After Kruger, I was worried we peaked too early, and leaving was quite bittersweet. Luckily, a road trip through the Garden Route was just what we needed to lift our spirits, as I don’t think there’s a more beautiful drive on the planet. This is a LONG post because there is an insane amount things to do on the Garden Route. Our itinerary and additional recommendations below!
As always, don’t be me, be better. I didn’t realise until the morning we were leaving London that the plan to drive the whole was way insane and the country is ginormous. We booked last minute flights from Joburg to Port Elizabeth, which is entirely necessary unless you have weeks to make the journey.
We went straight from Port Elizabeth to Jeffrey’s Bay so G could get some surfing in. Tip: we had a harder time than expected finding the beaches to surf on (bad preplanning), so know where you want to rent your board from and base it around that. We spent a few hours surfing and eating and taking in the scenery – beautiful beaches but we also drove by/through our first Township, which was quite shocking. We later spent an evening at Mzansi restaurant in the Langa Township in Cape Town, which was incredible.
We spent that night in Storms River, with Bob and Louise. This little town was adorable and our hosts absolutely lovely. It felt like staying in our grandparent’s comforting home. It was green and beautiful, and I highly recommend booking there! If we go back, we’d spend all three of our nights along the Garden Route in Storms River – though it’s not for everyone. See where to stay along the Garden Route here.
Dinner (and breakfast) in Storms River
We went to De Oude Martha and loved it. The food was so good, the service excellent, and the venue gorgeous (though extremely imperial). Go back for their breakfast buffet – after our sad little grills in Kruger, this delicious food was much appreciated (and overindulged).
Activities in Tsitsikamma (Storms River)
The two best things we did in Storms River were ziplining and kayaking down the mouth of Storms river. Ziplining was fun, and not scary at all, even for me. If you’re looking for some serious adrenaline, instead go a bit further down Route 2 and hit up Face Adrenalin for one of the world’s highest jumps at Bloukrans Bridge. As that sounds like my personal hell, we skipped it, but everyone we spoke to who had done it said it was one of the highlights of their lives.
After ziplining we went kayaking and lilo-ing down Storms River mouth, which was gorgeous. It was fun, just a little challenging (swimming against the tide at points was not easy!) and there was cliff jumping! The water is full of tannans, but it doesn’t taste (or smell) nearly as good as wine. It looks dirty but we were assured it’s not, and I wouldn’t miss the jumps as they are just high enough to turn your stomach.
We didn’t do the hike to the waterfall as it was pouring rain and visibility was low, but if you’re up for it, it’s meant to be beautiful (though better in the wet season than dry).
We spent the next two nights in Knysna. Storms River, Plettenburg Bay, and Knysna are all close enough together that you can easily get to each one no matter where you stay, so it’s not necessary to move each night if you don’t want to. Knysna is cute and mid-size (though the biggest of the three) and if you want to hop around the coast, is a great place to stay.
Dinner in Knysna
Go to The Waterfront, where many of the most recommended restaurants are clustered. We were there right at the end of March and a reservation wasn’t necessary at even the most popular places. This allowed us to wander around the pier and window shop restaurants. We had heard the best things about 34 Degrees South, which is a Knysna institution. It was delicious and lively – full when most other places were nearly empty. Knysna has great food, so I don’t think you can really go wrong, but they’re famous for their oysters!
The next morning we woke up early and headed to Robberg Nature Reserve for one of the best hikes of my life. You can read all about that here, but let me just say if you like hiking and beautiful landscapes, do not miss this one!
After the hike, swim, and ensuing sunburn, we went to Monkeyland for lunch. The restaurant is inside the park and you don’t have to pay if you’re eating. You can see quite a few monkeys just getting lunch.
From there we went to Elephant Sanctuary. This was recommended by a host and right next to our lunch place, but we didn’t do the right research before going. I had previously read about Knysna Elephant Park, and assumed this was the same place. It was not! They said the elephants were given to them by nearby governments because they couldn’t survive in the wild – but they seemed fine and though the goal was rehabilitation, no elephant has been released thus far. I write about this as a warning to others. Don’t be me, ALWAYS research first. Knysna Elephant Park has actually rehabbed and released elephants, and doesn’t offer elephant rides (anymore). If you want to see some elephants, definitely go there and NOT to Elephant Sanctuary.
We set off the next morning for Wilderness. We were going to hike but it was cloudy and I had one of the worst sunburns of my life. Malarone is no joke, and sunblock doesn’t help. All this to say, we ended up skipping the hike, but you can find a list of the best ones we researched here.
Breakfast in Wilderness
We went to Travel Bugs Garden Restaurant for breakfast, which I highly recommend. It was a national holiday, so a lot of places were closed, otherwise we would have tried Bayleaf Café, which has great ratings. But Travel Bugs Garden Restaurant was delicious, the staff friendly, and they had American/British style breakfast which we were seriously missing by that point.
We stopped in Mossel Bay to see the Post Office Tree. Back in 1501, a Portuguese explorer took shelter in Mossel Bay after a bad storm. He wanted to get a letter to another explorer, so left a boot nailed to a tree with it inside. It managed to reach the correct man (!) and for decades was used as the “post office” in Mossel Bay. Now there is a little monument there with a slot to put mail into, so I sent myself a postcard. I do this everywhere I go as a journal entry about the trip, with the local stamp and such. I like sending them from cool locations, and this one and the one I sent from the top of Table Mountain are the only ones that actually made it to the UK.
From Mossel Bay we drove to Franschhoek, and thus ended our time on the Garden Route. I was getting used to feeling both sad and excited that one part of the trip was ending while another was beginning, but the incredible drive to Franschhoek softened the blow. It was astounding!
MORE things to do on the Garden Route
There is so much more you can do on the Garden Route. We only had a few days, and would strongly recommend a longer trip if you can. Some of the most popular things to do on the Garden Route that we missed out on were:
- Safari Ostrich Farm in Oudtshoorn – there are a few, but everyone we met along the way said this was the one to visit.
- Addo Elephant Park – this was our back up in case we didn’t see any elephants in Kruger. We were innocent babies who didn’t realise how incredible (and elephant rich) Kruger would be.
- Whale Watching in Hermanus – this is something we would have done without hesitation at a different time of year, but it wasn’t the right season so we gave it a pass. If you’re there between June and November, don’t miss it!
- Birds of Eden – right next to Monkeyland and really highly rated among bird lovers.
- Shark Diving – we left this up to the last minute, and then decided not to go. Mostly because I truly don’t think I’d ever get in the ocean sans protective cage again. If you’re less of a baby, this is something loads of people put at the top of their list.
- Featherbed Ferry to Knysna Heads – this one we missed only because we didn’t know about it. One the list for next time for sure!
- Kayaking down the river in Wilderness National Park. Much like the hike, we had to skip this due to sunburn and bad weather. Though we kayaked in Tsitsikamma, it was through a tour and we missed the independence of going on our own. You can rent Kayaks at Eden Adventures in the park.
Obviously, there is a HUGE number of things to do on the Garden Route. The natural beauty, wildlife, food, and activities means there’s something for everyone. To be honest, just writing this post has me desperate to go back and do more. Until then, I’ll live vicariously through this blog!