Perfect beaches, rocky headlands, tangled forests and dramatic gorges are the quintessential images of South Africa’s iconic Garden Route, which runs along the beautiful Cape coast, and is so called because of its abundant plant life. Extending from between the mother city Cape Town and a myriad of quaint towns, it’s a gorgeous stretch of coastal paradise renowned for its intense aesthetic beauty. This route runs parallel to the rugged shoreline and each of its towns boasts a hub of diversity.
The Garden Route is the ultimate family holiday destination, and there is something for everyone. As there is so much to do and see, visitors are often hard-pressed to savour everything on offer. Various nature reserves and botanical gardens are situated along the Garden Route, and a wide variety of species of birds, animals, reptiles and insects are found in a variety of habitats ranging from fynbos to forests to wetlands. Also, the best mountain bike, hiking and horse riding trails snake through the most majestic mountain passes. Since the Cape is famous for its fruits, there are many fruit farms with fascinating tours where the cultivation process is explained and tourists are given the opportunity to go fruit picking. A place of interest is the Tsitsikamma National Park, offering canopy tours which entail ziplining almost 100 feet in the air. For an exhilarating encounter, there’s a suspension bridge over the ocean, which spans two mountain crags. Other Garden Route attractions include bird parks, ostrich farms and butterfly sanctuaries.
The Bloukrans Bridge near Tsitsikamma offers a heady rush of a different kind. At 708 feet, Bloukrans is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. Other adrenalin-pumping activities include tandem skydiving, paragliding, and a range of scenic flights that all offer different bird’s-eye views from which you can see the splendour of the Garden Route laid out below!
The azure seas lined with pristine golden sand are ideal for unwinding, and watching the jewelled hues of the glorious sunrises and sunsets sparkle over the water is truly breathtaking. The quaysides are perfect for a relaxing day of boat cruise trips, but for the more adventurous, the scuba and deep-sea diving is good, as is the surfing and other water activities. The unique marine reserves host coral reefs, dolphins, seals and other marine life and you can also have one of the best whale watching experiences in the world, as the Garden Route bays are nurseries to the endangered Southern Right and Humpback whales which come there to calve in the winter and spring (July to December).
The Garden Route is also home to many natural wonders including the Cango Caves, believed to have been formed more than 65 million years ago, and the Knysna Heads, which is known to be the most striking geological feature along the entire southern African coastline.
For the more culturally inclined, there are township tours, museums, lovely Victorian buildings, funky craft shops, markets, art galleries and much more. And, of course, a flotilla of great restaurants – many of which specialise in seafood – in each town. The more cosmopolitan areas are located near Cape Town, showcasing an array of upmarket boutiques and eateries. There are also lots of wellness centres/spas set in some of the most sensational locations where impeccably trained therapists offer a range of treatments.
The Garden Route is the ultimate road trip and a must for any enthusiastic traveller in the region.
Being a South African herself, Rafeeah Laher has done the entire Garden Route tour almost three times and says that each experience was spectacular.