Tour the Garden Route of South Africa

There are tours available to do Garden Route trips with guides, but I preferred to do it on my own timeline.  Here’s the itinerary that I used and loved, starting in Cape Town and ending in Port Elizabeth. I’d recommend 4-7 days depending on how many activities you want to partake in along the way.

Head out of Cape Town on the N2. Day one should be heading to the southern peninsula and visiting the Cape of Good Hope. These tiny seaside towns are great for strolling and shopping. You’ll also see penguins in Simon’s Town.

If you’ve done a day trip to see wine country (Stellenbosch) while you were in Cape Town, spend the day discovering the southern peninsula and then head down to Hermanus. If not, head to the first stop, Stellenbosch.

Stellenbosch (Vineyards)

This is only a 40-minute drive from Cape Town, but the region is famous for wineries and vineyards. There are hop-on-hop buses in the area or you can even Uber from vineyard to vineyard if you’re all partaking in the wine tastings. More about Stellenbosch and tours.

[ 2 hour drive ]

Hermanus (Whale Watching)

Once you’re out of the greater Cape Town area you’ll head down south to the coastal town of Hermanus. This is an amazing, quaint little stop right on the water. It is famous for whale watching during the July-December season. Even off-season, it’s a great place to wander around and bar hop with some spectacular views of the ocean cliffs.

I thought about staying here once I’d arrive but decided to keep on going and head to Stellendham. I was wrong. I should have stayed in Hermanus.

[ 1 hour drive ]

Stellendham (Moutains. Skip it)

This is on most lists for traveling the Garden Route, but I must have missed something. I found it to be a bit of a dreary, sad little town. There were a couple of restaurants (nothing opens before 6) and some sort of Fairy Sanctuary (that I skipped). Just keep driving.

The Garden Shack is a fun, quirky restaurant. It is located within a plant nursery. The menu is very simple and written on chalk boards. They specialize in seafood and the atmosphere is unique. You sit on chairs on wooden stumps with sand at your feet. The prices are cheap and the food is fairly decent. I’d go back.

Route 67 (Picturesque drive)

The drive from Stellendham to Outdshoorn is outstanding. The ride up 328 from N2 to Route 67 is picturesque. Be sure to stop at Ronnie’s Sex Shop for a milkshake (with or without booze) and snack on the way.  Ronnie’s is a tiny restaurant and bar in the middle of nowhere. When the owner was gone his friends thought it’d be funny to add ‘sex’ to the Ronnie’s Shop sign. He started getting more business because of it and kept the name.

[ 2 hour drive ]

Outdshoorn (Caves & Ostriches)

Outdshoorn is located in a semi-desert area with tons of activities available for everyone. Go to the Cango Caves (20 million years old) to see stunning underground formations and escape the heat for a while. The Adventure Tour requires squeezing through small spaces and crawling for certain periods; the normal tour is an easy, hour long walk through large caverns. The Cango Wildlife Ranch gives you the chance to see a variety of wildlife. There are multiple ostrich farms that you can tour to learn about the industry.

Stay the Chandelier Game Lodge Farm, where you can feed a giraffe right from the restaurant deck and stay in unique tents or log cabins on the grounds. They also offer game tours around the huge property and have an on-site bar and restaurant so you can relax after your hectic day.

[ 2 hour drive ]

Mossel Bay (the beach)

The beaches in Mossel Bay are stunning. You can schedule a tour to visit a nearby cave where the earliest known humans lived. Go scuba diving. Or just relax on the beach.

Stay at the Santos Express Train Lodge. This is a defunct train that now serves as a hostel. Book your train compartment for about $13/night and be able to see and hear the crystal-clear ocean (from a Blue Flag beach) from your bunk bed. I’m not crazy about shared bathrooms but this place is worth it.

[ 1.25 hour drive ]

Knysna

This is said to be the capital of the Garden Route. There are a lot of options for nature walking or on the ocean activities. I’d recommend possibly going for the day but heading on to your next stop for the evening.

[ 20 minute drive ]

Plettenberg Bay

Situated along the cliffs around the bay, there are stunning views from everywhere in this town. Plenty of activities on the water that you can plan for and organize or hop from view point to view point. The Lookout Deck restaurant is actually located right on the beach and is a great spot to hang out ocean-side.

[ 1 hour drive ]

Jeffreys Bay

This small seaside town is a surfer’s paradise. Perfect, rolling waves along pristine beaches. Even if you’re not a surfer you’ll be in awe of the beaches here. It is a quaint little town with the typical bars and restaurants that expect you to be in flip flops and nursing a sunburn.

[ 1 hour drive ]

Port Elizabeth

While there are some historical sites to see in PE and there are beaches, you’ve just seen some amazing places on your road trip. I’d skip over PE and spend more time in one of the towns on the Garden Route. Stop by the Donkin Reserve for half an hour to take in a bit of history and then head to the airport, which is only ten minutes away.



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