What is the Garden Route?
The Garden Route is a 300km journey along the south-eastern coast of South Africa that gets its name from the incredible landscapes that unfold along the way. A nature lover’s paradise and an artist’s muse, the Garden Route is an eclectic mix of modern-day comforts and ancient gems. Whether you are visiting the historic town of Oudtshoorn (also known as the Ostrich capital of the world) or sailing the sparkling waters of the Knysna Lagoon, there is something for everyone on this iconic South African road trip.
The Garden Route begins in Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and ends in Storm's River in the Eastern Cape and is accessed via the N2 highway that runs the full course. Various towns and attractions branch off the main road, forming part of this destination’s charm and major appeal. Most people travelling the Garden Route will begin in Cape Town and finish in Port Elizabeth.
How long does the Garden Route take to drive?
The Garden Route can be driven in one day, however the more time you have the better as there is plenty to see and do on this trip. Below is a list of the approximate distances and times it takes to drive to and from the main points of interest on the Garden Route; this will calculate the route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
Photograph: Highgate Ostrich Farm
Cape Town – Mossel Bay Distance: 384km
Time: 4 hr 15 min
Mossel Bay – Oudtshoorn
Distance: 85.6 km
Time: 1 hr 10 min
Oudtshoorn - George
Distance: 63.9 km
Time: 57 min
George – Knynsa
Distance: 62.5 km
Time: 53 min
Knysna – Plettenberg Bay
Distance: 32.4 km
Time: 29 min
Plettenberg Bay – Tsitsikamma National Park
Distance: 67.1 km
Time: 57 min
Tsitsikamma National Park – Storms River Bridge
Distance: 19.1 km
Time: 23 min
Storm’s River Bridge – Port Elizabeth
Time: 1 hr 45 min
If you were to travel directly from Mossel Bay to Storms River Bridge, without stopping at the points of interest mentioned above, the driving distance is 200 km’s and that will take you approximately 2.5 hours. Of course, if you are coming from Cape Town this would be longer as shown above. Port Elizabeth International Airport is just under two hours from Storm’s River Bridge, and 2.5 hours from the famous Addo Elephant Park. Another option is to fly into George Airport and explore the Garden Route using George as your basecamp.
Does the Garden Route cost money?
The cost of a Garden Route trip will vary according to the following factors:
Number of days you intend to travel
If you choose to travel the Garden Route without detours, then your expenses would simply be your car hire and fuel according to the vehicle you are in. The N2 highway is in good condition so traveling in a regular car would be sufficient for this journey. The more time you spend along the Garden Route will affect your expenditure in terms of accommodation costs and activities you may participate in along the way.
The Garden Route offers a selection of accommodation types, from camping to luxury hotels. One of our most popular packages is a duration of 7 nights and 8 days, which allows our guests to spend time exploring the areas they are passing through, while staying in unique and comfortable accommodation.
For some people, driving through the ever-changing landscape that the Garden Route offers is enough. For others, signing up for the various activities on offer is part of the adventure. The Garden Route is renowned for offering fantastic outdoor activities and further down in this article we will list some of the more popular things you can do on the Garden Route.
Towns to visit along the Garden Route
What brings travellers to Oudtshoorn? Ostriches and caves! This area is referred to as the 'Ostrich capital of the world' and is where you will find hundreds of Ostrich farms surrounding the town, which is nestled in the Klein Karoo. A highlight is to visit a working Ostrich farm and take part in a fascinating tour of these unusual birds. Not far from Oudtshoorn, in the Swartberg Mountains, lie the Cango Caves. These are the largest show caves in South Africa and one of the oldest tourist attractions in the country. An hour's tour will take you into the caves for a magical experience.
Knysna is one of South Africa's most popular holiday destinations, and it is often frequented by locals who choose to spend their summer days on the Knysna Lagoon. This destination is incredibly scenic, and its most notable features are the Knysna Heads - two towering cliffs that are the gateway between the lagoon and the sea. A ferry trip to Featherbed Nature Reserve is one of the top attractions and during the winter months there is the annual Oyster Festival, which runs for ten days and is a mix of live music, great food, and various sporting events. The humpback and southern right whales arrive between June and November, so whale watching is another activity worth adding to the itinerary if you are visiting during this period.
Miles of golden beaches are what draw travellers to this neck of the woods as well as the iconic Robberg Peninsula that is a favourite among hikers. Plett is the perfect place for days spent lounging on the beach or for the more active traveller there are plenty of water sports you can get involved in. There are also several wildlife sanctuaries in this area as well as marine safaris, which are awesome activities for the whole family. Waking up to a view of the ocean is not a bad way to start the day!
Tsitsikamma is a Khoi San word meaning ' the place of abundant or sparkling waters'. This area is truly a nature's paradise and is positioned on a high plateau bordered by mountains in the north and the Indian Ocean in the south. Bungee jumping, canopy tours, beach horse rides or blackwater tubing are just some of the things you can do in this part of the world.
What things are there do to do on the Garden Route?
Garden Route Game Lodge Big Five Safari
The Garden Route Game Lodge is 3.5 hours from Cape Town (just before Mossel Bay) and is a brilliant way to get your road trip started. This private reserve is home to Africa’s Big Five, offers luxury accommodation and safari game drives in open Landrovers.
Cost: R2035 per person sharing per night (bed & breakfast + game drive safari)
Shark Cage Diving, Mossel Bay
For the thrill-seekers, Mossel Bay offers cage diving with Great White Sharks. Head out into the ocean aboard a custom-built Catamaran and view these large predators in their natural environment.
Cost: R1845 per person
Cango Caves, Cango Valley
One of the Seven Wonders of South Africa are the Cango Caves, situated 29km’s from Oudtshoorn in the Cango Valley. Be prepared to be amazed as you explore this underground world, led by an expert cave guide.
Cost: R220 per person
Featherbed Nature Reserve Eco Experience & Lunch, Knysna
A unique and special trip that takes you aboard a ferry on the Knysna Lagoon and transports you to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. On arrival hop into 4x4’s for a drive up the headland with incredible views and indulge in a buffet lunch under the Milkwood trees.
Cost: R850 per person
Whale Watching, Knysna
June to November brings the Southern Right and Humpback Whales, which can be viewed in close proximity on a 1.5 hr-2hr boat trip on the Indian Ocean.
Cost: R1170 per person
Robberg Nature Reserve Hike, Plettenberg Bay
One of the most well-known and popular hikes along the Garden Route, Roberg Nature Reserve offers three trails with one taking you around the entire Robberg Peninsular. Keep your eyes peeled for snakes and stick to the paths.
Cost: R50 per person
Beaches, Plettenberg Bay
Plett is home to some of the best beaches in South Africa, with six of them internationally recognised as premier, ‘Blue Flag’ status beaches. These are: Keurboomstrand; Lookout Beach; Nature’s Valley; Robberg 5; The Dunes; and The Singing Kettle.
Blackwater Tubing, Tsitsikamma
A 6-hour, blackwater tubing, canyon adventure, down the Storms River Gorge to Tsitsikamma National Park, is not something you will forget in a hurry!
Cost: R905 per person
Canopy Tour, Tsitsikamma
Ziplining through the Tsitsikamma indigenous rainforest is an absolute treat with exquisite scenery and birdlife to accompany you along the way.
Cost: R570 per person
Bloukrans Bungee Jumping
Ready to jump off the world’s highest commercial bungy bridge? Situated 216km’s above the Bloukrans River, the Bloukrans bridge welcomes visitors all over the world to take the plunge!
Cost: R1400 per person
Safaris for Africa’s advice and tips
Although the Cape Winelands and Hermanus do not make up part of the Garden Route they are super add-ons when planning your trip from Cape Town.
If you are embarking on a self-drive it is best to have a travel buddy with you on the roads and stick to driving in the daylight hours.
You will find sufficient petrol (gas) stations along the way and consider incorporating Route 62 as an alternative to the N2 highway for some sections of your trip.
WIFI will be available at most accommodation on the Garden Route.
Safaris for Africa offers guided Garden Route Tours that allow you to sit back and relax while being driven in safety by knowledgeable guides.
The Garden Route is one of our most popular tours in South Africa as it showcases the diversity of the country’s fauna and flora with the promise of adventure around every turn. If you need help planning a tour of the Garden Route, please get in touch with us as we would love to help, and this is our speciality!