, or Plett Bay as the locals refer to it, is a South Africa hidden gem and we were lucky to spend a night overlooking the Indian Ocean. We stayed at a gorgeous beach lodge, The Singing Kettle Beach Lodge, and toasted the beautiful sunset with delicious pizza and ice cream from a fab restaurant on the beach! It doesn’t get much better than a sunset over Plettenberg Bay!
4 | Knysna Heads
We stopped in Knysna, a waterfront town along the Garden Route, to check out the Knysna Heads. The Knysna Heads are two imposing sea cliffs which protect the entrance to the Knysna lagoon from the unrelenting Indian Ocean. Despite our sea drenching from a bumpy boat ride to the Heads it was spectacular to watch the sea thrash through the narrow gap and drink in the stunning scenery.
Best Hotels in Knysna
Knysna was one of our favourite places on the Garden Route. The combination of the beautiful cove setting by the sea and the incredible restaurants and hotel options make this a top stop on the Garden route.
- Villa Afrikana Guest Suites: Offering panoramic views across the bay this is one of the best options for staying in Knysna and close to the restaurants – Check prices now!
- Augusta Bay Guest House: Beautiful guest hotels with views over Knysna Bay – Check prices now!
- Protea Hotel by Marriott Knysna Quays – Check prices now!
5 | The Map of Africa
The Map of Africa is as intriguing as it is beautiful and it’s well worth the short trip to Wildnerness Heights to check it out. The viewpoint has a spectacular view overlooking the Kaaimans River Basin, where the flow of the river has formed a piece of land shaped exactly like a map of the African continent. The mix of mountain, forest and river is a beautiful sight!
6 | Kaaimans River Bridge
Close to the Map of Africa sits the Kaaimans River Bridge in Wilderness. The curved bridge passes over the amber coloured water at the mouth of an estuary and is a beautifully photogenic stop on the Garden Route. A steam train operated on the line until 2009 but the railway bridge is iconic even in its absence.
7 | Post Office Tree, Mossel Bay
The Garden Route comes to a close in the harbour town of Mossel Bay where our highlight was the Post Office Tree. The story goes that in 1501 a Portugese sailor sought refuge in Mossel Bay during a storm and he left a written account, with an address, in an old boot. The report was found by the person it was addressed to and the tree then served as a post office. It’s still possible to post letters at the old tree and we took the opportunity to send send ourselves a postcard from the boot shaped post box. It arrived home before us!
If you want to drive a little further and explore off the Garden Route
With the freedom of our own wheels we decided to make some extra stops close to the Garden Route. Cape Agulhas, Addo Elephant Park and Gansbaai were our absolute favourites and, if you have the time, we recommend that they are included them in your itinerary!
8 | Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant Park just outside Port Elizabeth is home to one of the densest elephant populations on earth as well as rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard. We spent two full days self driving in Addo before starting the Garden Route and we were totally addicted to the abundance of wildlife. With 450 elephants our elephant encounters were truly magical and we will never forget the moment a family of elephants walked alongside us in the setting sun.
Best Hotels for visiting Addo Elephant Park
- Gorah Elephant Camp – You can stay right in the park with the elephants at Gorah elephant camp – Check prices now!
- River Bend Lodge – another option for staying in Addo park itself! – Check prices now!
- Protea Hotel by Marriott – Check prices now!
- Radisson Blu Hotel Port Elizabeth – Check prices now!
9 | Cape Agulhas
As we left the Garden Route for Cape Town we couldn’t resist a detour to check out Cape Agulhas. Cape Agulhas is the most Southern point in the African continent and marks the dividing point of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. The rugged wilderness, the crashing waves where two oceans meet and the stunning African sunset took our breaths away.
10 | Gansbaai
Gansbaai is a stunning stopover en route to Cape Town and its natural beauty is mesmerising. The rugged coastline is as spectacular as the sealife in its waters: whales, seals, penguins and sharks are abundant in the area and it’s known as the Great White Shark capital of the World. Gansbaai is also one of the most popular spots for cage shark diving if you so desire! We stayed at the stunning Bellavista Country Place where the photo below was taken from.
Best Hotels in Gansbaai
- Bellavista Country Place – If you’re visiting the Garden Route you have to stay in this incredible family run boutique hotel. We had an amazing time here and the food is incredible – Check prices now!
- Bellamente Serene – A stunning hotel located right on the beach in Gansbaai – Check prices now!
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