The Garden Route, South Africa
South Africa has a very good road network that winds its way through some seriously beautiful parts of the country, and the Garden Route is right up at the top of the list of scenic drives in the country, if not the world. This route takes you all along the southern coast of the Western Cape, from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, along a very picturesque stretch of the coastline. On one side you have the brilliant turquoise waters of the Indian ocean, while on the other side you have vistas of fertile farmland, closer to Cape Town, gradually giving way to lush green forested areas, lakes, mountains, and rivers as you approach Knysna. The name may be a little deceiving, as you are not going to see any gardens along the way; the poetic appellation rather refers to the very lush natural vegetation that lines the route which traverses an area of high rainfall.
The route can easily be driven in a day, but it is an ideal part of the country to explore at your leisure, over a few days or even a week. There is plenty to see along the way, several good overnight stops and plenty of activities to enjoy, including the world’s highest Bungee jump, canopy tours, fishing, sailing, diving, wildlife experiences and great wining and dining.
Starting in Cape Town, head out on the N2 towards Hermanus, a good place to stop for lunch or overnight. This is a great place for land-based whale watching from Sept to November, when pods of Southern Right whales descend on the bay to mate and calve...a wonderful sight! There are also several excellent wineries and restaurants to enjoy. Next stop is Mossel Bay where the adventurous can go Cage-diving among Great White sharks before you continue the drive to Knysna, stopping along the way at the Wilderness for a walk along the beautiful long white beach. This part of the coastline is an absolute Mecca for golfers and is home to several of the country’s best resort golf courses; you can play a different course every day!
Knysna is a delightful village to spend a few days feasting on fresh seafood and oysters, admiring the art galleries and enjoying the beaches and the Knysna Elephant Park, a sanctuary for rescued African elephants. Moving further up the coast you will come to Plettenberg Bay, one of the country’s premier summer holiday destinations where the emphasis is on fun in the sun. There are great beaches, lots of water-based activities and more good golf courses!
The Garden Route scenic drive ends at Port Elizabeth, where you can extend your adventure by visiting the near-by Addo Elephant Park, one of the best game reserves in the country and home to the Big 5. If you are driving this beautiful section of the coast in a motorhome rental or campervan hire you will be very well catered for; there are some really brilliant caravan parks all along the route, many of them just about on the beach!