The Garden Route in South Africa: The Ultimate Guide | Bookmundi

There are dozens of sights, activities, and standard pit stops along this route. The itinerary really depends on how much time you have and what you want to do.

It’s also worth noting, that while Cape Town is not technically on the Garden Route (it ends well before that in Mossel Bay), most tours will use the start or endpoint as Cape Town. This is because Cape Town is a more convenient place to start/end tours in than Mossel Bay, and the city, in its own right, is also one of the top attractions in any South Africa tour.  

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Below you can check out a recommended Garden Route self-drive itinerary for 5 days, including all the highlights and can’t miss attractions. Cape Town is the endpoint for this tour.

Day 1: Port Elizabeth to Knysna

The Garden Route in South Africa: The Ultimate Guide | Bookmundi
Tucked between green mountains and blue sea, Tsitsikamma makes for a wonderful pitstop in the Garden Route

Travel through the Tsitsikamma Forest and along the coast to the seaside town of Knysna. There are plenty of viewpoints and scenic stops to make along the way. Keurboomstrand, a small holiday town with a chilled-out vibe, is perfect for leisurely strolls on the long beach that stretches all the way to Plettenberg Bay. This bay is also worth a stop for the lively beach atmosphere, water sport activities, nature reserves, and hiking trails.

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Carry on another 30 kilometers and stay the night in Knysna.

Day 2: Knysna to Oudtshoorn

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The Garden Route in South Africa: The Ultimate Guide | Bookmundi
Knysna Lagoon in the seaside town of Knysna is a must-make stop when on the Garden Route

A boat cruise on the Knysna Lagoon is recommended. Highlights include views of the sandstone “Heads” that guard the lagoon’s entrance and the pristine beaches and forests that lay just beyond. Visit the Featherbed Nature Reserve, offering nature walks along the coast, through the forests and fynbos (shrubs and vegetation native to South Africa), with an exploration of ancient sea caves. There’s also the option of hiking to view the “Heads” up close and personal, which will elongate the itinerary.

The next portion of the road takes visitors through the mountainous Outeniqua Pass. The twists and turns keep drivers on their toes and the views over the ocean framed by endless mountains are nothing short of incredible.

Arrive in Oudtshoorn, named the Feather Capital of the World due to South Africa’s ostrich farming industry being centered here. Take an ostrich farm safari to view these interesting birds and learn about their relevance in South Africa. Stay the night in Oudtshoorn. 

Day 3: Oudtshoorn to Struisbaai

Tour the Cango Caves, the oldest tourist attraction in the country. The stunning natural wonder is located in the limestone cliffs parallel to the Swartberg Mountains, just outside of Oudtshoorn.

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These caves are some of the finest examples of dripstone caverns, with spacious rooms and gigantic limestone formations. Tours of varying degrees are available. There are beginner level tours as well as advanced “adventurous” tours, but they must be booked in advance as there are only a certain number of visitors allowed per day.

After the caves, stop in Mossel Bay. This charming port town of 130,000 is exactly halfway between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Enjoy the 60 kilometers of beaches, multiple hiking trails with gorgeous views, whale watching (depends on the season), and historical sites like the Post Office Tree or the Diaz Museum. Seeking something more relaxing? Wine tasting, golfing, and shopping are also available here.

After a full day of exploring, continue to Struisbaai, where you can spend the night. 

Day 4: Agulhas to Hermanus

Just a few miles west of Struisbaai is Agulhas, the southern most tip of Africa. Here you can visit the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, the third oldest in South Africa and the second oldest still in use today. You can go to he top of the lighthouse and enjoy some excellent view of the sea and the surrounding coastal area. From here, drive inland to Napier, looping back around to the coastal city of Gansbaai. This is the place to go Great White Shark cage diving, if you dare!

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Drive along Walker Bay to the town of Hermanus. This town is known as the Whale Capital, as it is a great place to do some whale watching (again, your luck of spotting these gentle beasts is greater during winter and spring season).

An alternative to whale watching is the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, a beautiful area with plenty of flora, fauna, and walking trails with a stunning view of Walker Bay.

Stay the night in Hermanus.

Day 5: Hermanus to Cape Town 

The Garden Route in South Africa: The Ultimate Guide | Bookmundi
The Table Mountain looms over Cape Town

Believe it or not, the final stretch has some of the best vistas! Travel through multiple nature reserves and mountain ranges, before coming out to the coastal area of False Bay.  

Drive around the bay and you’ll see Cape Town awaiting your arrival. “The Mother City” is located on the shores of Table Bay with the stunning Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak creating the city’s backdrop.

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