The Garden Route is one of the most well loved road trips in South Africa. It’s so named because of the stunning flora that follow its trail, from the dense canopy of the jungle to the swaying grasses of the plains. Although it’s possible to holiday quite cheaply in South Africa, be prepared to spend a little more in this popular destination. If you’re embarking on a road trip around the Garden Route, then here are some tips to make sure you get the absolute most out of your adventure.
Stay in Cape Town
A good idea is to start your adventure in Cape Town. Although it’s a little way from the true beginning of The Garden Route, it’s a picturesque city, with plenty of places to hire a car and plenty of sights to see. One of the sights that any sports fan should be sure to visit is the Newlands Cricket ground. South Africa are known for their cricket prowess, regularly seeing themselves at short odds to win the largest tournaments. Treat yourself to an afternoon of sports viewing and then set out on the first leg of your adventure.
First Stop, Hermanus
On your way to the true beginning of the garden route, you should be sure to make a stop in Hermanus. This picturesque cliffside town is home to some of the biggest inhabitants our world has ever seen – whales. Take a walk along the well signposted cliff path and keep your eyes peeled for breaching and the odd tail! You’re most likely to have success between June and December, so the window is quite broad. Of course, there’s no guarantee with nature, so if you aren’t lucky enough to see whales, then take comfort in the fact that the walk along the cliffs is beautiful in itself. The path itself is a winding gravel track, which criss-crosses the very cliff face, interspersed with unusual lichens and mosses in pretty pinks and oranges. If you find a track down to the beach below then be sure to take a look, some of the beaches on this bit of the coast are made entirely of seashells.
Experience Some Culture in Mossel Bay
The drive from Hermanus is a picturesque one, taking a more inland route where you’ll see rolling hills, interspersed with dense forested land. Once you reach Mossel Bay you’ll find the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex, which has a whole day’s worth of fascinating history. The Maritime Museum and the Shell Museum are great little beachy finds, but the botanical gardens is really special. Pack yourself a picnic and be sure to really take advantage of such a vast collection of plants, cleverly condensed into a relatively small space.
Get Back to Nature in Wilderness
This part of the journey is in many ways the most spectacular. The little village called Wilderness sits surrounded by national park. For those who want to explore ponds and swamps just a little off the coast, there’s a wooden boardwalk from which you can see wading birds. If you’d rather take a long and slightly more challenging hike then head up into Knysna. This part of the route is forested, with deep gorges and plenty of exciting flora and fauna, including the Knysna Loerie, which can be seen flitting around in the treetops.
Watch the Seals at Robberg Nature Reserve
The next part of your journey takes you through Knysna and all the way to Robberg Nature Reserve. Here there are several challenging full day hikes, which really should only be attempted by those who are physically fit. If you do embark on one then you’re sure to be rewarded for your efforts, with the promise of much wildlife. For those who would like to take it a little easier, it’s also possible to organise a boat trip to take you right out to the peninsula. Once you reach the tip of the coastline, you’ll be encouraged to take a dip with the colony of Cape fur seals that call the peninsula their home. The seals are sometimes content to sunbathe on the beach, but the younger, more curious ones often come to say hello.
Ending Your Trip
Where you end your trip to come back around is more or less up to you. Travelling out as far as Oudtshoorn is a good idea for those who are interested in picking up a souvenir. This town is famous for it’s ostriches, which are well worth a look if you book in to visit them at one of the ranches. Many of the locals here carve the beautiful white ostrich eggs and sell them for very reasonable prices. Look for an egg with tiny holes carved into it for an unusual lampshade cover.