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Garden Route Introduction

19th March 2014

The Garden Route and Little Karoo

Knysna's famous Featherbed ReserveSouth Africa's Garden Route region is a World Class tourist destination, and together with the Little Karoo it offers a diverse range of exciting and unique experiences, where visitors from abroad and locals are sure to find the perfect balance for a magical holiday.

Straddling the beautiful stretches of coastlines of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa, the 200km long stretch of Garden Route derives its name from the stunning natural beauty and unique, ecologically diverse vegetation that typify the region, including grasslands, wetlands, forests and mountainous regions, and the numerous lagoons, lakes and rivers that dot the coastline.

Under the abundant blue skies rolling white sandy beaches beckon. Soak in the dramatic mountain scenery, indigenous fynbos, and animal attractions of the area on foot or bike, by vehicle or from the air.


Stillbaai Garden Route South AfricaThe Area

The Garden Route spans South Africa's Western Cape coastal belt from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape and provides a stirring study in contrasts. There are more than 21 towns along the Garden Route, offering an endless list of attractions for single travelers, families, couples and tour groups.

About three hours drive from Cape Town you will find Witsand - a famous Southern Right Whale birthing place and nursery, followed by the Floral Paradise of Riversdale as well as Stilbaai, whose assets include treasures from the Stone Age and the Khoi people.

Traveling further west up the coastline is you encounter the historically important town of Mossel Bay which prides itself on offering world-class game viewing, golf and adventure experiences. Continue on through the villages of Great Brak and Hartenbos on the way to George, known as The Gateway to the Garden Route. George is situated on a fertile coastal plateau at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains, and as the Garden Route's largest city and main administrative centre it makes an ideal base from which to explore the region's diverse attractions.

Further west we find a number picturesque and charming towns and villages, home and inspiration to writers and artists that gives the area its unique character. Wilderness and Sedgefield comprise the Lakes Region, and Knysna with it's beguiling lagoon has twice been voted "Town of the Year". Plettenberg Bay is a playground for the affluent, with its beach, polo and party pleasures.

Traveling north over the Outeniqua mountains we find the Little Karoo, a semi-arid region and one of the most geologically interesting parts of South Africa. Oudtshoorn, capital of the Klein Karoo, is set in a semi-arid valley, and provides an ideal habitat for farming ostriches. It also features the unique Cango Caves, among the top ten most visited South African attractions. Other towns of note are Calitzdorp and De Rust, both part of the wine route and Uniondale, famed for its sheep farming and rock art treasures.


Climate

Golfing in George Garden Route South AfricaThe Garden Route is an excellent year round destination and enjoys a mild Mediterranean-like climate. Mild to warm summers and mild to cool winters make for ideal holiday weather. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Garden Route has the mildest climate in South Africa and the second mildest climate in the world, after Hawaii.

Temperatures rarely fall below 10°C in winter and rarely climb beyond 28°C in summer. It is also one of the country's richest rainfall regions, with rain (brought by the humid sea-winds from the Indian Ocean rising and releasing their precipitation along the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains just inland of the coast) occurring year-round. Plan your Garden Route holiday for March to May to avoid the December to February rush of local and international visitors.


Itinerary

Cloudbase Paragliding WildernessThe Garden route is an integral part of any South African travel itinerary, as it allows you to explore South Africa's beautiful Southern coastline between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, both major metropoles from where you can connect with all other major destinations such as Johannesburg and Durban.

Tour operators offer a range of individualised packaged tours that cater to specific needs and interests. You'll need at least 7 days to explore Garden Route towns, including Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, to glimpse the Garden Route's wildlife, to savour its internationally renowned and protected floral kingdom, and to enjoy its variety of restaurants and bars.


Popular Attractions

Apart from the golden beaches, vineyards, sun-drenched orchards, pin-drop-silent forests, sweeping lakes and birds eye-view passes, the Garden Route also offers a series of unforgettable experiences at:

Oudtshoorn Cango Caves Geologically important feature composed of a series of caverns and chambers naturally hewn out of limestone
  Cango Wildlife Ranch Internationally renowned preservation centre offering unique natural encounters
  Cango Ostrich Show Farm Ride an ostrich or take a conducted tour surrounded by thousands of ostriches. Visit the Restaurant and shop for exotic ostrich products
  Highgate Ostrich Show Farm World's first and finest and most original Ostrich Show Farm offering Guided Tours, Ostrich Racing Daily, a Restaurant and Curio Shop
Mossel Bay Mossel Bay Diaz Museum The Bartolomeu Dias museum complex explores the history of early SA people and European settlers
  Oyster Catcher Trail Internationally renowned, professionally guided, luxury and fully catered slack packing trail where your every comfort is looked after
Knysna Featherbed Nature Reserve Pristine Natural Heritage Site and 150ha private Nature Reserve
  Knysna Elephant Park Rare and exciting opportunity to get close to these gentle giants in a controlled, free range environment
Wilderness Wilderness National Park Nestled in the heart of the Lake District on the banks of the Touws river
Plettenberg Bay Tsitsikamma National Park Ecologically protected ancient indigenous forests, home to a diverse species of bird-life and marine ecosystems
  Birds of Eden One of the largest free-flight sanctuaries / aviaries in the worlds with more than 3 500 species
  Monkeyland 12 Acre sanctuary houses about 400 free-ranging primates, including bellowing gibbons, spider monkeys, and lemurs
  Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve Biggest private game reserve in the Southern Cape, with more than 2200 ha spread out across the hills above the scenic coastline
Regional Route 62 Fruit and Wine region Tourist route and scenic alternative to the N2 highway, that meanders between Cape Town, Oudtshoorn and Port Elizabeth


Activities

The Garden Route is a perfect family destination and boasts ten nature reserves showcasing various ecosystems as well as unique marine reserves. Popular outdoor activities include world-class malaria-free safaris and game drives, 4x4 and other scenic routes, as well as world-class golfing. Swim, surf or simply have some fun in the sun on the Garden Route's beautiful beaches. Spend some time trawling malls, craft markets and quaint country stalls as you hunt down local creative endeavors.

Outdoor Activities

  • Cango Caves Oudtshoorn South AfricaHorse riding
  • Quad biking
  • Mountain biking and cycling tours
  • Fishing; deep sea, off-shore or in the lagoon
  • Scuba diving, sea kayaking and snorkeling exploration
  • Surfing in Mossel Bay, Victoria Bay, or Plettenberg Bay
  • Inland river canoe trips
  • Boat cruises on the Knysna Lagoon
  • Enjoy sundowners overlooking some of the world's most stunning stretches of coastline
  • Bird watching; with more than 280 indigenous bird species to be seen
  • Whale and dolphin watching from mid-June to November
  • Dolphins and Whale Ocean Safaris (Mossel Bay & Plettenberg Bay)
  • Hike three of South Africa’s top hiking trails - the Otter, Tsitsikamma and Dolphin trails.
Extreme Activities
  • Bungi jumping from the Bloukrans Bridge (the highest in the world at 216m) or Gouritz River Bridge
  • Abseiling
  • Shark-cage diving in Mossel Bay
  • Blackwater tubing down the breathtaking Storms River
  • Paragliding trips all over the coast, forests and mountains.


Accommodation

A wide range of accommodation is available, ranging from superior hotels, guest houses and guest lodges to more affordable Bed and Breakfast or Self-catering establishments and backpackers lodgings

Click here for accommodation listings in the Garden Route.


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