Ultimate Road Trip Guide To The Garden Route, South Africa

The Garden Route in South Africa is the ultimate road trip destination.
There are endless things to do on the Garden Route for all kinds of travellers. Whether you’re seeking fast-paced adventure or peaceful solitude, this is one of the most rewarding and beautiful areas of South Africa.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to travel the Garden Route and plan the ultimate road trip.
Pixabay cape town road
Beautiful mountain-side passes are one of the many things that make the Garden Route special.

What is the Garden Route South Africa?

The Garden Route is a popular and scenic stretch of coastline in South Africa’s Western Cape - the ultimate road trip destination. It's known for its breathtaking natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and a variety of outdoor activities.
Travellers often explore the Garden Route for its combination of natural wonders, wildlife experiences, and a wide range of activities and attractions, making it a popular destination for both local and international tourists.
We are here to take you through everything you need to know in order to embark on a Garden Route adventure and make the most of it along the way!

Where Does the Garden Route Start and End?

The Garden Route starts in Mossel Bay, a coastal town, and ends in Storms River, which is located in the Tsitsikamma region. The total distance of the Garden Route can vary slightly depending on your specific starting and endpoints, but it's roughly 300 kilometres (186 miles) long.
While the Garden Route can be travelled in either direction, most people prefer to drive it from west to east (Mossel Bay to Storms River).
Driving from west to east also gives you a smoother transition from the more developed areas near Mossel Bay to the wilder landscapes of the Tsitsikamma region near Storms River.
Garden Route
A scenic walk through Tsitsikamma National Park.

What is the Best Way to Travel the Garden Route?

If you’re planning a Garden Route trip, the best way to do it is by car.
There are plenty of car rental businesses on either end of the route. However, if you’re renting a car, it’s often easiest to extend your trip a bit further, rent one in Cape Town, and drop it off in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). George also has an airport with car rental options, which makes it another good starting point for your road trip.
Renting a car is a good way to explore the Garden Route, giving you the flexibility to customize your itinerary and stop at scenic spots whenever you want to. Having your own car provides independence for adventurers who want to discover charming towns, hiking trails, and wildlife encounters at their own pace. It’s also a lot easier to get around the towns on the Garden Route when you have a car.
Guided tours of the Garden Route are also a great option. This gives you a more structured experience, and you don’t have to worry about driving on foreign roads. Skyhook has a great 6-day guided tour of the Garden Route!
Many travellers opt to drive themselves between destinations on the Garden Route, and then take guided tours and adventure activities at each destination.
If you’re on a budget, busses are also available along the Garden Route. However, travelling by bus can be a long and tiring process. It also means you’ll lose the immersive and personalized journey that a car allows.
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Beautiful coastal towns are found all along the Garden Route.

What to do in the Garden Route

There are endless Garden Route stops and activities, offering something for everyone.
If you’re planning on driving the Garden Route, South Africa, then here are some of the things you can do along the way.

Outdoor Adventures

The Garden Route is any outdoor enthusiast paradise. There are loads of outdoor activities on offer, like hiking, biking, and bird-watching.
The Garden Route offers some of the best hikes in South Africa (including the multi-day Otter Trail and the scenic Storms River Mouth trail). Wherever you stop, there are trails that lead through lush forests or along coastal and river paths.
Make sure you take time to get outside and explore the diverse landscapes and natural beauty of this region - this is what the Garden Route is all about.
Garden Route
Canoeing in South Africa.

Water Activities

Take advantage of the coastline while driving the Garden Route. From surfing and paddleboarding to kayaking and boat tours, the Garden Route offers a range of options for water enthusiasts.
The many pristine beaches and estuaries provide the perfect backdrop for adventures on the water.

Wildlife Encounters

The Garden Route offers rich biodiversity, something you can experience in various ways.
You could visit sanctuaries, reserves, and national parks along the way to appreciate the indigenous flora and fauna. Garden route safaris are available, or you could simply enjoy some bird or whale watching from your accommodation.
Keep an eye out for unique species of birds, and marine life, and even the chance to encounter elephants and other wildlife in their natural habitats.
Garden Route
Famous African penguins of South Africa!

Cultural Exploration

The real charm of the Garden Route lies in all of the little towns along the way.
Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting these charming coastal towns and exploring their art galleries, craft markets, and cultural events.

Scenic Drives

Of course, a major highlight of the Garden Route is simply driving it. There’s so much to see outside your window as you pass through.
Enjoy leisurely drives along the picturesque coastline and through the stunning landscapes. The Garden Route offers many viewpoints, allowing you to appreciate the panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and the surrounding mountains.

Relaxation and Wellness

The Garden Route is also known for its numerous wellness retreats, spas, and yoga studios. The tranquil surroundings and serene environments make the Garden Route an ideal destination for relaxation and rejuvenation.
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You can bungee jump from Bloukrans Bridge on the Garden Route.

Adventure Sports

For thrill-seekers, there are loads of adrenaline-pumping Garden Route adventure activities on offer. You could brave one of the highest bungee jumps in the world, go zip-lining, white water rafting, or even paragliding.
You’ll find segway tours through forests, horseriding excursions, and everything in between. If you’re after adventure, then the Garden Route is the place to be. The diverse terrain and beautiful backdrops of the Garden Route make it the ultimate adventure playground.
Garden Route
Famous for wine, biltong and braai - South Africa will not disappoint your palate!

Culinary Experiences

You definitely won't go hungry on your Garden Route trip.
From fresh seafood to farm-to-table offerings, the Garden Route boasts a diverse and delicious food scene. You can visit vineyards and tasting rooms along the way to savour local wines. There are also plenty of great food markets that pop up (the Wild Oats market in Sedgefield is the most famous).
Of course, each town is full of excellent restaurants to help you get a taste of the area.
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A beautiful cove in Tsitsikamma National Park.

Garden Route Highlights: Destinations

Ready to plan your trip? Here are some of the best places to visit on the Garden Route, South Africa.

Mossel Bay

Serving as the starting point of the Garden Route, Mossel Bay boasts a blend of historical charm and coastal beauty.
Explore the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex, showcasing maritime artefacts and a replica of the caravel that Dias sailed in 1488. The Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse offers panoramic views, and the bay provides a picturesque backdrop for water activities like shark cage diving and boat trips.
Mossel Bay is one of the bigger and busier towns, so it doesn’t have the same “small town charm” that much of the Garden Route is known for.


Positioned at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains, George is a gateway to outdoor adventures. It’s also officially the only city on the Garden Route (although, it doesn’t feel like one).
The George Botanical Garden showcases a diverse collection of plant species, while the Outeniqua Transport Museum offers a glimpse into the region's railway history. The Montagu Pass, a historic mountain pass, provides a scenic drive with panoramic vistas.
Many travellers tend to pass George and prefer to stop at quieter, more scenic coastal towns.
Hiking on the Garden Route
It's always a great time to hike in South Africa!


Nestled between the Kaaimans River and the Goukamma Nature Reserve, Wilderness is a haven for nature lovers.
You can enjoy leisurely walks along the endless, scenic Wilderness Beach or explore the hiking trails of the Wilderness National Park. The Touw River offers opportunities for canoeing and bird-watching, and the Map of Africa viewpoint provides a stunning perspective of the landscape.
Wilderness offers excellent camping alongside the river, a large hotel, and plenty of smaller B&B options located on the beach or in the hills.


Known as the "Slow Town," Sedgefield embodies a relaxed pace of life.
Sedgefield Lagoon, the Garden Route's only natural freshwater lake, is surrounded by dunes and fynbos. The Saturday markets offer local crafts and fresh produce and are a must-visit if you’re in the area. Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the Goukamma Nature Reserve or embark on the Kingfisher Trail for breathtaking views.
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Knysna is one of the most popular destinations along the Garden Route.


Famous for its picturesque lagoon, Knysna is a gem on the Garden Route.
The Knysna Heads, imposing sandstone cliffs guarding the entrance to the lagoon, are an awe-inspiring sight. You can take a boat cruise to explore the estuary and nearby islands and explore the indigenous Knysna Forests with some excellent hikes.
The town's waterfront is known for its vibrant atmosphere and seafood restaurants, and the many boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants make this town special.

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay (locally known as “Plett”) is a coastal paradise offering pristine beaches and a range of outdoor activities.
Plett is known for Robberg Nature Reserve, providing panoramic views, scenic hikes, and opportunities to spot seals and dolphins. The nearby Tsitsikamma Mountains offer hiking trails, and the Keurbooms River provides a beautiful setting for canoeing.
Plett is a slightly bigger town, and it offers plenty of awesome accommodation options for all kinds of travellers.
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There are some spots near the Garden Route where you can go whale watching.

Nature's Valley

Tucked within Tsitsikamma National Park, Nature's Valley is a tranquil retreat surrounded by ancient forests.
The massive, pristine beach is ideal for relaxation, and the Salt River Mouth is perfect for swimming. The area is a haven for birdwatchers, with an abundance of bird species in the lush surroundings.

Storms River

The final destination on the Garden Route, Storms River is known for its dramatic landscapes.
You can explore the Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park, where the suspension bridge offers breathtaking views of the river mouth. Adventure seekers can enjoy activities like zip-lining or the famous Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump, one of the highest in the world.
The town itself is small, quiet, and laid-back - much like the rest of the Garden Route.
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Tsitsikamma National Park.


If you want to experience a lot in a relatively short time, then the Garden Route is the ideal place to do it. From the pristine beaches to the lush mountains, there is endless natural beauty to be enjoyed in this region. Add in the charming small towns, and you have the ultimate road trip destination.
This guide unpacks some of the best sights and destinations along the Garden Route. It may seem like a lot to keep in mind and try to include! That’s because it is. Luckily, you could skip the mental work and just book the Garden Route trip with Skyhook - this way you can experience the highlights with zero stress or planning.

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