Itinerary Garden Route South Africa: the most beautiful road trip from Cape Town to Plettenberg and back!

Are you planning a trip along the Garden Route in South Africa? Then we have put together the ultimate Garden Route itinerary for you! In this blog we tell you everything about this road trip that is literally a round trip. In 2 weeks you travel from Cape Town via all kinds of highlights to Plettenberg (the end of the Garden Route) and then drive back to Cape Town via a different route. The ultimate road trip for when you stay in the south of South Africa. Read on quickly!Plettenberg


Garden Route in South Africa

The Garden Route in South Africa is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Yes areas, because even though the name says “route”, this really means an area. Roughly speaking, the Garden Route covers the area between Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay. According to some sources it ends in Addo, but after the Plettenberg Bay area you will encounter few other highlights. The Garden route owes its name to the beautiful green nature. In this part of South Africa the climate is temperate and there is enough rainfall to make this area so green. You will pass a number of beautiful national parks, breathtaking views and nice villages.

To help you plan your Garden Route itinerary, we’ve put together a great road trip that lets you experience culture, nature and beautiful beaches. Further on in this blog is a brief description of what to expect for each destination along the Garden Route. This way you can judge for yourself whether you want to add the destination to your road trip along the Garden Route in South Africa!Wilderness 7

Itinerary Garden Route up and down in 2 weeks

Many people think that a road trip along the Garden Route is a one-way trip where you go back to Cape Town from Plettenberg Bay or Addo or have to fly on to another destination in South Africa. However, we have deliberately chosen to make a road trip that goes up and down from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay. But without traveling the same way. And so we arrive at this special itinerary for the Garden Route. So it really is a tour in a circle along all the highlights of the Garden Route.

Garden Route road trip

Cape Town – Hermanus – Swellendam –Wilderness – Knysna – Plettenberg – Oudtshoorn – Montuagu – Paarl – Stellenbosch – Cape Town

Itinerary South africa 3 weeks 1

Day planning itinerary 2 weeks Garden Route

Day 1: Cape Town
Day 2: Cape Town
Day 3: Cape Town
Day 4: Cape Town– Hermanus (1,5 hour driving)
Day 5: Hermanus – Swellendam – Wilderness (4 hour driving)
Day 6: Wilderness
Day 7: Wilderness – Kysna – Plettenberg (1,5 hour driving)

Day 8: Plettenberg
Day 9: Plettenberg
Day 10: Plettenberg – Oudtshoorn (2 hour driving)
Day 11: Oudtshoorn – Montagu (2,5 hour driving)
Day 12: Montagu – Paarl – Stellenbosch (2,5 hour driving)
Day 13: Stellenbosch
Day 14: Stellenbosch – Cape Town (30 min driving)

roadtrip zuid afrika

Itinerary description 2 weeks Garden route

You travel from Cape Town along the Chapmans Peak Drive and then via route 44 along the coast to Hermanus. Then take the N2 through the countryside towards Swellendam. Back to the coast you travel to the cozy town of Wilderness where you do a safari at Botlierskop. Then you drive through the beautiful green landscape to Plettenberg Bay. Be sure to stop for lunch in Knysna. Plettenberg Bay is the place for multiple hikes and adventure.

Back to Cape Town you take the inland route. First you pass through Oudtshoorn, known for its ostriches. Via the exciting route 62 you travel to the beautiful village of Montagu, surrounded by mountains. The last part of this Garden Route road trip goes via the Cogmanskloof to Paarl to arrive via the R101 at the Stellenbosch wine region. Here you will stay the last days before you return to Cape Town.

Scenic ocean drive Cape Town South Africa 1

Car rental in South Africa

We recommend that you rent a car to travel the Garden Route. This does not have to be expensive at all in South Africa. Do you want to rent a car without hassle? Then opt for a car via SunnyCars. With Sunny Cars we often book rental cars within and outside Europe because they have you fully covered in terms of insurance and you can contact them 24/7 with all your questions!


Highlights Garden Route: All destinations at a glance!

Below we describe all the destinations of the above Garden Route road trip and we give tips of nice places to stop along the way.

A general road trip tip: along the route you will find several “padstals”. These are roadside restaurants, but often very nice and with very good food. We are a fan of the Ou Meul chain where you can not only order delicious fresh food, but also buy nice accessories.

Cape Town

The Garden Route road trip starts in Cape Town, a great city with a lot of culture and surrounded by beautiful nature. Wherever you are in Cape Town, you will always see the famous Table Mountain somewhere. This mountain range is located right in the center and we really recommend that you climb it. The hike to Lions Head early in the morning is also a must.

Cape Town is known for its beautiful beaches. We liked Hout Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay the most. Do you like to surf? Then go to Muizenberg beach. Also very special are the beaches where whole penguin colonies live. You can find these at Boulders and Simon’s Town.Lions head view from Table Mountain Cape Town South Africa

In terms of culture, we recommend that you admire the Bo Kaap district with its colorful houses. Or to go to Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.

All these are just a few highlights of Cape Town. The city and the surrounding area have so much more to offer! Read our Cape Town blog for extensive tips! We recommend that you stay in Cape Town for at least 3 days. In three days you have time to do a number of Cape Town highlights, but if you have more time, you will definitely not be bored here!

Hotel tip Cape Town: Mountview Guest House

Cape Town 3

Cape Town to Hermanus: 1.5 hours

You start driving from Cape Town to Hermanus, which takes about 1.5 hours. First drive the Chapmans Peak Drive, the famous route with great views of the Cape of Good Hope. And then follow route 44 along the coast, just like the Chapman’s Peak drive, a beautiful route. Take the time to stop at the side of the road a few times, for example here on False Bay. From here you have a great chance to spot whales!Scenic ocean drive Cape Town South Africa

Hermanus

Hermanus is a village known for the whales and seals that you see a lot here. This is the best place to spot whales from land because the sea can get very deep here. The whale season is between June and December, seals can be found here all year round.

You can admire whales from the coast, but it is also possible to go out to sea with a boat to spot them. Click here to book a whale watching tour with a company that spot whales in a responsible way (not too close).

Another fun activity is walking the coastal path that runs over the cliffs. This 11-kilometer route is called the Cliff Path Trail.

Hotel tip Hermanus: Penguino Guesthouse

Hermanus 2

Hermanus to Swellendam: 2.5 hours

You drive inland via the N2. First you come through a rugged mountain landscape, then the environment suddenly changes into countryside. Along the way you will come across the winery Creation Wines. Well worth stopping.On the road Zuid Afrika

Swellendam

In Swellendam you experience the real countryside of South Africa! A bit of “the wild west” in South Africa in terms of vibe. It is a small city with a lot of history and nature in the area. Like the Bontebak National Park and various nature reserves are located nearby.

Swellendam is built around the Voortrek Street. There is no real clear center. The city is perfect as a stopover for lunch. Most restaurants can be found at the end of Voortrek Street, when it turns into Swellengrebel Street. We had lunch at Republic of Swellendam, a nice no-nonsense restaurant.

Hotel tip Swellendam: Aan de Oever Guesthouse

Swellendam

Swellendam to Wilderness: 2.5 hours

After lunch in Swellendam you are charged for the remaining route. This continues via the N2. This part is less interesting up to Mossel Bay. Then the N2 continues along the coast and you can again enjoy beautiful views all the way to Wilderness. You may consider stopping in Mossel Bay to admire the “Point of Human Origins”. This is a cave where people have excavated various objects made by early man. In addition, you have a nice sea view from here.

From Mossel Bay the route becomes really green and with mountains in the background. Everywhere you’ll see flowers and forests. Now it is clear why this is called the Garden Route.Wilderness 11

Wilderness

Wilderness is a nice village with a relaxed vibe. In addition, it is the perfect base for a number of highlights in the area. Here you have the Wilderness National Park, where you can do a cool hike. You are also close to the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, the place to do a game drive.

At almost all private game reserves you cannot just do a game drive, for that you have to stay in the specific reserve and that is not cheap. This place is therefore unique because you can do a very affordable game reserve here without staying overnight. Afterwards you can enjoy a nice lunch, the swimming pool or a massage. Highly recommended!

There are many more fun things to do in Wilderness. So read our Wilderness blog for all the tips!

Hotel Tip Wilderness: Pearl Moon Boutique Suites

Wilderness 3

Wilderness to Knysna: 45 minutes

The drive from Wilderness to Knysna is not long, but very beautiful! You drive along the sea on one side and along all kinds of lakes and lagoons on the other.


Knysna

Knysna is a typical holiday resort. The city is scattered on a lagoon that ends at sea and on small islands in the lagoon. The town itself is not very special, but what is worth visiting here is Knysna Heads. This is the highest part of the city, with several breathtaking viewpoints of the entire lagoon and the sea. We found the East Head Look out point the most beautiful, there are several other viewpoints within a few minutes walking distance. Park your car here.

A stop for the view followed by a nice lunch at East Head Café (highly recommended) is perfect before you continue on towards Plettenberg Bay. Of course you can also choose to stay in Knysna for one or more days. Enjoy the oysters that can be found here in abundance, or visit an oyster farm. Hike through Knysna Forest or enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the nearby villages. Especially Noetzie Beach is a must.

Knysna hotel tip: Under Milkwood Resort

Knysna to Plettenberg Bay: 45 minutes

Head inland on the N2 towards Plettenberg Bay. You’ll only need 30-45 minutes to get there.


Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, also known as Plett to the insiders, is a town where many South Africans themselves go on holiday every year. The city itself is not much but it is the perfect base for the proximity of beautiful beaches and nature. Here you have great hikes along the coast and through the jungle. We are big fans of the Robberberg Hiking Trail, a path where you can do three different cool hikes along the beach. The Salt River Hiking Trail, which starts on the famous Nature’s Valley beach, is also truly phenomenal! Another beautiful beach is Keurboomstrand.Nature ValleyIn the famous Tsitsikama National Park you can hike (across the famous rope bridge over the sea), but you can also kayak here. The hikes here are not very long and keep in mind that you have to pay a hefty entrance fee for this national park.Plettenberg Salt River Hiking TrailTsitsikamma National Park South Africa

Finally, the famous Bloukrans Bridge is the perfect place for adventurers. You can go bungee jumping from this bridge. And just a little bit further along the road you will find the Storm River bridge another place with a beautiful view. Because of all these sights, we recommend that you stay in the Plettenberg Bay area for at least 3 days.

A blog about Plettenberg Bay written by Ries will follow soon! Including some very nice restaurants and shops! Tip: eating at Emily Moon is a must!

Hotel tip Plettenberg Bay: Bella Manga Country Escape or Emily Moon River Lodge for a larger budget

Robberg Nature Reserve Plettenberg Travel South Africa 8Robberg Nature Reserve Plettenberg Travel South Africa 10Emily moon


Beyond Plettenberg Bay along the Garden Route

Officially, the Garden Route extends beyond Plettenberg Bay, all the way to Addo. However, if you have done the above activity around Plettenberg, then you have had most of the highlights. What you miss are Addo Elephant Park (park with lots of elephants) and Jeffrey’s Bay (surf town). But because Addo Elephant park is more than 3.5 hours from Plettenberg Bay, over a less scenic route that you have to drive back and forth, we have not included this in this overview. Do you want to go to Addo? Then count on this overview for at least 3 days extra.Plettenberg 2

Plettenberg Bay to Oudtshoorn: 2 hours

The first part of the ride you drive along the same route along the sea as the outward journey. Tip: just before entering Knysna, stop for a coffee or to buy souvenirs at Timberlake Village.

At the town of George, just after Wilderness, change to route 12 and head north. This part of the route is less spectacular but still beautiful.


Oudtshoorn

Oudtshoorn is the place to see ostriches. It is quite warm here and there are large ostrich farms. Are you going to an ostrich show? Then choose a farm that treats the animals in an animal-friendly way.

You also have a number of caves here that you can visit and you are at the foot of the Swartberg mountain range where several hikes have been mapped out. If you have little time, you could consider not adding a stay in Oudtshoorn to your Garden Route itinerary but drive straight to Montagu.

Hotel tip Oudtshoorn: Riverside Guestlodge

Oudtshoorn to Montagu: 2.5 hours

The drive from Oudtshoorn to Montagu goes via route 62. One of the most beautiful roads in South Africa. You drive between the mountains in a kind of no man’s land, these are the foothills of the Karoo desert. You’ll hardly meet anyone else on the road and after every bend there is a new breathtaking view.

Tip: stop for lunch and wine between the vineyards at De Krans Wines. Along the way you will pass several natural spas, the Warmwaterberg Spa seems to be a very good one.On the road zuid afrika 2


Montagu

Montagu in a small village beautifully situated in a valley between the mountains. This provides a great view and the most beautiful sunsets, where you can see the sun slowly disappear behind the mountains. This is a place to relax for a while. There are several hikes to do and you are not far from beautiful vineyards. The area is also perfect for horseback riding. We did this at the Nerina Guest Farm. Read our extensive Montagu blog here!

Hotel Tip Montagu: The Vineyard Country House

Paardrijden Montagu

Montagu to Stellenbosch (via Paarl): 2.5 hours

When you drive away from Montagu you soon pass through the beautiful Cogmanskloof Pass. This impressive stretch of road leads through mountain passes and provides breathtaking views. Not much later you’ll arrive in the town of Robertson, where there are many vineyards. For example, stop at Van Loveren Family Vineyards or at Springfield Estate. At Viljoensdrift you can do a wine lunch on a boat, quite funny.Road construction Green Garden Route

After the town of Worcester you can continue via Route 1 (a toll road) or you can take the old Route 1 through the Du Toitskloof the R101. Definitely do the latter, this is a much nicer route around the mountain, while Route 1 goes straight through the mountains via tunnels. Tip: fancy a nice lunch? The Ou Meul Padstal in the town of Rawsonville just before you take the R101.

The R101 ends in the town of Paarl where there are many wineries. Stop here at winery Avondale, Fairview or continue to Stellenbosch where you will find a lot of wineries. Read our blog here soon with our favorite wineries in Stellenbosch and surroundings.

Stellenbosch 5

Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is South Africa’s university town. This creates a nice atmosphere with many nice coffee shops, young people and a number of cozy bars. In addition, it is a beautiful old city. You will find beautiful buildings and squares here.

Stellenbosch is the ideal base to visit the most beautiful wineries in South Africa. Because not only is delicious wine produced here, the South Africans are also very good at building beautiful locations where you can taste these delicious wines with a view over the vineyards and mountains. From architectural gems with lots of art to cozy family wineries. And from ancient vineyards to places that have different restaurants, playgrounds and activities. You can also enjoy good food at many wineries, otherwise you can go to one of the many wonderful restaurants that you will find here between the mountains and vineyards.Stellenbosch South Africa 4Stellenbosch 3

As you read, we absolutely love Stellenbosch! And this place should not be missing from your South Africa itinerary! We recommend that you stay here for at least 2 days and if you are a wine fanatic, consider booking more time here. Read the extensive travel guide for Stellenbosch here soon.

Stellenbosch hotel tip: Van der Stel Manor


Stellenbosch to Cape Town: 30 minutes

The last part of the route goes from Stellenbosch to Cape Town. This part of the road trip is not that special. If you travel via the RN2, keep in mind that it is better not to drive this stretch after dark because of the risk of robberies. Only drive this stretch at night by taxi, which is a lot safer.

This is the only less safe part of this Garden Route tour. We experienced the rest of the route as safe. For more tips on traveling in South Africa and safety, read our South Africa tips blog (coming soon)!

And that’s it, you’re done and you’ve had a wonderful trip through South Africa! Let us know how you experienced it and if you have any extra tips? Then we’ll add it!Stellenbosch South Africa 7


South Africa itinerary in 3 weeks

Do you have more time and do you want to discover South Africa in 3 weeks? Then consider the following itinerary:

Johannesburg – Kruger National Park – St Lucia – Sani Pass – Drakensberg – Durban – Port Elizabeth – Addo National Park – Plettenberg Bay – Knysna – Wilderness – Oudtshoorn – Montagu – Stellenbosch – Cape Town3 week itinerary South Africa


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