The Garden Route

Surprises await around every turn of South Africa’s pleasant drive

By: Cindy-Lou Dale

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Hermanus is a popular seaside holiday area.
The scenic Garden Route, with its pristine beaches, blue mountains, lush forests and azure lakes, is one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in South Africa. With False Bay and Table Mountain as backdrops, head east on the N2 a stretch of road along South Africa’s glorious southern coast known as the Garden Route. But first, you’ll need to negotiate Sir Lowry’s Pass, perilous with tight bends and sheer drops from unimaginable heights, providing spectacular views.

Winding your way down the mountain through fertile valleys and quiet farming communities, you’ll come to Hermanus, a popular resort clinging to the very edge of the continent and famed as the world’s best land-based whale-watching site. The Whale Crier announces through his kelp horn where whales have been sighted, bringing droves of locals and visitors to numerous look-out points to watch whales frolic, mate and calve.

Recommended accommodations are either the Birkenhead House with stunning out-of-town location; or the Marine Hermanus, with a very good wine list.

A little beyond Hermanus is Gansbaai, known for offering the best shark-cage diving in the country. Deckhands lower a cage into the water and then you soon after. Once you’re safely inside the cage, the crew starts chumming the water with bloody bait instantly attracting the attention of underwater predators.

There are a number of suspect diving outfits in the area, so take care. One recommended company is Unreal Dive. A great B&B is the luxury Round House ask for a room at the front. The Round House has superb whale-watching from their viewing deck.

Continuing your drive you’ll pass villages and stretches of beach until you reach Mossel Bay. Halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, it has been featured in the “Guinness World Records” as having the mildest all-year climate, second only to Hawaii. Preserved old-stone buildings speak volumes about its history.

Beyond Mossel Bay is the capital of the Garden Route George. George is bursting with graceful old buildings, numerous museums, the Old Slave Tree that still has an iron chain embedded in its trunk, the oldest church in South Africa and the country’s smallest cathedral. George also has Victoria Bay, a secluded beach renowned for surfing, and a large tidal pool at Herold’s Bay.

Accommodations are numerous but recommended is African Oceans Manor-on-the-Beach B&B. The most luxurious room is Suite 4 with sea views and an elegant Victorian bathroom.

The Fancourt Hotel & Country Club Estate is also a pleasant stay ask for a lake-view room.

Cradled in the deep green vastness of misty mountains is the fairy-tale landscape of Wilderness, some nine miles east of George. Wilderness is a romantic world of lakes, rivers and estuaries which gently unfold against a backdrop of tranquil talcum-white beaches.

Accommodations include The Waterside Lodge B&B ask for the Loerie Cabin.

Surrounded by indigenous forests is Knysna, home to the country’s only national lake and largest estuary. The waters of the Indian Ocean channel through two large sandstone cliffs the Knysna Heads forming the gateway to the marine reserve. A must-do excursion is the old Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train, which runs between Knysna and George via the Lakes area. You’ll also want to spend time at the Knysna Elephant Park.

Stay in one of the tree-suites of the Phantom Forest Eco Reserve.

Further on is Plettenburg Bay, with 15 nature reserves, including the Tsitsikamma National Park. The park preserves the Khoisan (Bushmen) caves’ rock art. Accommodations include the Castle on the Cliff with its own coastline.

The Garden Route will not fail to capture your imagination, compelling you to linger just a little longer.






The Knysna Elephant Park

Mossel Bay

Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe

Plettenburg Bay

Unreal Dive



Birkenhead House

Marine Hermanus

Round House

African Oceans Manor-on-the-Beach B&B

The Fancourt Hotel & Country Club Estate

The Waterside Lodge B&B

Phantom Forest Eco Reserve

Castle on the Cliff