The Garden Route


The Garden Route of South Africa refers to a stretch along the southern coast of the country, known for its incredible natural beauty. For that reason it is very popular with tourists, especially during the summer months. There is a huge variety of accommodation as well as many activities that you can partake in on the Garden Route. Naturally, our recommended place to stay, from which you can explore the whole of the Garden Route, is Wilderness.

Some people may loosely refer to the Garden Route as the 750km (about 450 mile) stretch of the N2 highway from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth along the bottom of Africa. Whilst there is no set definition, the true Garden Route covers a much smaller section of around 230km. This starts at Mossel Bay in the west, running along eastwards to the edge of the Tsitsikamma forest.

The N2 road is generally well maintained and an easy drive. It stays inland once you head eastwards out of Cape Town.

The Garden Route can of course be explored in any direction, but here we will discuss the different places travelling from west to east, starting at Mossel Bay.

Mossel Bay to George

At Mossel Bay, around 380km (240 miles) from central Cape Town, you get to see the Indian Ocean for the first time.  Unfortunately for this large town, it’s one of the less memorable places on the Garden Route in comparison to some of the other gems.

The dual carriageway for the 50km (30 miles) or so of the N2 from Mossel Bay to George makes it easy to breeze through this section of road.  However there are some beautiful sights, including many places that you could stay for a night or two along this stretch.  In this area there are a number of river mouths along with large lakes, making it perfect for a relaxing stay by the water.  You can also partake in a number of watersports.


The N2 bypasses along the edge of George, which is the 6th largest place in South Africa.  If you are staying nearby and need to do any significant shopping during your holiday, then the Garden Route Mall, just off the N2, has pretty much all the shops you need.  It is also good for a rainy day, with a large multi-screen cinema.

George is also home to the Outeniqua Transport Museum.  This has a number of exhibits including many old trains and cars.  The entrance fee is extremely low, so it is definitely worth a visit, even if you only stay for an hour. This museum is also where the “Power Van” trip on the railway line up the mountains behind George starts.  The Power Van tickets would need to be booked days or weeks in advance, especially in busy times.

If you don’t make the Power Van trip, you can also get great views by driving up the mountain pass behind George.  This is covered in more detail towards the end of this article where we talk about the day trip to Oudtshoorn.

George also has an airport, with flights from Cape Town, Johannesburg and other domestic  locations. If you fly straight into George, it’s still recommended that you hire a car from the airport. A road trip is really necessary in order to be able to explore the area properly.

George to Knysna

Heading out of George on the N2, you will soon pass through beautiful Wilderness. Soon after comes Sedgefield, then through into Knysna.

There is plenty to do in Knysna, including visiting the waterfront area and The Heads.

Knysna to Plettenberg Bay

This is probably the busiest (and hence slowest to drive through) sections of the Garden Route. There are so many attractions to stop off at in this stretch, including Knysna Elephant Park and Plett Puzzle Park.

Plettenberg Bay (commonly shortened to “Plett”) is a beautiful town with plenty to admire. There is also a beautiful nature reserve just outside the town.

Plett to Tsitsikamma

After leaving Plettenberg Bay heading towards Port Elizabeth, you soon enter the region known as Tsitsikamma. This area is characterised by forests of large trees. You can visit the famous “Big Tree”, as well as the small towns of Nature’s Valley and Storms River.

This area is perfect for adrenaline junkies. One highlight is the highest bungee jump in the world, from the Bloukrans River bridge.