The garden route is one of the most famous and most beautiful routes in South Africa l. You drive through an enormously varied landscape of half desert, colorful pine forests, lush deciduous forests, rocky mountains and beautiful coastlines.
We took 11 days to travel from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and back. Here you can find our mapped out route including tips for unforgettable experiences, amazing activities, delicious food and wonderful overnight stays.
Day 1: Port Elizabeth – Addo National Elephant Park
After a long flight from Brussels to Johannesburg and a slightly less long flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, our road trip could finally start.
Our first stop was the Addo Elephant Park. This is a national wildlife park where you can spot different animals, but it is especially known for its many elephants. You can make a day trip or stay for several days and spend the night in one of the camps within the park. Visiting the park is possible through a guided group tour or a self drive.
We chose to explore the park with just the two of us in our own car. The feeling of going on safari for the first time is indescribable. You don’t want to miss anything, so you are constantly in full suspense. When you actually spot an animal or better yet it suddenly pops up before you on the road, it is unimaginable! I found this activity one of the most amazing and enchanting moments of our trip.
We stayed 1 night in a chalet in the main camp of the Addo Park. This was a unique experience. Every chalet is equipped with a barbecue, so we took full advantage of this. Food products could be purchased in the shop at the reception, so you didn’t have to leave the park to do some groceries.
From the terrace of the chalet we had a beautiful view over the park. It was very peaceful and relaxing to sit there. We also witnessed a stunning sunset from there. Our first day was amazing and we were curious what this vacation had in store for us.
Day 2: Addo National Elephant Park – Knysna
The next morning we woke up early. The park opened at 5.30 am and we wanted to see if we could spot several more animals before we left. Unfortunately we didn’t see lions. But this didn’t make our visit to the Addo Park any less satisfying.
After our morning safari we left for Knysna. We made a lunch stop in Jeffreys Bay famous for surfing, so we could admire the beautiful white beach.
This is where the official garden route starts along the N2. From there we saw the landscape of half desert and rocks transforming into the colorful pine forests of Tsitsikamma National Park. We stopped here to admire the impressive Paul Sauer bridge over the Stroms river and then drove on to Knysna. Again we saw the landscape change from coniferous forests to lush deciduous forests and finally into a beautiful coastline.
We arrived at Parkes Manor, our destination in Knysna. This unique stay I would definitely recommend. It is a beautiful old country house completely renovated into a guest house with well kept authentic elements. We enjoyed a delicious cocktail by the pool and in the evening we had dinner here with an enchanting view over the lagoon of Knysna. The meal was truly delicious and this was a perfect ending for this long day.
Day 3: Waterfall trail in Tsitsikamma National park
After a delicious breakfast at Parkes Manor we went to the Tsitsikamma National park. We drove the same route again as the day before, but I did not mind at all. This way I could enjoy the beautiful views again.
Along the way you pass the famous but quite touristy place Plettenberg Bay, where you can hike beautiful trails. Moreover, on the main road to Plettenberg Bay you will find all kinds of local initiatives which offer various activities such as monkeyland, birds paradise, … Unfortunately we could not explore this area because of a lack of time, but in every travel guide this place is highly recommended.
The Tsitsikamma National park is a wide area along the coast. The park is, like all recognized national parks in South Africa, paying. Here you can also choose different formulas with or without staying overnight. The park is best known for its wide range of adventurous activities such as hiking, kayaking, ziplining and even bungee jumping. We decided to hike the waterfall trail This is a medium walking trail of 6 km along the rocky coastline, with as icing on the cake a beautiful waterfall.
Here and there there are a number of challenging parts where you have to climb and clamber. So make sure you have suitable footwear and don’t forget your swimwear!
Day 4: Knysna – oudtshoorn – Barrydale
We had imagined our last day in Knysna completely different. We would have liked to explore this area a bit more. The Knysna heads where you have a beautiful view over the Lagoon was one of the excursions on our program.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t agree with our plans. So we decided to continue our road trip towards Barrydale. This time we didn’t choose for the N2, but for route 62 through the Karoo. This is a region less visited by tourists, but definitely worth driving through.
We stopped for lunch in Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. We ate in a nice outdoor restaurant La Dolce Vita. In the meantime the weather had cleared up.
Afterwards we drove up the R62 and immediately got the American roadtrip feeling. Suddenly you end up in a no man’s land that consists of dry landscape with some bushes. In the horizon you can see impressive mountain ranges. It reminded me of a scene from a western film.
Almost arrived in Barrydale you pass Ronnies sexshop. This is now one of the most famous pubs in South Africa. Originally, Ronnie opened a store here and wrote in red letters Ronnies Shop on the wall. Some of his tipsy friends added the word sex. This drunken joke made Ronnies pub world-famous. From everywhere spectators come here to take pictures with this facade and drink a beer with Ronnie. The interior is also quite funny. Many women leave their bra as a souvenir here. I think you can imagine something.
In Barrydale we stayed in a small but very cozy guest house, Doodle Dens. Every room here is named after an endangered species because the owners want to make visitors more aware of this problem. I think this is a wonderful initiative. It is certainly a nice place to stay during your road trip along route 62. For a tasty diner you best go to the restaurant of the Karoo Art hotel.
Day 5: Barrydale – Hermanus – Stellenbosch
A definitely not to be missed spot on route 62 is Diesel & Creme in Barrydale. This diner is simply spectacular. The owners decorated the shop with vintage billboards and petrol pumps and this way created the atmosphere of a typical American diner from the 1950s. We enjoyed a nice breakfast in a sublime setting.
After Barrydale we decided to leave the R62 and drive to Hermanus via Swellendam. The route between Barrydale and Swellendam is so impressive. You drive past the most fascinating rock formations. It is certainly worth stopping now and then to take pictures.
Hermanus is a small, coastal tourist town better known as whale city, because you can spot whales along the coast during the season (June to November). Unfortunately, we were just there outside the season. Yet Hermanus is certainly worth a visit. We stayed there for a few hours.
From the coastal path you really have the most impressive views over the ocean. According to some locals we met, it is definitely recommended to go to Gansbaai a small town a little further. There you can book an excursion to go cage dive with sharks. On this boat trip you can also spot whales and dolphins.
When we arrived in Stellenbosch we quickly made plans to dine with friends who happened to be here on vacation too. On their recommendation we booked a table at Le petit Manoir in Franschoek. For all foodies among us, this is a must do! Here you can have a culinary dinner at very democratic prices. So we ended another wonderful day in style.
Day 6: Stellenbosch – Franschoek
When we planned our trip to South Africa, Stellenbosch was one of the first destinations on our list. Admit it, who isn’t crazy about wine? A day of wine tasting was an essential activity for us.
We started our wine route in the Kleinze Zalze. The name speaks for itself. This is a small but very authentic winery . Here you can taste and buy wine at great prices. We quickly became a fan of their delicious red wine and took a few bottles home.
After our first wine tasting at 10 am we felt the need to lunch. We called the restaurant of winery Delaire Graff and fortunately there was a table for 2 available. Again we enjoyed a sublime kitchen with tasty wines and great views over the mountains. After a short stroll on their beautiful domain we drove on to Franschoek.
The road from Stellenbosch to Franschoek is enchanting. If I am honest, Franschoek is much nicer and more pleasant than Stellenbosch. The latter is actually a university town with a less cosy atmosphere.
As last destination we visited the immense domain of Babylonstoren. Here you can get wanderfully lost for hours and find the most gorgeous spots.
If I could relive these two days, I would certainly make the decision to stay in a lodge on a winery instead of a hotel. This way you can experience the wine region and the impressive countryside to the fullest.
Day 7: Stellenbosch – Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope – Boulders beach
From Stellenbosch we left for Cape Point, the southernmost point of the Cape peninsula. Cape Point is part of the Table Mountain National park and is therefore paying. You can easily drive from the entrance to the parking lot near Cape Point. Cape point with its beautiful historical lighthouse, is located on top of the sea cliffs. You can choose to climb it via a steep road or simply take the cable lift. On top of Cape Point you have a stunning view over the Indian and Atlantic Ocean.
From the parking lot you can also walk to Cape of Good Hope via a designated hiking trail. From here you have enchanting views over the impressive rocky coastline. On the route you can also descend to a breathtaking, deserted white beach.
Arriving at the top of Cape of Good Hope it is advisable to take a break and enjoy all the beauty this area has to offer.
You can also descend the cape to take a picture with the notorious nameplate of Cape of Good Hope. Even though there can be a waiting line, a photo to perpetuate this moment makes the waiting completely worthwhile.
On our way back to our next stay we made another stop at Boulders Beach which is world famous for its most adorable inhabitants, the penguins.
I was determined to see the penguins, but when we entered Boulders Beach I was rather disappointed. I saw an overcrowded, small beach and there was no penguin to be seen. We decided to walk around since we had paid an entrance fee. Then we saw some people climbing the rocks at the end of the beach and decided to do the same. This was the best decision ever, because suddenly we were in the middle of the Penguins!
Day 8: Muizenberg Beach – Hout bay – Bo-kaap – Victoria & Albert waterfront
Waking up in yet another gorgeous location in the green suburb of Cape Town. This time we chose for a stay at the Alphen Lodge in Constantia.
For us this was the perfect base to explore both Cape Peninsula and Cape Town itself. This region is best known for its wine production and the famous breathtaking Kirstenbosch botanical gardens.
The first stop that day was the Muizenberg beach This is one of the most photographed places in South Africa. Many tourists come here to admire the cute coloured beach house. You can imagine that it can be very busy here. It is not really the best place to have some relaxing beach time, but for a nice picture it is really worth a visit.
We drove on to Hout Bay. This harbor town with an extensive white beach, is situated around a pier where you can experience the historical British colonial atmosphere. Don’t miss out on some delicious Fish & Chips!
From this port you can take the boat to the island of Sea lions. If you are lucky, you can spot some sea lions from this pier. Even better, you can pet these cuties in exchange for a piece of fish.
Time to take in the city atmosphere in Cape Town. What better way than to wander around in between the coloured houses of Bo-kaap.
This is a small but cozy Malaysian neighborhood. The main street attracts many tourists. The colored houses make the perfect backdrop for an instaworthy picture. If you leave the main street you can still discover a lot of hidden gems.
Towards the evening we went to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. This is a rather touristy, modern neighborhood with shopping centers and restaurants. Even though I didn’t feel the South African vibe here, it is a nice place to stroll around in the evening. It can get very busy here during high season and the holidays. if you want to dine nearby, it’s better to reserve a spot in the restaurant of your choice. According to friends, the Belgian restaurant Den Anker is definitely a good choice.
Day 9: Chapman’s peak drive – Camps bay – Tafelberg – Signal Hill – Lions head
We started the day with Chapman’ s Peak drive, known as one of the most scenic roads in the world. To reach this route you have to pay an entrance fee . You drive in the midst of immense rocks and giant cliffs. The ride is quite impressive. We stopped several times to admire the views.
Next we drove to Camps Bay. Our original plan was to have lunch there. But it was so busy that we didn’t even pull over. We returned along Kloof Road where we suddenly saw a sign to a restaurant. We decided to follow the sign and discovered a truly hidden gem. The Lawns At The Roundhouse is an open-air restaurant with a view of Camps Bay. It was really great sitting there in a relaxing atmosphere. If you pass by you should definitely stop here even though it is only for a drink. We also had a very delicious lunch.
We wanted to climb Lions Head before sundown. In the meantime we went to see if we could quickly go to the top of Table Mountain by cable car. It was also very busy. A tip is to order tickets online before you go so you don’t have to wait in line for hours. Alternatively we drove to Signal Hill where you also have beautiful views over Cape Town.
The best view, of course, remains that from the top of Lions Head.
The climb is quite intense, especially the last few steps to the top. Make sure you wear good shoes. don’t forget to take a sweater and plenty of water. The higher you go, the more windy it can be.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a dreamy sunset. Just before the sun went down, it became cloudy and started to rain. Actually that was also quite impressive. Even without a perfect sunset, climbing Lions Head was definitely worth it. And bonus, it was a good and solid workout.
Day 10: Cape Town – Mossel bay
Our penultimate day we returned to Port Elizabeth with only one more night in Mossel Bay. We chose Mossel Bay because this harbor town is located exactly halfway on the route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. Even though we stayed here only one night, this place didn’t suit us at all. Was this due to the rainy weather, the less interesting environment or the fact that our vacation was almost finished? I can’t explain it .
Yet I would not recommend this city. There are other more beautiful and better alternatives. For example, you can stay a day longer in Cape Town or plan a last night in the area of Knysna, Pletterberg Bay or Tsitsikamma National Park.
Day 11: Mossel Bay – Port Elizabeth
A little disappointed we left early the next morning in direction of the airport of Port Elizabeth. When we drove past Knysna, we decided to stop one last time to have breakfast in the picturesque village. Meanwhile, we bought some souvenirs from local merchants. This visit brightened us up and for the last time we got into our rental car that had taken us to all these amazing and fascinating destinations during the last two weeks.
After this vacation I can definitely say that the Garden Route with these stops is one of the most beautiful and varied road trips I have ever done. I would certainly recommend this route to everyone of all ages with or without children. Don’t forget to include the mentioned modifications and adapt the route according to your own interests.
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