One of the world’s greatest road trips, the Garden Route is something I strongly recommend that you try and fit into any South Africa itinerary. It can be a little overwhelming to plan as there is SO much to do here and there are countless tweaks you can make to suit your preferences and style of travel. Having done this trip twice myself now and learnt lots from it, I have finally put together my recommended 5 day Garden Route itinerary, with lots of variations to customise as you wish.
My Love of the Garden Route
I have been to a fair few places in my lifetime and at some point during each of these trips, often boldly proclaim that I will be back (not Terminator style). Outside of visiting family, the Garden Route in South Africa is the only place I have actually managed to go back to, rather than being enticed by the prospect of exploring a new destination.
I always think that everyone has that one destination that captures their heart a bit and they can’t help but return (or just think of it obsessively). The Garden Route is that for me and bearing in mind how fussy I am, that is saying something!
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Why I Love the Garden Route
It has what I think is the perfect balance between stunning natural scenery, divine food and a surprisingly varied selection of wonderfully top end, mostly boutique, accommodation. The coastal location (I LOVE the sea) that you can regularly see dolphins and whales in AND has super surf adds to the package, as does the abundance of great wine (not necessarily to be enjoyed at the same time). I also really like the distinct lack of commercialisation, the laid back atmosphere and friendly people, as well as it being a destination that is off the radar enough that it is never heaving.
The cherry on top is that I get zero culture shock here and somehow just fit into the flow of life easily, without feeling distinctly like a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, in the right circumstances, culture shock is exciting and exhilarating to anyone who loves to travel, but it can also be emotional and exhausting. I actually RELAXED while visiting the Garden Route. That never happens.
And the gold dust on top of that cherry? Hands down the cheapest destination I have ever travelled to for mid range to luxury travellers. Your money goes farrrrrr here. Before you ask, yes I have travelled to South East Asia (and Central America) and yes, I am still going to stand by that statement!
What is the Garden Route?
If you haven’t heard of the Garden Route, it is 300 km (190 miles) of sheer natural beauty along South Africa’s southern coastline. The most western town is Mossel Bay, a 4.5 hour drive from Cape Town and the most eastern is Storms River.
The distance between these two towns (200 km / 125 miles, about a 2.5 hour straight drive) is the ground the majority of people cover when driving the Garden Route, with the additional 100 km falling west of Mossel Bay. While there are a couple of good detours on this stretch, it is mostly just driving on the N2 highway, so for this reason, isn’t included in the vast majority of Garden Route itineraries.
If you’re driving in from Cape Town though, there’s a good chance you will take this route on your way to the main Garden Route anyway, so you can make some detours if you choose.
Between Mossel Bay and Storms River, you have multiple places worth stopping in, with the Garden Route highlights being (from west to east) Wilderness, Sedgefield, George, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley.
The route is as diverse as it is beautiful; you have everything here from mountain ranges, lagoons, rivers, forests and of course, that stunning ocean (hence the name, the Garden Route).
When to Plan Your Garden Route Road Trip
I’ll be honest, I’m a sunshine chick and try to spend as much of January and February chasing it, rather than be rained on in the UK. For this reason I have only ever visited South Africa during this time, which for all accounts and purposes, is probably the best time to visit the Garden Route (for me anyway)!
The Garden Route is a popular destination for holidaying locals from the likes of Cape Town and Johannesburg and prices and visitor numbers particularly surge during the school holidays. These generally mirror the UK and USA holiday dates, but their summer break is during December and the first couple of weeks of January (when prices also peak).
Summer (December to February)
The weather is balmy and beautiful and it’s no secret, this is the busiest time along the Garden Route and hotels raise their prices accordingly. If you don’t mind the price hike, don’t let it put you off, Garden Route busy really isn’t that bad!
Autumn (March to May)
It starts to cool down a bit now and with a corresponding drop in visitor numbers. It is a popular time for non water based activities, particularly hiking.
Winter (June to August)
If you value your luxe for less even in the cold, now is the time to come. The hotels cut their rates by an astonishing amount, even the super duper luxury ones. This is also a great time to visit if you want to go whale watching; the season runs from the end of May to the beginning of November. If you’re here at the end of June, don’t miss Knysna’s Oyster Festival either!
Spring (September to November)
The Garden Route is supposed to be at its most stunning in spring. Prices are starting to rise agin as you move into the shoulder season, but you’re also still here in time to spot those migrating whales.
Driving the Garden Route
Hiring a car is cheap and easy in South Africa and you can also hire them straight from George and Port Elizabeth airports if you are flying in (or drop them off if you drive in and are flying out, or vice versa).
Our first time travelling the Garden Route we hired a driver with said car as we had a very busy itinerary and were staying in a new hotel virtually every night; no time for getting lost or mucking around!
The next time we had a much more chilled visit and decided to base ourselves in one place for our three week Garden Route trip, so just hired a car and drove ourselves.
Honestly, loads easier that driving in both the UK and USA; roads are wide, well maintained, very quiet and everyone seems to be a good driver here! You can read more about the rules of the roads in the driving section of my South Africa Travel Tips post, they have an interesting way of overtaking!
If you are driving in from Cape Town and want ideas on routes to take and stop off options, scroll to the bottom of this post; you have three options, the Coastal, Safari and Mountain routes. If you are returning to Cape Town afterwards, you can take a different route back and experience two out of the three!
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Garden Route?
Well, this is up to you. You are not going to run out of things to do; even spending three weeks here we still ran out of time and didn’t get to do everything we wanted.
The core of the Garden Route and the stretch I recommend everyone explore regardless if you have two days or two weeks, is the area between Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay.
5 Day Garden Route Itinerary
Safe to say, I quite like this part of South Africa! After two very different trips here; one short and whirlwind and another long and laid back, as well as copious hours of research and some trial and error, I have finally put together my recommended 5 day Garden Route road trip itinerary.
I have also included some optional extras if you are lucky enough to be here longer, as well as some useful information for planning your own trip to this super area of the world.
I have ordered the itinerary from west to east assuming you are either landing in George Airport if you are flying in, or you have driven from Cape Town and have ended up in the Mossel Bay area. If you are landing in Port Elizabeth, then you may want to do this backwards.
All the accommodation I have recommended is on the mid range to luxury end of things as this is how I travel; but the places to eat are a range, from finer dining to burgers in beach shacks, as I love a bit of variety with that! My suggestions for things to do can pretty much be adapted to any budget; many are free or have a nominal fee (e.g. access to the National Parks) and then activities like boat trips etc. you can choose to splash out for a private trip, or take a group one, it’s totally up to you!
Day 1 – Mossel Bay / George Airport – Wilderness – Knysna
You’ll know when you’ve reached Wilderness. You’ll be trundling along that N2 highway, la la la and all of a sudden you will round a corner with the most stunning views down the cliff side and along the Wilderness coastline.
Distance: 105 km / 65 miles from Mossel Bay to Knysna and 70 km / 44 miles from George Airport to Knysna
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes from Mossel Bay and 53 minutes from George Airport
Things to Do
- Visit Wilderness Beach – one of the best beaches on the Garden Route, after you’ve seen a glimpse of those views from the top of the cliff on your way in, you’ll struggle just to drive past it.
- Hike the Giant Kingfisher Waterfall trail – the most popular of the five main hiking trails in Wilderness National Park.
- Admire the View from Dolphin Point Lookout – busy driving when descending down into Wilderness and not able to take in the view? Stop here and soak it all in, it is a truly spectacular sight.
- Shop at Milkwood or Timberlake Village – if you fancy a browse and a mooch around, have a stop at one of these shopping locations.
Where to Stay
I’ll level with you, if you’re a luxury lover, this isn’t the place to stay, you need to go onto Knysna (which is what I recommend doing).
If you’re set on staying here, the only option I would consider for a quick stay is Serendipity, a mid range boutique hotel on the water that also has what I think is the best restaurant in Wilderness.
Where to Eat & Drink
- Serendipity – superb location, excellent service and the food is even better (the wine isn’t bad either!). Make sure you book in advance, the place is popular but very tiny. You can book Serendipity here.
- The Girls on the Square – for a varied menu that they seem to do very well and a buzzy, fairy lit atmosphere.
- Salinas – the elevated deck is the best place to overlook the ocean with a cocktail. Bonus if you manage to be here at sunset.
- Pomodoro – excellent Italian food right in the centre of town.
For more information on this beautiful Garden Route town, read my complete guide to Wilderness that also contains a FREE downloadable Google map of the exact location of things to do, places to eat and the best views.
Day 2 – Explore Knysna
This is my favourite place on the Garden Route and where we chose to rent a villa for three weeks on our most recent trip. There is loads to do here and if you have some extra days to add onto your Garden Route road trip, you’ll want to spend them between here and Plettenberg Bay (your next stop).
Things to Do
- Eastern Head View Point – oh the views. On one side of the cliff you have the serene Knysna Lagoon and on the other, that wild ocean. You will also be able to see why the passage into the lagoon through the Knysna Heads is said to be one of the most dangerous harbour entrances in the world!
- Featherbed Nature Reserve – the most popular and easiest way to visit the Western Head, you access it from the water via ferry. It is a beautiful walk and at the end is a rather super buffet lunch under the milkwood trees.
- Thesen Island – my favourite place in Knysna for a stroll, this chic marine development is the place for a bit of boutique shopping and an excellent selection of places to eat.
- Take a Boat Trip – whether it’s a sunset lagoon cruise with a glass of something sparkly or a whale watching trip out into the ocean, Knysna is an excellent place to take to the water.
- Brenton Beach – the best beach on the Garden Route. In every way. Find out why and a list of the other best beaches in Knysna here!
Where to Stay
- Head Over Hills – an all out luxury boutique hotel perched on the Eastern Head. Come here for the views, but stay for the food, wine and excellent service. See pictures and book Head Over Hills here
- The Turbine – a quirky hotel on Thesen Island built in the old power station, that still houses a lot of the restored old machinery. View and book the Turbine here.
- Lofts Boutique Hotel & Spa – another boutique hotel option on Thesen Island with views over the lagoon. View and book the Lofts here.
- Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa – a big luxury golf hotel with an excellent restaurant and great views. View and book Pezula Resort here.
The unofficial capital of the Garden Route and my personal favourite! You can read my complete guide to Knysna here, which also comes with a FREE downloadable Google Map of the locations of the top things to do, places to eat and the best views.
Where to Eat & Drink
Knysna has the best selection of places to eat out of anywhere else on the Garden Route. These are my favourites, but you can read my separate guide of the best restaurant and bars in Knysna for more ideas.
- Sirocco – a big restaurant, with a lively vibe on Thesen Island waterfront and the closest you’ll get to formal dining in Knysna.
- The Project – a cocktail bar above Sirocco, great for a sundowner with a view out across the lagoon and Knysna Heads.
- East Head Café – with a beautiful outdoor deck right on the Heads and a great brunch menu.
- Freshline Fisheries – super casual beach bar vibe with the best and biggest range of seafood.
- Olive Tree – rustic and romantic with a a mix of South African and Italian dishes.
- Ile De Pain – a bakery and café with another killer brunch selection.
Day 3 – Knysna to Plettenberg Bay
This may be a short distance, but the biggest concentration of things to do on the Garden Route are on the road from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay. Take advantage of the short drive and spend lots of time exploring!
Time: 30 minutes
Distance: 32 km / 20 miles
Things to Do
- Visit Jukani – an ethical wildlife sanctuary that rescues and re-homes big cats and other animals from captivity, including Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Pumas and Jaguars. They don’t breed from the animals here. You can book tickets to Jukani here.
- Hike at Robberg Nature Reserve – this is one of the Garden Route’s best hikes, according to those I know that I been, somehow I never made it! Choose from three circular hikes between 2 km and 11 km in length and keep your eyes peeled, spotting dolphins and whales isn’t uncommon.
- Shop at Old Nicks Village – a converted old Cape Farm complex that now houses lots of individual shops focussing on locally made goods, with everything from artesian chocolates to home décor. There is an on site café and you can also visit Mungo Mill that weaves a lot of the textile goods that are available to purchase.
- Visit Lookout & Keurboomstrand Beaches – just when you think the Garden Route must be done with beautiful beaches… you’d be wrong. Go to Lookout for long walks and a swimming lagoon behind the sand dune and Keurboomstrand for a quieter spot and a killer sunset view.
Where to Stay
Dear god, there are some good hotels on the stretch between these two towns. Good luck choosing!
- Tsala Treetop Lodge – luxury rooms perched high in the forest canopy, complete with private pools, outdoor showers and a safari vibe. Watch out for the resident monkeys! Even if you’re not staying, try and nab dinner here, they do relaxed upscale dining and the food is just excellent. View and book Tsala here.
- Fairview House – a new hotel due to open at the beginning of the year owned by the same family that run Fugitives Drift, the well reputed luxury hotel at Rorke’s Drift. We got a sneak peak on our last visit; it is absolutely beautifully done (I’m not doing justice to the interiors with that statement, you need to see for yourself) with magnificent views from the front terrace. View and book Fairview House here.
- Emily Moon River Lodge – situated on the banks of the Bitou River, this small hotel has a rustic African luxe vibe in a beautiful setting. The fire pits and outdoor sofas on the decking is the perfect place to watch the sunset as well. View and book Emily Moon’s here.
- The Old Rectory: a restored historical building from the 18th century right by the beach and with a lovely shaded pool area in the centre of Plett. View and book the Old Rectory here.
- Hog Hollow Country Lodge – if Tsala is out of budget (it’s somehow more than doubled in price since I last stayed there), this is a great and much more affordable alternative with another stunner of a view down into the surrounding forests and valleys. View and book Hog Hollow here.
For more information and travel tips, read my ultimate guide to Plettenberg Bay, including a FREE downloadable Google Map of the exact locations of everything mentioned in this post, plus LOTS more!
Where to Eat & Drink
- Emily Moon & Simon’s Bar – if you aren’t staying here, come here for dinner instead. The sunset is something else and when it all goes dark, have a great South African meal among lots of twinkly fairy lights.
- Enrico’s – a wildly popular genuine Italian restaurant right on Keurboomstrand beach. Get here early, they don’t take reservations and by 7:00pm the queue is crazy.
- Lookout Deck – Perched above the beach just high up enough to get that lovely ocean breeze, this is the kind of place you can accidentally end up spending a whole afternoon at, drink two bottles of wine and eat enough seafood to sink a ship.
Day 4 – Day Trip from Plettenberg Bay to Nature’s Valley
For the last two days, I recommend day tripping from your chosen hotel in or around Plett to both Nature’s Valley and Storm’s River.
There’s a couple of reasons for this; firstly accommodation becomes distinctly more hostel and backpacker vibed as you head east from Plett. It is not entirely surprising as the towns here are tiny (more villages) and you are in adventure country right in the middle of Tsitsikamma National Park. Plus, when the accommodation is as good as it is west of Plettenberg, why would you want to move?
Secondly and related to the first point, there are far fewer places to eat and when we were in Storms River, the only option was the supermarket for lunch (there was a buffet option, but with huge queues and a less than appetising looking display, we skipped it).
Distance: 34 km / 21 miles
Time: 30 minutes
Things to Do
- Kay & Monty’s Vineyards or Bramo Wine Estate – whether you love your wine (all day long) or aren’t so fussed, relaxing at a vineyard is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. These are two of the best wineries on the Garden Route and also do a fabulous lunch.
- Monkeyland & Birds of Eden – another two wildlife sanctuaries that re-home captive animals. Monkeyland is a guided walk through the forest and Birds of Eden you have a wander around the boardwalks criss crossing through the dome yourself. I thought they may be too geared towards kids for adults to enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised. You can book both Monkeyland and Birds of Eden here (Top Tip: they are right next door to each other and it is cheaper to buy a combo ticket if you want to visit both).
- Hiking in Nature’s Valley – you are at one end of Tsitsikamma National Park here so there is some very scenic hiking here. The Salt River hike is probably the most well known, but definitely a more challenging one.
- Visit the beach – another lovely beach to have a stroll or relax on.
Day 5 – Day Trip from Plettenberg Bay to Storms River
Storms River marks the end of the Garden Route and is probably the most well know and frequently visited area of Tsitsikamma National Park.
Distance: 66 km / 41 miles
Time: 50 minutes
Things to Do
- Walk across Tsitsikamma Suspension Bridge – a short 2 km hike mostly over a wooden boardwalk, the highlight being the 77 metre long suspension bridge, divided over 3 sections, spanning the entire river mouth. You can also kayak or go blackwater tubing through the canyons at the river mouth.
- Jump off Bloukrans Bridge – with a bungee rope please… or just do as I did and watch others do it! The highest commercial bungee spot in the world, neither is for the faint hearted! You can book here.
- Hiking in Tsitsikamma Forest – this is the beginning of the famed Otter Trail, a strenuous 5 day hike. I wasn’t quite up for this so did the Waterfall Trail, which is a roundtrip of the first 3 km along the coast. If you want to know more about it, here is a detailed guide to the Otter Trail from someone who has done it.
- Zipline through the forest – for a more leisurely adrenaline rush, you can also take a canopy tour. You can view and book here.
Garden Route Detours
If you are lucky enough to be able to extend your time here, then these are some extra Garden Route itinerary ideas to consider adding in, however I personally wouldn’t swap any of these out for anything in the above list.
The generally agreed upon starting point of the Garden Route, Mossel Bay is a pretty seaside town that is a great stop for a day trip.
Things to Do
- Visit Santos Beach – I feel like I say this a lot, but one of the best on the Garden Route. What can I say, they do a good beach!
- Climb the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse & Hiking Trail – the lighthouse offers great views across the ocean and is the starting point of the popular 13.5 km hiking trail along the coast.
- Explore the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex – consisting of the Post Office Tree, a milkwood tree that was used as a mail collection point since the 1500s, the Maritime Museum, an aquarium and botanical gardens.
- Take a trip to Seal Island – I think taking at least one boat trip is a must on any Garden Route road trip and this is a great option. Over 3,000 Cape fur seals inhabit the island and live there all year round. You can book your trip here.
- Dive with sharks – I can’t say I have any desire to do this, but if this floats your boat (or sinks your cage, as the case my be), this is where it’s done. You can book shark cage diving tours here.
- Eat at Café Gannet – a fabulous seafood and sushi restaurant overlooking the ocean. You need to book during peak season, or you can scoot over to the Blue Oyster Bar next door for some smaller plates from the same menu with your cocktails of choice.
- The Kingfisher is another good option – serves a range of dishes on the menu and some more great ocean views.
I have to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with George, but it’s not the kind of town I fly 10,000 miles around the world to visit. I’ve passed through on my way to and from the airport there multiple times, but there is just so many things to do on the Garden Route, spending a day here just hasn’t got to the top of my list.
However, if I ever get around to it, below are some ideas for how I would plan to spend my time there, based on some idle googling and recommendations from family and friends.
Things to Do
- Visit George Museum – displaying the history of George, the Garden Route and the apartheid.
- For some traditional retail therapy – the Garden Route Mall is the place to go.
- Browse Outeniqua Farmers’ Market – open on Saturday mornings, it has about 150 stalls and sells a range of goods from foods like fruit, veg, honey, cheese and sweet treats to arts and crafts.
- Explore Garden Route Botanical Gardens – they have guided tours as well as hikes ranging from 5 minutes (not sure this counts as a “hike”) to “moderate to strenuous” trails.
- Relax at Herold Wine Estate – rumoured to be one of the best in the area, stop here for a gentle walk, picnic stops as well as wine tastings and a tour.
- Visit Outeniqua Transport Museum – this seems to be recommended on every website I go on but have yet to talk to someone who has actually been!
- Eat at 101 Meade – international and local fusion food, supposed to be the best restaurant in George.
- Go to Fancourt Links – for golf, restaurants and views. It also has a pretty stellar hotel, you can view and book it here.
I love Sedgefield. Cute, dinky and breezed through by many visitors to the region, it has a few great selling points making it a worthwhile stop.
Things to Do
- Eat at Wild Oats Sedgefield Market – a huge market every Saturday morning with lots of local producers selling decadent treats, produce, fresh seafood, breakfast, coffee, all to eat in or take away. Plus some great live music! This was one of my favourite stops on all of the Garden Route, well worth a detour.
- Browse Scarab Craft Market – lots of stalls with a good selection of arts, crafts, clothes, gifts, jewellery and delicious food.
- Upstairs at Rosie’s in Sedgefield – a very small menu, but some very mega food.
- Visit the beaches – Ciola, Myoli, Swartvlei, Sedgfield and Gerickes Point.
- Hiking in Goukamma Nature Reserve – both a World Heritage Site and a Marine Protected Area with coastal and forest fynbos with lots of opportunity to spot birds and wildlife, both on land and at sea.
How to Get to the Garden Route
Ok, there are a few ways to do this, dependant on where you’re coming from and where you want to end up after.
Fly to George or Port Elizabeth
You can fly from the major South African cities (including Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban) into George Airport, located fairly centrally along the Garden Route. Port Elizabeth airport is also an option, which is about a two hour drive east from Storms River. You can rent cars from both of these airports.
If you only have a short amount of time to spend exploring the Garden Route (I’m talking five days or less), then I would personally recommend flying into George and visiting Wilderness, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay and then either continuing onto Port Elizabeth and flying out of there, or doubling back on yourself and flying back out of George again (the distance between George and Plettenberg is only 105 kms / 65 miles, less than an hour and a half’s drive).
Top Tip: If you do want to fly in or out of Port Elizabeth, consider adding Addo Elephant National Park to your itinerary (it’s on the way) if you have any extra days and fancy some safari. It’s definitely not just elephants though, you can see the Big 5 here as well!
Drive from Cape Town
However, if you have longer and want to start or/and end in Cape Town, you can drive from there. The beauty of doing this is that there are actually three fabulous routes between Cape Town and the start of the Garden Route. You can blast through these and not stop, but if you have longer, I would recommend having one (or more) nights on your way.
You can also drive one way and fly the other, or you can road trip there and back taking in a different route for each leg. So many options!
Get access to the Travel Resource Library for a downloadable Garden Route map giving exact directions for these three routes from Cape Town, as well as the locations of all of the accommodation, things to do and places to eat mentioned in this article.
Safari Route: Cape Town – Swellendam – Mossel Bay
The main one is the quickest via the town of Swellendam. If you don’t want to stay overnight on your way to the Garden Route, this is the option I recommend taking.
However, this route is still a great option if you do want an overnight pit stop as it takes you right past Gondwana Game Reserve. If you don’t have time to go up to Kruger National Park (which is two separate flights from Cape Town), this is a great alternative as it’s the only free-ranging private game reserve in the Southern Cape (with all of the Big 5 present).
I haven’t made it here yet, but it is top of my list on my next trip, particularly as they seem to do some really great upper mid range to maybe even luxury accommodation for some very affordable prices (virtually unheard of in safari world). You can read a thorough review article of the property here to get more information.
Alternatively, you can stop in Mossel Bay or George (recommendations for things to do in the detours section above).
Distance: 384 km / 239 miles
Time: 4.25 hours
Coastal Route: Hermanus & L’Agulhas
The second route option takes the coastal route through Hermanus and L’Agulhas (where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, country to popular belief, it is not at the Cape of Good Hope) which adds an extra 100 km (62 miles) onto your drive and will take around 6.25 hours if you go straight from Cape Town with no stops.
Personally, I recommend breaking this trip up with at least one overnight stay, ideally two.
Cape Town to Hermanus
A former fishing village, Hermanus is one of the world’s best whale watching destinations. The Southern Right whales breed here between June and November and there are lots of opportunities to spot them from both land and sea. If you do want to keep your feet on the ground, Gearings Point is probably the best place to try and spot them. For a water based trip, you can check out whale watching tours here.
If you’ve come outside whale season though, there is still lots to keep you occupied. You can keep it whale themed by visiting the whale museum in the Old Harbour or go for a nature walk in the pretty Fernkloof Nature Reserve, along the cliff path along Walker Bay. If you’re a sucker for a good beach, you’re in luck, visit Grotto or Voelklip beach, both of which are absolute stunners.
Hermanus also has an excellent food, wine and craft beer scene, so gear up to spend a good portion of your day indulging if possible.
Distance: 120 km / 75 miles
Drive Time: 1.5 hours
Where to Eat in Hermanus
If, like me, you are a sushi and seafood fanatic, then head to Harbour Rock. To enjoy wine and home made, locally sourced food in a rustic setting, Moggs Country Cookhouse is an easy place to while away a whole afternoon in their restaurant among the vineyards. For more super seafood in a relaxed setting, go to Bientangs Cave, so close to the sea you can feel the spray. The whales sometimes come super close to shore here as well so keep your eyes open in season!
Where to Stay in Hermanus
Stay at boutique hotel Birkenhead House for a super luxe experience right on the edge of the cliff. It’s beautiful, but spenny, so for a more budget option that is on the upper mid range to luxury scale try One Marine Drive or Harbour House.
Hermanus – L’Agulhas – Mossel Bay
The southernmost location of the African continent, L’Agulhas is also the meeting point between the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Climb the lighthouse for great views and before wandering along the boardwalk on the beach. Stop for lunch at the Black Oystercatcher Winery or scoot along the coast to Struisbaai and dine on the coast at Sea Shack.
Accommodation is limited here and I struggled to find anything in the luxe range, which is why I recommend a quick stop here only.
Instead, head onto Mossel Bay to explore (ideas on things to do in the detours section above) or you can spend the night at Gondwana Game Reserve if you want to add some safari in (the Safari and Coastal routes both converge here).
Distance: Hermanus – L’Agulhas, 127 km / 79 miles. L’Agulhas – Mossel Bay, 275 km / 171 miles
Drive Time: Hermanus – L’Agulhas, 1.75 hours. L’Agulhas – Mossel Bay, 3 hours
Mountain Route: Ostriches & Wine
The final route is via the wine lands (Stellenbosch and Franschhoek) and the Klein Karoo (or Little Karoo), including a visit to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of South Africa. It is a different kind of South Africa here with some of the roads looking like Death Valley in the USA and is personally my favourite route.
A straight run without any stops will have you covering around 500 km / 310 miles which will take about 6 hours. Unlike the two other route options, this one will deposit you in George further along the Garden Route, rather than Mossel Bay (which is where the Garden Route starts).
Cape Town to the Winelands: Stellenbosch & Franschhoek
There are lots of other places in the Western Cape to experience the joy of South African wine, including along the coastal route and on the Garden Route itself, but this is most definitely South Africa’s wine making capital. You can easily do this on a day trip from Cape Town as it’s less than an hours drive away, in which case, you can just drive through and not stop.
However, if you do want to incorporate a visit into your Garden Route road trip, you are going to want to stay overnight. I don’t care what anyone says, good wine is not for spitting out and I used to work in the wine industry, couldn’t even do it then. Getting paid to drink wine was still the best job I ever had (still wonder why I left sometimes).
Anyway, these two towns are cute, quaint and wonderful for a stroll along their colonial style streets. Shockingly, the most popular things to do here is visit vineyards and engage in some wine tasting with some excellent food accompaniments. Hire a driver or have a taxi on speed dial.
Distance: 81 km / 50 miles (to Franschhoek, the furthest from Cape Town)
Time: 1 hour
Where to Stay in the Cape Winelands
There is no shortage of beautiful places to stay here and the prices are high; I actually think it’s more expensive for comparable options in Cape Town. I stayed at Lanzerac Manor in Stellenbosch which is an excellent hotel and and my family came back after a stay at Mont Rochelle in Franschhoek last year absolutely raving about it (it’s a Richard Branson property, so no surprises there). You can book Lanzerac Manor here and Mont Rochelle here.
Alternatively, check out Mr & Mrs Smith for a range of options from out and out opulence, to cute and more relaxed B&Bs.
Franschhoek to Oudtshoorn
I loved this out of the way town more than I thought I would and actually would have really like to have stayed here a second night (and the rest!).
The route from the winelands and here is nothing short of stunning and Oudtshoorn actually has a surprising amount of things to do for such a quiet and out the way place.
You can visit meerkats (tours are only run first thing in the morning though, so you will need to stay overnight to do this), tour ostrich farms or visit Cango Caves or Cango Wildlife Ranch.
Distance: 375 km / 233 miles
Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Where to Stay & Eat in Oudtshoorn
Stay at Rosenhof Country House, a beautiful boutique hotel with a very old English manor feel. The rooms are excellent and the atmosphere very relaxing. The only thing to be aware of is that for some reason their restaurant doesn’t measure up to the standard of the hotel and the rest of the facilities, which unfortunately I don’t think was a one off on my visit; two separate groups of people I have recommended this hotel to have had the same feedback.
Instead, head to Baron Van Reede Street just north of the intersection with Voortrekker Street for a few options, including Jemima’s, a small home style restaurant specialising in local South African dishes.
Your final drive to George from here is 64 km / 40 miles and just under an hour’s drive.
Final Thoughts: 5 Day Garden Route Itinerary
Coming up with the perfect Garden Route itinerary is very difficult as there are just so many options, just remember you’re going to have to make some hard decisions as you are likely not going to be able to fit it all in!
I am INCREDIBLY jealous if you are planning your trip here, but know you are going to have the best time; happy road tripping!
– View & book accommodation with Booking.com, Agoda or Hotels.com.
– Check flight routes and prices with Skyscanner.
– From the UK, British Airways fly from London Heathrow to Cape Town and Durban (three times a week to each) and Johannesburg (twice every day).
– Click here to buy your Lonely Planet Guide for South Africa.
– You can check out my full list of tried, tested and recommended Travel Resources here.