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  • Writer's pictureIne Vandenwyngaert

Garden Route, South Africa: 10 Highlights along the Garden Route

Updated: Mar 10

The Garden Route is a breathtaking stretch of coastline that spans over 300 kilometers along South Africa’s southern coast. Beginning in the Western Cape city of Mossel Bay and ending at Storms River in the Eastern Cape, this iconic route is known for its lush forests, dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife. In this travel guide, we share 10 highlights along the Garden Route as well as a map with great places to stay, eat, and drink. All of the places we mention are relatively close to each other and are possible to visit in a 5-10 day road trip. If you have less time, you can also pick and choose which activities interest you most when planning your own adventure to this area.

Wilderness garden route south africa
Wilderness Beach from Dolphin Point Viewpoint

Check out our video about the Garden Route to see these fascinating places to visit through our camera!

10 Highlights along the Garden Route

Cape Town is a great place to start your Garden Route road trip. There are many things to do in and around the city, and we have another blog and video if you’re interested in visiting before or after your road trip.

From Cape Town, you have two options to get to the start of the garden route: your first option is to drive the N2 national highway through quaint towns like Swellendam, which is the most direct route. This option takes between 4-5 hours to get to the start of the Garden Route. Your other option is to take the coastal Cape Whale Route. This passes the scenic False Bay, Betty’s Bay and the Stony Point penguin colony, the charming town of Hermanus, and the windy Cape Agulhas to name a few. If you want to enjoy each stop on this option, you need to add at least a couple of days. Whichever way you choose, your first stop will likely be Oudtshoorn or Mossel Bay.

10. Mossel Bay

Let’s start with Mossel Bay. This is a historic harbor town with lots of beaches and outdoor recreation. One of the most popular things to do is hiking the St. Blaize Trail, a 14 km point-to-point coastal hike that starts at Bushman Cave and finishes at Dana Bay. But aside from that, you can also go whale watching, explore the historic town and museums, or go zip lining. We stayed at a unique accommodation in Mossel Bay, known as the Santos Express Train Lodge, which is an old train that has been converted into a hotel.

Mossel Bay Lighthouse garden route south africa
Mossel Bay Lighthouse

9. Oudtshoorn

Oudtshoorn is the only highlight along the Garden Route that is not located along the coast. And to get here, you have to cross some stunning mountain passes. Known as the “ostrich capital of the world”, Oudtshoorn boasts the largest ostrich population on the planet, spread across a number of farms. We visited the Safari Ostrich Farm, where you can do a tractor tour, learn about these interesting creatures, the historic ostrich feather industry, and ostrich farming today. In fact, many products are derived from ostriches, such as meat, leather, and even decorated eggs.

Another must-see attraction is the Cango Caves, a series of limestone caverns filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. The caves can only be visited by guided tour, and you have the option of either a 1-hour heritage tour or a 1.5 hours adventure excursion.

  • Where we stayed: Culdesac Guesthouse - located right in the heart of Oudtshoorn with spacious and clean rooms, well-equipped kitchen, and outdoor space to eat

ostrich farm garden route south africa
ostrich farm

8. Wilderness & Garden Route National Park

Wilderness is a small peaceful town surrounded by lush greenery. It’s actually protected as part of the Garden Route National Park. With many waterways to explore, a pristine stretch of coastline, and a thriving forest, this is the perfect place for nature enthusiasts. We hiked the Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail, which was a little over 8 kilometers or 5 miles long and had an elevation gain of 282 meters. It was a relatively easy and shaded trek along the river to a waterfall and took us about 2.5 hours to complete. At some point, you also have to cross the river…

You can also consider stopping at some of the panoramic viewpoints on your way to Wilderness, such as the Map of Africa and Dolphin Point.

  • Where we stayed: Forest Hill Wilderness - clean bright rooms in a safe area, includes a microwave but no kitchen facility

wilderness garden route south africa
views along the Half collared kingfisher trail

7. Sedgefield beaches

For pristine beaches and ultimate relaxation, head to Sedgefield next. Although the town itself doesn’t have much to offer for tourists, there are long sandy beaches and an estuary which is sheltered from the wind by sandstone cliffs. It’s a perfect place for swimming as it’s shallow and calm. But even just walking along the beaches is a fun experience in itself.

  • Where we stayed: Forest Hill Wilderness - clean bright rooms in a safe area, includes a microwave but no kitchen facility

Myoli beach garden route south africa
Myoli beach

6. Knysna

Knysna is a picturesque town nestled on the banks of a giant lagoon, which is now a protected marine reserve. Not surprisingly, one of the highlights of Knysna is a relaxing boat tour on the Knysna Lagoon, where you can enjoy scenic views. Boat tours leave from Thesen Island, which is another must-see spot, with its charming waterfront cafes and boutiques. But for the best view of the lagoon, the Knysna Heads viewpoint offers a stunning panorama. 

You can also head down to a beautiful beach from there, known as Coney Glen Beach. And if you want an intimate animal experience, you can head to Knysna Elephant Park, where you can get up close and personal with gentle giants.

Knysna Heads viewpoints garden route south africa
Knysna Heads viewpoints

5. Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, commonly referred to as "Plett", is a vibrant seaside town with stunning landscapes. While the town itself is charming with many restaurants, guest houses, and coffee shops, the beaches have soft white sand and inviting waves. Beyond the beaches, Plett boasts a few unique adventure experiences. Nearby in the waters of Robberg Marine Protected Area, you will find a large colony of Cape fur seals. You can book a 30-minute snorkel session with these seals, who are extremely playful and curious! This snorkel tour includes the boat ride as well as wetsuits, masks, and fins. We even spotted some dolphins from the boat.

Other experiences in the area include the Birds of Eden, The Crags Elephant Sanctuary, and Monkeyland. However, we didn’t have time to fit them all in!

  • Where we stayed: Ocean Watch Guesthouse - Beautiful and comfy guesthouse within 10 minutes' walk from the beach. Has a sun deck with sun loungers and outdoor pool overlooking the ocean.

plettenberg bay garden route south africa
Plettenberg Bay

4. Robberg Nature Reserve

Robberg Nature Reserve is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean near Plettenberg Bay. It’s renowned for its breathtaking panoramic views, dramatic cliffs, and diverse ecosystems. You can explore a network of hiking trails of various fitness levels, ranging from 30-minute walks to a 4-hour trek. We hiked the entire perimeter of the peninsula, which was about 9 kilometers or 5.5 miles long and had 252 meters of elevation gain. This loop hike was not too difficult overall and offered the most stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, and chances to spot birds and other wildlife.

Robberg Nature Reserve garden route south africa
Robberg Nature Reserve

3. Keurbooms River & Beach

Right outside of Plettenberg Bay, you can find a tranquil and beautiful beach known as Keurboomstrand ). You can find a unique geological feature here, called Arch Rock. But the crown jewel is the Keurbooms River, with dark waters twisting and turning through a forested gorge. You can explore the river by kayaking or driving your own motorized boat, for which no previous experience is required. You can go up the river for about 5.5km and along the way, there are multiple small sandy beaches to stop at for a swim, picnic or braai. Rentals are offered for a full day, but the actual boat ride only takes about 2 hours. So there’s plenty of time to relax.

  • Where we stayed: Ocean Watch Guesthouse - Beautiful and comfy guesthouse within 10 minutes' walk from the beach. Has a sun deck with sun loungers and outdoor pool overlooking the ocean.

2. Bloukrans Bridge

Soaring high above a majestic gorge, the Bloukrans Bridge isn't just a landmark, it's a mecca for adrenaline junkies. Being one of the highest commercial bungee jumps in the world at a staggering 216 meters or 709 feet, it offers a thrilling experience. To reach the jumping platform, you first have to take a zip line from the bank to the arch. Then, you’ll take turns in your group leaping into the valley.

After rebounding multiple times, a recovery operator helps you get back up to the platform. After everyone’s jumped, you walk along a SkyWalk to get back onto solid ground. The entire experience takes about 2 hours since you also have to get to the site an hour before your actual jump. It’s led by a highly trained and experienced staff, and you can be assured that safety is the utmost priority for them.

1. Tsitsikamma National Park

Finally, Tsitsikamma National Park is the last highlight along the Garden Route. This park is known for its dramatic coastline, lush indigenous forests, diverse wildlife, and exciting activities. There are tons of beautiful hiking trails to enjoy, the Storms River Mouth Trail being the most popular one. This short scenic trail takes you on boardwalks and suspension bridges over the Storms River estuary. Another beautiful hike is the Waterfall Trail, which is part of the long-distance Otter Trail. This hike follows the rocky coastline to a cave and waterfall. The route involves some rock hopping and takes about 2 to 3 hours in total to complete.

Storms River Mouth garden route south africa
Storms River Mouth

Map Garden Route

Find all the places to go, eat, drink, and stay along the Garden Route on Google Maps. To follow and save the list, do the following:

  1. Tap on the link to open it (click button below)

  2. Tap Follow. This list will now be added to the group of lists you follow.

  3. Optional: To unfollow a list someone shared with you, tap the list Saved.

If you follow the list we made, all our saved places of the Garden Route will show up in Your Places. The places will also appear as suggested locations in Google Maps.


Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To The Garden Route


Are you having a hard time planning your trip to South Africa? Get our Interactive Travel Planner to keep it all organized.

travel planner for garden route south africatrip

Need more travel inspiration? Check out our other destinations and articles about South Africa:

World Wild Hearts

Hi! We are Ine & Zac. An international travel couple from Belgium and the US. We created World Wild Hearts to inspire life-changing travel experiences like we've had. Use these tips, stories, and guides to inspire your next adventure of a lifetime!


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