Top 7 Garden Route Highlights (South Africa) 

From South Africa’s Eastern Cape along the southern belt to Cape Town, the Garden Route highlights are plentiful.

This stretch of stunning highway is around 300km long and has to be the most action packed. Biking, hiking and kayaking, scuba diving, surfing and snorkelling, kayaking, canoeing and parachuting, the list could go on – it’s all there. Add in some stunning views, a few exotic creatures and some old seaside towns and you’ve got the basics of the infamous Garden Route.

If you want to know the best things to do on the Garden Route then read on for the right stops for all the best action.

1. Port Elizabeth

Best route for Garden Route

Stop number 1 on the route is for animal lovers and sun worshippers. A coastal town on Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth has got beaches, boat tours and boasts 300 plus days of sunshine a year, despite its nickname as the windy city. You can stop by the Penguin’s Rehab Centre, go whale watching or, if budget allows, spend two-nights in the bush with the Shamwari Game Reserve where the elephants and tigers may be your bunk buddies.

Moving on from animal magic, bear the body at sandy spots like Kings, Hobie or Pollock beach or pick up on some of PE’s creative vibes at Newton Park’s Music Kitchen, Nelson Mandela’s art space, Route 67, or the city’s opera house.

2. Nature’s Valley

Tsitkama National Park South Africa

A two-hour drive west on your Garden Route itinerary will see you arrive at Nature’s Valley and its lagoons, wildlife and stunning shorelines. Located inside Tsitsikamma National Park, it’s the only village to be housed inside one of the country’s National Parks, but what that means is easy access to the Cadeau Hiking Trails for the walkers, Misty Mountain MTB Trails for the bikers and the Groot River Lagoon for canoe-ers.

With one shop, no bank and only 50 houses, there’s very little to do except soak up the views of mountains, rainforest and coastline.


Garden Route map

Map for the Garden Route

1. Port Elizabeth 

2. Nature’s Valley 

3. Plettenberg Bay 

4. Knysna 

5. Wilderness

6. Mossel Bay 

7. Gansbaai

Map of the Garden Route


3. Plettenberg Bay

Ideas for the Garden Route South Africa

Riding on the wave of Nature Valley’s beauty, Plettenberg Bay lies just 30 minutes away from the hamlet and sits on a slope meaning that there are lots of unparalleled ocean views.

A  little livelier than its next-door neighbour, you can surf, swim with seals and even do the highest bungee in the world at Bloukrans Bridge. One of the most famous Garden Route attractions along the way.

Stay a few nights, somewhere like Wild Spirit Lodge or African Array Lodge, to make sure you pack in every beach-chilling, adventure-thrilling moment and top it all off by catching a sunset at Kranshoek Point.

4. Knysna

What to wear in South Africa

Beachside lodge, lagoon houseboat, forest cabin and local guesthouse – when it comes to accommodation options, this lagoon location has it all.

The Knysna Heads, the twin cliffs that give way to the Knysna lagoon from the Indian Ocean, are the top attractions here. One is famous for the dramatic views while the other houses the Featherbed Nature Reserve where you can swim in the ancient Khoi-Khoi sea caves, take a 4 x 4 to the top and get a little bird watching in as you go.

READ MORE: 11 Reasons to Visit Knysna in South Africa

5. Wilderness

Itinerary for the Garden Route South Africa

Living up to its name, you can get up close to the town’s wild side by visiting Wilderness Natural Park, part of the bigger Garden Route National Park. Kayak and hike your way through and you may spot the native leopards, eagles and monkeys.

For an adrenaline hit, try abseiling in the Kaaimans Gorge or horse riding at the base of the Outeniqua mountain range before filling up on great grub at places like Flava’s Café, Blue Olive or even the Milkwood Evening Market.

6. Mossel Bay

Itinerary for South Africa

From the wilderness to the water, Mossel Bay is a quaint seaside town holding on to its twee origins. It also marks the halfway point between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. It’s here you can put the high speed adventure away and spend a few days at a hostel like Shark Shack or Mossel Bay Backpackers and wile away the days at Santos Beach.

If you still feel a little action is needed you could go deep-sea fishing, learn to surf or sand board on Dragon dune. Other than that enjoy the range of quaint restaurants and take some time off from behind the wheel.

7. Gansbaai

Itinerary for driving the Garden Route

On the home straight and just another three hours west, Gansbaai is a small fishing town known for mighty whales and mouthy sharks. You’ll also find some of the country’s top seafood restaurants here.

Start off a trip with a visit to the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary before deciding whether you’re brave enough to swim beside the sharks. There are loads of companies like Extreme Scene that can have you up close to the big fish by shark cage diving.

If you prefer your seawater friends on your plate rather than by your side, B-blonds Restaurant and Ciros offer the best catches of the day.

If you’re planning on travelling the Garden Route any time soon, check out the South Africa holiday deals available at Flight Centre. They can also help you plan your trip. 

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