Garden Route Travel Guide

The Garden Route Quick Travel Guide

Why go?
Undoubtedly up there amongst the most picturesque places in the world, South Africa’s Garden Route is a great tourist destination. The suitably named Garden Route with its beautiful and diverse flora and fauna, spans a 200km long stretch along the southern coast of South Africa and offers visitors an array of things to do and exciting and beautiful places to see. From idyllic historical Garden Route towns combined with natural beauty such as Mossel Bay, Knysna and Oudtshoorn (to name a few) to high adrenaline activities and top-class golf courses, visitors will be sure to find the perfect balance for a magical holiday in South Africa's Garden Route.

As you continue east from the Garden Route, you come to Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape and many people choose to end their Garden Route holiday on one of the Eastern Cape's world-class malaria free safaris. A wealth of exciting activities, a striking natural diversity and the mild Mediterranean-like climate, make the Garden Route in South Africa a deservedly popular holiday spot for both visitors from abroad and locals alike.

Who for?
The Garden Route is a fantastic destination for couples. The stunning scenery, excellent safaris and great beachfront wining and dining mean that those looking for a fun romantic break are well catered for in the Garden Route, South Africa. The Garden Route is also a great family destination as there are plenty of fun things to do with the kids, especially if they like wildlife and beaches.

South Africa's Garden Route makes an excellent year round destination as summers are warm and sunny and winters are mild. The most popular time to visit the Garden Route is December – February (South Africa's peak summer time), but we’d recommend planning your Garden Route holiday for March or April or even May when the weather is still excellent and beaches and Garden Route accommodation are less crowded.

How long?
We’d recommend at least 5 days and preferably 7 or more for exploring the Garden Route. This will mean that you can spread out the driving so that you don't have to do more than a couple of hours in one stretch and will give you time to chill on the beach, tour the picturesque Garden Route towns, such as Knysna, Plettenberg BayOudtshoorn and more. 7 days in the Garden Route will also allow you to see some South African wildlife, enjoy some of the great restaurants and bars and partake in some of the many fun and exciting activities on offer in the Garden Route. We have put together a few suggested Garden Route itineraries and some information on driving distances to help you plan how long to spend in the Garden Route.

Must see/do?

  • Visit the beautiful coastal town of Knysna. Take a lagoon cruise, enjoy a meal on the waterfront or simply take in the wonderful view from the Knysna Heads.

  • Embark on a safari and spot the Big 5! There are lots of excellent Garden Route safari lodges and Game Reserves.

  • Take a whale and dolphin watching trip - it's incredible. We'd suggest either Plettenberg Bay or Mossel Bay for this.

  • Visit the Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn and check out an ostrich farm and the magnificent and ancient Cango Caves.

  • Enjoy the traditional South African past time of sundowners overlooking some of the world's most stunning stretches of coastline. Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and Mossel Bay all have great restaurants and bars, some with incredible views from which to enjoy an evening drink or two.

  • Take a Township Tour and explore South Africa's colourful past and present.

  • Spend some time on one of the many awesome Garden Route beaches. Swim, surf or simply have some fun in the sun.

Garden Route Brief History
The rich and colourful history of South Africa’s Garden Route can be traced back to around 25,000 BC when the nomadic San and Khoi peoples inhabited the region. Since then many changes have been seen within the Garden Route of South Africa. From the arrival of the Xhosa tribe who migrated from northern regions of South Africa almost two thousand years ago, to the influx of settlers from Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Garden Route region has become home to many cultures and these have influenced ways of life, cuisine, music and more.

During the last 300 years, the Garden Route has been no stranger to conflict. Fighting between the Xhosa and European settlers was common during the 18th and 19th centuries and the early 20th century saw the Anglo-Boer War arrive in the Garden Route. In 1910 the Union of South Africa was founded, creating a united South Africa.

After the Second World War, the National Party was elected in South Africa and they introduced a policy of racial segregation known as Apartheid. The areas surrounding the Garden Route are the home and birthplace of many famous opponents of Apartheid, including Nelson Mandela, former South African President.

The Garden Route Today
Since the end of the Apartheid regime in the 1990’s South Africa’s Garden Route has blossomed into world class tourist destination offering a unique and exciting experience for all who visit The Rainbow Nation. For more information on the many sights and activities in the different regions of the Garden Route, visit our Garden Route Region Overview. For a few useful tips for your trip to the Garden Route such as what to bring and how much to tip, why not check out our useful Garden Route know before you go section!