The Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is one of many “hidden stretches of paradise” in South Africa. Although I previously visited points along the circuit, driving the Garden Route is my next adventure.
I’ll begin the drive in October and am researching the area to decide which direction to take and what attractions to include. There’s so much territory to explore, it’s a challenge deciding where to stop and for how long.
Along South Africa’s Garden Route, “be at one with the indigenous forests, ever-changing sea, mysterious rivers, and wondrous lakes”.
The Garden Route can be driven in ten hours, but “hidden destinations and side roads are the region’s secret jewels”. The two routes to choose from are inland and coastal.
The route less traveled – Inland R62 – passes stunning mountain scenery and quaint, historic towns:
- Barrydale – fruit orchards and farmland in the Tradouw Valley
- Montagu – hiking, rock climbing paradise of Langeberg
- Calitzdorp – port wine capital
- Oudtshoorn – ostrich capital
- Cango Caves – world’s largest Precambrian stalagmite formations
- Prince Albert – historic village at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains
- Swartberg Pass – mysterious old gravel road pass
- Colesberg – merino sheep, racehorses, Doornkloof Nature Reserve
- Outeniqua Pass – majestic Outeniqua Mountains, Little Karoo
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”.
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,” making Prince Albert one of South Africa’s prettiest towns.
As it “meanders along the coast from Heidelberg in the West to Storms River in the East,” Garden Route scenery is breathtaking!
“Prince Albert has excellent restored architecture – Cape Dutch, Karoo, and Victorian. 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“.
The Garden Route “can be driven in ten hours, but hidden destinations and side roads are the region’s secret jewels”.
The coastal N2 route is a “brilliant marine drive” snaking along the Indian Ocean:
- Whale watching paradise
- Golden canola and wheat fields with a mountain backdrop
- Swellendam – 3rd oldest city with Cape Dutch architecture
- Mossel Bay – blue flag beaches and shark cage diving
- George – golf courses and museums
- Ramsar Wilderness Lakes – five wilderness lakes
- Knysna – Elephant Park, Monkeyland, Birds of Eden
- Plettenberg Bay – Robberg Hike
- Jeffreys Bay – surfing capital
- Port Elizabeth – major seaport Nelson Mandela Bay
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.
“Prince Albert has beautifully restored Cape Dutch, Karoo, and Victorian architecture. A number of the buildings are National Monuments.”
“Rivers 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. There are many hiking choices, including famous Otter and Dolphin trails.”
The Otter Trail is a famous South African hike through river crossings, coastal forests, and viewpoints with spectacular gorges and waterfalls. It’s a five-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.
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!
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:
- Gondwana Game Reserve
- Kariega Game Reserve
- Pumba Big 5 Game Reserve
- Lalibela Game Reserve
- Shamwari Game Reserve
I may switch back and forth between the inland and coastal routes, hike, and visit affordable game reserves. Tsitsikamma Waterfall Zipline sounds fun. Planning the itinerary is a bit overwhelming, but I’ve a few weeks to get things together. More posts in October, when I experience these spectacular places!