What Is The Garden Route Of South Africa-Some Insights

When you came to Africa, you might have wondered: what is the Garden Route of South Africa, of which I hear so much?

Well, it is basically a 300-kilometer stretch of coastal road on the southwest tip of South Africa and is regarded as the most beautiful region in the country.

The Garden Route gets its name from the Garden Route National Park that it covers, and the diverse vegetation and wildlife, lagoons, lakes, mountains, forests, and beaches along its winding roads.

The Garden Route begins about four hours outside Cape Town, at Witsand and Albertinia, and winds its way for about 200 km through George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna, Plettenberg bay, and ending at Tsitsikamma Forest.

Along the route, you’ll find every kind of adventure activity possible, from scuba diving, hiking, and cave exploration, to camping.

We will start by exploring the park:

Garden Route National Park Overview

Where is Garden Route National Park located?

The park stretches 150 km in length from Storms River in the East, to Wilderness in the West, and is so big that it falls across both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

It is accessible by air from George and Plettenberg Bay airports. It is also a 5-hour drive from Cape Town and a 13-hour drive from Johannesburg.

The Garden Route National Park is situated in the heart of the Garden Route in South Africa.

It is a fascinating combination of rivers, lakes, estuaries, and beaches, unfolding against a backdrop of lush forests, and imposing mountains.

So the Garden Route starts basically at Mossel bay and officially ends at Storms river.

Click on the map below to take you to the location of the park on Google maps.

The park covers about 1210 km2 (470 sq. miles), of which 685 km2 (264 sq. miles) was already part of the predecessor national parks.

How Is The Garden Route National Park Formed And Which Sections Does It Include?

The Garden Route National Park includes the former Tsitsikamma and Wilderness National parks as well as the Knsyna Lake area and was formed in 2006 through the amalgamation of these other parks and state-owned lands.

It also includes most of the area between Wilderness and Storms River on the coast and up to the N9 further inland.

To the South, the park borders the Indian Ocean, and most of the Tsitsikamma, Langkloof, and eastern Outeniqua Mountain ranges.

The park is unique in Africa as having the only area to receive rainfall throughout the year. It also has a continuous complex of indigenous pristine forests.

The Two Main Sections, Some More Info

Tsitsikamma Section

This section of the National park was declared in 1964; the first marine National Park to be proclaimed in Africa and encompasses a marine reserve made up of over 80 km of coastlines.

This marine reserve is one of the largest single unit marine protected areas in the world, conserving 11% of South Africa’s temperate South Coast rocky shoreline, and providing a laboratory for fisheries baseline research on endangered line species.

The boundary of the Tsitsikamma section stretches for some 5 km out to sea, protecting a wonderland of inter-tidal life, reef, and deep-sea fish.

The Southern Right whale visits these waters in season, coming inshore to breed; usually, a sight to behold.

The Southern right whale

It also has a considerable portion of the natural biota (all living organisms) of the Garden Route National park.

Wilderness Section

Nestled between, George and Knysna towns is the beautiful and popular Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park.

The Wilderness section protects three major zones of indigenous forests, four types of fynbos which are wild shrubs, five lakes, and the serpentine which is the winding strip of water joining Island Lake to the Touw River at the Ebb and Flow rest camp.

These lakes connected to the Touw River host a variety of aquatic species and have been proclaimed as Ramsar Sites (Wetlands of international importance)

The Wildlife Of Garden Route National Park

The Garden Route National park has an abunduncy of animals: over 85 species of mammals, 371 bird species, and over 200 species of fish.

The biggest mammal attractions in the park are the elephants, with around 400-600 roaming the Knysna section.


Other mammals include:

  • the blue duiker,
  • cape wild cat,
  • caracal,
  • clawless otter,
  • the honey badger,
  • the striped polecat,
  • and leopard.
The Caracal

The Tsitsikamma section, credited as a premier whale sighting section, has around 15 species of dolphin and whale, which include:

  • the bottlenose dolphin,
  • humpbacked dolphin,
  • killer whale,
  • humpback whale,
  • Southern right whale
  • Pygmy sperm whale.
The Southern Right Whale

The rare southern elephant seal and sub-Antarctic fur seal, are also found in the Wilderness section of the park.

Water mongooses are found in both the Wilderness and Knysna sections of the Garden Route National Park.

The park is also a birding destination, with its diverse birdlife.

Enthusiast bird watchers will be delighted to know that the park has bird species like:

  • the crowned eagle,
  • forest buzzard,
  • African cuckoo hawk,
  • yellow-billed ducks,
  • African black duck,
  • an additional 15 species of goose and duck,
  • and 22 species of raptor birds.
the forest buzzard

Take a Garden Route Road Trip

Plan a trip on the 300 km stretch of coastal road, and get plenty of opportunities for many other activities along the way.

Exploring the garden route might take between three and fourteen days depending on your needs and how much of the park you want to truly experience along the way. The trip has a lot to see, and experience, and below is an itinerary to get you started on the common spots.

1. Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay is the gateway to the Garden Route and is less than 400 km (249 miles) from Cape Town along the N2 highway.

Mossel Baai

The roads are excellent and the scenery beautiful. Before starting the road trip, drivers and tourists alike are treated to idyllic coasts like Betty’s Bay.

2. George town

The historic timber town of George lies 30 minutes down the coast.

At George you can stop at the Garden Route Botanical Garden for an introduction to the fynbos that characterizes the cape floral region, given UNESCO recognition for its expansive biodiversity.

From George, exit the main highway to reach the nearby wilderness or head further inland on the seven passes; a route that explores the Outeniqua Mountains, snaking through canyons and over high bridges towards Knysna 70 km away.

3. Knysna

One of the highlights of the Garden Route is the town of Knysna, a culinary hotspot famous for its 10-day oyster festival in late June.

The ocean lies beyond its twin sandstone promontories. You can linger in Knysna for a while savoring its culinary offerings, or take a mountain bike and explore the surrounding wilderness.

4. Wilderness National Park

Wilderness National Park is a haven for adventure seekers with activities like kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking.

Its wetlands are rich in exotic birds, and its forests are threaded with hiking routes for those seeking the beauty that nature has to offer.

The best way to explore the park is to start from the rustic Ebb and Flow camp armed with a swimming costume and a pair of binoculars.

5. Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg bay is renowned throughout the Western Cape for its breathtakingly beautiful beaches.

Here Sandy coves popular with surfers sit beneath sheer cliffs and the waters team with year-round migrating whales and dolphins.

To the south lies Robberg Nature reserve, a jutting peninsular home to seal colonies and perfect for picnics.

Moving on Eastwards, make a stop at the Birds of Eden; the world’s largest free-flight aviary, a verdant sanctuary for over 3000 exotic birds rescued from cages.

Also, make a point of visiting Enrico’s restaurant for seafood and Italian fare within meters of the ocean waves.

6. Storms River

The Eastern terminus of the Garden Route is Storms River village, which is 50 minutes from Plettenberg Bay.

Inland to the North, lies the dense, mountainous Tsitsikamma forest, home to zip lining experiences, kayaking expeditions through gorges, and the world’s highest bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge at 709 ft.

Things To do On The Garden Route

Wine Tasting

South Africa has a booming wine industry, and when visiting the Garden Route National Park, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge.

Don’t miss the small family-operated Newstead Lund Family Vineyard, just outside Plettenberg Bay.

Or head to the Crags mountains for wine tasting at Bramon wine estates, and another excellent choice is the Plettenvale Estate, offering a wide range of samples from sparkling Chardonnay to Syrah.

Spirit of Tsitsikamma Boat Rides

Starting at the Storms Mouth River Camp, this eco-friendly tour takes visitors up the only access route to the Storms River Gorge.

This boat ride offers up close and personal views of the gorge that most people don’t get to see.

The massive caverns at the Gorge are home to a rare South African bat species, so as you explore please maintain silence and keep disturbance to a minimal.

Kayaking Tours

If a boat ride isn’t exciting enough, then an exciting kayak adventure up the Storms river, complete with cave and gorge exploration.

Finish the day with some cliff jumping if you think you’re up to it.

For a more relaxing adventure, chose a scenic and serene paddle around the Knysna lagoon. In July you can catch the oyster festival, and try the famous Knysna oysters.

A visit to the Knysna Elephant Park

Established in 1994, this is South Africa’s first park to care for orphaned elephants.

The park’s purpose is to rescue and rehabilitate relocated, mistreated, or orphaned elephants.

Visitors have the chance of viewing these beautiful creatures up close and personal and learn how the park cares for them, or take elephant-guided walks through the park.

Whale and Dolphin Watching

If you are in Garden Route National Park, you should definitely take the opportunity to witness dolphins and whales in their natural habitat.

Plettenberg Bay, Knysna Lagoon, Mossel Bay, and Harold’s Bay all offer whale-watching tours.

Bird Watching

You can visit the Birds of Eden sanctuary which sits on two hectares of land in the middle of indigenous forest and is home to over 3000 birds and 220 species.

A walking tour leads visitors through the sanctuary, behind a waterfall, and across a suspension bridge while allowing constant opportunities for bird watching.

You can also take a trip into either Knysna or the Wilderness sections of the park armed with your binoculars, for a chance of spotting the species of birds that are located here.

Mountain Biking

There are nearly a dozen mountain biking trails near the Knysna region of the park. You can test your riding skills on the Harkerville Routes, Farleigh Routes, or Homtini routes all of which have varying degrees of difficulty.

Other than a shot of adrenaline, you’ll have the chance of touring the indigenous forests and spectacular coastlines.

Bungee Jumping

Test your courage on the highest commercial bungee jump in the world.

Bloukrans Bridge, roughly 40 km outside Plettenberg Bay has a drop of 26 meters above the Bloukrans River.

Other than the adrenaline rush you’ll receive, the high vantage point that is the bridge offers spectacular views of the surrounding park.


There is a myriad of trails in the park that you can take to get in and personal with the surroundings, to breathe in the fresh air, listen to the night sounds and immerse yourself in the sights of the park. Some of these trails include:

  • The Otter trail

This five-day trail is one of the most well-known things to do in the park, after the road trip. This trek leads adventurous hikers west from the Storms River Mouth camp through dense forests, across babbling brooks and spectacular rivers.

  • The Dolphin Trail

This is a less intense and more luxurious version of the Otter trail, which leads East instead of West.

The difference is in the level of service on offer; fully catered accommodation and meals, plus baggage transportation between lodgings.

  • Knysna Forest 4X4 trail

If you have a 4X4 vehicle, then prepare for some muddy off-roading.

The starting point is the Garden of Eden, and you’ll cruise through massive forests of yellowwood and stinkwood trees, some of which are quite old.

  • Day Hikes

For those who don’t fancy a five-day long trek then these short hikes are for you. Some of the most popular hikes include; the Mouth trail, viewpoint trail, waterfall trail, Loerie trail, and blue Duiker Trail.


Ebb & Flow Rest camp

Located in the Wilderness section, it comprises North and South sections.

Accommodation types include 4-bed family cottages and a 4-bed log cottage on wooden stilts. The forest cabins have 2-bed and 4-bed options.

Boardwalk Lodge

This 4-star guest lodge also located in the Wilderness section, offers bed and breakfast or self-catering wilderness accommodation set high on the slopes above the wilderness village, and a short walk from the beach below.

All accommodation at Boardwalk Lodge has private decks overlooking the Wilderness village, lagoon, and sea.

Storms River Mouth Rest Camp

Located in the Tsitsikamma section, the accommodation options include forest huts with communal facilities, forest cabins with self-equipped units, chalets with self-equipped detached open plan units

And cottages with self-equipped free-standing units, and family cottages.

Natures Valley Rest Camp

Located in the Tsitsikamma section, this camp is located on the banks of the Groot River approximately 40 km west of Storms river rest camp.

The forest huts sleep two people and have communal ablution facilities

Other Accommodation

In the towns along the Garden-route are a variety of accommodation options, ranging from the luxurious to the budget-friendly.

Some notable accommodations include: Tsitsikamma village inn, and Tsitsikamma lodge near the Tsitsikamma section of the park.

I will write expanded reviews about all of these later!

Climate Of the Garden Route

The Garden Route National Park is located in a yearly rainfall region and due to the size of the national park, temperatures can vary quite drastically from one area to the other.

Summer temperatures can range from 25oC to 30oC (77oF to 86oF), but coastline temperatures remain mild throughout.

On the mountainous areas, snow occasionally falls in winter, and the areas adjacent can get really cold.

When To Visit the Garden route

The Garden route National park with its climate, scenery, and wildlife is a year-round tourist destination.

Due to the closure of schools in December and the Christmas holidays, the park is usually quite crowded then.

January and February also suffer from some high daytime temperatures which might be unbearable for those who suffer from heat exhaustion.

But between February and April is quite ideal, as the summer temperatures have gone down a notch and there are no crowds to contend with.

For whale watching, the best time to visit the park is from the months of July to September.

Conservation Fees

  • Tsitsikamma section

Daily conservation fees for 1 November 2021 to 31 October 2022

South African Citizens and Residents (With ID)R68 per adult, per day R34 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (With passports)R136 per adult, per day R68 per child, per day
International VisitorsR272 per adult, per day R136 per child, per day
  • Nature’s Valley Section

Daily conservation fees for 1 November 2021 to 31 October 2022

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID)R60 per adult, per day R30 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (With passport)R60 per adult, per day R30 per child, per day
International visitorsR120 per adult, per day R60 per child, per day
  • Wilderness Section

Daily conservation fees for 1 November 2021 to 31 October 2022

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID)R50 per adult, per day R25 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (With passport)R100 per adult, per day R50 per child, per day
International visitorsR170 per adult, per day R85 per child, per day
  • Knysna Section

Daily conservation fees for 1 November 2021 to 31 October 2022

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID)R42 per adult, per day R21 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (With passport)R84 per adult, per day R42 per child, per day
International visitorsR168 per adult, per day R84 per child, per day

Things to Know About the Garden Route of South Africa

  • The weather can be quite unpredictable, and hikers should always be prepared, especially in the higher mountain reaches.
  • Along the beach and shoreline, the currents and large waves can be dangerous, and visitors are advised to stay to close the shore and not venture too far out while swimming.
  • The Park is open daily from 0700hrs to 1800hrs.

My Final Conclusion.

I hope that this blog post answered your question on “what is the garden route of South Africa”, but if not, please feel free to ask yours below in the comment section 😉

If you would like to join my social media channels or Facebook group for more pictures, please do so below as well 🙂

I wish you happy travels!

Kind regards,


I now have a YouTube channel as well!


4 thoughts on “What Is The Garden Route Of South Africa-Some Insights”

  1. Hey an interesting post 

    I’ve heard of the garden route quite a few times however wasn’t sure what it’s about but now I can see how amazing all this adventure is. 

    I’m going to add this to my bucket list, I’m ecstatic just looking at all the possible amazing activities which can be found!

    This page is going to be added to my favourite pages! Keep up the great informational posts!

    • Hi Sariyah

      thank you for the compliments and I hope you make it to South Africa and the Garden Route one day, enjoy!

      I wish you happy travels,


  2. Wow, this sounds like it could be an absolute paradise and a fantastic place to visit. I appreciate all of your actionable tips and helpful suggestions. I think a trip to the elephant park would be hard to beat – I would love to see all of that wildlife!! I always enjoy sampling local food and drink as well, so a vineyard trip would be another great place to stop on the trip through the Garden Route of South Africa. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Aly!

      You are very welcome and I hope that you will enjoy your stay at the Garden Route of South Africa, cheers!

      Kind regards



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