South Africa’s famous Garden Route lies a mere four hours outside of Cape Town. Running along the southeast coast of South Africa, the route stretches along the N2 (National Highway 2) from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape, to Storms River in the Eastern Cape.
Scattered with small towns and friendly people, it is the place where all my worries disappear, I get inspired, and always leave feeling more relaxed than when I arrived. With beautiful beaches to lounge on during the summer and lush forests to explore during winter, the Garden Route is an all-year-round holiday hotspot!
With so much to see and do, and a variety of unique accommodation options to choose from, I take the opportunity to explore this amazing part of South Africa whenever I can.
So recently I set off on a jam-packed five-day itinerary. I arranged amazing accommodation in Sedgefield and Knysna, packed up some padkos (South African slang for “snacks for the road”), grabbed my boyfriend, and headed toward the Garden Route.
Day 1: On The Road & Tree House Living
Most of the first day was spent driving to my first destination, Sedgefield. Within the first hour of the journey, the city landscape changes to winelands and farms, and towns become few and far between. Sheep, cows and ostriches, and even the occasional zebra, kudu and giraffe, can be spotted on roadside farms and game reserves. With quaint farm stalls dotted along the road selling the most delicious meals, we decided to stop for breakfast and lunch. With the open ocean on the right, and indigenous forest and mountain ranges on the left, driving through Mossel Bay, George and Wilderness took our breath away. Our next stop was Sedgefield, where we would be staying.
Teniqua Treetops would be our home for the next two days. On a farm surrounded by the Outeniqua Mountain range, this self-catering tented treehouse has no cellphone reception or wi-fi, a compass toilet (add scoops of leaves and pull down the lever to ‘flush’) and visits from curious poisonous spiders. I was living my childhood dream of living in a treehouse (in an actual tree). With a fully equipped kitchen, a balcony overlooking the gorge, queen-size bed with electric blankets, and an open-air hot shower, this place was absolute magic.
After checking in, we decided to spend the the rest of the day relaxing, making use of the solar powered hot tub, and chatting up a storm to Robyn — owner and host of Teniqua — about how this amazing place came about. I then took a well-deserved shower in the middle of the forest before heading to bed — and making sure there were no creepy crawlies in my room.
Day 2: Game Drive & Spa Day
After a 6am wake up call, we headed to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve in Little Brak River just outside of Mossel Bay. Situated in the Outeniqua Mountains, the game reserve has views of the Indian Ocean and some spectacular wildlife. We’d planned a three-hour morning game drive and a couples spa treatment.
After a well-deserved coffee and traditional koeksisters (sweet donuts), we embarked on the game drive and saw everything from frisky elephants to curious giraffes that came within touching distance. Along with zebra, kudu, wildebeest, lion and springbok, for the first time I saw, not one, but five rhino. It was truly an experience I’ll never forget.
After the very bumpy game drive, we were whisked away by golf cart to the spa. A two-hour treatment awaited, which included a sauna session and one-and-half-hour massage. We were then served a light lunch poolside before heading back to our final night at Teniqua.
Day 3: Wooden Cabin in the Forest
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast on the balcony before packing up and checking out. We then headed to Knysna where we’d stay for the rest of our trip. Built around a beautiful lagoon that stretches out onto open sea at the infamous Knysna Heads, this seaside town is an eyeful. Situated on the outskirts of the Knysna forest, we reached the Knysna Chalets, where we’d be staying for the rest of our trip. Surrounded by forest, birds and sneaky monkeys, this self-catering wooden cabin chalets are quaint and cozy with all the basics we needed. My favourite part of the accommodation was the balcony with a view of the forest. After checking in, we headed to the Knysna Waterfront.
The waterfront is small and a great place to grab a bite to eat. After a look around we decided to take a one and a half hour cruise to the Knysna Heads on the John Benn, a double-decker floating restaurant. After a brief welcome by the friendly staff we ordered a few cocktails and enjoyed our trip. Back on land we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, Bow Tie Chinese and Sushi Restaurant. One of the oldest restaurants in Knysna, the Bow Tie has a wide variety of food and is often filled with locals who know the owner by name. We grabbed a takeaway and headed back to our accommodation to enjoy the sunset from the balcony.
Day 4: Wild Cats
The next day we took a drive to The Crags, just outside of Plettenberg Bay, to visit a wildlife sanctuary called Jukani. With our walking shoes on, we embarked on a two hour guided tour where we came face to face with abandon and/or abused wild cats. From white lions and siberian tigers to honey badgers and leopards, the sanctuary has it all. The best part is that unlike a zoo, animals are kept in huge enclosures where they roam freely. We even got hissed at by a leopard and caught between two male lion roaring at each other from opposite enclosures, which was definitely an unforgettable experience.
Our next stop was Monkeyland, a free-range multi-species sanctuary also in The Crags. From the moment we entered this sanctuary, there were monkeys everywhere. We decided to go on a two-hour tour, but first stopped off at the restaurant inside the sanctuary for lunch. Even though the food was basic, the view of monkeys swinging by was priceless. With full bellies we head on our informative guided tour and saw over 100 monkeys.
We then headed back to Knysna, stopping at Plettenberg Bay’s main beach for a sunset swim. Feeling refreshed, we asked a few of the locals for the name of a good place to eat, and found ourselves at Surf Cafe. With some of the best cocktails and Mexican food I’ve ever tasted, I can understand why this place is a favourite amongst locals.
Day 5: Knysna Sunrise & Heading Back Home
Waking up early on our final day, we decided to head to lookout point of the Knysna Heads to watch the sunrise. Knysna is really a quiet town before the sun comes up and watching the city come alive is breathtaking. We then headed back to our accommodation to pack up and check out, before hitting the road back home. Feeling energised yet relaxed with some amazing memories of an amazing week, we hit the road back home.