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Your Garden Route road trip: a 6-day itinerary

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South Africa is a country of contrasts. It’s troubled chaotic history still permeates through to everyday life. Yet, at the same time, it offers beautiful, untouched landscapes alongside a vicarious mix of cultures, languages, and histories.

The coastline of South Africa stretches across 2800 km and across both the vast Indian and South Atlantic oceans. There are 11 official languages that exist, with each distinct region having strong cultural identities.

Addo Elephant Park // Credit: Eve Willis

The Garden Route is the stretch of coastline enveloped between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. From the Western to Eastern Cape there is ever-changing scenery, with the route snaking through the dry arid landscapes of the Little Karoo, past rugged coastlines, then to the mountain passes of Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma which divide the Karoo from the green dense foliage by the Coast.

Kaaimans River Bridge, Outeniqua // Credit: WaynePhotography

Tsitsikamma National Park // Credit: Picturist

So how do you do you do it?

The best and most cost effective way of visiting the Garden Route is to rent a car amongst a group of friends so that you can stop where you want with no time restrictions. However, if you are travelling solo or are not the most confident driver there is always the option of taking the bus or an organised tour. For example, the Baz Bus works as a hop on hop off bus service along the coast in between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and it conveniently drops you directly at your hostel.

The Route

Day 1:

Start in Cape Town and make sure you save some days to explore this diverse and exciting city. Then head east with a stop in Stellenbosch for wine tasting in the relaxed university town outside the state capital. Then take the coastal road that will indulge you with vistas of beautiful beaches, hidden coves, and wildlife. Stop at Bettysbaai for penguin watching, and then finish the day with whale watching in Hermanus, an upmarket coastal town.  

Stellenbosch // Credit: Thinkstock

Betty's Bay, AKA Bettysbaai // Credit: Focus_on_Nature

Day 2:

Start in Cape Agulhas, the most southern tip of the continent. If you visit in the summer you may wish to stay for a few days in the beachside town soak up the laid-back atmosphere or the parties. Continue along Route 62 through winding mountains and small towns. Make sure to stop and have a drink at the infamous Ronnie’s Sex Shop - although a deceptive sign as a result of a friend’s prank, it has become a notorious stop on the Garden Route, its bathrooms and bar adorned with graffiti and, more questionably, the underwear of previous backpackers and revellers. If you remain sober enough end the day with an adventure tour of the impressive Karoo Caves (seriously do not to this drunk!)

Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa // Credit: Sergio Lacueva

Day 3:

In the morning drive south to the coast and spend the day at Mossel Bay, where you can surf or be a beach bum and take a slower pace of life by relaxing in the many coffee bars or trawling the antique shops that line the main street. If you want some more adrenaline, do the skydive above the bay for undisputedly the best views. Spend a night in one of the beach cottages that line the seafront for sundowners and a BBQ.

Mossel Bay // Credit: Bob Hilscher 

Day 4:

Drive to George and you will start to notice a difference in the scenery - it will become more green and vibrant. Then head to the small town of Wilderness, once an area where elephants roamed freely in abundance - yet now there are sadly none left after it became a popular game spot. In Wilderness there are plenty of outdoor activities, such as canoeing and hiking. Finish the afternoon in Sedgefield, the coastal town where you should spend sunset drinking wine by a beach fire.

Sedgefield // Credit: JanRoode

Day 5:

Get breakfast at the Knysna town farmers’ market then drive up to the viewpoints of the Knysna Heads, which offers spectacular views of the sea and river meeting. For the adventurous, be sure to stop at the Bloukrans Bridge to do the world’s highest bungee jump. Spend the afternoon in the spectacular Tsitsikamma National Park, hiking, swimming, dodging the baboons, and kayaking.  

Knysna, on the Garden Route // Credit: Dominiquedelacroix

Day 6:

Cross into the Eastern Cape finally, and experience the difference in culture and languages that makes South Africa so diverse. There are plenty of game reserves and safaris to visit but don’t miss the Addo Elephant Park, close to Port Elizabeth, for a chance to see elephants and even bigger game such as lions up and close in their natural habitat. For the afternoon drive to Jeffrey’s Bay (one of the best surf beaches) for some true R&R.

Addo Elephant Park // Credit: Eve Willis

Jeffrey's Bay // Credit: Eve Willis

Jeffrey's Bay // Credit: Eve Willis

This schedule is an outline of only some of the highlights of the Garden Route. The best thing about a road trip means you have the freedom to spend time in the places you want to, with your new friends. What are you waiting for?



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