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The dramatically beautiful Garden Route on the southeast coast of South Africa, is a coastal strip along the Indian Ocean. It is considered the most scenic part of the country, with exquisite beaches, forests, lakes, lagoons, rivers and mountains. It is one of the most popular great travel destinations, attracting both local and international visitors.
The Garden Route begins at the elegant historical town of Swellendam in the west and extends east to Humansdorp near Port Elizabeth. It crosses the border of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces. The most gorgeous part of the Garden Route is along the sea, starting at Mossel Bay and continuing to Storms River in the the Tsitsikamma National Park.
The coastal strip has astonishingly beautiful beaches and is situated between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountain ranges.The rich vegetation is diverse, including fynbos, wetlands and forests. Every trip to the Garden Route leaves one hoping to go back as soon as possible.
The climate is oceanic, and according to the Guinness Book of Records the second mildest in the world after Hawaii. The temperature is never under 10 degrees or above 28. Summers are mild to warm and winters warm to cool, and there is light rain throughout the year.
There are 21 small towns and villages along the Route.
Mossel Bay, both a gorgeous holiday town and a busy port, has 60 kms of sandy white beach, including two beautiful Blue Flag beaches.
George is the Garden Route’s biggest city and the administrative centre, situated slightly inland in a rich fertile valley.
The Wilderness is a magical little village on the Touws River Estuary overlooking a stunningly gorgeous beach situated in a nature reserve.
Sedgefield is another small coastal town, between George and Knysna, in the midst of indigenous forest, fynbos and mountains.
Brenton-on-Sea, another small seaside resort town, 15 kms out of Knysna, also has a wonderful beach.
Knysna is a charming little town situated on an amazing warm water lagoon, and is a favourite retirement and tourist destination.
Plettenberg Bay is perhaps the most popular holiday destination on the Garden Route, a town of great beauty at the Keurbooms River mouth.
Nature’s Valley, 30 kms past Plett, is a paradise of lush forests, lakes and beaches in the Tsitsikamma nature reserve.
Storms River, also in the protected nature reserve, has a wild coastline overlooking the restless sea, with forest, rivers, streams and waterfalls.
Slightly inland is the Klein Karoo, with the intriguing interesting towns of Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, and the Cango caves.
What to Do
The Garden Route has 10 nature reserves with nature trails like the famous Otter Trail, and also marine reserves with dolphins and seals. Apart from the beaches and fascinating scenic drives, there are fabulous restaurants, art galleries, health resorts and spas. There is abseiling, bungee jumping, deep sea fishing, elephant parks and quad biking as well as several world class golf courses.
Birdlife is rich with over 300 species in different habitats from fynbos, forests and wetlands.
Where to Stay
Accommodation varies from luxury hotels, guest houses, b&b’s,holiday apartments, cottages, chalets and villas. There are SanParks cottages and camping in the actual nature reserves.
The main airport is in George.
The N2 highway follows the coastline through the main Garden Route towns. George is 430 kms from Cape Town, either a pleasant drive through the Western Cape, or a short flight less than an hour.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.