South Africa is a country with so much diversity, there’s something to find for everyone! Because of that, it’s also the perfect country for an epic road trip, filled with a bunch of amazing adventures! Including, driving along the famous Garden Route. I talk all about the best stops along the route in this blog!
About the Garden Route
Before I go in-depth about all the best stops on the Garden Route, I firstly want to give you some important information first. This coastal route is a popular addition to many’s South Africa Itineraries, because of the incredible diversity in activities. Officially the Garden Route is a 300 kilometers journey between Storms River and Mossel Bay.
However, there are so many more amazing places outside of these two places. As a result, many people call the route between Addo and Cape Town, the Garden Route. Which is immediately double the length, about 700 kilometers. We drove the Garden Route in about 6 days and I certainly don’t recommend doing it in fewer days. To experience all the best places along the Garden Route I highly recommend taking at least a week for it.
Explore one of South Africa’s best road trips!
1. Addo Elephant National Park
Starting your road trip on the Garden Route in Addo means starting off this a bang! Maybe already revealed in its name, Addo Elephant National Park inhabits a lot of elephants. Being South Africa’s third largest national park, this national park is home to one of the densest African Elephant populations on earth (yay for the wildlife lovers here!).
However, there’s lots of other wildlife to see as well. You may even be lucky to spot the whole Big 5 here, although you may need to have quite some more luck compared to big brother, Kruger National Park. We were only lucky to spot lots of elephants, zebra, and other smaller wildlife.
Get yourself a FREE Wise Travel Card
Addo Elephant National Park is the perfect place to grab your car and go out on safari by yourself, as most of the roads are well paved! Want to know more?
2. Bloukran’s Bridge
Being the highest bungee jump bridge in the world, this stop is a highlight for the adrenaline junkies among us! If this is a bit too much for you (as for me as well lol) just grab yourself a lunch at the restaurant that is overlooking the bridge and the valley. Sit back, enjoy your lunch, and watch the people jump!
Book your bungee jump activity here or upon arrival!
3. Tsitsikamma National Park
With its 80 kilometers long coastline and incredible forests, Tsitsikamma National Park is one of the most beautiful stops along the Garden Route (if you ask me!).
The main attraction in the park is the famous suspension bridges, which you can visit on a day trip. To do so, you must enter the park and follow the ‘Mouth Trail’, which leads you to the bridges within 1 hour. Depending on what you want to do, you may decide to stay in Tsitsikamma for the night, to do some activities. For example, bungee jumping, hiking, kayaking, zip-lining, or dolphin watching.
We decided only to hike the trail that leads to the suspension bridges and drove further after spending half a day in the national park. However, I wished we stayed the night because of the beautiful nature and amazing activities! I highly recommend that you do this.
Entrance fee: R272 per adult per day for conservation fee.
Time sloths: Monday – Sunday from 9:30AM
4. Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Bay is a lovely town located on the Western Cape along the Garden Route. It’s the perfect base for a few days to relax on the beach and do surrounding activities. For example, visiting Tsitsikamma National Park, which is only a 1-hour drive away. On top of that, Bloukran’s Bridge, Keurboomstrand & Nature’s Valley is both a short ride away. We needed to skip these last two, due to limited time. Both are 2 small villages along the coast that are famous for their stunning beaches!
Road trip tip! Because of the popularity of the Garden Route, there are plenty of gas stations along the way.
Swimming with Seals
Only a short boat ride away from the coast of Plettenberg Bay, you’ll find Robbery Nature Reserve. This marine protected area is home to a colony of approximately 6000 fur seals. It was on the top of our list to swim with these playful guys during our Garden Route road trip.
I must admit, it was a bit frightening to swim in the middle of the ocean with seals all around you. However, it sure was an epic adventure, so I do recommend doing this if you’re staying in the area. Also, you may even be lucky to spot dolphins or whales on your way to the colony.
We got a message from shore that they spotted a great white shark along the coast. you can imagine how relieved we were to be out of the water ;). Not to worry though, companies doing this tour are using something called a ‘shark shield’ so the sharks stay away.
Besides swimming with seals there are also other activities in Plettenberg Bay. Check them out here!
5. Knysna Head’s
While driving closer to the end of the Garden Route, make a quick stop in Knsyna, which is only a 30-minute drive away from Plettenberg Bay. Knysna is the place where the ocean meets the laguna, therefore creating incredible views! The 2 most beautiful viewpoints are ‘Head’s Lookout’ and ‘Knysna Beach Lookout’ which you can find a little bit further.
Download the map of Knysna on maps.me, so you can easily find these points even when you’re offline.
Safety Tip! Keep you car doors locked while you’re driving. Especially standing still at traffic lights in busy places.
6. Mossel Bay
We spend overnight in this little coastal town, but unfortunately, the weather had different plans for us. It stormed both days while we were in Mossel Bay. Because of that, we couldn’t enjoy our stay to the fullest. However, it should be a great place for doing boat tours to spot whales, and dolphins or for going shark cage diving.
Travel tip! get yourself a local prepaid sim card directly on arrival at the airport, here you find the best deals. MTN has the best service and cheapest prices.
Even though Hermanus is not officially on the Garden Route, it’s the perfect addition to your road trip. As this is what most people do (including us), I highly recommend making a stop here on your way to Cape Town.
Hermanus is well-known for the many whales that come to shore at Walker Bay, between June and November. September and October are the peak season for the gentle giants. It’s probably one of the best places in South Africa for whale watching. So if this is an experience that’s still on your list, make sure to add Hermanus to your Garden Route Itinerary. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Going on a guided boat tour is the best option to go see these creatures up close and at the same time, you’ll learn all about them. If you’re dealing with seasickness, like me, you can also easily spot them from the many lookout points on shore. Famous spots are Kraal Rock and Sievers Point. We were lucky enough to spot many whales from there.
Not to forget:
Binoculars and zoom lens.
The Garden Route in South Africa has way more to offer than we could explore in those short 3 weeks! Click here to explore all of them.
Best time to visit
South Africa is an all-year-round travel destination, but if you’re visiting the Cape Region, the best time is during the summer months. South Africa’s summer is from November until March. You can expect sunny days with temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees Celcius. If you’re planning to go whale watching in Hermanus, the best months are between June and November.
We were there in September and had some bad weather some days (especially in Hermanus and Mossel Bay), but overall pretty good weather during our whole trip in South Africa.
How to visit the Garden Route?
The best way to visit the Garden Route is with your rental car. If you only going to drive along the coast and ending up in Cape Town, you’ll have enough with one of the smaller cars. However, not all roads inside national parks like Kruger are well paved. Because of that, I recommend getting a 4×4 if you’re planning to visit these places.
We always book our rental cars with Rentalcars.com, where you can compare all car rental companies. Do make sure to read the recent reviews of the company and the rental conditions. We didn’t do this beforehand and ended up renting with a bad company in South Africa. Luckily we had no issues on the road.
Where to stay?
Basically, anywhere along the route, you’ll find accommodations, but you can also choose a bigger town to base yourself on for a few days. Either of these options is great! We decided to stay in Plettenberg Bay for a few nights and do some day trips from there. The location is quite central, close to Tsitsikamma National Park, Knysna, and many beaches.
Check out all the accommodation here!
1-Week Recommended Itinerary
Addo (2 nights)
Tsitsikamma (1 night)
Plettenberg Bay (2 nights)
Mossel Bay (1 night)
Hermanus (1 night)
Depending on what you want to do, you can change the itinerary to your needs of course. For instance, you can only stay in Addo for 1 night and add a night in Tsitsikamma or more nights in Plettenberg Bay.
How about safety?
You may wonder, is it even safe to drive around South Africa by yourself? Which is totally normal. Of course, in almost any country, there are areas you shouldn’t go to. On top of that, you may already heard bad things from friends or family, that scared you off a bit. But please don’t let your fear stop you from visiting a country.
Driving in South Africa can be perfectly fine, you just need to stick to some normal precautions. To be clear, I was traveling through South Africa with another girl and we’ve never felt unsafe. However, we did have some rules mentally written down for ourselves.
Don’t drive at night! This was our number one rule, which we never broke. I stick to this rule while traveling in basically any foreign country. Secondly, we locked our doors all the time while we were in the car. And last, never leave any valuables laying around in your car (as you never should anywhere btw).
The Garden Route is a popular travel destination in South Africa, which makes it a safe region to travel to. There’s basically one main road (H2) between most of the best stops along the way. So you don’t need to make unnecessary off-road adventures.
In short, driving the Garden Route is pretty safe, if you stick to basic precautions. Bad things are happening everywhere, even in your home country. So, just go!