The Ultimate 2 week garden route itinerary
The Garden Route in South Africa is one of the country’s most iconic road trips. The official garden route starts in Mossel Bay in the west, and ends at Storms River in the east. It’s 300-kilometers (190 miles) long and winds past beautiful lagoons, beaches, forests, and mountains.
After hours of research and reading about the garden route South Africa so many people’s recommendations, I embarked on the most wonderful 2 weeks driving from Cape Town to port Elizabeth. There’s so much to see and do and countless locations to explore. I’ve included all of my tips and favorite activities, where to stay and eat.
Day 1 / Cape Town & Hermanus
After spending a few days in Cape Town, enjoying great food and amazing spots to explore.
make your way to Hermanus after breakfast, On your way out of town on via the N2 highway, you’ll drive up Sir Lowry’s Pass. It’s a narrow and windy road (so be careful!) but has an amazing lookout at the top.
It’s a long straight drive that takes about 1.5 hours (122 km) we arrived around lunch time and headed down to biencaves and wow we’re we in luck , this super little restaurant has some little tables on the rocks with the waves crashing at your feet and we got one. Fresh seafood menu with delicious choices I had a huge portion of fish and chips and Justin enjoyed the biggest prawns we had ever seen.
After lunch, wander along the sea cliff path and check out all of the local art and sculptures. If you’re visiting Hermanus during whale watching season, the path is the perfect place to see whales and their calves in the cove.
The path will also take you through the Old Harbour where you’ll get a glimpse of the town’s colorful history that dates back to the mid-19th century.
Where to stay
• Luxury- one marine drive
This five-star, family-run, boutique hotel has just five rooms and a staff that is beyond accommodating. coffee is available day and night and the serve a great English breakfast. Enjoy the sunshine on a comfortable lounger next to the heated swimming pool in the secluded courtyard garden.
Day 2 /L’AGULHAS/ Mossel bay
L’Agulhas is the most southern coastal village in Africa, located within the Cape Agulhas at the southernmost tip of the African mainland. Stop here for a walk along the coast. Visit the light house and grab a photo where the two oceans meet.
Day 3-5 Gondawana game reserve
This was my first ever African safari and nothing could have prepared me for the excitement of my first game drive. With wildebeest sprinting past and giraffes towering over you, an African safari is truly a once-in-a-lifetime excursion.
Gondwana is a private game reserve, which means that it’s grounds are limited to guests, and you have knowledgeable and reliable guides at your side. The main difference from a private game reserve to a public, is that anyone can self-drive through a National Park and you’re limited to only animals you can see from the main road, during daylight hours.
Gondwana, safari vehicles can go off road at any time (night or sunrise drives), and you can stay as long as you like at a wildlife sighting. It’s one of the only big game parks within a close driving distance of Cape Town making it the perfect destination for those traveling to South Africa with limited time.
Gondwana is a comparatively affordable option for an all-inclusive game drive experience compared to many other safari lodges throughout Africa. Gondwana’s luxurious accommodation and top-notch food make it an incredible experience.
I was blown away by the Kwena Lodge that we stayed in. a modern and luxurious twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. And Eco friendly. They have 14 open-plan suites are nestled into the breathtaking landscape, which also house sky lights for star gazing, fireplaces and deep baths– perfect for relaxing after a game drive!
The Gondwana Lodge offers delicious Pan African Cuisine on property– a mixture of elements from the European and African art of cooking. From African boma breakfasts, to colorful lunch platters and picnics, to evening boma barbecues, you won’t be disappointed. We went for the all inclusive option when booking all meals snacks and soft drinks were included the was a added charge for alcoholic drinks, it definitely paid off and saved us quite a bit of money over our stay.
There is plenty of time to relax by the pool and soak in the surroundings. And if your lucky you may experience lounging by the pool when a zebra and elephants roam freely Right up to the waters edge.
Read my full guide click the link https://handfullofwishes.com/exploring-gondawana-game-reserve/
Day -6 Wilderness
Wilderness is a town in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, on a coastal stretch known as the Garden Route. It’s home to wide beaches and trails. It’s a 45 minute drive from Mossel bay. We were only staying for one night so we wanted to make the most of our time is this beautiful place.
Things to do in wilderness are outdoor based.
- Eden Adventures Canoe and Waterfall trip: It costs R350 to rent a two-seater canoe for half the day and takes anywhere from 3-5 hours
- Hike the Giant Kingfisher Waterfall trail (a return trip will take between 3-4 hours) We only did the half collard walk which took 2 hours and the views were incredible.
- Visit Timberlake Farm Village: It has outdoor play areas making it a great spot for families self-driving the Garden Route
Where to stay
We stayed at the most incredible place called serendipity If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious. The Guest House features en-suite bedrooms, a huge fireplace, an expansive library, and one of the best restaurants in South Africa. We booked into there restaurant to sample there 5 course sample menu, something we have never experienced before.
The whole experience from start to finish was amazing, the food was creative and delicious and paired with delicious wines if your in wilderness I highly recommend trying this.
Day 7 & 8- knysna
Knysna is the home of adventure along the Garden Route. Our natural surroundings make for the perfect playground for adventure sports of all kinds.
Kilometres of exciting single cycling tracks through indigenous forests and Cape fynbos has made Knysna THE mountain biking destination.
Of course Knysna is right in the middle of the Garden Route National Park, very much like the Lakes District in the UK. An endless network of rivers, lakes and estuaries are waiting to be explored. Grab a canoe, go kloofing or try water-skiing, stand up paddling or wakeboarding – Knysna is your water sports adventure wonderland. Stretches of unspoilt beaches along the warm waters of the Indian Ocean add even more to the range of adventures to be had.
Things to do in knysna
- Breakfast at Il de Pain on Thesen Island: This cute bakery has a lovely outdoor patio (if you stay at Lofts Boutique Hotel — breakfast here is included). Was my favourite breakfast of the whole trip.
- Dinner at Oysters and Tapas on Thesen Island: This seaside restaurant has a wide selection of Food It’s a bit “kitschy” but features live music on the weekend and is super popular with the locals.
- Rent Electric Bikes To explore Thesen island A roundtrip cycle should only take about 1.5-2 hours (stopping along the way).
- Stop on Leisure Island for a Coffee at Nadine’s Corner: They have a super cute garden!
- Drive to the Viewpoint at East Knysna Heads: It’s an incredible spot for sunset.
- kayak around the laggoon
- Book a Cruise Up the Lagoon: There are both lunch, dinner and sunset cruises (the lagoon doesn’t fill until midday so you can’t go out earlier than noon). Book a 2.5-hour cruise (from 12 to 2:30 PM) on a 50 ft monohull yacht for about R1200 per person. If you’re looking for a more romantic excursion, the sunset cruise is a great option. It’s R1050 per person and takes place from 4 PM to 6:30 PM
where to stay
we stayed on Thesen island at the loft boutique and had the most incredible double room with a huge decking area overlooking the lagoon. We spent a few days here relaxing, knysna was my favourite stop on the garden route.
Day 9 & 10 Plettenberg Bay
One of the reasons for this trip was it coincided with my birthday. After all my research I made sure we were in Plettenberg for it and splurged on a stay at Emily moon river lodge. Guests staying at Emily Moon Lodge can sign up for a canoe trip on the river and enjoy a cocktail at sunset before dinner.
Day 11 & 12Tsitsikamma National park
A very popular park with many tourists coming every day, Tsitsikamma Park is one of our favorite Garden Route attractions, it’s an incredibly beautiful place with a lot to do. Entrance fee; South Africans and residents – ZAR54, SADC countries – ZAR108, foreigners – ZAR216/US$16. Children pay half price. Opened daily from 6 am to 7.30 pm.
• Accommodation: Country lodges and hotels
• Activities: Diving, snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, swimming, climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, sailing, bungee jumping
• Highlights: Famous Otters and Dolphin trails, scenery and whale watching
Tsitsikamma National Park is a multi-dimensional destination with dramatic views. A hiking and water sports paradise, this region forms the top section of the magnificent Garden Route National Park.
Things to Do in Storms River
Storms River is a river in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The river mouth is located in the Tsitsikamma National Park.
- Book a Canopy Tour: The canopy tour takes 3 hours and involves zip-lining from one platform to another, 30 meters above the forest floor
- Go on a Kayaking Tour: This 2-3 hour tour lets you explore the world of the Storms River Gorge, with trips into caves, pools, and ancient forests
- Go on a Blackwater Tubing Adventure: What better way to see the river than to tube down it? This is a really scenic way to see Storms River
- Storms River Suspension Bridge: The suspension bridge spans 77 meters over the Storms River Mouth and is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Tsitsikamma region.
- Bloukrans Bungee Bridge: After a short 30-minute drive, you’ll hit the Bloukrans Bridge, the world’s highest commercial bungee bridge.
Day 13 & 14 Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth (PE for short) fringes Algoa Bay at the western end of the Sunshine Coast, and offers many good bathing beaches, great surf spots and excellent water sports. Marine life in the bay is also sensational, with plenty of dolphins and whales that can be spotted throughout the year. I had mixed feelings over safety in South Africa but I can honestly say it’s no different than any country we have visited and completely safe, it comes down to common sense. If I’m brutally honest port Elizabeth is the only place along the garden route that I felt unsafe, there was alot of children begging loads of glass along the streets of the built up areas. On the Saturday evening we went out for drinks and food and ended up being spoken to rudely by young lads no older than late teens so obviously this is only mine experience of PE. So if I was to do this trip again I would probably end in Jeffrey’s bay and not bother with Port Elizabeth.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Language: The main language spoken in all the big cities is English, but the two most widely spoken languages are Zulu and Xhosa.
Currency: The currency in South Africa is called the Rand. £1is equivalent to about 19 South African Rands.
Credit Cards and ATMs: In the big cities and smaller towns, most retailers and restaurants will accept credit cards as payment. You can easily find ATM’s at gas stations or the malls. However, if you’re shopping for souvenirs at markets, it’s best to withdraw cash.
Plugs: The plugs in South Africa are type D, M and N. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the standard frequency is 50Hz. I always travel with a universal adapter.