One of the must-visit destinations along South Africa’s iconic Garden Route, you won’t struggle to find things to do in Plettenberg Bay. The town that is often the start (or end) point of any Garden Route road trip has lots of attractions and is an ideal place to base yourself when exploring this part of the world.
I am a big fan of South Africa and for my most recent trip we had a bit of a debate as to whether we should stay in Knysna or Plett. We had previously stayed at Tsala Treetop Lodge as part of an epic two-and-a-bit week journey around the country, but this time we wanted to set a bit of a slower pace and just choose one base for our three weeks here.
We ended up staying in Knysna, but had several day trips to Plett (it’s just over a half an hour drive between the two) and spent a lot of time exploring the many things to do and see on the N2 road running between the two towns.
Plettenberg Bay Attractions
Known for its stunning beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, hiking and some fairly brilliant places to eat, you could feasibly spend a few days in Plett and not run out of things to keep you entertained. If you only have one day though, choose what floats your boat the most and you will have a fantastic time!
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Seeing the local wildlife is generally top on many people’s reasons to visit the Garden Route (or South Africa for that matter). However, over the years I have grown increasingly wary of such encounters as I have no desire to support anywhere that doesn’t engage in ethical practices regarding the treatment of the animals.
The three I talk about below are all sanctuaries and operated by the same organisation; they take in animals that were kept in captivity (many are from zoos or were kept, often illegally, as pets) and aren’t capable of leading lives in the wild. You cannot touch or feed any of the animals at any of these places, always a good sign when looking to engage in any wildlife activities.
The animals at both Birds of Eden and Monkeyland seemed to be well treated and had lots of space to roam/fly. I can’t comment on Jukani as I didn’t go.
Address: Portion 11 & 12 of Kirbywood Farm Animal Alley The Crags, 6602. It is on the N2 highway between Plett & Knysna, the turn off is well signposted
Cost: R280 adults and R140 (children 3 – 12 years), with generous discounts applicable if you buy a double or combo ticket to either of the two sister sanctuaries.
Opening Hours: Everyday, 8:00am to 5:00pm
Birds of Eden
I was pleasantly surprised with my time here, I’m not really a bird person so I wasn’t sure this would be up my street, but I actually really loved it.
Birds of Eden is the world’s largest free-flight dome of its kind spanning over two hectares of indigenous forest. Unsurprisingly, most of the birds here are from Africa, but it is home to more than 3,500 birds from over 220 species originating from around the globe.
The walks are generally self guided (although you can pre-book complimentary guided tours in advance as well) and it is a very pleasant and peaceful way to spend an hour or two. There are a network of wooden pathways winding their way through the dome spanning over 1.2 km, both on the floor and suspended higher up. There aren’t just birds here though, keep your eyes out for red-handed tamarin monkeys, bush babies and blue duikers, which is basically a tiny antelope.
At the end there is a little open air café (protected with mesh) overlooking a small lake where you can watch the birds with a coffee and a slice of carrot cake.
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Located right next door (so it makes sense to combine them), Monkeyland is a very similar set up to Birds of Eden except with monkeys rather than birds! These group tours of up to 16 people are guided and cover about 1 km, but it will take you about an hour as there is lots of stopping to watch the monkeys.
With 10 species and over 5,500 here, they are not hard to spot! We were there during their lunchtime and wheelbarrows of fruit were brought in and deposited on the feeding platforms dotted through the forest, they came flocking from everywhere.
Part of the tour involves a walk along a 128 metre suspended canopy walkway which gives great views across the forest. I love heights (well, I love a good view), but if you’re a bit nervy around them, ask to walk along the forest floor.
Our guide really added to our Monkeyland visit, he was lovely and very knowledgeable, injecting a bit of personality into our walk and dealing with our British sense of humour very well!
Top Tip: make sure you put on a heavy duty bug spray, there are lots of very resilient ones here. Be careful with your stuff as well, a lot of these monkeys are not afraid to approach you and swipe something they like the look of (sunglasses seemed to be a particular favourite)!
Jukani is the third sanctuary operated by this group that looks after mostly big cats along with other wildlife such as zebra and springbok, a 10 km drive from Birds of Eden and Monkeyland.
Plettenberg Bay Beaches
If you love a beach, you will be in heaven here. This stretch of Indian Ocean coastline has some absolutely pristine ones, some of the best in South Africa and arguably further afield as well. Six of their beaches even have Blue Flag Status, not bad considering the coast along Plett is only 35 km long.
A Blue Flag beach is the international gold standard of beaches, awarded on an annual basis by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) based on their stringent standards in four key areas.
Amazingly quiet for such a glorious stretch of sand, you can do a really nice circular walk here; park at the Lookout Beach car park and with your back to central Plett, walk along the shoreline until you reach the mouth of the Keurbooms River, before turning left inland. You’ll slowly curve 180° in an anti-clockwise direction and end up behind the sand dunes with the blissfully warm Keurbooms lagoon on your right.
The lagoon is perfect for swimming, the Garden Route coastline has notoriously strong riptides so even though I’m a decent-ish swimmer, I didn’t risk swimming in the sea here (I only found one Garden Route beach that I was comfortable swimming in). Carry on walking until you end up back at the car park, but before you go, treat yourself to sundowners at the Lookout Deck (more on this below).
This stretch of beach is a lot quieter than the beaches in Central Plett (and about 10 km further east), but just as lovely and perfect for beach walks. The position makes it a superb place to watch the sunset as it is facing directly west; on a clear day you can see the Robberg Nature Reserve across the water. Again, a lovely restaurant makes a visit to this beach even better, see below for my favourite restaurants in Plett!
The Singing Kettle Beach
I haven’t found out why this beach is called this, but I love it! Following on east from Keurboomstrand Beach, it’s a little wilder here but a great place to walk. Keep your eyes out for the imposing Cathedral Rock with its little window out to sea carved out of the rock.
Top Tip: See here for a full list of beaches in Plett
Shopping in Plettenberg Bay
Head to the Market Square Shopping Centre for some traditional retail therapy in an outdoor, American-style, strip mall format. It has everything here from a Woolworths department store, clothing, supermarkets, home decor and fast food outlets.
Related Post: Beautiful Beaches in Knysna: Sand, Sea & Sunsets
Old Nick Village
Set in an old Cape Farm complex built in the 1880s, Old Nick Village is now a fantastic shopping destination with a focus on locally made and/or designed crafts.
Converted from the original farmhouse, farm buildings and stables, it is a lovely place just for a wander around in the beautiful gardens. You would be hard pushed not to purchase something from one of the independent boutiques as well; they have some really lovely things from handmade soaps, jewellery and home accessories. There is also a rather delicious chocolate shop in the far corner that you shouldn’t miss!
When you need a little break from shopping, visit on-site Roost Café for some refreshments, they do an excellent brunch and coffee that you can enjoy inside or in the shaded gardens.
If you visit on a Wednesday between 10:00am and 2:00pm, they hold a farmers market with all manner of homemade products and fresh produce with a focus on natural, ethically sourced and locally made.
Don’t miss a visit to the Mungo Mill where you can see the weaving production process of some of the rugs and other home accessories that are sold in Old Nick Village. During the week you can walk along a suspended pathway and learn more about the history of the mill from various information boards and on weekends when production shuts down, you can actually have a one hour guided tour at 11:30am and see the looms up close. Bookings not necessary, just meet at the entrance to the mill.
Address: Old Nick Village, National Road N2, 6600
Opening Hours: Everyday 9:00am to 5:00pm (6:00pm in high season). Café hours are 7:30am to 5:00pm
Hiking in Plettenberg Bay
I like a walk as much as the next person, but wouldn’t classify myself as a “hiker”. However, in South Africa, being outside is just so lovely that we found ourselves incorporating a long walk almost everywhere we visited on the Garden Route, as it really is the best way to relax, experience the amazing South African scenery and spot the local wildlife.
The list of places we wanted to go hiking during our Garden Route holiday was quite extensive, but we somehow didn’t make it to Robberg Nature Reserve! I blame the beaches in Plett, they were so wonderful that every time we went we kept opting to walking along them instead…
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Robberg Nature Reserve
Apparently a fantastic place for a walk along the coast, Robberg Nature Reserve is known for being not only incredibly scenic but also a great place to do some wildlife spotting, most notably both seals and dolphins.
All three of the circular trails start from the main car park; The Gap is 2 km (an hour) , The Witsand 4 km (two hours) and The Point 11 km (four hours+).
This is the first thing on our list to do on our next trip.
GPS Co-ordinates: 34 06 15.30 S, 23 23 31.56 E
Opening Hours: Everyday, 7:00am to 8:00pm November to April and 8:00am to 6:00pm May to October
Cost: R50 for adults and R30 for children
Nature’s Valley is also renowned as a fantastic day trip from Plettenberg Bay. Other popular hikes and wildlife spots in the area can be found here.
Places to Eat in Plettenberg Bay
If you are in Central Plett, most of the bars and restaurants are centered on Main Street, so take a wander down here if you want to have a nosy and choose. However, there is one big disadvantage to eating anywhere here, there is no sea view! As someone who lives fairly landlocked most of the time and has a slight obsession with the ocean, I did tend to seek out the restaurants that have that beautiful sea view.
My recommendations on where to eat in Plettenberg Bay are listed below and were the stand out ones from everywhere we ate at, as well as the places I intend to return to.
For a stunner of a view, casual dining and some killer cocktails, head to The Lookout Deck. This has a reputation as one of the best restaurants in Plettenberg Bay and it’s not hard to see why. Perched above Lookout Beach with views across a huge expanse of sea and sand, it is a popular place for a sundowner and to indulge in some of the Garden Route’s excellent seafood.
We went here for lunch and had a thoroughly enjoyable time; the sun was out, there was a sea breeze in the air and the food excellent, although fair warning, the portions are huge! Luckily the sound of the waves was so tempting that we spent the rest of the afternoon walking off our meal along Lookout Beach.
Address: Hill St, Lookout Beach, 6600
Opening Times: Everyday, 9:00am to 10:00pm
Contact: +27 44 533 1379, reservations recommended for dinner
This was my favourite restaurant in Plett, casual dining at it’s absolute best with superb ocean views overlooking the Singing Kettle Beach on one side and Keurboomstrand Beach on the other.
We had a beautiful evening here with a feast of our Italian and seafood favourites while watching the sun set over the waves. A proper family style restaurant, lively, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable.
Make sure you get here early! I’m not joking, it was about half full when we arrived just after 5:00pm and by the time we left a couple of hours later, it there were no tables left and there were people queuing out the door for a table. This was on a Tuesday!
Address: 296 Main St, Keurboomstrand, 6600
Opening Times: Tuesday to Sunday, 12:00pm to 9:00pm
Contact: +27 44 535 9818, reservations not available, walk-ins only
Emily Moon & Simon’s Bar
Situated a fifteen minute drive outside of Plett toward Knysna, Emily Moon & Simon’s Bar is a must visit and the most romantic restaurant we visited on the Garden Route. A boutique hotel located on the banks of the Bitou River, the views are fantastic, but I spent more time looking at the restaurant I was in, the only time on our entire trip I was happy to be inside!
It’s incredibly atmospheric with a rustic African luxe vibe and fairy lights everywhere. We were there in the height of summer, but I imagine it is so cozy in the winter when they have the log fires lit. They also have outside seating on a deck overlooking the river and around one of their swimming pools.
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Knysna
I am happy to say the food lives up to the décor; the dishes seem to draw inspiration from all over the world with the predominant focus on local produce. All in all, a recipe for a rather blissful evening (which it was).
Above Emily Moon is Simon’s Bar, with the same rustic African theme and a wraparound balcony to better enjoy those infamous Garden Route views. Order a cocktail and if you’re not eating downstairs, a handmade pizza from their wood fired oven.
Book far in advance to eat here, particularly for parties larger than two. We called with two weeks left to go on our most recent trip and unfortunately weren’t able to secure a reservation for the five of us.
Address: 1 Rietvlei Rd, 6600
Opening Times: Everyday, 6:00pm to 9:30pm and Sunday lunch 12:00 to 2:30pm (this also extends to Tuesday to Saturday during high season)
Contact: +27 44 501 2500, reservations essential
Alternative Plettenberg Bay Restaurants
I still haven’t spent enough time in Plett so have a few more places I plan to visit on my next trip (which, fingers crossed, will be early 2021). The Fat Fish is first on my list that offers my die hard favourite, sushi, along with other seafood dishes and tapas, all with a knockout view across Plettenberg Bay.
I’ve also had several recommendations for The Table Restaurant, apparently serving the best cocktails in Plettenberg Bay, along with a fusion menu predominantly made up of Italian and more locally themed dishes.
Finally, we spent a lot of time drinking wine on our trip, yet somehow didn’t make it to Kay & Monty Vineyards, a boutique wine farm where you can pop by for lunch, lazy afternoons drinking wine, or just a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. They also offer horse-drawn carriage rides around the estate with Hog Hollow Horse Trails where you can learn more about the vineyards with a glass of veeno in hand. Bliss.
Related Post: A Guide to the Best Restaurants in Knysna on the Garden Route
Best Time To Visit Plettenberg Bay
December to February is the warmest time of year with the temperature averaging in the late 20°Cs and the highest chance of sunny days (of which there are many). However, there is a notable difference in both business and accommodation prices when the kids are on holiday, which is generally from late November to the middle of January.
Whale season runs from June to November when you have a decent chance of spotting both Humpback and the Southern Right whales. There are several view points from land where you ca sometimes spot them, but regular whale watching tours on the sea are also run, just remember there are no guarantees you will see them.
While I would love to see whales, I am a summer lover and have only visited South Africa during January and February so have never been lucky enough to spot one. Dolphins, on the other hand, I saw several schools of, which is just as good!
Final Thoughts: Things to To In Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Bay is an essential part of any Garden Route itinerary and one of my favourite places to visit for the beaches, the wildlife and the seafood. If you have any other tips or recommendation for a Plettenberg Bay itinerary, let me know, I am looking forward to exploring this lovely seaside town on my next trip to South Africa.
If you are lucky enough to be exploring other towns along this stretch of coastline, you may find my travel guide to Knysna and Wilderness useful.
– View & book accommodation in Plettenberg Bay with Booking.com, Agoda or Hotels.com
– Check flight routes and prices with Skyscanner. You can fly into Plettenberg Bay airport from both Cape Town and Johannesburg, although the flights are fairly sporadic. Both George Airport (an hour and a half drive) and Port Elizabeth (a two and a half hour drive) operate more flights from more destinations.
– 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.