Top 10 Tips for Doing the Best Garden Route Tour in South Africa

Garden Route Tour South Africa

If you are planning on doing a Garden Route Trip in South Africa, one of the Top Destinations for world travellers, you might have some questions. Like what the best routes are to and from the Garden Route, where to start your trip and what to include.

We have put together our top tips and valuable insights so that you can decide what the best Garden Route tour experience will be for you. No matter where you’re coming from, we know you’re travelling far to reach us at the southern tip of the African continent.

We understand that you want to make sure that each day of your holiday on the Garden Route is memorable.

Start your Garden Route Tour in Cape Town to add rugged mountain scenery to your trip

Letus start with the fact that Cape Town itself should be a must-do on your travel bucket list. It is home to Table Mountain and is a scenic feast that should be part of your holiday plans.

Starting your tour from Cape Town enables you to do the gorgeous scenic Route 62 with its rugged mountain scenery.

The rugged mountains are spectacular; Route 62 meanders past farming towns,  vineyards, and fruit growing towns and orchards. You will love the scenery on this tour while having interesting conversations with our guides.

PS: Fly directly to Cape Town, which can save you some valuable holiday time

Include Oudtshoorn as an overnight stop to add the Cango Caves and arid Little Karoo 

Oudtshoorn is ideal as a lovely overnight venue, breaking up travel distance while adding beautiful scenic diversity to your trip.

It is located in the arid Little Karoo, situated between the Swartberg Mountains and the Outeniqua Mountains. Oudtshoorn was established during two ostrich-feather boom periods in the 1800s and 1900s. Oudtshoorn is known as the “Ostrich Capital of the World”, having the largest Ostrich population in the world

We love staying in the picturesque, peaceful Schoemanshoek Valley of Oudtshoorn where there are many great accommodation establishments. Located close to the famous Cango Caves, an underground wonder that is many millions of years old.

The caves are a network of limestone chambers and vast halls with dripstone stalactite and stalagmite formations. One of the must-do attractions on your tour. The word-class Cango Caves offer easy Heritage Tours and Adventure tours into the smaller chambers. This cave is a national asset and managed to balance between showing off its beauty and preserving its heritage.

Some of the chamber halls are so large that it has been the venue of Symphony Concerts in the past. The Heritage Tour would be preferable if you prefer a leisurely tour rather than the heart-racing but exhilarating Adventurous journey.

Include the Garden Route town of Knysna

The scenic highlight in Knysna are the two giant sandstone heads flanking the entrance from the Knysna Lagoon or Estuary into the Ocean. You can choose from various Knysna Lagoon cruises to get a front-seat view of the Heads.

One of these cruise options is the Featherbed Eco Experience. Combining a Lagoon Cruise, a 4×4 vehicle drive to the Featherbed Nature Reserve and stopping at beautiful viewpoints.

You can also opt to do an optional guided walk down the Head with stunning views and a delicious buffet lunch. If you prefer to do a cruise only, there are daytime and sunset cruise options. It is a great way to end the evening, sundowner in hand while gazing out on the Heads and Ocean.

Dinner is included on the sunset Paddlecruiser, and one can order from the a la carte menu on the John Ben Sunset Cruise. Knysna, also known as the “Oyster capital” and well known for the annual Oyster Festival. There are also many great restaurants, several located at the Knysna Waterfront with its various arts and craft shops. 

Knysna is a convenient central location on the Garden Route. It serves as a “home-base” from which to explore the surrounding attractions of the Garden Route. 

The seaside town of Plettenberg Bay with its golden beaches should be part of your Garden Route Tour

Holiday Vibes; White clean beaches; Blue Sky; Beautiful Ocean – this is Plettenberg Bay. No wonder Plettenberg Bay is one of the favourite holiday venues for the local South Africans. 

There are many restaurants with delicious food and many excursions to enjoy nature and wildlife. Whales frequent the bay at Plettenberg Bay during Whale season (July to November) and Dolphins in the warmer months (December to April). Book a cruise if you want to experience these marine mammals in their natural habitat.

Whether you are an avid hiker or enjoy a leisurely stroll, the Robberg Nature Reserve offers various short and longer hiking routes. The Robberg Nature reserve is a World Heritage Site with rocks dating back 120 million years. Evidence of Stone Age inhabitation was found in the caves along the peninsula. The Keurbooms River enters the Ocean at Plettenberg Bay, and the Keurbooms River Guided Ferry takes you up into the Keurbooms River on a leisurely and educational cruise. 

Include the stunning Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park near the Stormsriver Village

We have seen many Garden Route Itineraries that stop short of including Tsitsikamma – don’t make that mistake! Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park is one of the most scenic parts of the Garden Route. 

It is incredibly relaxing to stroll on the wooden boardwalks through the coastal forest, with stunning views over the Ocean. These boardwalks lead to the suspension bridge over the Storms River Mouth, which makes for great photographic opportunities. If you are up for modest accommodation, we highly recommend an overnight stay in one of the ocean-view wooden cabins. Some of them are located right at the shore and rocks, and you would have great views over the Ocean from your own patio.

The National Park is a beautiful, restful experience. Whether it is a calm sunny day or whether it is stormy weather when the waves are crashing on the shore in an impressive display of the Ocean. The only way to see the inaccessible Storms River Gorge and Waterfall are with the Spirit of Tsitsikamma boat cruise that starts in the National Park on the ocean side, and then enters the Storms River.

Another favourite activity here is doing the Kayak-Lilo excursion – a great way the natural beauty of Tsitsikamma. 

Discover the gems of activities around Storms River Village 

There are many activities to enjoy in the Storms River Village / Tsitsikamma area. Some of these are ziplining across a waterfall which is an easy 1-hour activity to enjoy whether you are 3 or 80 years old.

The 3-hour Treetop Canopy Tour takes you from platform to platform high up in the trees of the Tsitsikamma Forest. Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre is a rehabilitation and recuperation centre for indigenous cats and other animals of South Africa. Animals can recuperate so that they can be returned to the wild where they belong. Tenikwa offers various conservation-based wildlife tours focused on the wild cats of South Africa.

One of these tours is the 1-hour Wild Cat Experience where visitors are led on a guided tour to meet African Wild Cats.  Located in the Tsitsikamma Forest, is the ancient Yellowwood Big Tree estimated to be almost 800 years old, and standing 36.6m tall with a circumference of 9 metres.

A pathway through the forest leads you to this majestic natural beauty.

Add the beautiful beaches of Wilderness

Wilderness is a picturesque village famous for its beautiful wide beaches, lagoons and rivers. On Wilderness Heights, you will find the Map-of-Africa Viewpoint that gives you a bird’s eye view of this natural wonder shaped like the African continent. 

Right across from the map-of-Africa viewpoint, is a popular spot to do Paragliding (Tandem with Instructor). For a nature activity, you can hire a kayak for a leisurely kayak excursion to the Touw River Waterfall.

The first half will be leisurely kayaking and the second half a hike along the boardwalk to the Waterfall. Take a picnic snack along to enjoy at the Waterfall and natural pool. Another great lookout point in the Dolphin Point Viewpoint.

Travel back to Cape Town via the scenic coastal Overberg

Travelling back, the routes passing Arniston, Cape Agulhas, Hermanus and the coastal Clarence Drive add additional scenic diversity to your tour experience. Arniston is a small seaside fishing village and home to the famous Arniston Hotel.

The sea’s colour at Arniston is a hypnotizing turquoise and provides a gorgeous view from your sea-facing room. Overberg, Arniston, Cape Agulhas. 

Add a short Safari if you have limited time

We recommend including one of the Game Reserves like Gondwana or Botlierskop on your Garden Toute tour. Either as an overnight venue or as a Day Visitor doing a Game Drive. One night at these smaller game reserves is ideal. 

The predators are kept separate in large encampments, and the number of large animals is smaller in line with the size of the reserves and with responsible conservation.

Chances are high to see 4 of the Big 5 on these game drives, conducted in 4×4 vehicles. The wildlife includes Lion, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino though there are more wildlife species, depending on your visit. 

Add an authentic free-roaming-wildlife African Safaris in the adjacent Eastern Cape to your Garden Route tour.

Eastern Cape is located right next to the Garden Route, which makes an authentic African Safari in the Eastern Cape easily accessible. 

Some of the options are Addo, Kariega, Shamwari, Lalibela, Amakhala, Pumba, Kwandwe and Gorah. 

The thrilling game drives are conducted in 4×4 vehicles in search of the free-roaming animals. Because of the size of these reserves, we recommend a minimum stay of 2 nights to do your Safari experience justice. 

Contact the Garden Route experts, 34° South Tours for more Tips and Advice or a Tour Proposal that incorporates your interests.