The Garden Route is the stretch of coastline starting at Mossel Bay and ending at Jeffreys Bay. To describe it as beautiful would be an understatement. It is blessed with lush green forests nurtured by warm currents that grace the shoreline, mountains that majestically rise into the heavens, captivating dryer fynbos regions, and contains a pure energy that thickly scents the air.
The area was first exploited for its abundance of wood, enormous yellow wood trees – thousands of years old were harvested and shipped out of Knysna. A small gold rush also took place in the early days but not enough of the precious mineral was ever discovered to justify massive excavations. During this period the Knysna Elephants, that for centuries had roamed the forests were basically wiped out to extinction. Partly for their Ivory, partly for sport, and partly due to the fear they instilled in the local inhabitants. Fortunately today they have slowly been reintroduced and once again can been seen in their natural environment.
The Garden Route offers the full holiday experience whether you are looking for tranquil escape or an exciting and exhilarating experience, it can all be found along a stretch of coastline about 300km long.
Today the area is still as majestic as what it always was, the environment is protected by National Parks and conservation of the region is paramount to all those who call the Garden Route home.
If you are visiting South Africa it is a must on your itinerary and worth taking a good few days to explore. Rent a car and drive from town to town or simply pick a spot and take in the wonderful surroundings. Tourism is a huge boost to the Garden Route and visitors are extremely well catered for, if you are on a shoe string budget there are backpackers and cheaper guest houses and other forms of accommodation, and if you prefer to do things in style there are plenty of luxury hotels and resorts that will cater to your needs.
The best time to experience the Garden Route is over the summer months (November to March), but the climate is moderate the entire year. Even the winter months are blessed with sunny weather as well as its own unique beauty that the cold fronts bring. To watch a storm front roll in over the ocean or to see a winter sunset over the ocean is alone worth the trip. Accommodation rates do drop over the winter months making it more affordable.
The following towns form part of The Garden Route.
The sleepy hollow of Jeffreys Bay is best known for its waves and shells. The town however has much more to offer than that. It is blessed with beautiful beaches, warm waters, all the amenities visitors could as for as well as a wonderful tranquility. It lies between the Kabeljous river and the Seekooi rivers about 70km to the west of Port Elizabeth. The average population is about 20 thousand but that figure rises dramatically over the summer months. Jeffreys Bay is home to the Billabong Pro Surfing Contest which takes place during July as well as the Shell Festival which takes place over September. The town is growing rapidly as more and more people have been lured by the J-Bay lifestyle. Right next to Jeffreys Bay you will two smaller hamlets – Aston Bay and Paradise Beach.
Cape st Francis
For years Cape st Francis has been known as a destination for the more discerning holiday maker. The white washed houses with their thatched roofs have become synonymous with the area. It lies about 40km to the west of Jeffreys Bay and is a smaller in size. The town offers less in the form of amenities to visitors than Jeffreys Bay but posses its own unique brand of beauty. Bruce’s Beauties – a world renowned surf break can be found here as well as other magnificent waves. St Francis Bay lies just to the west at the end of the road and here you will find another beautiful stretch of coastline dominated by a lighthouse and a surf break called Seal Point. Both these towns offer a superb escape from the mad mad world outside. To get to Cape st Francis takes the Humansdorp off-ramp.
This paradise named by the San people – “Place of Sparkling Water” lies between the ocean and the Tsitsikamma mountains stretching from Bloukrans River in the west to Clarkson in the east. This is a magical place where sea and forest come together offering unspoilt natural attractions, high seas, sheer cliffs, rivers and cascades tumbling to an ocean lined with rocky crags and white, sandy beaches not to mention awesome indigenous forests home to massive and ancient trees among which are Kamassi, Stinkwood, Hard pear, Yellowood and fynbos vegetation. Watch out for Birds, antelope, bushpig and Honey badgers on land and the Dolphins and Whales that frequently visit up and down the coast. If you enjoy hiking and being in nature then spending time in the Tsitsikamma is a must.
Just to the west of Plettenberg Bay the Roberg Pininsula acts as a massive natural break wall against the swells that roll up the coast – creating a wonderful playground for people who love the ocean. Just behind Plettenberg Bay lie the majestic Outeniqua and Tsitsikama Mountains delivering a truly awesome backdrop and slicing down through the center of it all the Keurbooms Rivers adds the perfect touch to the splendor of the area. Plettengerg Bay is painted perfectly green all year round thanks to the pristine forests and lush vegetation that thrive in this Eden while unspoilt beaches and clean ocean currents welcome visitors with open arms. Their are plenty of activities that Plettenberg Bay has to offer, some more relaxing more exhilarating, the choice is yours – but what ever your choice is rest assured it will be an experience in paradise.
Knysna lies 30km to the west of Plettenberg Bay and about 70km to the east of George. The town is to say the least majestical. It is blanketed in ancient forests and wraps around a breath taking lagoon that each day rises and falls with the tides. The Heads form a gateway from the ocean into this estuary that for centuries has created a perfect natural harbor. Outeniqua Choo Tjoe train travels daily between Knysna and George and is the perfect way to experience the Garden Route. There are plenty of things to do in Knysna and a seemingly never ending forest to explore. There are various forms of accommodation available to fit all tastes as well as budgets. Knysna offers visitors all the amenities they might require, from a game of golf to a fishing charter, world class restaurants and even adventure sports to get the heart racing. Knysna is also home to the Knysna Oyster Festival an event which truly brings the town to life.
Wilderness & Sedegfield
These two small towns lie between Knysna and George and are two majestic getaways in their own right. Both lie on the ocean both have estuaries that lie beside them. They poses the same beautiful lush greenery that defines the Garden Route and are definitely worth spending some time in. They home to a wonderful artistic community are the perfect getaway even in the busier summer months. Take endless strolls along unspoilt beaches, pick a direction and explore the forests or try fishing off shores that hold an abundance of marine life. The fact that they lie in the heart if the Garden Route make them the perfect base from which to explore this wonderful region. There is plenty of accommodation available, from guest houses, self catering units as well as backpackers.
George lies slightly inland and is on of the largest towns on the Garden Route. It is equaly picturesque and is home to some of the worlds finest golf courses. There is plenty of accommodation on offer and various activities to keep everyone entertained. George lies 70km to the east of Mossel Bay and forms the gateway to the Little Karoo and Oudtshoorn. The town has grown considerably over the last decade as more and more people have flocked to the booming region. The N2 does not cut through George but merely brushes past it. It offers all the amenities of larger towns such as nightclubs, restaurants and a cinemas. Just to the west of George lies Victoria Bay, a tiny bay with spectacular scenery, great surfing and fishing and various accommodation facilities including a camping ground. It gets really busy here over December so booking
in advance is essential. George is the last stop for the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe Train that travels daily back and forth from Knysna.
Oudtshoorn lies just over the Outeniqua Mountains to the North of George, about 70km away. Here the landscape changes dramatically from the green lush to a more semi arid environment. The town of Oudtshoorn played an important role in South Africa’s history and continues to lure large numbers of visitors each year. It has become synonymous with ostriches and a ride on one of these birds is a must try. Oudtshoorn each year hosts a KKNK Arts Festival that has grown to become one of South Africa’s foremost Afrikaans art festivals. The Festival takes place during April, things get really busy during this time so booking for accommodation is recommended. The days are hot in Oudtshoorn and nights are cool, and the town definitely brings its own unique flare the Garden Route. Calitzdorp lies just to the west of Oudtshoorn where warm natural fountains bubble up from the earth.
The first or last town on the Garden Route, depending on which way you are traveling. Mossel Bay was home to a large San population that for centuries called the region home. Their old dwellings are worth exploring in the various caves that lie along the shore. It was also a major stop off for the early ships that would dock here to replenish their supplies on route up or down the coast. Mossel Bay has magnificent beaches, great surfing and other water sports to offer and stunning views from nearly any part of the town. When it comes to accommodation Mossel Bay has everything from a hotels and guest houses to backpackers and camping grounds. It is also one of the largest towns on the Garden Route with lots of shops and forms and other general forms entertainment, even a casino.