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The Garden Route

The Garden Route

South Africa’s Garden Route is another one of the country’s jewels worthy of your attention, especially in the summer months and perfect for an easy self-drive. Stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth jump into a car and head east – and you’ll discover one of the world’s most remarkable coastal stretches.

Stop at Hermanus for seasonal whale watching, explore the beaches and cliff path walks or play some golf at Mossel Bay before heading to the heart of the Garden Route at Knysna to enjoy delicious seafood by the picturesque lagoon.

Plettenberg Bay is packed with marine life, pristine beaches and buzzing with daytime activities and nightlife, whilst the enchanting forests of Tsitsikamma National Park offer great hiking country and is the place to take a canopy tour zipping from platform to platform through indigenous forest.

The whole of the Garden Route is dotted with quaint towns with lodges and small guesthouses offering a warm local hospitality.  Oudsthoorn is a favourite stop to see the renowned Cango Caves and visit its famed ostrich farms.

 

at a glance

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Introduction

The Garden Route in South Africa is a year round destination, conveniently located from Cape Town and ideally suited to a self-drive holiday where visitors can take in the scenic beauty of this route at their own pace. Plan a meander of at least four days breaking your journey to stay at a choice of splendid accommodation along the way.  The main arterial highway is a highlight on most visitors’ itineraries, stretching from Heidelberg in the Southern Cape to Storms River Village on the Eastern Cape border. The route reveals a mix of ancient forests, fynbos floral kingdom, secluded bays, towering sand dunes, mountain passes, shimmering lagoons and seaside towns.  While the Garden Route road is extremely scenic, it is the hidden destinations on its side roads that are the secret of this region.

Oudtshoorn, home to dozens of ostrich farms has found its way onto the Garden Route from where early inhabitants and elephants have been crossing the Outeniqua Mountains to the coast for many centuries.  Other surrounding towns well worth visiting include Calitzdorp, Sedgefield, The Wilderness, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Over time ancient woodcutter clans, fishermen, artists, businessmen and top chefs have all found their niches along the Garden Route in the Western Cape.

Don’t forget to look seawards to catch sight of southern right and humpback whales, bottlenose and common dolphins, and even killer whales that frolic close to shore, especially near Plettenberg Bay.

The Garden Route National Park, which weaves together the existing Tsitsikamma National Park’s ancient forests and wild coastline with the Wilderness National Park via a chain of lakes and preserved sections of fynbos, is a fascinating mix of ecosystems. And don’t forget to look out for the raucous cry and vivid scarlet wings of the Knysna turaco.

When To Visit

The Garden Route has a Mediterranean Maritime climate, with moderately hot summers, and mild to chilly winters. It is one of the richest rainfall areas in South Africa. Most of the rains occur in the winter months, brought on by the humid sea-winds from the Indian ocean. The Garden Route’s temperate weather falls between two climatic regions of summer and winter rainfall so it rains mostly at night which keeps the area perennially green and ensuring towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Storms River and Wilderness are wonderful holiday towns to base yourself in.

Even in winter temperatures rarely fall below 16°C – so your decision as to when to go to the Garden Route should also depend on your interests: whale watching season runs from July to October (peaking in September), hiking is also good in winter, and the 10-day Knysna Festival in July is a great combination of sporting events, food and live local music. For beach weather the best months to travel are from February to April. This is a popular destination during the December holidays and Easter – so expect everywhere to be busier than usual.

Spring (September to October) is a lovely time to visit, temperatures are around 15 -25 Celsius, it is usually relatively dry (with only moderate chances of rain) and the Fynbos flowers are blooming. October Half Term is one of the best times of year for a family to visit the Cape. The weather is improving but not too hot and there is a good chance of seeing the spectacular whales of the Coast of Hermanus and around (the whale season runs July – October).

Summer (November to February is generally dry and hot with day time temperatures of 25-35 Celsius and plenty of sunshine (10.5hrs a day on average). The Christmas Holidays may offer the best weather but are generally best avoided as the area gets over-run with domestic tourists and prices are vastly inflated. February Half Term is the most popular time of the year for British families to visit South Africa, with the advantage of great weather without the peak crowds of Christmas / New Year.

Autumn (March – May) is also one of the best times of year to visit the region. If you can put up with cooler overnight temperatures, you’ll find the country much quieter with very pleasant warm days in the gentle autumn sunshine. Easter Holidays and May Half Term are therefore perfect times to visit South Africa.

Winter (June – September) is the least favourable time of year to visit from the perspective of the weather. However the appeal of seeing the Southern Right Whales, low season rates and generally mild sunny days grants a certain logic to visiting the Cape during the UK summer holidays. The big drawback is the strong chance of blustery wet conditions around Cape Town and the winelands. The Garden Route and Eastern Cape is very dry during winter, but expect very cool overnight temperatures, you will need to pack some warm clothes, especially if you are going on early morning game drives.

 

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Kynsna

Climate Chart – Oudtshoorn

The Garden Route Highlights

WIldlife Reserves

WIldlife Reserves

WIldlife Reserves

A Safari holiday can easily be combined with a self-drive along the Garden Route. There is a choice ...

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WIldlife Reserves

WIldlife Reserves

A Safari holiday can easily be combined with a self-drive along the Garden Route. There is a choice of private game reserves that are only several hours drive from Cape Town, great for families as they are malaria-free and home to the famed Big 5. Gondwana Game Reserve is located on the flanks of the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains, not far from Mossel Bay at the northern end of the Garden Route, it’s here that the Big Five – and scores of other animals and birds – roam freely among 11 000 ha of ericas, proteas and other fynbos. You can also find endangered species like the Cape mountain zebra.

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Cango Caves

Cango Caves

Cango Caves

The Cango Caves 30 km from Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, comprise huge chambers and narrow ...

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Cango Caves

Cango Caves

The Cango Caves 30 km from Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, comprise huge chambers and narrow passageways that can be explored on easy paced or more adventurous tours.

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Knysna Boat Cruise

Knysna Boat Cruise

Knysna Boat Cruise

The ‘Knysna Heads’ are the grand sandstone cliffs towering above the entrance to the Knysna ...

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Knysna Boat Cruise

Knysna Boat Cruise

The ‘Knysna Heads’ are the grand sandstone cliffs towering above the entrance to the Knysna Lagoon. Lagoon cruises by paddle steamer or adventure power boat trips will create life long memories

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The Elephant Sanctuary

The Elephant Sanctuary

The Elephant Sanctuary

The Elephant Sanctuary at The Crags runs conservation and rehabilitation programmes where visitors ...

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The Elephant Sanctuary

The Elephant Sanctuary

The Elephant Sanctuary at The Crags runs conservation and rehabilitation programmes where visitors are taken on a journey into the world of the African elephant and are guided through an unforgettable experience with these magnificent creatures. Visitors are able to touch, feed and get to know these animals.

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Ostrich Farms

Ostrich Farms

Ostrich Farms

In Oudtshoorn you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. ...

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Ostrich Farms

Ostrich Farms

In Oudtshoorn you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. Ostrich farms offer guided tours to learn more about the ostrich industry in South Africa.

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Monkeyland

Monkeyland

Monkeyland

This is the world’s first free-roaming, multi-species primate sanctuary, set up to house monkeys ...

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Monkeyland

Monkeyland

This is the world’s first free-roaming, multi-species primate sanctuary, set up to house monkeys born into captivity. To see some 15 different species at treetop level, take a walk along Monkeyland’s suspension bridge, the longest in Africa.

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Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour

Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour

Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour

Take a Canopy Tour in the magnificent Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest on the Garden Route. Great ...

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Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour

Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour

Take a Canopy Tour in the magnificent Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest on the Garden Route. Great eco-adventure traversing from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended up to 30 meters above the forest floor. Africa’s best zipline soars through the extraordinary wilderness of Tsitsikamma, featuring an hour-long “flight” through the Kruis River Gorge over three waterfalls. Fliers can use the braking system to stop and take in the indigenous flora and fauna along the route.

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Birds of Eden

Birds of Eden

Birds of Eden

The Birds of Eden Sanctuary, is the world’s largest free flight bird aviary. It’s unique two ...

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Birds of Eden

Birds of Eden

The Birds of Eden Sanctuary, is the world’s largest free flight bird aviary. It’s unique two hectare dome spans over a gorge of indigenous forest and stepping within it is an overwhelming experience as hundreds of birds swoop, fly and call around you.

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Shark Cage Diving

Shark Cage Diving

Shark Cage Diving

Mossel Bay on the Garden Route has probably the most accessible Great White Sharks in the world. ...

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Shark Cage Diving

Shark Cage Diving

Mossel Bay on the Garden Route has probably the most accessible Great White Sharks in the world. It’s an exhilarating adventure with a video to watch with afternoon tea at the end of the day!

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camps & lodges

De Zeekoe Guest Farm

De Zeekoe Guest Farm

An owner run and managed African farm, De Zeekoe Guest Farm is located in the heart of the Klein Karoo approximately 10km outside the town of ... Read More

Hog Hollow Country Lodge

Hog Hollow Country Lodge

Hog Hollow Country Lodge is African chic luxury accommodation located some 20km east of Plettenberg Bay, with one of the most incredible views along ... Read More

Kurland

Kurland

Kurland is located on a vast 700 hectare estate 19km outside Plettenberg Bay. Owner-managed, this is an estate of great beauty, resting between the ... Read More

La Plume

La Plume

La Plume Guest House is a 1902 Victorian homestead on a working ostrich, alfalfa and vine farm and set in the tranquil Olifantsrivier Valley on the ... Read More

Laird’s Lodge

Laird’s Lodge

Laird's Lodge is a gracious Cape Dutch style homestead surrounded by manicured gardens and lawns with plenty of indigenous fynbos, wide open spaces ... Read More

Rosenhof Country House

Rosenhof Country House

Rosenhof Country House is a renovated late 19th century homestead, with yellowwood beams and ceilings and a tasteful collection of antique ... Read More