It all started with a photograph of two giant eggs next to a curious looking bird. The coffee-table book I was reading informed me that the picture was taken at an Ostrich Farm in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. At the time, driving the Garden Route was a distant dream. A decade later, when Vid and I finally embarked on our road trip through South Africa, I was sure I wanted to visit Oudtshoorn. Thus, The Garden Route was firmly pencilled on our itinerary.
We spent a fortnight exploring The Garden Route’s sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons, wildlife reserves, and untamed countryside. We’ve been on more road trips than we care to remember, but the Garden Route is truly second to none. There is nothing it doesn’t offer – great people, amazing panoramas, activities by the dozen, ambrosial wines, and delectable sea-food. We would recommend it to anyone – young or old – in a heartbeat.
The Garden Route, traditionally, stretches between the Storms River and Mossel Bay. However, for the ultimate road trip, we suggest an extended version of the traditional route:
Driving The Garden Route: A suggested itinerary
Distance Covered – 950 kms, Days required – 12
a) Start at Addo Elephant National Park (2 days)
b) Continue to Storms River and Knysna (3 days)
c) Explore Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn (2 days)
d) Wrap up your road trip by exploring Cape Town and The Wine Routes (5 days)
Driving the Garden Route is no mean feat. Prepare to be tempted by stunning panoramas or intrigued by wildlife at every turn. There is so much to be done and so much to be seen.
Without further ado, here are our top 5 reasons why Driving the Garden Route must be on your travel bucket list 🙂
1) The Views and Culture
One moment we were driving next to the Indian Ocean, the next we were driving through a forest. The polarities of The Garden Route make it special. There are lush valleys, azure lakes, game reserves, spectacular mountains, and colourful vistas.
There are dozens of quaint towns and seaside resorts along the way. The local markets are a sight to behold – they sell everything from African dolls and ethnic jewellery to tribal masks and colourful clothes. We enjoyed a number of towns including Riversdale, Heidelberg, and Mossel Bay, but it was Knysna that stole our hearts.
Knysna appears as if from the clouds. It isn’t the quietest town on the stretch – far from it. It is popular with tourists but still incredibly charming. The famed Knysna lagoon is separated from the rough waters of the Indian Ocean by 2 dramatic limestone cliffs, known as the Knysna Heads. At the time we visited, there were barely any people at the lagoon. Suspended clouds framed the Heads, adding to the mystery of the place.
2) Extreme Adventure Sports
South Africa offers a variety of extreme adventure sports including Shark Cage Diving, Sky Diving, and Bungee Jumping. The world’s highest Bungee Jump is located at the Bloukrans Bridge along The Garden Route. We went there and tried it for ourselves – it is errr scary.
Notice the rope under the bridge? Imagine dangling at the end of that rope – nuff said 😉
3) Safaris and wildlife
The Garden Route is dotted with Game Reserves that provide a perfect opportunity to see The Big 5. We opted for a self-drive Safari at The Addo National Park and loved every moment of it.
For something a bit tamer yet equally enjoyable, we visited the Ostrich Farms in Oudtshoorn (yes finally 🙂 ). A lot of fun was had exploring the ranch, acquainting ourselves with Ostrich babies and learning more about Ostrich eggs (they’re HUGE).
4) The Food and Wine *sigh*
On our first night in South Africa, we had food off a Braai (Afrikaans for BBQ) . Over the course of our trip we sampled bunny chow in Durban, oysters in Knysna, and springbok and game meat in Cape Town and fell hopelessly in love with food in South Africa . It wasn’t a fling, ladies and gentlemen, but a full-blown love affair. I find myself craving sea-food “cooked the South African way” to this day.
Don’t even get me started on the wine. Who hasn’t picked up a bottle of South African pinot noir or chenin blanc off the shelves of a supermarket for a night in with friends? The ambrosial taste might be familiar, but the experience of visiting wine cellars and attending tastings along The Wine Routes is totally novel. The Cape Winelands, especially Stellenbosch and the Franschhoek valley, are resplendent. Can you blame us for going weak at the knees? 🙂
I will never forget the day we saw penguins for the first time. I could spend hours observing them waddle awkwardly, tip over, fall down, and get back up only to fall down again.
Boulder’s Beach near Cape Town is home to a huge colony of jackass penguins. Anyone can visit the beach, but it is also possible to have breakfast with the penguins if you decide to stay at one of the hotels lining the beach.
It is hard to resist the charm of these clumsy li’l things 🙂
Is driving the Garden Route on your bucket list? Have you been to South Africa? If not, our experiences in South Africa should get you started ! 🙂
1) An Epic Road Trip in South Africa : A Suggested Itinerary
2) A Self Drive Safari at Addo National Park, South Africa
3) An Offbeat Budget Safari at Hluhluwe National Park
4) Frolicking with lions at the Johannesburg Lion Park
5) 5 Reasons you MUST visit a township in South Africa
62 thoughts on “Driving The Garden Route: Roadtrippin’ South Africa”
Penguins ^.^ so cute..and yes yes it is on the bucket list 😉 awesome post 😀
Good pick Shivangi. The Garden Route and The Wine Routes are definitely worthy of being on every bucket list out there 🙂
When is the best time to visit South Africa ? To experience the wild life , the penguins , and the beaches ?
I believe the best time to view wildlife is in their winter months i.e. April-September.
Ohh wow! What an amazing trip! Fab photos!!
I didn’t know there was penguins in South Africa…lol
Thanks Kim. South Africa is full of surprises 🙂
i want to go traveling so bad! x
Join the gang Chloe 😉
I think this looks like you had an amazing adventure! I will have to show my friend your pictures of the penguins, she loves them!! Ahhh I wish I could go travelling 🙁 x
Thanks Hurnae- The Garden Route is supposed to be one of the best roadtrips in the world, so there’s penguins and a whole lot more 🙂
The pics are amazing! Especially love the one in which you both are standing with the penguins. How beautiful.
I love local markets. 🙂
Thanks 🙂 We couldn’t get enough of the penguins
Amazing pics, a treat for the eyes after long hours of working 🙂 I was always intrigued by South Africa, but this post made me want to visit it asap 🙂 The pics are beautiful. And OMG, OMG, I love penguins! Don’t they look oh-so-cute?? 🙂
Penguins are the most adorable animals EVER 🙂 Ramya you should totally plan a trip. We have a road trip itinerary for South Africa so you don’t have to work hard at putting one together 😉
the views are like hell astonishing .. the photo with penguins is awesome !!! and not to miss , i love the red thing in the hair . 🙂
Damn! You noticed the red feather- how cool 🙂 The views on The Garden Route are absolutely stunning
Great post. Thanks for the helpful advice! I hope to be able to visit South Africa soon.
Stef I hope so too – you will love it 🙂
Capetown has always been my South African home – regardless of where I live in this world. I’ve done the garden route a few times and simply love it! I’m currently living in Capetown until March and plan to explore the garden route again with my partner whose never been. This week we plan to plan with penguins and touch the tip of the cape point. It’s been hard to pull him away from the vineyards – I’m glad you had such a wonderful time here 🙂
Natasha I’m so jealous. I want to live in Cape Town too 🙁
Love the idea of driving across South Africa! We have done it all across North America and Europe and firmly believe driving is the best way to see places. It is so great to be able to pull off and stop for awhile at any place that strikes your fancy. Hope we can do this soon.
Well said ! We both love road trips – the flexibility and freedom it offers is unbeatable. Going to check out your blog for your tips on the North American road trip – that’s very high on our to-do list 🙂
Love your blog! Did the roadtrip of Iceland last year! ONe of my favs! Heading to South Africa to do the Garden Route / Capetown for 2 weeks in November. Do you have any accomodations you would recommend? Thank you!
Hey Kim- Did you enjoy Iceland as much as we did? You’re going to love South Africa – we rented with Air B&B while we were in South Africa- they have some great houses for rent there 🙂
Great post! What time of the year did you go? The penguin pics are adorable, so are your outfits!
Hey Ash, thanks a ton. We visited South Africa in April 🙂
South Africa offers more than just safaris….Here is a snapshot of our road trip along the Western Cape in South Africa…
Wish we could add a little of what you did into our itinerary!
Hey Sonia – we agree. South Africa has so much more to it than just safaris. Good to see you had an amazing time too 🙂
Do spare some time for whale watching and shark cage diving the next time you are there….we did…and we are glad that we did!
Sure – that sounds so exciting 🙂
I enjoy catching up with your writing and pics, keep going! That one photo of the wine cellar could be mistaken for the solemn interior of a church with pews…lol.
Thanks Deborah. You’re right – that wine cellar could well be a cathedral 😉
Getting ready to head to south africa for a few weeks this october and then hop over to south east asia. just want to tell you how much im enjoying reading your blog. i am only thru a few blog posts but i am already mentally planning my outfits and photo opps thanks to you! hoping my boyfriend and i can be half as stylish as you and Vid! 🙂
Awww Kristina thank you ever so much 🙂 Your comment makes us so happy. Hope you have a great time in South Africa !
I was needing a some help from you for planning my Sa holiday
1) since I will be doing kruger can I miss ado national park or is it a must do ?
2) I plan to drive from port elizabeth to cape town taking a night halt at a few places, which places or hotels would you recommend for the same ?
3) should I do hermanus while driving the garden route or do it as day trip from cape town ?
Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. We are assuming that you have already completed your trip, but just in case you haven’t, we’d suggest stopping at Hermanus on your way to Cape Town.
Also, if you are visiting Kruger, then you can definitely give Addo a miss. We stopped in Knysna for a couple of nights on our way to Cape town from Port Elizabeth. We hadn’t booked anything ini advance and found a lovely homestay there!
What did you do for navigation? Does Google maps work? or did you rent a GPS device provided by the car rental agency?
hey google maps works perfectly.. you will be better off saving money on a gps device
Yes, google maps will work fine. Now, you can also use them offline (we haven’t tested out this feature yet), but if you have a data card, then there will be no problem in using google maps anyway.
I need your help, in planning the garden route roadtrip.
My wife and I are renting a car from George, and driving to Knysna, where we will be staying for 3 days.
We would like to drive to oudtshoorn, to see Cango caves, ostrich farm and the wild life
We are interested in driving around the scenic coastal routes,lagoon, beaches, mountain passes, national park, route 62. Remember, we are staying in Knysna – base, for all 3 days, so it has to be roundtrips.
From Knysna, we are driving to Capetown,please suggest the best scenic routes with the stops for great views enroute.
Will Google maps be sufficient.
Appreciate your help.
Google maps will be sufficient for sure.
If you have a look at the map in this article and follow the route from Knysna to Capetown, you’ll encounter a very scenic drive.
Hi, Thanks for the post. I am planning self drive trip this December with my wife. Could you please comment on the safety aspect?
Hey Prathamesh – we felt quite safe and didn’t face any trouble but you should definitely exercise caution while driving around in South Africa. Have fun on your roadtrip 🙂
That sounds amazing! I’m in SA soon, but still unsure whether to do the Garden Route. I’ve got a terrible reptile phobia and I’m so scared to encounter snakes and/or iguanas on the way. Is this very likely to happen there? Did you encounter any snakes or reptiles? Thank you and kind regards from a German reader, Ronja
Don’t worry at all. We didn’t encounter any reptiles there 🙂
As long as you stay away from bushy/forested areas, there’s no need to worry
First of all, absolutely love your blog..! 🙂
Secondly, your blog is a great inspiration to me and my husband for penning down our travel experiences and itineraries in a blog..
We are planning SA trip soon, and was wondering if we can take Garden route starting cape town to port Elizabeth. Would that gift us good views and sights as your? 🙂 or its recommended to drive towards Cape town only?
Thanks much in advance
You can drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth too – the views will be equally great 🙂
Hope you have a great trip!
Very impressed and inspired by your blog. I’ve just booked a self drive garden route tour and I was hoping you could tell me a bit about the roads. Are they all standard main roads or do you go on any duel carrageways /motorways. I’m a bit nervous about the bigger roads and was hoping you could tell me a bit about the drive itself.
Don’t worry, you’ll be just fine 🙂 The roads were mostly duel carriageways and very easy to drive on.
Have a great trip!
I stumbled upon your blog a couple of weeks ago and am using it now to plan my trip to SA.
I was wondering, i really want to do the garden route, but we have to start in Cape town and end in cape town and would only have 6 days to drive to and back from capetown->addo elephant.
Do you think this is possible while still enjoying some stops or is it to much driving?
Which stops do you absolutely recommend? and what is there to see @ mossel bay?
Happy to hear that our posts have been helpful 🙂
Driving from Cape Town to Addo and back in 6 days might get a bit tiring but is certainly doable. On your way from Cape Town to Add, you could spend a couple of nights in Knysna (we prefer Knysna over Mossel Bay) . Spend a couple of nights in Addo and then drive back to Cape Town (you could do this drive in a day albeit a long one).
Hi my fiance and I are planning to travel to South Africa towards the end of the year.
We are staying for 4 nights at Kruger and were planning for 2 nights through the Garden Route and 3 nights at Cape Town, ending our trip with the New Years Eve at Sun City for 3 nights.
After reading your post, I am so mesmerised by Garden Route. I wonder if two days with self drive and stay at Knysna is sufficient. What would you recommend?
2 days should be fine 🙂 If you have flexibility, add another day but if you can’t then 2 days will give you ample time.
Have a great trip!
I just stumbled onto your blog and it reads so well that it seems you visited the place only yesterday! 🙂 I’m too planning to visit South Africa soon with my wife. Would love to hear your inputs about the following:
1) How safe the route is for driving as is till what time in the evening
2) Which would be the best place to celebrate New Year eve
2) A little bit more info about the possible places to stay along the Garden Route (letting me where you stayed would be very helpful)
Thanks in advance!
Hey the route is safe as long as you exercise caution (don’t flash expensive camera gear, valuables etc). Cape Town is best for New Year. And we used this website to compare hotel prices and find the best deal along the Garden Route – you can check it out too 🙂
Hi- really inspired by your blog and life story. We are finally planning a trip to SA and i keep dreaming about it specially after looking at your pictures.
We have only a day in Kynsa. What do you suggest we do in that day?
Please see our article for suggestions on what to do in Knysna 🙂
Great blog! So inspiring!
I am a planning a trip to SA and Seychelles! Its a 14 days trip, planning to spend 8 days in SA and 6 days in Seychelles!
Please suggest me a best itenary.
That sounds like a great trip. We have already written in detail about what all we did in south Africa and Seychelles so it’d be best if you go through our articles and decide what you’d like to do and what you’d like to skip 🙂 Just search for South Africa and Seyschelles.
Enjoy your trip 🙂
Great blog! Could you please tell me some spots in SA, as I am heading to SA next week for a casual weekend. Never been there and searching some stuff related to SA.
All itineraries and tips are in this article and other articles (that are linked in this article on South Africa) 🙂
I only been to cape town & it is by far one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, safety may be one of the concern. Read about cape town travel guide here http://www.markmyadventure.com/cape-town-south-africa-travel-guide/