The Ultimate Garden Route Road Trip: Best Spots to Stay and Explore

When it comes to unforgettable road trips, few can rival the enchanting allure of the Western Cape’s Garden Route.

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Stretching along the stunning southeastern coastline of South Africa, this scenic road offers a myriad of experiences for the intrepid traveller. In this article, we'll guide you through the best places to stay along the Garden Route, particularly in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, and provide insights into the must-do activities in each spot. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let's embark on the ultimate road trip adventure. 

Discovering the Garden Route 

The Garden Route, a name that evokes images of lush, natural beauty, encompasses a collection of charming towns along the South African coastline. This route is renowned for its stunning landscapes and vibrant flora, and it's often considered a paradise for nature lovers. Let's take a closer look at which towns are included in the Garden Route and uncover the origins of its intriguing name. 

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Towns Along the Garden Route: 

  • Mossel Bay: The journey begins in Mossel Bay, a historic coastal town. It's known for its pleasant climate, fascinating history, and the iconic Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse. 
  • George: Moving along, you'll encounter George, a picturesque town nestled at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. It's a gateway to the Garden Route and offers easy access to various outdoor adventures. 
  • Wilderness: As the name suggests, Wilderness is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The town boasts serene lakes, tranquil beaches, and lush forests. 
  • Knysna: Knysna, often regarded as the crown jewel of the Garden Route, is famous for its exquisite lagoon, the Knysna Heads, and its thriving arts and crafts scene. 
  • Plettenberg Bay: Plettenberg Bay, or Plett, is a coastal paradise with pristine beaches, nature reserves, and plenty of outdoor activities. 
  • Nature's Valley: This tiny village is nestled between the Tsitsikamma Forests and the Indian Ocean, making it a tranquil escape for those seeking serenity in nature. 
  • Storms River: The Garden Route culminates at Storms River, a small village that serves as a gateway to the Tsitsikamma National Park, known for its dramatic coastal scenery. 
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The Origins of the Name  

The name “Garden Route” may leave you wondering why it's called that. The region earned this name due to its remarkable natural beauty and the diverse vegetation that thrives here. The area is characterised by lush indigenous forests, abundant flora, and a mild, Mediterranean-like climate. This verdant corridor of South Africa boasts a rich tapestry of plant life, from fynbos to ancient trees, which make it a garden-like paradise. The term “garden” in Garden Route captures the breathtaking greenery and vibrant landscapes that travellers encounter on their journey along this picturesque coastal route. 

How long does it take to drive the Garden Route? 

The Garden Route spans approximately 300 kilometres, starting from Mossel Bay and culminating in Storms River. To fully appreciate its beauty and take in the attractions, plan for at least a 5 to 7-day journey. This will give you ample time to explore the hidden gems, engage in various activities, and savour the breathtaking landscapes. This 5-night package will give you a chance to explore a few of the picturesque towns in this region. 

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Where to stay on the Garden Route? 

There are so many places to stay in the many towns that make up the Garden Route. From glamping at AfriCamps in Wilderness or Plettenberg Bay to living in luxury (and playing world-class golf) at Pezula on the eastern head of the Knysna Heads, there’s no shortage of wonderful towns to enjoy throughout this beautiful region. 

Which is the nicest town on the Garden Route? 

This is very much a “how long is a piece of string?” question, wherein the answer very much depends on what you’re looking for. Each town in the region offers something a little different, and we find the best holiday along the Garden Route is one during which you spend time in more than one of these beautiful towns. 

Steeped in history, Mossel Bay is known as the place where Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias first set foot in South Africa in 1488. The town's Dias Museum Complex commemorates this event, offering a glimpse into maritime history and local culture. Mossel Bay also delights in its stunning natural landscapes, boasting pristine beaches, invigorating hikes along the St. Blaize Trail, and exciting water sports. The town's culinary scene, featuring fresh seafood and oysters, is a treat for the taste buds.  

Wilderness is a tiny town, set along the lush banks of the Kaaimans River. It’s home to an enormous beach, a beautiful estuary, and a small but sweet selection of restaurants. Belvidere is even smaller, boasting not a single shop but a simply gorgeous old church and some breathtaking old homes.  

Nearby Knysna is a bustling hub, often hailed as the “jewel” of the Garden Route due to its unique charm. Visitors to Knysna can explore the dramatic Knysna Heads, engage in memorable interactions with elephants at the Knysna Elephant Park, and savour leisurely lagoon cruises or scenic hikes in the nearby lush forests. This seaside town offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural richness that makes it a must-visit destination for travellers exploring the Garden Route. 

Plettenberg Bay, situated about 30 kilometres east of Knysna, is a surfer's haven. Fondly referred to as Plett, Plettenberg Bay is another highlight of the Garden Route. The town is renowned for its pristine beaches and outdoor activities.  

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Can you do the Garden Route in 2 days? 

While it's possible to cover a portion of the Garden Route in 2 days, we recommend dedicating more time to truly relishing its wonders. A rushed trip won't do justice to the incredible landscapes, diverse attractions, and the serene towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Aim for a more relaxed itinerary of at least 5 days to make the most of your Garden Route adventure. 

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Explore the Garden Route For Yourself 

The Garden Route offers an unrivalled road trip experience, brimming with natural beauty and unforgettable moments. Whether you're exploring the charming town of Knysna or the coastal haven of Plettenberg Bay, the Garden Route promises a journey of a lifetime. So book your Garden Route holiday package, pack your bags, hit the road, and let the adventure begin. The best spots to stay along the Garden Route await your discovery. 

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