The Garden Route in South Africa is probably the most beautiful stretch of land in the country – offering you ocean, lake, river, forest and mountain splendours.
Where is the Garden Route?
The area extends along the coastal strip between Heidelberg and the Eastern Cape border at Storms River Mouth, and incorporates all of the towns and resorts along the N2 highway and coast.
To the north the Garden Route is bordered by three mountain ranges – the Langeberg, Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains. The whole region is one of extreme natural beauty and many very popular holiday and golf resorts have become established along the route.
Large parts of the Garden Route are controlled by the South African National Parks, thus ensuring the preservation of this pristine area well into the future. Just east of George, is the Wilderness National Park, which attracts hundreds of bird species to its wetlands. The bigger part of the Garden Route area is also home to South Africa’s famous fynbos varieties.
In the extreme east of the Garden Route, where the Breede River flows into the Indian Ocean, is St Sebastion Bay. This calm bay is an annual breeding place for the Southern Right Whale, which can be seen between June and September from Whitesands. Yearly, hundreds of whales return to the bay to breed and give birth to their calves.
The town of Riversdale lies on the N2 and has become known as the Floral Paradise of the Garden Route. The town is a mecca for nature lovers of all ages and especially for fynbos enthusiasts. From here you can hike, bike or take a horse trail to the lovely countryside surroundings.
To the north of Riversdale is the famous Sleeping Beauty Peak in the Langeberg, and a mountain pass leads you to the Klein Karoo. A little to the east of Riversdale is the small town of Albertinia, which is well known for its production of aloe vera based gel products.
Mossel Bay has a history dating back to the 15th century and derives its name from the abundance of mussels found here. The town lies on a sunny peninsular just off the N2 and is half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. It’s known as the town boasting the highest number of sunny days per year.
It was at Mossel Bay that the Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias landed in 1488 to replenish his water supplies. History lovers can also see several block houses built by the British in the Outeniqua mountains during the Anglo-Boer War.
Next-door lies the city of George, which harbours a wonderful museum mostly dedicated to wooden artefacts. There is a reconstructed woodcutter’s cottage, as well as wagons and carts, and even old gramophones. Herold’s Bay is George’s own beach resort located just outside the city borders. Here there are good vantage points for whale and dolphin watching. A mountain pass leads from George into the Klein Karoo.
Knysna, South Africa: 3rd place in the top 10 local holiday destinations!
The popular holiday town of Knysna is located in the Knysna National Lake Area, known as the Jewel of the Garden Route. The large lagoon is bounded at its entrance by two sandstone heads, with a background of the Outeniqua Nature Reserve mountains.
The lagoon is home to the famous Knysna Seahorse and the Pansy Shell. This beautiful town offers visitors anything from fine shops and restaurants to hiking trails, and there are even three golf courses within the relatively small town. The Knysna Elephant Park offers a unique chance to experience these magnificent animals that once roamed the Knysna forests up close and personal.
Knysna is also known for the yearly Oyster festival and Speed Festival.
Just along the coast from Knysna lies the beach resort of Plettenberg Bay, known affectionately by many as ‘Plett’. In the bay itself you can witness schools of Bottlenosed and Humpback dolphins playing.
Whale watching in the Garden Route
Several species of whale can also regularly be seen here – the Southern Right, the Humpback and Bryde’s whales, as well as Orca, the killer whale. This is the only place on earth where the rare Beaked whale has been filmed. The area is thus very popular for boat based whale watching tours.
To the south of Plettenberg Bay lies the Robberg Nature Reserve, which has many short hikes through the coastal fynbos that dominates this peninsula.
At the eastern end of the Garden Route you will find the Tsitsikamma National Park – a pristine indigenous forest that is home to Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood and many other protected indigenous tree species. The coastline here is quite spectacular with its natural gorges formed over millions of years. The five-day Otter Hiking Trail that runs along this coast is one of the most popular routes in the country and hikers are advised to book well in advance.
The Garden Route area caters for everyone – from families who wish to enjoy some light leisure activities, to the more rugged adventure-seekers, and even travellers on business trips. Apart from bungee-jumping, paragliding, abseiling, quad-bike rides, and 4×4 trails, fishermen can also try some rock and surf angling, deep sea fishing, trout and bass fishing. The area and its sandy beaches are very popular for general swimming, scuba diving, windsurfing and even horseback riding.
The Garden Route is a hiker’s paradise
With some hikes following the rugged coastline and some that go deep into the forests. For those who want to take things a little slower, the area offers rich cultural and culinary experiences, and is a shopping mecca for South African arts and crafts.