The Garden Route is an iconic South African destination. However some places are rather crowded and, to be honest, more tourist traps than fantastic experiences. In this itinerary, we’ve excluded these and focussed on the things that the Garden Route does best: exceptional nature experiences, good food & wine and unusual wildlife. You will explore both well-known destinations and hidden gems. All accommodation is 3-4 star and picked for its unique locations as well as comfort.
This itinerary can be reversed, starting in Cape Town and ending in Port Elizabeth.
Land at Port Elizabeth airport, pick up your rental car and head for the supermarket (you’ll get directions in the detailed travel plan). You will be self-catering for the next two nights, so pick up food, drink and snacks before you hit the road. Once you are stocked up, head north towards Addo Elephant National Park.
This park was created in the 1930ies in order to provide a sanctuary for the eleven elephants that remained in the area. This mission was a great success, and today the park is home to nearly 1,000 elephants as well as many other wild animals including buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard, as well as many antelope, zebra and giraffe.
Addo has many different accommodation options, but we definitely recommend a camp located in the wilderness area of the park (beyond this camp, there are no roads only wild nature). The luxurious chalets each have a private viewing deck with a plunge pool overlooking the floodplain and mountains. It is not unusual to see large herds of elephants passing by on their way to their favourite drinking spot, and you will see many other animals too.
Spend the day exploring Addo. You can self-drive in the park, or go on an organised game drive in an open vehicle arranged by the park authorities. We recommend a combination of the two in order to get different perspectives. You are bound to see a lot of elephants, but also plenty of other wild animals.
The main camp at Addo has a shop and restaurant, as well as many different activities (such as game drives, game walks and horse riding).
Transport: depending on how much you want to drive
Once you’ve left Addo, continue along the Indian Ocean coast towards Tsitsikamma National Park. The road passes fertile farmland, and then continues into the mountainous and forested area called Tsitsikamma. If you want to make a detour, a visit to the beautiful Cape st Francis will add approximately 60km to your journey today. Your lodge is perfectly located to explore the forests, rivers and coastlines of the area. In the afternoon, you may want to relax by the pool or perhaps go for a hike in the forest.
Meals: self-catering breakfast
Today, you have the whole day to explore the area. We recommend a visit to Storms River Mouth, where you can enjoy both the rugged coastline and the river mouth. There are plenty of activities, from a leisurely walk to the suspension bridges to kayaking or tubing on Storms River. Nearby, in the village Storms River, there is a ziplining adventure that takes you on an exhilarating and educational tour of the treetops in this ancient forest. For the truly adventurous, the world’s highest bungee jump from a bridge is not far away.
We will assist with suggestions and reservations of activities according to your interests.
It is now time to leave the coast behind and explore the vast interior. But along the way, you may want to pop into Knysna for lunch. We haven’t included an overnight stop here, as we feel that you will experience enough by stopping here for a few hours. We recommend a stroll through the waterfront shopping area, and lunch overlooking the lagoon. Knysna is world-famous for their oysters, and almost every restaurant serves these delicacies.
After lunch, you cross the mighty Outeniqua mountain range through an impressive pass and enter into the semi-desert called Karoo. This area is mostly known for its large ostrich farms, and you will see plenty of this along the road. Along the way are also several “padstalls” (farm stalls) where you can get a coffee and buy local products such as fresh and dried fruit, preserves and wine. You are staying on a farm outside Oudtshoorn (the ostrich capital) where you can enjoy the tranquillity of the Karoo, and its starstudded skies. If you wish, you can visit an ostrich farm but it is an activity that is mostly suited to families. The Karoo night sky is something incredible and here on the farm, far from the city lights, you will be able to see it at its best.
The Karoo is the perfect habitat for the curious meerkat; a slender animal related to the mongoose and the only members of the genus Suricata. They are known for their habit of sitting upright to survey the surrounding area, and their Geran name “erdmännchen” (little earth-men) alludes to their striking human-like faces. Close by, a biologist has been studying these animals for years and they have grown accustomed to human presence. They are not tame, but can tolerate people studying them from a safe distance. Before sunrise, you will meet your guide to get to then merkat den. Then as the sun rises, the merkats will come up to warm up in the sun before moving on to forage. It is an absolutely amazing experience, and we definitely recommend that this is how you start your morning.
After breakfast, you will continue a short distance to Calitzdorp: the port capital of South Africa, located along the renowned Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world. The town is full of historic buildings, and has nice restaurants as well as quite a few art galleries. You will stay in a newly refurbished historic house in the centre of town, within easy walking distance of most attractions (including a few port wineries). Close to Calitzdorp, you will find natural hot springs and a visit to the spa might be just the thing to relax for a few hours.
Activity: Meerkat Adventure
It is time to leave the Karoo now, and continue back to the coast. But for a while longer, the roads will continue as a straight line through the semi-desert as far as the eye can see. Once you pass the Langeberg mountains, you will find yourself surrounded by sweeping wheat fields as you make your way towards the coast. There will be plenty of options for lunch along the way, and we’ll provide you with tips. Your destination for today is a beautiful farm, close to the little village Stanford which has become quite a mecca for lovers of slow food. Your hotel also serves up delicious, local food that can be best described as wholesome & ample – the team strives to only cook what is close to their hearts AND close to their doorstep.
Spend the day exploring Stanford and its surrounding area. It is a nature, marine and food lovers’ paradise! You can hike or mountain bike in unspoiled nature reserves, or along deserted beaches. In season (June – December) this is a whale watchers’ paradise, and we recommend doing a whale watching tour from Hermanus. For the more adventurous, the same season brings the sharks and Gansbaai is the shark cage diving mecca. In the area, there is also several vineyards, a micro brewery, cheese producers and plenty of good restaurants with a focus on local produce.
Transport: depending on where you go
It’s time to drive to Cape Town now. Depending on your preferences, you can go the coastal route via Betty’s Bay and the Stony Point penguin colony (one of very few land based colonies of these rare birds) or through the fruit and wine growing region Elgin with its vineyards and farmstalls. We will help you to plan the route according to your preferences.
This is the end of the package, but take a look at our Cape Town packages for more inspiration!
Accommodation, Activities, Assistance with reservations for restaurant and optional activities, Directions and information about optional activities, Meals as per program
Flights (We recommend to book night flights), Optional activities, Personal expenses and tips, Rental car
Hermanus, the world’s foremost land based whale watching destination, is a thriving holiday resort offering residents and holiday makers all modern amenities, yet retaining its fisherman’s village charm. The popular resort town of Hermanus, situated between mountain and sea, has gained world-wide recognition as the world’s foremost land based whale watching destination. This has resulted in the former fishing village showing a tremendous growth over the last few years.
This is a perfect tour for those that want to explore the diverse culture and nature of South Africa’s wild north at a leisurely pace! Here people still live very traditional lives, with a close relationship to their ancestors and cultural believes. The diverse geography, with high plateaus and lowlands, mountains and rivers, gives the area a fantastic and diverse habitat: from vast plains to tropical plantations, indigenous forests and bushveld. You will meet people in their homes, far away from touristic “cultural villages. You will visit some of the country’s birding hot-spots, one of the world’s largest canyons and the mighty Kruger National Park: the most iconic of all game reserves in Africa.
The Garden Route includes one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. Mountains crowd close to a shoreline dotted with beaches and bays, and vividly coloured wild flowers delight the eye. The delightful town of George, known as “The Gateway to the Garden Route”, graces a coastal plateau in a fertile area of lush greenery at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. Your break here will be beautiful and encompassing of all the wonderful varieties of nature.
Golf on the greenest of greens and an atmosphere of peace as you rest on your vacation. You will experience luxury, africa and nature at its best.
This is the hiking experience of a lifetime! Explore some of South Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas, meet people in bustling cities, and sleep under the stars where wild animals roam.
This tour is adventurous without being complicated. All hikes are guided by experienced local guides, giving you the freedom to relax without worrying about routes and maps. The guides also provide you with plenty of information about the places and people that you encounter, and you contribute to job-creation in the areas that you visit.
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