There is often disagreement between people about where exactly the Garden Route in South Africa starts – some say it starts in Mosselbay, others believe it only begins in George. Similarly, people can also not agree on whether the Garden Route ends with the Stormsriver Village (still in the Western Cape) or with Port Elizabeth (in the Eastern Cape). To let you know what the Garden Route covers, we decided to share our 10-day Garden Route itinerary.
The Garden Route is not very long (450 kilometres – about 4,5 hours of driving) and can easily be driven in a day. BUT doing that would mean missing out on all the exciting things to see and do on the Garden Route. Not leaving anything to chance, we did the “full” Garden Route, all the way from Mosselbay to Port Elizabeth. Our road trip spanned 14 days with ten days spent exploring the Garden Route.
Our Garden Route itinerary
Here is our Garden Route itinerary and a short description of each place we visited.
Day 1: Mosselbay
Mossel Bay is one of the seaside cities in the world with the most moderate climate. We spend only one day in Mosselbay as there were not that many sights around. Also, it is one of the most popular towns in the Garden Route during South African school holidays, meaning that accommodation can become scarce and pricey! There are a few things to do in Mosselbay apart from spending time on the beach. The Dias Museum is in Mosselbay, and there is also the Cape St Blaize lighthouse to see. Another highlight in Mosselbay is the many restaurants selling authentic South African food.
Day 2 – 3: George, Wilderness & Buffelsbay
Driving from Mosselbay past George, you arrive at Wilderness. George has several excellent attractions, such as museums and old churches, but Wilderness is easily one of the most beautiful places in the Garden Route. It is small, but there are plenty to see in and around Wilderness. The Dolphin Point Lookout is just outside Wilderness, and Buffels Bay beach is a 15-minute drive from there. The Map of Africa is in the mountains near Wilderness. For its size, it is a relatively expensive place. The beaches are lovely, but apparently not ideal for swimming because of the strong currents.
Day 4 – 5: Knysna, Brenton on Sea
From Wilderness, you drive past Sedgefield (South Africa) before passing Brenton-on-Sea and eventually arriving in Knysna. Knysna is in the heart of the Garden Route. An expensive place, very popular with foreign tourists. Knysna annually hosts the Oyster Festival in the winter, which is attended by thousands of people. There is also a marathon held at the same time as the Oyster Festival. Knysna is an essential part of any trip to the Garden Route and as such should be one everyone’s Garden Route itinerary.
Day 6 – 7: Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley
From Knysna, it is about an hour’s drive to Plettenberg Bay, another city that is very popular, but to a different crowd. Every year in December, after finishing their final exams, the grade 12 students go to Plettenberg Bay for their first adult trip without their parents. Plettenberg Bay has a very central location with lots of activities and sights in the surrounding areas. It is another of the more expensive places in the Garden Route as it is very popular with foreigners, so we stayed near Nature’s Valley which is more isolated and much smaller. There are lots of excellent restaurants in Plettenberg Bay, and the beaches are fabulous too!
Day 8: Stormsriver mouth and Village
The Stormsriver Village is a tiny town in the Garden Route. Just before getting to the village, you can see the Stormsrivier, which to me was the most beautiful scenery of the entire Garden Route.
I felt like the Stormsriver Village should be the end of the Garden Route as it was the last town on the Garden Route that is located in the Western Cape. Near to Stormsriver Village, you enter the Eastern Cape and the landscape changes completely.
Day 9-10: St Francis Bay, Port St Francis, Jeffrey’s Bay & Port Elizabeth
We passed several towns on our way to Port St Francis, Saint Francis Bay and Jeffreys Bay. Although slightly off of the main route, we had heard that these towns were gorgeous, unique and had lots of shells on the beach.
After spending some time in Jeffrey’s Bay, we eventually made our way to Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth is the capitol city of the Eastern Cape Province. South Africans call it the windy city, the friendly city or PE. Plenty of lovely beaches, nice restaurants on the beach and much more affordable accommodation compared to the other towns and cities in the Garden Route. There are several museums and other sights to explore. Despite the wind, it has a lovely mild climate most of the time (in summer).
There you have it – our Garden Route itinerary. Overall, I was satisfied with the time we spent at each location. If I had to make any changes, I would probably add more time for Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth. However, my favourite places were the quiet and small towns of Nature’s Valley and Stormsriver Village.
Have you ever been to the Garden Route? What was your favourite place to visit there?