Garden Route – South Africa’s Hidden Stretch of Paradise


Outeniqua Pass

The Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is South Africa’s “hidden stretch of paradise”. Although I visited points along the popular circuit years ago, the Garden Route is my next South African adventure.

Kwena Lodge Gondwana Game Reserve Garden Route

Beginning in October, I’ll be driving the route. I’m researching the area to decide which direction to take and what attractions to include. There’s so much exciting territory to explore, it’s a challenge deciding where to stop and for how long.

Bridge along the N2 Coastal Garden Route

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Along South Africa’s Garden Route, “be at one with the indigenous forests, ever-changing sea, mysterious rivers, and wondrous lakes”.

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Knysna Lagoon
George Golf Course

The Garden Route can be driven in less than ten hours, but “hidden destinations and side roads are the region’s secret jewels”. The two routes to choose from are inland and coastal.

Overberg Merino Sheep – Peter Chadwick photodestination.co.za
Skyline Port Elizabeth – southafrica.to
The route less traveled – Inland R62 – passes stunning mountain scenery and quaint, historic towns:
Great Karoo
Karoo Architecture – Graaff-Reinet

It’s recommended to take at least three days for the R62 and allow an extra day for the Prince Albert Circuit. Prince Albert is in the arid Karoo Plains, an “oasis on the southern edge of the Great Karoo”.

Prince Albert Bungalow

The town’s water supply flows from springs in the Swartberg Mountains. The spring water “runs in irrigation furrows bringing gardens and orchards to life” and making Prince Albert one of South Africa’s prettiest towns.

De Bergkant Lodge Prince Albert
Cape Dutch Architecture – The English Room

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As it “meanders along the coast from Heidelberg in the West to Storms River in the East,” Garden Route scenery is breathtaking!

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Surfer Jeffreys Bay – True Blue Travel
Jeffreys Bay – John Seaton Callahan Getty Images

“Prince Albert has restored Cape Dutch, Karoo, and Victorian architecture. Some buildings are National Monuments”. Originally, Prince Albert was a small town founded in 1762 on Kweekvallei (Valley of Plenty) farm. After gaining municipal status in 1845 the town was “renamed Prince Albert in honor of Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg“.

Prince Albert Farm

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The Garden Route “can be driven in ten hours, but hidden destinations and side roads are the region’s secret jewels”.

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Bottlenose Dolphins Garden Route South Africa – discoverafrica.com
Victorian Architecture – bugbog.com
A “brilliant marine drive” snaking along the Indian Ocean, the Coastal N2 route passes:
Canola Fields Swellendam
Heidelberg
Inland R62 and Coastal N2 Garden Routes

Parks and reserves along the Garden Route include Tsitsikamma National Park. Tsitsikamma (sits-ee-cah-ma) is a coastal reserve that protects South Africa’s indigenous forest and giant trees like the Outeniqua Yellowwood – South Africa’s National Tree.

Outeniqua Yellowwood – African Budget Safaris
Ostriches Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn Ostrich – boldtravel.com

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“Prince Albert has beautifully restored Cape Dutch, Karoo, and Victorian architecture. A number of the buildings are National Monuments.”

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Garden Route N2 Beach

“Rivers in the area carve deep gorges as they wind down from the plateau to the sea. The Tsitsikamma Forest is home to adventurous activities like Bloukrans Bridge bungee jumping, Tsitsikamma Zipline Canopy Tour, Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline, and the Storms River Adventure Center. Hiking choices are abundant, including famous Otter and Dolphin trails.”

Chris Davies Otter Trail

The Otter Trail is a famous South African hike through coastal forests, river crossings, and viewpoints with spectacular gorges and waterfalls. It’s a 5-day hike along the Tsitsikamma coastline, from the Storms River mouth in the east to Nature’s Valley in the west. Bookings open a year in advance and sell quickly.

Storms River Tsitsikamma National Park – sa-venues.com
Along Dolphin Trail

The Dolphin Trail is a challenging hike covering ten miles in Tsitsikamma. The hike begins at Storms River mouth and winds east through fynbos and pristine indigenous forest. It ends on the banks of the Sandrift River at The Fernery. This hike is on my bucket list!

Swartberg Pass – oudtshoorn.com
Oudtshoorn Klein (Little) Karoo

Port Elizabeth marks the end of the Garden Route, but it’s also the gateway to Addo Elephant Park and the Eastern Cape’s private Big 5 game reserves:

Elephant Family Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant Park

I’ll probably switch back and forth between the inland and coastal routes, hike, and enjoy affordable game reserves. Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline sounds fun. Planning the itinerary is a bit overwhelming, but I have a few weeks to get things together. More posts in October, when I experience these spectacular places!

Outeniqua Mountain Range
Outeniqua Mountain Range
Jeffreys Bay
Swellendam