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South Africa: My Cape Town & Garden Route Itinerary

South Africa - Cape Town & Garden Route Itinerary

South Africa’s Garden Route stretches along the coast from Mossel Bay on the west side to Storms River on the east side.

It is known to be one of the most famous road trips in the world, definitely an African bucket list activity, which is why I wanted to share my comprehensive Garden Route Itinerary with you. Having driven it a couple of times now, I’ve been able to get a good understanding of how to do it justice.

The Garden Route is, what I would call a Mix n’ Match adventure, because the trip will be different for everyone, depending on the time you have and the things you like to do. From adrenaline-pumping activities to long beachside hikes or wine tasting and fine dining – there’s something to suit every taste and every type of traveller.


The Robberg Peninsula Hike

Those views though!

Planning Your Trip Along the Garden Route

The Garden Route is a relatively short stretch of the South African Coast at only 200km from start to finish and many of the highlights are close together, so you could see the Garden Route in just a few days, but the longer you have, the more you’ll enjoy it.

To do it properly, I’d give yourself at least a week, more if you want to add in Cape Town too.

Most people travel the Garden Route in road trip style, moving every couple of nights or so, and how long you stay in each area will very much depend on how long you have and what you want to do in each place.

If you didn’t want to move, you could easily base yourself in one or maybe two destinations and drive to different places each day. If I were to choose just one, I’d go with Knysna or Plettenberg Bay. If I were to choose 2, I’d go with Tsitsikamma and Plettenberg Bay.

Below you’ll find my ideal Garden Route itinerary (including Cape Town), plus suggestions of things to do, where to stay and where to eat and drink along the Garden Route, to help you create your own perfect itinerary.

In terms of which direction to go, now that’s a personal choice.

You could either; do a round trip from Cape Town (or Port Elizabeth, neither of which are technically on the Garden Route, but have good air connections so it makes sense to include them if you are travelling in one direction) or you can pick up a car in one destination and drop it off in another.

The first time I travelled the Garden Route in 2009, we did the round trip from Cape Town. This time, we started in Cape Town and ended in Port Elizabeth.

However, if I were to do it again, I would start in Port Elizabeth and end Cape Town. Here’s why…

If you are arriving into/departing from Johannesburg (as many international flights do), it would make more sense to fly from Joburg to Port Elizabeth, pick up a car there and then drive west along the Garden Route, ending up in Cape Town – because it’s FABULOUS!

Then from Cape Town, it’s just a short 1 hour and 30-minute internal flight to Johannesburg to catch your international flight back home.

But either way works absolutely fine.


The Robberg Peninsular, Plettenberg Bay

Beautiful views all round

How to Get Around the Garden Route

We hired a car from Avis, picking it up in Cape Town and dropping it off in Port Elizabeth. We just had a 2-wheel drive car which was absolutely fine for this particular route.

If you don’t have your own car, you can book a ticket on the Baz Bus, which stops everywhere I mention on this itinerary.

Baz Bus is a great, backpacker-friendly, hop on hop off bus that covers most of South Africa. It a safe and reliable way to travel, plus you may make a few new friends in the process. You can book your tickets here.


Bo Kaap in Cape Town - Garden Route Itinerary

Enjoying the rain in Cape Town

The Best Time of Year to  Travel the Garden Route

The Garden Route is an all-year-round destination, but if you’re hoping to see the southern right whale migration, the best time is from June – October, with peak calving season taking place in July and August.

Just be aware that this is winter in Cape Town and on the Garden Route, so if you’re wanting warmer weather, try visiting between November and March.

Shoulder season (often meaning relatively good weather and cheaper prices) is March to May and September to November. January and February are known for having the most sunshine.

Whatever the season, the weather in South Africa is quite unpredictable though, so it’s always good to be prepared for all kinds of weather.


My 2-Week Cape Town & Garden Route Itinerary


Having driven the Garden Route a couple of times now, my suggested itineraries would go something like this:

Option 1: Port Elizabeth to Cape Town

  • Day 1 – 2: Addo Elephant Park
  • Day 3 – 4: Tsitsikamma National Park (Stormsriver, The Crags or Nature’s Valley)
  • Day 5: Plettenberg Bay
  • Day 6 – 7: Knysna
  • Day 8: Wilderness
  • Day 9: Oudtshoorn
  • Day 10: Hermanus (with Cape Aghulas)
  • Day 11 – 14: Cape Town
  • Day 15: Depart

Option 2: Cape Town to Cape Town (including Addo Elephant National Park)

  • Day 1: Hermanus (with Cape Aghulas)
  • Day 2 – 3: Knysna
  • Day 4 – 5: Tsitsikamma National Park (Stormsriver, The Crags or Nature’s Valley)
  • Day 6 – 7: Addo Elephant Park
  • Day 8: Plettenberg Bay or Wilderness
  • Day 9: Wilderness or Oudtshoorn
  • Day 10: Hermanus (with Cape Aghulas)
  • Day 11 – 14: Cape Town
  • Day 15: Depart

Option 3: Cape Town to Cape Town (excluding Addo Elephant National Park)

  • Day 1 – 2: Hermanus (with Cape Aghulas)
  • Day 3 – 4: Knysna
  • Day 5 – 7: Tsitsikamma National Park (Stormsriver, The Crags or Nature’s Valley)
  • Day 8: Plettenberg Bay
  • Day 9: Wilderness
  • Day 10: Oudtshoorn
  • Day 11 – 14: Cape Town
  • Day 15: Depart

You can, of course, adjust this, depending on how long you have. It is possible to spend just one night in each place, but if you can, stretch it out otherwise it will be very rushed.

You can also skip some of the places on the list if you have less time or didn’t want to be moving every couple of days.


Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park

We saw lots of elephants in Addo

Addo Elephant Park 

Arriving in Port Elizabeth, you could stay there or go straight to Stormsriver where the Garden Route technically begins.

Alternatively, as you are so close, I would definitely try to add in Addo Elephant Park to your Garden Route itinerary, especially if you aren’t planning to do a safari elsewhere.

You can stay in the park or outside (in the surrounding areas or even in Port Elizabeth which is about an hour away) and you can organise safaris directly with SANParks (the national parks association), or with private safari companies/your hotel or even do a self-drive in your own car.

We booked our safaris directly with SANParks, then stayed in a lodge 10-minutes outside the park and drove to the Main Addo Rest Camp to start our safari in a guided open vehicle.

Lion in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

A male lion in Addo Elephant National Park

One of the most unusual things about Addo, is that it isn’t just home to the BIG 5, Addo is home to the BIG 7. So as well as lions, elephants, cape buffalo, black rhinos and leopards, they also have Southern right whales and the great white sharks which live in the marine section of the park, which lies off the coast of Port Elizabeth.

If you want to, you can go on a safari to see all 7 in one day, starting with a whale, shark, dolphin & penguin spotting trip from Port Elizabeth (we only saw dolphins and penguins on our trip – no whales or sharks sadly, but loved the trip anyway), followed by an afternoon safari in the park (if booking a safari via SANParks, make sure you book either the afternoon drive at 3pm or the sunset drive as you’ll arrive too late for the others as the boat trip only finishes at 1 or 2pm usually).

Dolphin Watching Boat Trip in Port Elizabeth

We saw hundreds of dolphins, it was very magical

Where to Stay in and around Addo Elephant Park:

  • Addo Main Rest Camp: This is one of the places to stay inside the park and where all of the park run game drives depart from.
  • Orange Elephant Backpackers: On a budget? Then Orange Elephant Backpackers is a great choice and they can organise game drives for you.
  • Elephant House: We stayed in this mid-range boutique lodge for 1 night and it was absolutely lovely. The staff were wonderful, the food amazing and the place had a bit of an ‘Out of Africa’ vibe about it. We could easily have stayed another night, relaxing in the grounds or at one of their 3 pools.
  • Camp Figtree: This is an absolutely beautiful camp, located just outside the park. Book here if you want to really treat yourself!

Or you can check out some other options here.

Safari in Addo Elephant National Park

Elephants never get boring to watch or photograph

Things To Do in Addo Elephant Park:

  • Go on Safari in Addo Elephant National Park: Either go with a guide or do it yourself. There are lots of options! Check out my Addo safari guide below.
  • Go Horse Riding in the Park: Addo Horse Trails depart from the camp at 8.30am and 2pm each day. The rides take you from the main camp to the Nyati area and last for approximately 2 hours. Between 1 – 5 people are allowed at any one time.
  • Go on an Ocean Safari: Raggy Charters offer ocean safaris to see whales (Southern right & humpback usually), sharks, dolphins and penguins. They have also played a pivotal role in helping to save the African penguins that live in the area so by supporting them, you’re helping too! You can book the trip I did here.
  • Go on a Big 7 Safari: If you want a full-day guided tour, try the Big 7 Safari.
  • Alexandria Hiking Trail: The Alexandria hiking trail is a 2-day trek through Woody Cape section of Addo Elephant Park. You need a minimum of 3 people and a maximum of 12.
  • Visit the Spa: On-site at Addo, you’ll find the Indlovu Spa, a great way to relax after a bumpy and dusty safari.

Where To Eat & Drink in Addo:

  • Cattle & Barron: The restaurant at Addo Main Camp is Cattle Barron. They offer tasty meat dishes as well as vegetarian dishes and salads.
  • Elephant House: The meals we had at Elephant House were amazing, so I’d definitely recommend eating here if you have the chance.

READ MORE: How to Go on Safari in Addo Elephant National Park


Jeffrey's Bay (J-Bay) Street Art

Surf’s up in J-Bay

Jeffreys Bay

You could easily skip Jeffreys Bay (or J-Bay as the locals call it) if you just want to stick to the Garden Route, but if you love to surf, Jeffreys Bay is worth a stop, as it’s known for having some of the best surf in all South Africa.

We only stayed one night here, but I quite liked Jeffreys Bay. It reminded me of some of the surf towns we visited during our 2-week Hawaii trip.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to go surfing this time, but the waves and beaches looked great, so I will definitely be back.

Where to Stay in Jeffreys Bay:

Or you can check out some other options here.

J-Bay Bru Co, Jeffreys Bay

J-Bay Bru Co

Things to Do in Jeffreys Bay:

  • Go Surfing: There are some great places to surf along this bit of coastline. Many of the hotels and hostels offer surf packages.
  • Jump Out of a Plane: Where better to jump out of a plane than on the South African coast! Book your trip with Skydive Jeffreys Bay.
  • Grab a Bargain: If outlet villages are your thing, Jeffreys Bay has a great one selling mostly surf clothing.

Where To Eat & Drink in Jeffreys Bay:

  • Nina’s Real Food: I really loved this restaurant/bar/shop. The food was great and it has a nice, family-friendly atmosphere – very popular with the locals. They have an extensive veggie/vegan menu and they even have a pensioners menu. They also have a great shop selling lots of tasty and nutritious foods as well as some local produce. You can tell that a lot of love has been put into this place and I highly recommend it. Check out their awesome menu here.
  • J-Bay Bru Co: So, we had dinner here… it’s a nice place, very cool decor, lovely staff but… the pizza was pretty tasteless so I was disappointed. Otherwise, I really liked it for a drink, but I would stick to Nina’s for food. Closed on Mondays.

Storms River Mouth - South Africa Garden Route Itinerary

Storms River Mouth

Tsitsikamma National Park

After a leisurely morning or if you’re feeling more energetic, an early morning surf or game drive in Addo, make your way to Tsitsikamma National Park, a particularly beautiful part of the Garden Route with tons of activities to keep you busy.

There are three main places to stay in and around the park – Storms River, Nature’s Valley & The Crags (Plettenberg Bay is also nearby but I’ll mention that separately below). This is where you’ll also find Bloukran’s Bridge, the world’s highest bridge bungy.

You could spend a day or two in each of these locations or, you can just base yourself in one and explore the rest from there as they are all very close.

If you don’t have your own transport, some of the accommodation/activity companies also provide shuttles around the area.

PLEASE NOTE: There is a toll road if driving from Stormsriver to Nature’s Valley. As we hired our car from Avis, our toll fees were already paid.

Kayak & Lilo Adventure Stormsriver

Kayaking through Stormsriver Gorge

Where to Stay in Tsitsikamma National Park:

Storms River

  • Djembe Backpackers Lodge: Those on a budget should check out quirky Djembe Backpackers Lodge. I haven’t stayed here personally but friends have and they said they loved it. They have a pet goat and a horse that comes up to the bar.
  • Tube ‘n Axe Boutique: The popular Tube ‘n Axe Boutique has been in operation for years and is a great place to spend a few days, resting and hanging out between adventuring around the area. They have comfy rooms and a nice pool and these guys also run the blackwater tubing adventures.
  • Storms River Mouth Rest Camp: If you want to be right next to the ocean, Storms River Mouth Rest Camp a great place to stay, inside the national park. Close to the awesome Cattle Barron restaurant. They have chalets and camping spots available.
  • The Fernery Lodge & Chalets: This one is further out than the rest, but The Fernery Lodge & Chalets is a beautiful hotel with incredible views.

Nature’s Valley

  • Wild Spirit: This is a favourite amongst the backpacker crowd with nice views, great hikes, lots of sitting around the fire, hula hooping and yoga. The rooms could do with refurbishing and you will find the odd judgemental ‘traveller’ (ever seen the Inbetweeners 2 movie?) but it’s a great place to meet other people if you’re a solo traveller.
  • 10 St Andrews Avenue: This 5-bedroom house is a great choice for families or groups of friends, offering free bikes, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, a shared lounge and a garden.

The Crags

  • Rocky Road Backpackers: If you’re looking for a friendly, chilled out vibe in a garden setting, then check out Rocky Road Backpackers.
  • Trogon House and Forest Spa: Treat yourself to a stay at the luxurious Trogon House and Forest Spa which lies in a tranquil and beautiful setting in the forest.
  • Moonshine on Whiskey Creek: Love unique accommodation? Then stay at the gorgeous Moonshine on Whiskey Creek. You can thank me later!

Or you can check out some other options here.

Bloukrans Bridge

The world’s highest bridge bungy

Things To Do in Tsitsikamma National Park:

  • Go Blackwater Tubing: Take part in one of the original activities in the area and go blackwater tubing down the river.
  • Go Horse Riding with Hog Hollow Horse Trails: Experience the national park on horseback. They offer a number of horse riding activities, including visits to wine estates.
  • Go Abseiling with Africacanyon: Get your adrenaline pumping on an abseiling and canyoning trip through a beautiful forest.
  • Explore the Trails Around the Storm’s River Mouth: There are some hiking trails around the river mouth where you can get great views of the gorge. Entry is R248 per adult, per day and
    R124 per child, per day for non-residents and R62 per adult, per day and R31 per child, per day for residents (with ID cards).
  • Bungy Jump Off Bloukran’s Bridge: If you’re brave enough (I’m not), take on the world’s highest bridge bungy.
  • Go on a Kayak & Lilo Tour: This was a great way to explore Stormsriver Mouth. You can book the tour we did here. Just be aware that the conservation fees are paid directly to the park on entry.
  • Hike to Salt River Mouth Hike: There are tons of hikes to choose from around Nature’s Valley, but the one that I was most drawn to is the Salt River Mouth hike which has incredible views.
  • Take on the Otter Trail: If you have the time (and can get the permits), hike the famous Otter Trail which takes 5 days and runs from Storms River to Nature’s Valley.

Where To Eat & Drink in Tsitsikamma National Park:

  • Fynboshoek Cheese Farm: This is a lovely place to stop for lunch if driving from Jeffreys Bay or Addo. The restaurant is open from 12 – 4pm, but just be aware that it is by appointment only, so book ahead.
  • Cattle Barron: This restaurant lies right at the Stormriver Mouth within the national park. The restaurant is under renovation after a devastating fire, however it is open for business as usual. We didn’t eat here but I remember saying ‘Oh my God, that smells amazing!’ as we walked past. The Times listed it as one of the best restaurants on the Garden Route, so definitely worth a stop by if you have time. Plus, you are right next to the ocean and the crashing waves.
  • Table Restaurant: Overlooking Bloukrans Bridge, where you’ll find the highest bridge bungy jump in the world. From the balcony, you can watch the crazy people jumpers and they also have a screen inside showing a live video feed.
  • Nature’s Way Farm Stall: Just over the road from the entrance to Wild Spirit is this lovely farm stall. In the afternoon you can watch the cows being milked.
  • Bramon Wine Estate: Even if you’re not staying here, you can still drop in for a fabulous lunch and wine tasting. Book ahead. You can also stay at the lodge.

Hiking the Robberg Peninsula - Garden Route Itinerary

One of the trails on the Robberg Peninsula

Plettenberg Bay

We didn’t stay in Plettenberg Bay (or Plett for short) this time (we did on our previous trip), but it is an awesome place to spend a day or two if you have time with a beautiful beach, great hotels and restaurants and lots of local attractions.

We did, however, stop to do a morning hike in the Robberg Nature Reserve on the Robberg Peninsula, one of Africa’s best hiking destinations, with 3 different hiking trails to choose from ranging between 2 and 9 km. The trails can be challenging in parts, so you will need a relatively good level of fitness/mobility and be very careful if hiking with kids.

If you happen to be in the area on a Saturday, you could also call into the Harkerville Market, which is just outside of town. This is a lovely farmers market, with food and craft stalls and if you haven’t had breakfast already, you can get some fuel for the day (the Bundu Breakfast looked amazing, but we’d already eaten).

Or, if you have eaten already, maybe pick up a few things so you can stop for a picnic down on the beach, halfway through the hike.

Where to Stay in Plettenberg Bay:

  • Infinite Blu: For beautiful views and a comfortable, stylish stay, look no further than this gorgeous hotel, which has an incredible infinity pool too, hence the name.
  • Emily Moon River Lodge: We ate at the restaurant at the lovely Emily Moon River Lodge, which lies just outside of town with lovely views over the river.
  • Singing Kettle Beach Lodge: This beach lodge has stunning views over the bay and they also have one of the most popular restaurants in town (see below).

Or you can check out some other options here.

Hawkerville Market, Plettenberg Bay

Saturday morning at the Hawkerville Market

Things to Do in Plettenberg Bay:

  • Hike the Robberg Peninsular: Open from 7am – 8pm (1st October to 30th April) and 8am – 6pm (1st May – 30th September). There are 3 different hiking trails to choose from ranging between 2 and 9 km. The trails can be challenging in parts, so you will need a relatively good level of fitness/mobility and be very careful if hiking with kids.
  • Swim With Seals: Head out to the ocean and go swimming with seals, a very unique experience.
  • Learn to Surf: Plettenberg Bay has great waves for beginners and you can book your lessons with Learn to Surf Plett.
  • Jump Out of a Plane: Get an aerial view of the Garden Route and your adrenaline pumping when you go skydiving with Skydive Plett.
  • Visit the Birds of Eden Freeflight Sanctuary: This is a great activity to do with kids and nearby, you’ll also find the Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary.

Where to Eat & Drink in Plettenberg Bay:

  • Emily’s Restaurant: Located at the Emily Moon River Lodge, this wonderful, romantic restaurant, is great value for money and where I had one of the best meals I had in South Africa. They are open for lunch and dinner. They have happy hour 6 – 7pm on Fridays. Check the sunset times and plan accordingly.
  • The Lookout Café: After hiking, the Robberg Peninsular, we popped into The Lookout Cafe, which overlooks Lookout beach. I had a refreshing Rock Shandy, which is a favourite South African drink consisting of soda water, lemonade and Angostura bitters. The music is also on point – as we left they were playing ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease… now that is my kinda place.
  • Ristorante Enrico: Very popular Italian, right on the ocean at Keurbooms Beach, part of the Singing Kettle Beach Lodge.

View from the East Head Viewpoint in Knysna - Garden Route Itinerary

The view from Knysna’s East Head Viewpoint

Knysna

From Tsitsikamma National Park or Plettenberg Bay, make your way to the town of Knysna, a pretty town, set around a beautiful tidal lagoon

The first time I drove the Garden Route, we completely skipped Knysna – but I’m so glad I included it this time as it was definitely one of my favourite stops.

We spent two nights here, which was about right, however, I could easily have spent one more night.

Depending on the time you arrive, you may have time for an activity in the afternoon, before you head out for dinner at one of the great restaurants.

One of the must-do things in Knysna is to visit the East Head Viewpoint where you will get fantastic views over the lagoon.

And, if you’re there in season, you can take an ocean safari to see southern right and humpback whales.

Where to Stay in Knysna:

  • Paradise Private Zen Studios: We stayed at this incredible place, perched up on the hill overlooking the town and lagoon. The owners Ellie and Francois were just lovely and I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Breakfast isn’t technically included, but they provide muesli, rusks, yoghurt, milk, tea & coffee and they also left us wine, sherry and chocolates – we didn’t want to leave.
  • Island Vibe Backpackers: If you’re looking to meet people, then this backpackers is a great place to make some friends to go adventuring with.
  • Turbine Hotel & Spa: Set on Thesen Island, the Turbine Hotel & Spa is a unique and stylish hotel choice.
  • Lofts Boutique Hotel: If you’re looking for a relaxed stay, then head to this lovely boutique hotel, which is also situated on Thesen Island with stunning views over the lagoon.

Or you can check out some other options here.

Sunrise over Knysna, Garden Route, South Africa

Sunrise over Knysna – this was the view from my bed

Things to Do in Knysna:

  • Drive up to the East Head Viewpoint: This is a lovely spot with great views over the lagoon.
  • Eat Oysters: Knysna is famous for its oysters. They even hold a festival in June every year.
  • Go Stand Up Paddleboarding: If you fancy getting out on the water, rent some SUP’s from the folks at Ocean Odyssey and take a leisurely paddle through the waterways.
  • Visit the Featherbed Nature Reserve: Take the ferry over to do some hiking.
  • Take a Cruise on the Lagoon Cruise: We took a sunset cruise on the MV John Benn with Featherbed Co. who have cruises running throughout the day, including a dinner cruise on a paddle cruiser. There are also dinner cruises available as well as a champagne and oyster catamaran trip. You can also book cruises through Springtide Charters.
  • Surf in Buffalo Bay: In nearby Buffalo (aka Buffels or Buffs) Bay, you’ll find a great beach for surfing. If surfing’s not your thing, you can also try your hand at SUP, go for a refreshing swim in the sea or try and spot dolphins off the coast from the Buffelsbaai Waterfront Restaurant.
  • Go Whale Watching on an Ocean Safari: Take a trip to see migratory southern right and humpback whales. Whale season usually runs from June to November and trips are weather dependent. Book your whale watching trip here.
  • Cycle Around the Lagoon: The guys at Ocean Odyssey have electric bikes for hire which makes exploring the area super easy!

Where to Eat & Drink in Knysna:

  • île de pain: This is an award-winning bakery/eatery on Thesen Island with an incredible menu. They are famous for their artisan bread and you should try their ‘hot chocolate de lux’. It was very rich (might be too rich for some – it tasted exactly like ceremonial grade cacao) but it was incredible and put me in a great mood for the rest of the day. Open from 8am – 3pm daily.
  • East Head Cafe: We had breakfast there on our first day and it didn’t disappoint. They have a nice outdoor seating area and they also provide blankets and hot water bottles on chilly days
  • Caffe Mario: This is a busy Italian on the waterfront. It gets very busy, so be sure to call ahead and book or be prepared for a bit of a wait.
  • 34° South: Another popular choice and home to the Knysna oyster. We ate here on our first night. The food was tasty and the portions were very generous.
  • Tapas & Oysters: This friendly bar/restaurant is a popular spot on Thesen Island, famous for its oysters. They usually have live music on Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Nadine’s Corner (aka Leisure Isle Coffee Shop): Cute cafe on Leisure Isle – we just stopped here for a quick drink whilst exploring the lagoon.

Surfing in South Africa

Surfing in South Africa

Wilderness

Wilderness is a beautiful part of the Garden Route and the town lies in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains. It’s a lovely place to spend a day or two, immersed in natural beauty. I’d recommend at least one night here if you can fit it in.

Many of the activities centre on the Touw River and the surrounding area, so if being in the great outdoors is your thing, then you’ll love it here.

As well as the river (which is absolutely gorgeous), there is a stunning and expansive beach.

On the way from Knysna to Wilderness, you could also make a stop in the quiet town of Sedgefield (some people also stay here) which holds the Wild Oats Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Where to Stay in Wilderness:

  • Wilderness Beach House Backpackers Lodge: Popular backpackers with one of the best views around.
  • Fairy Knowe Backpackers: Homely backpacker hostel with a variety of rooms including dorms, twins, doubles and family rooms. Check rates here.
  • The Wild Farm: It’s been 10 years since I stayed at The Wild Farm, but this is still a popular choice along the Garden Route, with great views over the ocean.
  • Ebb & Flow: This beautiful rest camp lies right on the river and is one of the most popular places to stay in the area, due to the stunning location.
  • Serendipity Country House & Restaurant: The Serendipity hotel is highly rated and known for having a fabulous restaurant too. Near to the town, beach and river.
The Robberg Peninsular, Plettenberg Bay

Beautiful views all round

Things to Do in Wilderness:

  • Hiking in Wilderness National Park: There are 5 hiking trails within the Wilderness National Park for you to explore, including the Map of Africa Viewpoint.
  • Go Canoeing or Kloofing on the Touw River: Eden Adventures offers a few different canoe and kloofing trips on the river. You can also hire canoes at the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp.
  • Go Paragliding: Wilderness is a great place for paragliding… if you’re feeling brave. The Map of Africa is a popular launching spot. Book your trip with Dolphin Paragliding or Cloudbase Paragliding.
  • Stop at the Dolphin Point Lookout: For one of the best views in the area, stop at the Dolphin Point Lookout between Wilderness and George.
  • Head to the Beach: I loved spending time chilling on the beach here.
  • Go Surfing: Like many of the other places along the coast, Wilderness is a great place to surf.

Where to Eat & Drink in Wilderness:

  • Cocomo Restaurant: Popular restaurant with live music 7 days a week.
  • The Girls on the Square: Cosy restaurant with a great menu of African inspired cuisine.
  • Serendipity: Even if you don’t stay there, be sure to eat at this award-winning restaurant.

Sunrise in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa

Getting up early to watch the sunrise is one of my favourite things to do on the Garden Route

Oudtshoorn

You could easily skip Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo, but if you have the time…

Oudtshoorn used to be famous as the place where you could ride an ostrich (which I think sounds pretty cruel, to be honest) but now it’s the place in South Africa where you can hang out with Timon and pals.

Yes, you can spend time and interact with meerkats at the De Zeekoe Guest Farm, a beautiful 150-year-old, restored colonial homestead with views of the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains.

So, maybe detour off your route and spend a night here if you get the chance!

Where to Stay in Oudtshoorn:

Or you can check out some other options here.

Things to Do in Oudtshoorn:

  • Hang out With Meerkats at De Zeekoe Guest Farm: This would probably be my number one reason for going to Oudtshoorn. You can find out more info here.
  • Visit the Cango Caves: Around a half-hour drive from the farm, you’ll find the Cango Caves, in the Cango Valley. If you’re interested to see interesting rock formations, you’ll love this.
  • Visit the Cango Wildlife Ranch: See the ostriches and learn about the workings of the farm.

Where to Eat & Drink in Oudtshoorn:

  • Old Mill Lodge & Restaurant: Head over to the Old Mill for some ostrich steaks. Book ahead.  Their lodge also gets good reviews if De Zeekoe is booked out.
  • Headlines Restaurant: Popular spot with great reviews.

Whale watching in Hermanus South Africa

Whale watching from the coast in Hermanus (10 years ago), yes I know, I haven’t changed a bit, have I?

Hermanus & Cape Aghulas

We didn’t have time to include Hermanus or Cape Aghulas in our itinerary this time, but it’s definitely worth adding it to your Garden Route itinerary on your way to or from Cape Town.

Hermanus is a great place for whale watching, especially between the months of June and October when the Southern Right whales come to calf and play in the waters here.

We stayed in Hermanus last time we were there, but you could stay in either!

On your way from Oudtshoorn to Hermanus, you could also stop in Swellendam which has a number of good restaurants to choose from. Otherwise, power through to Cape Aghulas to see where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. There are a few nice spots for lunch around here too!

On the way to Hermanus, also lies Mossel Bay which is the town at the start of the Garden Route. I didn’t include it in my itinerary this time, but it is a nice place to stop or stay depending on your timescale.

Where to Stay in Hermanus:

  • Hermanus Backpackers: I stayed here 10 years ago and remember it being very nice. Great option if you’re on a budget.
  • The Whale on Main: With one of the highest ratings on Booking.com, this place looks like the perfect place to rest your head for the night.

Or you can check out some other options here.

Cape Aghulas South Africa

< Indian Ocean – Atlantic Ocean >

Things to Do in Hermanus:

  • Go Whale Watching: You don’t even need to step off the land as the whales can often be seen from the shore. The Cliff Path and Siever’s Point offer the best views. If you want to watch from the water, you can find a number of trips here.
  • Visit the Old Harbour Museum: Learn about the history of Hermanus with a trip to the Old Harbour Museum.
  • Straddle Two Oceans: Stop by Cape Aghulas to see where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Fees for non-residents are R184 per adult, per day and R92 per child, per day. Fees for residents are R46 per adult, per day and R23 per child, per day.
  • Go Shark Cage Diving: Some people agree with it, some don’t but if you want to go shark cage diving, there are a number of tours that leave from Hermanus and nearby Gansbaai.
  • Visit Parrie the Giant Stingray: Swing by Struisbaai Harbour to meet its most famous resident, Parrie.

Where to Eat & Drink in Hermanus:

  • Bientang’s Cave: Great seafood restaurant right by the water. In season you can whale watch whilst you eat.
  • Betty Blue Bistro: Hermanus’ highest-rated restaurant according to Tripadvisor.

Bo Kaap, Cape Town

Colourful Bo Kaap

Cape Town

Last, but definitely not least is wonderful, wonderful Cape Town.

I need to write more about Cape Town in a separate post (or many posts), but for now, just let me say that it’s one of my favourite places in Africa and definitely a must-visit place, so I’d definitely advise you to add it into your Garden Route itinerary.

You could spend 2 weeks in Cape Town (or more) and still not see and do everything, but if you give yourself at least 3 nights, you should be able to get around a few of the main highlights.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Cape Town over the years and it never gets old, from watching the sunset from the top of Table Mountain to driving the Cape Peninsular or just watching the world go by at the V&A Waterfront, you’ll be absolutely spoilt for choice and don’t be surprised if you’re planning your return before you’ve even left.

Where to Stay in Cape Town:

  • Once in Cape Town: This is a great hostel with one of the coolest bars in town. They have private ensuite rooms too.
  • The Backpack: I love The Backpack. It’s not as flashy as some of the other hostels in town, but it’s a great place to meet other travellers and super friendly. They have a great breakfast too which saved me after a few big nights out.
  • Gorgeous George: This new, boutique hotel is about as Instagrammable as it gets. They also have a rooftop bar…
  • Tintswalo Atlantic: For the ultimate romantic getaway, head to the Tintswalo Atlantic in Hout Bay, just outside of Cape Town.
  • The Silo Hotel: Probably the most beautiful hotel in Cape Town, with a price tag to match, but if your budget allows, The Silo Hotel at the V&A Waterfront is an excellent choice.
  • Airbnb: If you want a little home away from home, there are some amazing Airbnb rentals in Cape Town.

Or you can check out some other options here.

Sunset from Table Mountain - South Africa Garden Route Itinerary

Sunset from Table Mountain

Things to Do in Cape Town:

  • Watch the Sunset From the Top of Table Mountain: Table Mountain is great at any time of day, but sunset is extra special. Check the weather before you head up.
  • Drive the Cape Peninsular: This is one of the best drives in Africa and definitely a must-do activity in Cape Town. The main stops are Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Boulders Beach (to see the penguins – yay), Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope and the Chapman’s Peak Drive. You could also finish with a nice cool drink in Camp’s Bay overlooking the ocean.
  • Go Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch or Franshoek: Less than an hour or so outside the city, you will find two of the world’s best wine regions. It would be rude not to really. We booked this tour and it was great!
  • Go Surfing at Muizenberg Beach: This is one of the best surf spots in South Africa.
  • Visit the V&A Waterfront: Yes it’s a bit touristy, but the V&A Waterfront is beautiful and a great place to spend an afternoon.
  • Hike Lion’s Head: To get one of Cape Town’s most incredible views, hike up to the top of Lion’s Head for sunrise.
  • Visit the Neighbourgoods Market: Each Saturday, the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock turns into the Neighbourgoods Market where you’ll find food, drinks and lots of other lovely things.
St James Beach - Garden Route Itinerary

Colourful beach huts on St James Beach

 Where to Eat & Drink in Cape Town:

  • Bombay Bicycle Club: Wonderful, quirky restaurant with great food and lovely staff. It’s kind of like eating in a restaurant you’d find in Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
  • Tiger’s Milk: Bar and restaurant Tiger’s Milk is a staple around Cape Town, with a number of locations in and just outside the city. I’ve only eaten at the one on Kloof Street, but their food is fab and they aren’t stingy with the cheese on their cheesy chips, which is a big plus in my eyes.
  • Mama Africa: A bit touristy, but always fun. They often have live music and you can try lots of different local foods.
  • Black Sheep Restaurant: I’ve not eaten here but it’s highly rated and my local friend, Manon says that it is her favourite restaurant in Cape Town.
  • Up Yours & Yours Truly: The bar at Once in Cape Town is a nice and relaxed place to meet other travellers and generally always busy.
  • The Silo Hotel: A stylish rooftop bar at the V&A Waterfront. Book ahead as it’s reservations only. Dress up for the occasion.
  • Charly’s Bakery: Looking for something sweet, pretty and delicious? Then head to Charly’s Bakery in District 6.
  • Truth Coffee Roasting: For a super cool coffee ‘experience’, head to Truth.

The Robberg Peninsula Hike

The Robberg Peninsula – one of the Garden Route highlights

My Top Tips for Driving the Garden Route

  • If you’re driving, don’t forget your international driving licence.
  • South African residents get discounts at National Parks and other attractions with a valid ID.
  • You can save a lot of money if you have a Wild Card permit.
  • Do your research (yay, I’m glad you’re here) as there’s so much to do. Try and get a shortlist of your must-dos and plan around that.
  • Don’t try to fit too much in, if you rush too much you won’t enjoy it.
  • Ask the locals as you go, they’ll have the best recommendations.
  • Leave some room to explore – some of my favourite places were random spots we came across along the way.
  • Always have some small change for the parking attendants. Parking is free almost everywhere, but you will need to pay someone to watch your car (they’re usually the guys in the hi-vis vests). Around 5 Rand per parking spot is about right and you give them the tip when you return to your car. We also tipped the petrol station attendants.
  • The usual tip amount for restaurants is 10%.
  • Carry some cash as not everywhere takes cards.
  • Don’t drive at long distances night, it’s much safer to drive during the day.
  • In South Africa, they use Type M, 3 pronged plugs so you will need an adapter if coming from elsewhere. There were also usually Type N plugs too, but M were the most common. I have this adapter from Skross.
  • Book ahead, especially during busy times such as the South African school holidays.
  • Fill up your petrol tank when you have the chance, you don’t want to get stuck.
  • Hire a GPS. If you can’t, Google Maps also works well. SIM cards are easy to purchase (I recommend Vodacom) and top up. Just ensure you have an unlocked phone before you go.
  • Pack for all weathers. You can experience 4 seasons in a day on the Garden Route.
  • Keep an eye on the weather as it may affect some of the activities, so you may need to re-arrange some things.

Have you been to South Africa? Anything else you’d add to this Cape Town & Garden Route itinerary?


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South Africa - Cape Town & Garden Route Itinerary   South Africa - Cape Town & Garden Route Itinerary

Plan Your Trip to South Africa

Getting There: I always search for flights on Skyscanner. The biggest airports are Johannesburg International Airport and Cape Town International Airport, but there are lots of smaller, regional airports along and near to the Garden Route, including Port Elizabeth, Plettenberg Bay and George.

Travel Insurance: This is Africa and medical care is not free. If you get injured or fall sick, you will have to pay for your medical care which could be very expensive, so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all aspects of your trip. I recommend World NomadsOutbacker, or InsureandGo.

What To Pack: See my comprehensive Africa Packing List.


Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

1 Comment

  • Emily Madison
    January 3, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you Helen, a great itinerary for people those who are interested in visiting the attractive places in South Africa,especially Cape Town. The safari park is a well known visiting point all over the world.Thank you for the detailed description.Very helpful to plan my own trip and to utilize my time in South Africa efficiently.
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