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 ! 🙂
4) Frolicking with lions at the Johannesburg Lion Park