insider tips to explore more than the norm
With a quick google search, you may think you know all there is to know about the Garden Route, but this diverse piece of paradise is an endless fountain of possibility... After years of touring along this lush coastal route, we’ve stumbled upon some unique, lesser-known spots we think you need to go experience. Trust us, travelling along the Garden Route can be overwhelming if you're going in blind so here's a shortlist of some of our favourite gems and insider guidelines to see the route a little differently.
This meandering stretch of the south-eastern coastline is known for its ecological diversity and jaw-dropping scenery; spliced by dramatic mountain ranges and epic road trip routes, it is no wonder the Garden Route has become THE must-do activity on any South African holiday. Come rain or shine, this coastal route is a must! In summer, the best beaches of the world cannot contest these sun-soaked shores and in winter it's a retreat for adventure seekers, slow food lovers and nostalgic romantics.
So much to see and so much to do, let's get rolling...
An undeniable part of the intrigue of the Garden Route is the undulating coastline that it follows, offering around 300km of rugged rocky shoreline. While there are particular firm favourites among locals and travellers, the abundance of coastline means that there are also numerous hidden gems that are something out of a storybook!
Secluded beaches like Myoli Beach, Knotzie and Gericke’s Point offer the best spots for sundowners and a swim in the Indian Ocean with little to no spectators. It can sometimes feel like it's your own private beach... Pure bliss!
The powerful forces of coastline waters are dramatically put on a show while enjoying activities like a Lilo & Kayak adventure at Tsitsikamma or a serene hike up to the sculpted sandstone Knysna Heads for breathtaking photo opportunities out to sea.
At the bottom of the Knysna Heads, you'll find Coney Glen - an intimate beach with rocky sandstone formations forming natural rock pools. Sparkling in the sunlight, this jewel lazes on the edge of the lagoon, nestled away in a small cove and offers great opportunities for fishing and rock climbing. The waters here can be quite dangerous, so take care and do not go in deep, but it’s perfect for a quick dip to relieve yourself from a hot summer’s day or soak in a natural ‘jacuzzi’ during low tide.
From glamping hide-outs to canopy-clad mountain bike trails, and historical tales of elusive herds of elephants; the forests of the Garden Route will forever remain a fascinating treasure trove.
Some of our top picks to get your forest fix can be found at the top of Wilderness Heights, where an undisturbed vista gives you panoramic views of the Wilderness coastline, and a little way onward the Map of Africa lookout point offers an enchanting natural wonder as the Kaaimans River has carved out an outline of Africa in the landscape. Hikers and mountain bikers are spoilt for choice with kilometres worth of forest trails in the Tsitsikamma, Wilderness and Harkerville areas, some parts so thickly covered that you feel as though you’ve been transported to another world! The many spots to canoe, kayak and chase waterfalls make the beauty of the forest even more appealing.
If dreamy hideouts are your thing then the multitude of eco glamping getaway options are sure to woo you, and some of our favourites are the luxe Botlierskop Safari Tents. Pure opulence with all the creature comforts. Here luxury collides with the bush on an idyllic, sprawling 3500-hectare private game reserve.
For a back-to-basics romantic treat, Teniqua Treehouse Tents offer tree-top suites nestled within the indigenous forests of the Garden Route. These eco-friendly, self-catering canvas tents are built in a gorge on stilts ranging from two to six meters above ground, giving you breath-taking views of the Karatara Gorge or the majestic Knysna Forest.
Now, this is a category where the Garden Route is really just showing off. If you’re looking for adventure, there really is no parallel to the immense options available along this southeastern coastal stretch.
A firm favourite Garden Route adventure is hands-down going on safari to see the wild in their natural habitat. While the private game reserves in the Garden Route are not as large as the Kruger National Park, the variety they offer and the convenience to be able to get a taste of safari on an overnight trip from Cape Town makes it ideal if your travel time is limited. Go beyond where the road may take you on a guided horseback safari or 4x4 safari at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, exploring the rolling plains in search for most of the members of the Big 5!
For the adrenaline junkies among us, an aerial adventure through the forest canopy is surely as good as it gets?
From the world’s highest bridge bungy jump (gasp at the forest-lined river gorge with upside-down views of the ocean), to waterfall ziplining, paragliding over picturesque coastlines, sandboarding in Jeffrey’s Bay, surfing some world-class secret spots and more; the possibilities are endless.
An unexpected delight of the Garden Route is the fantastic foodie offering along the route, sometimes in the most unsuspecting locations, but a welcome way to rest and re'charge' for the next adventure on the journey. The local Sedgefield Wild Oats Community Market offers an authentic farmers’ market experience and shows off the local produce and unique cuisine. The market is grounded on the principle of community-mindedness, building local skills and responsible environmental awareness. The neighbouring Scarab Village Market is a treat for crafters and boasts a myriad of hand-made craft options for sale.
If you consider yourself a bon vivant of sorts, then an oyster and sparkling wine tasting aboard a tranquilly scenic lagoon cruise in the Knysna Lagoon should be right up your alley. Alternatively, for the crafts(wo)men, a gin-making experience at the Inverroche Gin School is as fascinating as it is delicious and you’ll walk away with your own hand-mixed bottle of gin!
It’s a no-brainer, South Africa’s Garden of Eden is waiting. Join one of our join group or private tours or let our expert travel advisors tailor make your dream Garden Route escape. Check the tours on offer underneath: