Warning: This post a long post but stay with us, it’s worth it!
Africa! A new continent, a new culture, a new adventure. And to start it all off… South Africa!
High on both of our bucket lists was driving the Garden Route in South Africa and we haven’t stopped raving about it! When we began planning this trip, we felt our time on this road trip would be way too rushed but we can safely say it really wasn’t.
Although we covered over 2000 km over 9 days, the drives were never too long and there were so many things along the way to break it up. Every morning we set our alarm for 7 am and jumped right out of bed ready to tackle the next activity. We reviewed almost every place we went and none of them deserved any less than a 5-star rating.
Below, we’ve shared our itinerary of the route we took, along with the stops we had and the cost of the activities.
Note; ZAR is the South African currency and based on the ever-changing USD to ZAR, we didn’t put in the conversion as the accuracy will be off but for our time there we used the conversion of 14.5.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route is a scenic stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa. A lot of people begin their drive in Cape Town and head towards Port Elizabeth or vise versa. It includes towns such as Hermanus, Mossel Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, George, Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley, Jeffrey’s Bay, Port Elizabeth and Addo.
While the Garden Route route is an extremely scenic drive in itself, what makes this drive one of the best road trips in the world is because of the hidden towns, outdoor activities, people, beaches, animal encounters, wildlife and very affordable food, wine and accommodation. See here for South Africa’s top 25 attractions.
- Get around – The best way to see the garden route is with a car as you can make your own itinerary & go at your own pace. Car rental is very affordable in South Africa and we rented through Europcar and paid a total of $355 USD for 13 days which included the rental, 2 drivers, unlimited mileage, all gas, insurance, tolls gates and one-way charges. If you’re on your own and you don’t want to drive, Baz Bus is a hop on hop off service which runs from Cape Town – Johannesburg. This is a great way to meet fellow travellers and a safe way to travel the country.
- The best time to visit – There is no bad time to visit the Garden Route. However take note, that this is a very popular destination over Easter and the December holidays so it will be much busier over these periods.
- Duration – This is one of those places you could spend weeks exploring, there are so many nooks and crannies in and around all the different towns, along with many outdoor activities and beaches to explore, however, realistically, we recommend anywhere from 7-10 days with no less than 7 days. We did ours in 9 days and it didn’t feel too rushed. We finished our drive in Pretoria as this is where we were beginning our tour with Tucan Travel.
- Tips – Get yourself a local sim card, WiFi is available but not the best so it was convenient to have on the go for access to maps, making calls and bookings. Keep small change in your car. When parked, you’ll often have guys patrolling the car parks, it’s not expected but it’s nice to give a small tip.
- Day 1 – Cape Town to Franschhoek (81.5 km/1 hr 15 minutes)
- Day 2 – Franschhoek to Gansbaai (138 km/1 hr 45 minutes) and Gansbaai to Oudtshoorn (357 km/ 4 hours )
- Day 3 – Oudtshoorn to Knysna (119 km/ 1 hr 45 minutes)
- Day 4 – Knysna to Plettenberg Bay (32 km/ 25 minutes)
- Day 5 & 6 – Plettenberg Bay to Jeffrey’s Bay (163 km/ 1 hr 45 minutes)
- Day 7 & 8 – Jeffrey’s Bay to Addo (115 km/ 1 hr 35 minutes)
- Day 9 – Addo to Bloemfontein (564 km 5 hrs 45 minutes)
- Day 10 – Bloemfontein to Pretoria ( 424 km 4 hrs 15 minutes)
CAPE TOWN – FRANSCHHOEK
Our first stop was the beautiful wine region of Franschhoek. We stayed at Otters Bend Lodge and it was very affordable (especially for the area), the owner was brilliant, the room was sufficient and it was very peaceful. Double room – 440 ZAR
For something different, we hopped on the Franschhoek Wine Tram (200 ZAR per person) which is an open air hop on hop off tram/bus and it was a lot of fun. The tram runs on an hourly schedule and has a variety of routes with descriptions of all the different wineries to help you choose what suits best. Most of the wineries have the option for lunch whether it be a picnic or in one of the restaurants. We enjoyed a picnic in one of the most picturesque settings at Mont Rochelle.
Wine tastings ranged from 25 ZAR per tasting (that’s not even $2 USD :O ) to 40 ZAR per tasting depending on the quality and with the wine tram voucher, some were complimentary.
FRANSCHHOEK – GANSBAAI
With an early start the next morning, we drove straight towards Gansbaai. Unfortunately, had it been in the season we would have stopped in the town of Hermanus to go whale watching. Be sure to stop by if you’re passing through between July and November and check out this site for the best places to see the whales.
GANSBAAI – OUDTSHOORN
This was one of our longest driving days but to be honest, it wasn’t so bad. Put on some Lion King music and you’ll be set to go 🙂
Shark Diving – Gansbaai is very well known for its great white shark cage diving. Many tour companies offer this same tour but we went with White Shark Diving Company. They were very professional, fun and one of the cheapest. Although not terribly fond of being so close to sharks, this was a thrill we were willing to join in on. As we reached our point in the ocean, we had no time at all to think about the 14 Celsius water or the sharks that were circling the cages.
Our wetsuits and goggles were thrown to us and we were told to jump right into the cage. Within seconds, 2 sharks came right up to us, one of them being a whopping 4.3 m in length. We spent just over 40 minutes in the water at 2 different times and it was one of the coolest things (no pun intended) we’ve ever done. Total cost – 1600 ZAR per person.
Ronnie’s Sex Shop – As a prank, Ronnie’s friends painted SEX next to his shop name on Route 62. He was initially angry about the involuntary name change, but after many drinks with his friends at the shop, they suggested he open up a pub instead. Since then, it’s been known as South African’s strangest pub and the name draws locals and tourists in from all over the world. Inside, the walls are filled with graffiti, underwear and shirts hanging from the ceiling and postcards, photos and stickers cover the walls. Stop here for a bite to eat or a cold drink!
OUDTSHOORN – KNYSNA
Who would have thought a town would be so well known for a bird?! Oudtshoorn, however, is the Ostrich capital of the world. At first, we were a little apprehensive about stopping by in this town but after some curiosity, we ended up spending the night here and we’re glad we did. Karoo Soul Backpackers & Cottages was a total treat and definitely didn’t feel like a backpackers! King bed? Yes, please! Double room – 480 ZAR
When visiting Oudtshoorn, there are 2 things you cannot miss! The High Gate Ostrich Farm and Cango Wildlife Ranch.
High Gate Ostrich Farm – High Gate Ostrich Show Farm is the original and the oldest farm in the town. A tour for 1.5/2 hours around the farm will have you more interested in these birds than you ever were before. We learnt about the different feathers, the male and females mannerisms, how they breed, feed and nest. We were able to feed them, stand on their eggs and even go for a ride. Yes, a ride on the ostrich. One of the most amusing things we’ve ever done. Before you panic that this is painful for the bird, the farm is very strict about the weight limits allowed on these birds and we passed! The total cost of the tour + ride 140 ZAR per person.
Cango Wildlife Ranch – A zoo filled with everything from small fish to lemurs and lions. We had 2 awesome animal encounters here, first with the cheetah and then cage diving with crocodiles. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this anywhere else in the world so we were pretty stoked to jump in with these guys! They were pretty mellow (thankfully) but we could see right into their beady eyes and through their sharp teeth. Total cost: 270 ZAR for a premium ticket (entrance + one animal encounter) and 180 ZAR per encounter after. With no animal encounters ZAR 140.
In 24 hours, we swam with sharks, crocodiles, patted a cheetah and rode an ostrich. It’s not every day we’ve said that before!
KNYSNA – PLETTENBERG BAY
Thankfully Knysna wasn’t a far drive from Oudtshoorn and we reached there by afternoon. We stayed at Jembjo’s Knysna Lodge & Backpackers. The lodge is in a great location, the owners are past travellers and have set up a very cosy atmosphere with private and dorm rooms. They included breakfast and all the information you need for the surrounding areas. Double room – 400 ZAR
Knysna has a beautiful waterfront, although half the size of the one in Cape Town, it still has a nice selection of restaurants and shops. Enjoy lunch or dinner at 35 South but be prepared to spend some time flicking through the elaborate menu.
Knysna Heads – After lunch, we spent the afternoon taking in the view at Knysna Heads. Two dramatic sea cliffs guard the entrance to the lagoon from the surging ocean. The Eastern Head has a lookout with spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna whilst the Western Head is primarily a privately owned nature reserve reached only by ferry: Featherbed Nature Reserve. Daily excursions depart from the waterfront.
Be sure to visit both sides of the heads and at the bottom of the Eastern Head enjoy a meal or cocktail at Senza.
Town Ship Tour – You can never really understand how other people live there until you see it first hand. Although some may find these tours invasive, if you go with the right company, at least you know where your money is going. Emzini Tours were fantastic. Owned by 2 ladies, Penny and Ella, Ella grew up with great struggles in the township herself and was able to give us an insight into daily life of the people in the townships. Incredibly moving, I found myself walking away to wipe a tear more than once.
Throughout the 3 hours, we learnt some of the local languages, played the drums, visited the local stores, libraries, a child care centre and finished the morning off with tea in Ella’s house. Total cost – 400 ZAR per person with 100% going back into the community.
PLETTENBERG BAY – JEFFREY’S BAY
Plettenberg Bay is one of the most popular stops along the Garden Route and very popular over the summer months. We stayed at African Array Lodge and Backpackers and it was our favourite hostel of them all. Overlooking some breathtaking scenery, they lit fires every night, had huge rooms, fast WiFi, fun staff & top quality meals. Double room 360 ZAR.
Africanyon – Adventures really are so endless on this route. Abseiling down a waterfall? Why not. Africanyon offers 2 and 4-hour canyoning, aka kloofing excursions. The water was rather cold at this time of the year (April) but they gave us 2 wetsuits which helped. We went abseiling down waterfalls, zip lining, swimming through the canyons, jumping off and navigating over rocks. It was something so different and the guides were incredible. Finish your afternoon off with lunch at the Peppermill Cafe right behind their office. Total cost for the 4hr tour – 700 ZAR + 35 for water shoes (can provide your own) and an optional 150 ZAR for the photos.
Robberg Nature Reserve is a must do in Plettenberg Bay…shame I cut my toe open the day before! Considering I now couldn’t walk, hiking was out of the question but if you visit, please do the hikes! They range from 2 hours to 5 hours and the trails are stunning. Bring lunch, water and a full camera battery! We didn’t want to miss out altogether so we headed up there for the views instead and had a small hobble down a little trail. Total cost – 40 ZAR per person.
If you love the ocean, Ocean Safari runs great tours to spot whales, sharks, dolphins & seals. Prices vary depending on the tour and time of the year.
Bungy Jumping – En Route to Jeffrey’s Bay, we hit up the Boulkrans Bridge to face our fears head first, jumping off the world’s highest bungee bridge jump at 216 m (708 ft) m! Face Adrenalin is the only company that does the jumps and without the encouragement of them, I’m not sure I would have made it off the edge! They were super professional and the loud music got your Adrenalin pumping. Total cost – 850 ZAR per person
JEFFREY’S BAY – ADDO
Next stop was Jeffrey’s Bay, also known as J-Bay. Jeffrey’s Bay is the surf capital of South Africa and holds the J- Bay Winter Fest every year in July. We stayed at African Ubuntu Backpackers. It had single/double and dorm rooms, a very chill atmosphere, included breakfast, sea views, braais (bbq) cooked every other evening and a diverse group of guests. Double room 320 ZAR.
There isn’t a lot to do in Jeffrey’s Bay other than surf, so if you love to surf, you’ll be in heaven. It is a small town but it made it a very relaxing 2-night stay for us. You can rent surfboards everywhere you look and there are many different beaches to head out too. Jacob went out surfing and I played photographer.
Once done surfing, we spent the afternoon at the Surf Village. A small area with many factory shops selling discounted surf brands such as Billabong, Quicksilver, Roxy, Element & Rip Curl. We picked up some awesome bargains!
ADDO – PRETORIA via BLOEMFONTEIN
We had just under a 2-hour drive to reach Addo. The home of Addo Elephant National Park. This park is why most, if not all tourists visit this area but it wasn’t on our agenda.
I had reached out to a lady, Muffy, a year back when we had begun this trip. Muffy runs and manages Langbos Creche & Child Centre. A place for children to obtain an education and to feel safe in the middle of a very poverty stricken township with no running water or electricity. Words cannot describe this lady and what she does for her surrounding community.
We spent some time with the children at the creche, bringing them little treats and watching their faces light up. They were very fascinated with Jacob and I and especially my hair, after all, it is very different to African hair! They sang & danced for us and we left smothered in kisses. After leaving the creche, Jacob and I spent the night at Muffy’s house with her family and we chatted for hours about the history, all that has been done over the years and what she has planned for the future.
This whole experience has left an everlasting impression on both Jacob and I and we left Addo with our heartstrings pulled. Visiting the centre wasn’t enough and it got us thinking about how we could help. For this, we’ve set up a fundraiser page and on here you can find more detailed information about the centre and projects. If this is something you would like to contribute too, please do so here. All donations will go directly to Langbos.
Married days survived: 428