The Garden Route of South Africa encompasses many coastal towns along the south western coast of the Western Cape. It spans from Hermanus (whale birthing haven) in the west to Plettenberg Bay’s in the east. The Garden Route natural assets (just for starters) will have you question ever wanting to leave this idyllic spot!
Featuring rolling oceans, white sandy beaches, blue skies and spectacular mountain ranges! Here you can find indigenous fynbos, ostrich antics and lots of local hospitality. Sun-drenched orchards, pin-drop-silent forests, sweeping in-land lakes and birds eye view passes add to the mix.
Beach junkies are spoiled for choice. Stilbaai’s assets include treasures from the Stone Age and the Khoi people. Mosselbay and Albertinia share the pleasure of bungee jumping thrills withPlettenberg Bay. Mosselbay prides itself on offering the diverse experience of game viewing and that of stringing a hammock along beaches that serve up the worlds second most temperate climate. Still along the coast, Wilderness and Sedgefield comprise the Lakes Region, while golf, green coastal treasures and malls a-plenty rate among George and Knysna’s endless offerings.
Leap into paragliding oblivion at the Wilderness, or embark on Mosselbay shark cage diving shenanigans. Try the bungi jump from the Gouritz River Bridge, which is flanked by Albertinia and Mosselbay.
Plettenberg Bay, a vacationers’ dream, in the heart of the Garden Route.The sandy Central Beach and Lookout Beach both have surf breaks. To the south, Robberg Nature Reserve is a rocky peninsula with trails and the Stone Age Nelson Bay Caves. Northeast are Birds of Eden, a free-flight bird sanctuary in indigenous forest, and the Knysna elephant sanctuary. Whales come near the coast in migration season.
Tsitsikamma National Park is also located next to Plettenberg bay.It encompasses a marine reserve, deep gorges and local vegetation like the Big Tree, a towering yellowwood. The Mouth Trail crosses a suspension bridge over Storms River. The Otter Trail leads to Nature’s Valley, with birds including the Cape batis. The park is also home to small mammals, including bush pigs. Let's not forget the Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary. So much to see and do in Plettenberg bay!
Amidst indigenous forests and expansive lagoon views is the quaint and discrete town of Knysna. Situated on the Garden Route, Knysna provides a blend of both relaxation and adventure.
Knysna is a natural paradise of lush, indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches. She nestles on the banks of a breathtakingly pretty lagoon, now a protected marine reserve that is home to the extraordinary sea horse and over 200 species of fish.
Beaches, lakes, mountains and rivers provide endless opportunity for leisure and outdoor adventure. Within the town, craft shops, flea-markets and cosy cafés beckon with small-town charm and hospitality. The area around Knysna is a veritable Garden of Eden. This is home of the only forest elephant in South Africa, the rare Pansy Shell, the brilliantly coloured, and elusive, Knysna Loerie, a plethora of waterfowl and forest birds, dolphins and visiting whales.
The indigenous forests in Knysna constitute the largest complex of closed-canopy forest in southern Africa, whilst the remarkable richness of the Fynbos vegetation contributes over 8000 plant species to the Cape floral kingdom. Exploring the Knysna forests, along demarcated walks, with the occasional call of the Loerie, provides a complete escape into a former time when many elephants trod these paths, particularly if you’ve read Dalene Matthee’s ‘Circles in a forest’.
Today a mere three elephants are reputed to still roam the forest. The Knysna Elephant Park has brought the elephant back to Knysna and all the elephants are former orphans rescued from culling operations in the Kruger National Park, except for Thandi who was born in the park.
A visit to Knysna would be incomplete without a trip to The heads - a striking geological feature made up of a pair of huge, brightly coloured cliffs lying at the mouth of the lagoon, flanking a channel of potentially treacherous water that flows into Knysna’s lagoon. The eastern head houses a lookout with spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna whilst the western head is a privately owned nature reserve called Featherbed Nature Reserve. Visitors can get to the reserve via ferry.
The main street of Knysna, lined with small boutiques and shops, is actually a part of the N2 highway, which passes directly through the center of the town en route to the Eastern Cape and beyond. Reached from the Cape Town direction by a narrow causeway, and built on a natural lagoon, virtually enclosed by the famed Knysna heads, this small town is bound on all sides by hills and mountains, covered with indigenous vegetation. Taking advantage of this lagoon setting are the houseboat operators, who offer these leisure vessels on lease to the public. Renting a houseboat ensures both a unique accommodation experience, and an opportunity to explore the town and surrounds in an entirely different way.
A part of the migratory route of the Southern Right and other whale species, it is possible to view these marine mammals during the months of August and September, while dolphins are year round visitors. For thrillseekers, options abound, with everything from paragliding over the coastline, abseiling and skydiving, to scuba diving and tree top canopy tours within easy reach of the town.
In times gone by, the area was home to large family groups of elephants. These herds have since disappeared, however, a visit to the elephant sanctuary will give visitors the opportunity to view these majestic beasts in their natural element. Another sanctuary that will attract animal lovers is the wolf sanctuary, located on the N2 heading out of town, towards Plettenberg Bay.
Along this same stretch of highway, several local crafters and artists have set up studios and galleries that are well worth a visit. For lovers of the good life, a visit planned during the annual Knysna Oyster Festival will provide opportunities to sample these locally farmed delicacies, however, during the year, these and other delights are still available from various eateries located in the harbour and elsewhere in town.
The harbour area and the Knysna Waterfront is also home to most of Knysna’s nightlife, with several bars, restaurants and clubs where patrons can enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset over the heads. Golf enthusiasts will find the area a treat, with several world-class courses on offer both in Knysna itself, and in neighbouring towns. Fancourt in George is within easy reach, and Simola, Pezula and the Knysna golf course are all located in the town itself.
The Featherbed Nature Reserve provides scenic views of Knysna and The Heads from the opposite shore of the Knysna Lagoon. Ferries depart daily. On arrival at the reserve, guests are taken in 4-wheel drive vehicles to the top of the Western Head. A foot trail leads through 2 km of coastal forest and along the water’s edge back to the Featherbed tavern, where a delicious lunch of grilled, fresh line fish can be enjoyed.
For the sophisticated tourist there are champagne and oyster cruises on the placid Knysna Lagoon. Enjoy fine dining options around the Knysna Waterfront and beer tastings at our very own Mitchells Brewery.
Wilderness is a town in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, on a coastal stretch known as the Garden Route. It’s home to wide beaches and trails. The Map of Africa, a hilltop lookout point, has views of the Indian Ocean, the Outeniqua Mountains and the Kaaimans River. Nearby Wilderness Natural Park, part of the sprawling Garden Route National Park, is a habitat for wildlife including leopards, monkeys and eagles.
Your guide will take you on a panoramic drive along Rotary Way, which offers fantastic views across Hermanus and Walker Bay. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, Hermanus is a charming hamlet whose pristine beaches and ‘champagne air’ have been delighting visitors for years. Along with these spectacular attractions, Hermanus is most famous for the incredible Southern Right Whales that come into the bay seeking sanctuary in the cold winter months. From the shore you can see these gentle giants at play in the water; Hermanus is renowned for offering the best shore-based whale watching in the world.
Aside from the awesome natural attractions Hermanus is filled with fantastic restaurants and fabulous boutique shops. The size of the town makes it perfect to be explored on a short walking tour. Small picturesque cliffs that edge Hermanus are threaded with paths; perfect for getting a clear view of the surrounding waters.
Explore the heart and centre of Hermanus and you can discover the fascinating history of this town.
Along this pristine stretch are a rustic collection of villages, farms, rivers, bays and coves.
This is a stunning natural area that is a key eco-conservation area. As we travel up this stretch of coast you can relax and enjoy South Africa’s spectacular scenery.
A little way down the coast is the seaside village of Betty’s Bay. Sitting on a narrow strip of land which is sheltered by the Kogelberg Mountains on one side and looking out to the ocean on the other; Betty Bay is home to a thriving fishing community. It also holds one of only three land based penguin colonies in South Africa.
The African Penguin more commonly colonise off-shore islands and are the only species of penguin that breeds in this area of the world. The first nest here was noticed in 1982 and the area was soon fenced off to protect the colony. You will be able to see these enthralling birds at play via a well-constructed wooden walkway. These cheerful and boisterous creatures have been placed on the endangered list after seeing a 90% population decline over the last 60 years.
Home of the Southern Right Whale is a baleen whale that can grow up to 15 yards! .
More than 100 whales visit Hermanus during the winter time, spending the summer months in the far Southern Ocean.Whale watchers should watch out for behavior unique to the Southern Right Whale known as “sailing”. Note that the best whale watching season is typically between June - December.