Why the Garden Route in South Africa is the most scenic road trip you can ever make

In my opinion the Garden Route in South Africa is the most scenic road trip you can ever make. Starting from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth the uniqueness of this road trip lies in the diversity you will encounter. Note: This trip can also be done the other way round. You surely won’t get bored to see more of the same. From mountains to vineyards, to ocean drives and whale watching, from endless roads in the deserts to abundance of greenery in the forests, with a touch of wildlife along the way and towns with dutch colonial houses reminding you of South Africa’s past. You name it you have it!

If you love adventure and enjoy the freedom of driving, this 1,000 km road trip (or so) is surely the trip of a lifetime you cannot miss. Here are some ideas on places to visit along the way and how you can plan your drive.

One small tip: each drive will surely take you longer than planned, if you stop to admire the scenery and take photos (which is highly frequent given the diversity). However driving is very easy in South Africa and after taking the usual safety precautions, you have nothing to worry about.

garden route in south africa

Days 1 – 5 Cape Town and the Wine Lands

garden route in south africa

You will require a minimum of 5 days to properly visit Cape Town. There are a lot of things to do both inside and around the city. You can opt to visit the wine lands in the area of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek either as a day trip or stay overnight in one of these quaint towns. Apart from the natural beauty, Cape Town and the surrounding wine lands are famous for the delicious cuisine. You will surely be amazed when you see the cheap prices, given the standards of the restaurants. On more information on how to spend your days in Cape Town you can check out my previous blog post on the Top 10 things to do in Cape Town or Cape Town’s Tourism Website. Cape Town is usually chosen as a starting point for the Garden Route in South Africa due to its good connections from its international airport to a lot of cities in the world like London, Istanbul and Dubai.

garden route in south africa

Days 6-7 Hermanus to Swellendam

garden route in south africa

Hermanus is the main destination for whale watching if you are visiting South Africa between June and December. The whales come so close to the shore that you do not even to take a boat ride to see them. Obviously you can also take a boat ride to get closer. Apart from whales, there are a lot of marmots in the green areas along the coast so keep your eyes open! After this stop you may choose to drive inland and stop for an overnight in Swellendam. This small town is located at the foots of the Langeberg mountain range. While you are driving towards Swellendam you will get a hint about why this is called the Garden Route.

garden route in south africa

Days 7-8 Tradouw Pass to Oudtshoorn

garden route in south africa

Driving through the Tradouw Pass is really dramatic especially if you do so in the morning mist. I try to include passes when possible as usually the views are spectacular, and this one did not fail to impress. Another highlight was meeting lots of baboons on our way! However beware and do not feed them as they may become dangerous. As we drove along Barrydale and Calitzdorp we saw the mountainous landscape quickly giving its way to the desert; the Karoo. This area is famous for Ostrich farms and you can visit one here. However you don’t need to go to a farm as you will meet lots of them while driving. The last stop on this part of the trip were the Cango Caves; which are huge underground caves full of curious rock formations.

garden route in south africa

Days 8-9 George to Knysna

garden route in south africa

After a short visit to the Karoo desert, it is time to get back to the ocean. The sandy beaches in South Africa are as numerous as they are endless. A good example of such a beach is the one in Wilderness; where not even an aerial view was good enough for us to see the end of this immense beach. Next was Knysna and the heads; a lagoon that is enclosed with green cliffs where the Knysna river flows into the Indian Ocean.

garden route in south africa

Days 9-12 Plettenberg Bay to Port Elizabeth

garden route in south africa

The weather in Plettenberg Bay was awful so I was not able to appreciate the place as it was grey and windy. However luckily we were able to enjoy Tsitsikamma Forest, where we did zip lining for the first time. This area is ideal for the thrillseekers as apart from this experience you can bungee jump from the highest bridge in the world; Bloukrans Bridge. Other interesting places you can visit in the area include Robberg Reserve and the Bird park Birds of Eden. We ended the Garden Route in South Africa in Port Elizabeth, from where we flew on to Johannesburg for our safari. I wrote more information on the safari experience in another blog post entitled ‘Experiencing a safari‘.

garden route in south africa

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Basic info for Maltese Travellers

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Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Aaah, so lovely, you took me back to our own self-drive through the Garden Route, back in 2004. It’s making me want to go back. We loved the freedom of the road, and how quiet many of the roads were too, and the views were just wonderful both of the coast and those amazing passes. Such a great place to tour!!

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      We visited exactly 10 years after, but I think not a lot has changed. This place is beautiful because of its wild and varied nature 🙂 Yet you hardly meet anyone along the way and you are free to enjoy the place quietly 🙂

  • These photos are so stunning! How did you make the first photo of the first day? I’d LOVE to make a road trip in South Africa, you have no idea! I’m a bit jealous, I must admit.. lol
    Great post!

    Bruna

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      Thanks for your positive feedback. That photo was taken during a helicopter tour, surely worth admiring this unique city from above! You will make it to South Africa one day if you want it hard enough. Good luck:)

  • Andrea Mayfield says:

    You captured some amazing photos! My favorite are the aerial shots! great post!

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      Thanks 🙂 Cape Town’s geography is amazing and doing a helicopter ride over the city is surely the most incredible experience you can make!

  • Kate says:

    One of my friends is in South Africa right now! Her pictures, like yours, make me want to book a flight. Such an amazing place, would love to do this road trip and add some more hikes near Cape Town.

    • Lenise Calleja says:

      Yes I would like to return to hehe 🙂 It is my #1 destination of all time! Hopefully I will be able to do more activities next time I visit!

  • C-Ludik says:

    Lovely photos, brought back memories ! You took me back to our own self-drive through the Garden Route 🙂 South Africa’s Garden Route is one of the most scenic drives in the world !!

  • yash sagar says:

    so beautiful pictures u have i love it

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