Head east from the Mother City and you’ll discover one of the world’s most remarkable coastal stretches: South Africa’s Garden Route.
The beautiful stretch of coastline is not renowned for its hunting opportunities but if you are looking for fishing, hiking, camping and leisure, relaxation and mesmerizing scenic beauty, this is a part of South Africa that you simply must visit.
Leaving Cape Town
The N2 highway carves and meanders some 800 kilometers between Cape Town in the Western Cape Province and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
The Garden Route – the name given to the stretch of forested, coastal area between Mosselbay and Port Elizabeth – is the brightly-colored cherry on this southern slice of Africa.
The best way to explore this area is undoubtedly, to self-drive. All along the Garden Route, mountains dip and rise alongside a rugged coastline whose cliffs, estuaries and sandy shores are lapped by the Indian Ocean. Pressed between these forces of land and water are ancient forests, pristine beaches and secluded seaside towns.
Golf and great whites
Considered by many as the official westernmost point of the Garden Route, Mosselbay has a mild year-round climate, good beaches and friendly locals. Golf has become a big attraction here, thanks to numerous world class courses.
Yet it’s not all leisurely walks and casual golf in Mosselbay. The town is one of the only two places in South Africa from which visitors can go cage diving with great white sharks – something to think about when you slice your ball off of the cliff at Pinnacle Point!
The formal route
Slightly north-east of Mosselbay is George, an important link in South Africa’s road network, and a crossroads for both coastal explorers and those traveling inland.
For a uniquely South African experience, be sure to head north of George for a quick visit to Oudtshoorn, South Africa’s ostrich capital.
Although it’s located just a few miles inland, the Oudtshoorn landscape is a dusty contrast to the thickly forested coastline of the Garden Route. Visit one of the Ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn and experience the frenetic, somewhat crazed madness that ensues from getting mixed up with these bald, chubby birds.
It’s not all ostriches in Oudtshoorn, though; the area is also famous for the Cango Caves. Believed to have been formed more than 65-million years ago, the caves are regarded as one of Africa’s most important natural wonders.
And if the caves don’t impress, the nearby Cango Wildlife Ranch surely will. The centre is one of the world’s foremost cheetah breeding projects and also boasts rare white lions, bengal tigers and crocodiles.
Welcome to Wilderness
Leaving George behind, Wilderness is undoubtedly where you will next want to stop for a day or two. With an impressive collection of long, secluded beaches, lakes and rivers, the small intimate town is the perfect place to enjoy a secluded getaway.
The magic of Knysna
From the moment you approach Knysna, driving alongside the massive lagoon, it’s all too obvious why this town is the unofficial capital of the Garden Route. Try not to swerve off the road when you first notice the impressive Knysna Heads – the two large sandstone cliffs that stand guard on either side of the estuary mouth.
In Knysna, visitors can just as easily explore the lagoon, forests and rivers as the bustling town centre. As the Oyster capital of South Africa, Knysna is a place where people love to eat. The culmination of the town’s oyster obsession is the annual Knysna Oyster festival, which takes place from late June to early July.
Packed with marine life, lined with long beaches and buzzing with daytime activities and nightlife, it’s easy to see why many South Africans spend their summer in Plettenberg Bay. There are also a variety of special places located just outside Plettenberg that must be visited. These include The Elephant Sanctuary, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden.
Treetops and bridge jumps
Heading east once again, it’s time to tame your fears in Tsitsikamma. Some 80 kilometers of rocky coastline comprise the Tsitsikamma National Park, a place of deep, heavily scarred gorges, cliffs, tidal pools and thick evergreen forests. There are walking trails that range from comfortable day-long hikes too much longer treks.
For a less strenuous experience, take a canopy tour. Standing almost 100 feet in the air, surrounded by 100-year-old hardwood trees, visitors slide along cables, zipping from platform to platform in the treetops.
Not to be outdone by the heights of Tsitsikamma, the nearby Bloukrans Bridge offers a heady rush of a different kind. At 216 meters, Bloukrans is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world.