Destination report

A guide to the Garden Route

7 November 2012 by Luke McCormick

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 fabulous seafood within easy reach.



Famous for its annual oyster festival, Knysna has twice been voted South Africa's favourite small town.

The shipwreck-prone Eastern and Western Heads are popular sights, while along the area's Paradise Coast, thousands strong dolphin pods are a regular sight.

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

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.

This nautical town has a great range of ocean activities, such as yachting, kayaking and boat trips and some of the finest restaurants in the region. A few of South Africa's best chefs have set up around The Point lookout and the old part of town.

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, or Plett as it's known locally, is one of the Garden Route's major draws. Plett is a top-class destination for nature and adventure lovers and the surrounding countryside offers amazing wilderness experiences ranging from hikes through forest, fynbos, gorges and mountains, to game drives through Plett Game Reserve to spot four of the Big Five and the resident cheetahs at Tenikwa Wildlife Centre.

Tsitsikamma National Park

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.

One of the largest marine protected areas in the world, the region's name comes from the Khoisan word, meaning ‘place of much water'.

The famous Otter Trail and Dolphin Trail are both popular with hikers, and there are many adventure activities to be enjoyed, such as the world's highest commercial bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge, Storm River Adventure Centre and scuba diving sites at Woodcutters Bay.



The Garden Route town of Wilderness is set between the Kaalmans River and the Goukama Nature Reserve, bordered by the Outeniqua Mountains. Wilderness is renowned for its tranquil beaches and also the many rivers, lakes and lagoons that surround the town, which prove popular with water sports enthusiasts.

Wilderness is ideal for bird watching thanks to the many water birds that breed here, while other types of recreation include hiking, dolphin and whale watching, hang gliding, paragliding, horse riding, mountain biking, scenic drives, ferry cruises, angling and boating.

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