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Aerial view of Knysna, Garden Route, South Africa

Garden Route

An iconic self-drive linking the Eastern & Western Capes

South Africa's Garden Route tailor-made self-drives


While it’s possible to drive the Garden Route’s 300km in a day, its stunning range of geography demands so much more. From Knysna to Plettenberg Bay, one moment you could be running over pristine sands, surfboard in hand, and the next pushing back the branches of a 600-year-old forest in search of elephants. In between, you’ll find valley wineries, cragged cliff walks and coasts speckled with historic towns. And throughout, you’ll have chances to spot everything from whales and dolphins to bright green loeries and blue-backed kingfishers. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, we’ve compiled the following list of the route’s best stops.

Garden Route Map

The locations on the map are listed from A to J. Below is a description of each location.

A: Plettenberg Bay | B: Knysna | C: Wilderness | D: Victoria Bay | E: George | F: Herolds Bay | G: Great Brak River | H: Mossel Bay | I: Oudtshoorn | J: Calitzdorp

A: Plettenberg Bay (Click to view on Map)

Don’t be fooled by its white beaches and bright blue waters, ‘Plett’ is more than just a resort town. A nature lover’s gateway, the town looks back inland through indigenous verdure – the home of the last remaining forest elephants in South Africa – to the green peaks of Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma. It’s ideal for criss-crossing hikes and its waters are host to dive spots and whale watching tours.

Plettenburg Bay, South Africa
Plettenburg Bay at sunset

B: Knysna (Click to view on Map)

Artsy Knysna with its lagoon islands ringed by ancient forest – the country’s largest – makes for postcard-perfect views from its sandstone heads. However, linger a little longer to sail its waters, visit its gold rush museum and sample its world-famous oysters, themselves celebrated with an annual festival.

Knysna Oysters, South Africa
Knysna is famous for its oysters – be sure to stop off to try some on a road trip

C: Wilderness (Click to view on Map)

Boardwalk rope bridges skip along Wilderness’s jagged coast while a tangle of rivers, lakes and estuaries ply its wetland interior. Explore it all on rambling hikes and canoe paddles with the area home to an abundance of birdlife. Back on the shoreline, the imaginatively-named Dolphin Point makes for excellent views of those well-loved mammals.

Wilderness, South AfricaWilderness is home to some intriguing ostrich farms

D: Victoria Bay (Click to view on Map)

Small, hidden and perfectly formed, Victoria Bay is a cupped gem of golden sands that’s met by the rolling waters. Pretty cottages line its cliffs as surfers eulogise its right hand break and cruises set off for Seal Island and scuba sites. For the more adventurous, it’s also known for its excellent paragliding.

A train passes through the tunnel above Victoria Bay

E: George (Click to view on Map)

Head inland to 19th century George that, despite being the largest settlement on the Garden Route, retains all its small town charm, realised in its miniature cathedral and Edwardian library. Centrally positioned, it’s an ideal base for exploring the route or a stop off for championship golf courses.

The (now defunct) steam railway line between Knysna and George

F: Herolds Bay (Click to view on Map)

At Herolds Bay, a rough semicircle of sand is sheltered by green-carpeted cliffs, which jag down into the turquoise ocean. It makes for picturesque coastal walks and trails improved only by sights of playful dolphins and surfacing whales. In turn, its village hamlet makes for delightful stays.

Herolds Bay, Garden Route

G: Great Brak River (Click to view on Map)

Winding its way inland from a great beach curve and through a sandy estuary, this is the Garden Route at its peaceful best; timber holiday homes line its banks and only a single lane bridges its waters. Sunbathe on Great Brak’s quiet, sleepy beach or introduce yourself to the thrill of surfing.

Beach on Great Brak River

H: Mossel Bay (Click to view on Map)

Through the years Mossel Bay has seen life as a 15th century Portuguese resupply point and a 20th century industrial seat. Today, it’s best known for its fine beaches and finer activities; think powerboats, shark cage diving and ship wreck exploring.

Mossel Bay

I: Oudtshoorn (Click to view on Map)

Once, Oudtshoorn’s ostriches supplied 19th century society’s fashionistas and today you can still visit its 400 farms and grand ostrich baron mansions. However, look beyond and you’ll find crocodile centres, cheetah breeding programmes and the natural cathedrals of Cango Caves among its subtropical waterfalls and semi-arid plains.

Odtshoorn can be explored via the excellent Rovos Rail

J: Calitzdorp (Click to view on Map)

Set in a fertile, stream-watered valley slice of Karoo’s semi-desert, Calitzdorp is a town full of old-world charm. Its famous wineries look out across rolling farmland to the impressive Groot Swartberge ranges beyond. Sample the local delicacies in the June port festival or go for a dip in its natural hot spring baths, all backed by gorgeous views.

Red Stone Hills, Calitzdorp

South Africa's Garden Route passes through many lovely towns on its way from Cape Town to KnysnaSwellendam in particular has great examples of Cape Dutch architecture at its best. For many, Plett is the epitome of the Garden Route, with white sands, clear waters, forest-clad mountains and fabulous seafood within easy reach.


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The Garden Route holiday ideas

Aerial view of Knysna, Garden Route, South Africa

Highlights of South Africa

16-day tailor-made self-drive from £3,005 pp incl. flights

This is the perfect introduction to South Africa. A spectacular drive along the Garden Route will see you link Cape Town’s beachside charms with the country’s finest vineyards before ending with an all-inclusive Big-Five safari.

Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa

Cape, Wine, Garden Route & Kruger‬

13-day tailor-made self-drive & safari from £4,965 pp incl. flights

Take in all of South Africa’s premier destinations on one trip, linking Cape Town with the historic Winelands, ending with an all-inclusive Big Five safari on a private reserve in Kruger National Park.

Places to stay along the Garden Route

Lairds Lodge, Plettenberg

Lairds Lodge Country Estate, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route

Traditional lodge

Located along the Garden Route, explore endless beaches and local markets in the one of the most picturesque regions of South Africa.

Views Boutique Hotel, Garden Route

Views Boutique Hotel, Wilderness Garden Route

Contemporary hotel

Nestled atop the dunes, Views Boutique Hotel is an idyllic and ideal base to explore the renowned Garden Route.

Tsala Treetop Lodge, Garden Route

Tsala Treetop Lodge, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route

Traditional lodge

Set amidst treetops of an old, indigenous forest, the hideaway is adventurous and romantic, situated on the Garden Route between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay

The Plettenburg,Plettenburg Bay

The Plettenberg, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route

Traditional hotel

Situated in the heart of Plettenburg Bay and upon the rocky headland of one of South Africa’s most spectacular beach towns, the Plettenburg is the ultimate escape. Tucked neatly along the Garden Route, Plettenburg boasts golden beaches and dense forests, alongside a culture of conservation and hist…

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Where to go in Garden Route

Keurbooms Lagoon, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route, South Africa

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, or Plett as it's known locally, is one of the Garden Route's major draws. It's a top-class destination for nature and adventure lovers and the surrounding countryside offers amazing wilderness experiences

Bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa

Tsitsikamma National Park

Tsitsikamma National Park is a region of majestic natural beauty. The forest and coastal reserve is known for its indigenous ‘giant' forests, river gorges and dramatic sections of coastline along the Garden Route.

Featherbed Nature Reserve, Knysna, South Africa


Famous for its annual oyster festival, Knysna has twice been voted South Africa's favourite small town. Knysna Elephant Park is a popular place to interact with these relocated giants and Featherbed Nature Reserve is rich with local flora and fauna.

Mossel Bay, Garden Route

Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay has some of the best land-based whale watching in the world. Regular marine visitors include the Southern Right, Humpback and Killer Whales, as well as great white sharks, which hunt for prey at nearby Seal Island.

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When to go to Garden Route

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Garden Route articles

  • Views Boutique Hotel, Garden Route

    A guide to the Garden Route

    South Africa's Garden Route passes through many lovely towns on its way from Cape Town to Knysna. Swellendam in particular has great examples of Cape Dutch architecture at its best. For many, Plett is the epitome of the Garden Route, with white sands, clear waters, forest-clad mountains and fabul…

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    Knysna Oyster Festival: Doing it in Style

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    The best food and wine holidays in the world

    From nectorial white wines to ambrosial game meats, we have hand-picked our favourite food and wine holidays around the world, including highlights from South Africa, Chile and France.

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