The gorgeous Garden Route officially starts at Witsand in the Western Cape and stretches to Tsitsikamma or Storms River in the Eastern Cape, covering roughly 300 kilometers of the very best of South Africa’s coastline. It’s a region where wild, untamed forests, winding rivers, breathtaking mountains, and beautiful beaches reign supreme, but it’s also home to some of the best towns in South Africa.
Here is your guide to understanding the different towns of the Garden Route:
Wedged between the outstanding Outeniqua Mountains, indigenous yellowwood forests, and the sea, Knysna is the crowning glory of the Garden Route and one of the most visited towns in the region. Featuring the gorgeous Knysna lagoon at its heart, Knysna offers a wealth of attractions for travellers of all ages. The forests are a haven for cyclers and mountain bikers, and the town attracts shoppers and foodies who come from far and wide to sample the Knysna oysters. The waters here are home to the endangered Knysna seahorse and can be explored by sailing charter, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or even while kitesurfing. The lagoon channels through the iconic Knysna Heads, and a stay at Beacon House puts you in the center of the action with some of the best views in town, while the all-inclusive Alkira Lodge gives you a bird’s eye view of Knysna.
Situated a 30-minute drive from Knysna, Plettenberg Bay is a small town that features an abundance of restaurants, shops, and activities to enjoy, from golfing to whale watching. The town is flanked by more than 20 kilometres of beaches and is the perfect place to enjoy those long romantic strolls on the sand. The Old Nick Village here is well worth a visit, while Plett, as locals call it, is also the gateway to The Crags with its variety of wildlife sanctuaries and adventure activities.
Wilderness is set on a stunning location on the banks of the Touws River Estuary. The lakes and rivers here are a paradise for birders who can look for the famed Knysna Loerie and others on foot or while meandering up the river in a canoe. On the other side of town, the beach stretches out for as far as the eye can see and offers a place of peace to experience some of the best sunsets in the Garden Route.
Time moves slowly in sleepy Sedgefield, located between Wilderness and Knysna on the largest inland saltwater lake in South Africa, the Swartvlei estuary. This is a great spot to enjoy some fishing. Every Saturday, the Wild Oats Community Farmers' Market takes place just outside town. If you visit one market on the Garden Route, this has to be it with its abundance of fresh farm products and locally made arts and crafts.
George is the administrative capital of the Garden Route and home to the airport, which services this region. The town itself is home to some fascinating museums and historical buildings while many picturesque golf courses are located here. The nearby Victoria Bay and Herold’s Bay are also well worth a visit. Victoria Bay is the Garden Route’s surfing mecca, while Herold’s Bay is a sheltered seaside resort with fabulous rock pools in which the kids can play.
If you love history and boats, then you don’t want to miss Mossel Bay. The town’s history links back to some of the most famous seafaring explorers of old, with various fascinating exhibits on display at the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex. You can also enjoy a historical walk through the town to enjoy the interesting architecture found here. Thrill-seekers can also go cage diving with Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay or enjoy a high-speed slide down the Mossel Bay Zipline - the longest over-the-ocean zip line in the world!
This is just a short guide to the major towns of the Garden Route; however, be sure to take your time visiting as there is so much more to discover. From the picturesque beaches of Nature’s Valley to the unspoiled nature of Little & Great Brak, to safari opportunities near Albertinia, and watersports at Witsand, the opportunities on the Garden Route are limitless!