Wilderness in South Africa: the best place on the Garden Route!

Wilderness (also called Wildernis) is a small town on the south coast of South Africa, and it’s part of the Garden Route. It really is a very nice place to stay and enjoy the beautiful beaches, forests and nature. In this blog you can read what there is to do in Wilderness and we give you tips for restaurants and nice hotels!


The best activities and things to do in Wilderness

Wilderness is by no means large, but the friendly atmosphere, beautiful national parks, beaches and the proximity to many other highlights of the Garden Route, make this the ideal base for one or more days on the Garden Route in South Africa.

What also made us love Wilderness, is the feeling of safety here. In the evening it is normal to just walk home, the crime rates are low and you feel comfortable everywhere. The inhabitants of Wilderness (or Wildernis as they call it themselves) are generally quite young and the pace of life is somewhat more relaxed here. Going kayaking or surfing in the morning before work is quite normal. All this makes the atmosphere in Wilderness very nice and reminded us of the vibe in Australia or Bali.

Below you can read what there is to do in the Wilderness area. But don’t forget that Garden Route Highlights such as Knysna, Oudtshoorn (ostriches) and Plettenberg (hiking) can all be reached within a maximum of one hour’s drive from Wilderness.Wildernis Zuid Afrika

1. Hiking in Wilderness National Park (Half Collard Kingfisher Hike)

For us the Wilderness National Park is the number one thing to do in Wilderness! It’s a forest area with several lakes, rivers and waterfalls. You can go hiking here, but also abseiling and canoeing.

There are five different hikes that you can do here, short, but also longer hikes (10.2 km). We did the Half Collard Kingfisher Hike, a beautiful 7 km hike that leads you to two waterfalls. You walk through a forest along the bank of a winding river. At a certain point you have to cross the river, which can be done either via a tow raft, or a little further via stepping stones that have been placed in the water.

Don’t forget to bring your swimwear, the water is wonderfully refreshing on a hot day. We thought it was a very nice and accessible hike, to do for every level of hiker. The hike takes about two hours and cost 170 Rand per person entrance. Click here for the start location of the Half Collard Kingfisher Trail.Wilderness 11

2. Enjoying the beach in Wilderness

The beach at Wilderness is really one of the most beautiful we have seen in South Africa! A wide and long beach with clear blue sea. And even though the water is really cold, there are plenty of people who surf here (with a thick wetsuit). So if you feel like relaxing in the morning or afternoon, be sure to spend some time on the beach! We watched the sunset here as well, very beautiful!

3. Paragliding in Wilderness

Paragliding is a popular sport on the Garden Route. This way you can see this part of the Garden Route from above. We saw dozens of paragliders floating peacefully through the sky every day. There are several companies offering paragliding in Wilderness, just pop in at the tourism office for more information.

4. Kayaking on the Caymans River

Just before you enter Wilderness, you pass a river that flows into the sea. This is the Kaaimans River and this place is special because of the old train bridge that rises high above the river. You are also close to the hidden waterfall.Wilderness

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time for this anymore, but according to locals, the Kaaimans River is definitely worth it. The best way to both admire the train bridge and get to the waterfall is to rent a kayak and peddle down the river.

Near the parking lot at the Kaaimans River you will find Kaaimans Kayak where you can rent a kayak for 170 Rand per hour.Wilderness 10

5. Visit the Map of Africa viewpoint in Wilderness!

The fact that Wilderness is surrounded by beautiful nature and forests is best seen from a slightly higher point. By chance we found a viewpoint on Google Maps called “Map of Africa”. Well, that name intrigued us so much that we had to take a look. And it certainly didn’t disappoint!

As the name suggests, from this viewpoint you have a view of a nature reserve that is shaped like the African continent. A piece of forest surrounded by a river shows the contours.Wilderness 7

If you don’t see it, don’t worry. There are always two ladies here who act as volunteers to keep this viewpoint clean and to give explanations to tourists. They can point you where exactly to look. We left a small tip for them so that they can continue to do this work.

The ladies will also point you to a lookout point across the road. This is the location from which you will go paragliding. You are also a lot higher here and therefore have a very nice view of the beaches of Wilderness.

Click here for the location of the Map Of Africa lookout in Wilderness. Keep in mind that it is convenient to get here by car.Wilderness 6

6. Do a safari at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve

Even though we did not visit Kruger park or other large national park with many wild animals this trip, it still started to itch to do a safari. Fortunately, we were able to do a game drive at a place not far from Wilderness: at the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve.

As the name suggests, it is a private reserve. This means, among other things, that animals from different locations in South Africa have been brought here and live in a fenced area. We were a bit afraid of the “zoo” feeling, but luckily the park is way too big for that. The animals here live in the wild as much as possible. This means that they hunt and provide for their own food.

The park is large enough for the more than three-hour game drive (safari) where we saw really beautiful animals. They remain wild animals so it is important to keep your distance, which our guide did well. In addition, he could tell very interesting about all these beautiful animals.

After the game drive (which I secretly liked even more than safaris we did in Kenya in Uganda), we had an extensive lunch at this place. And after that we even took a massage in Botlierskop and enjoyed the beautiful pool that overlooks part of the park. A really lovely day!

A day safari at Botlierskop costs 580 Rand (about €35). We recommend that you book it in advance. There are also beautiful lodges in Botlierskop, click here for more information.


How many days do you need in Wilderness?

We recommend that you stay at least one night and two days in Wilderness. Even though the town is not large, there is more than enough to see and do and Wilderness is also a good base for other places in the area.

From Wilderness you are in the larger Knysna within 40 minutes. Well worth a visit, but we found Wilderness itself a lot nicer and above all more friendly. Plettenberg and Oudtshoorn are also not far from Wilderness, both more than an hour’s drive. If you also want to visit Plettenberg, Knysna and Oudtshoorn from Wilderness, we recommend that you stay at least three nights in Wilderness.Wilderness 16


Good food in Wilderness: our favorite restaurants!

Even though Wilderness is really not big, there are plenty of nice restaurants to be found. Here is a small selection.

Serendipity restaurant – luxury food in Wilderness

This restaurant, which belongs to the Serendipity Hotel of the same name, is probably the most upscale eatery in the entire area. Not cheap, but if you have something to celebrate or want to have a fancy dinner then this is the place! Click here for the location of this restaurant in Wilderness.

Ilali restaurant – our favorite!

We loved Ilali restaurant! According to Ries, he ate the best pizza of his life here (and believe me, Ries has eaten quite a few pizzas in the past 33 years!). But you can also come here for oysters, burrata, cocktails and delicious fish. The menu is a combination of tapas and larger main courses. Prices are very decent. We recommend that you make a reservation here because this restaurant is ALWAYS full! Click here for the location of this restaurant in Wilderness.Wilderness 15

The Girls on the Square – live music

This cozy restaurant is the place to go for sushi. The Girls has a nice garden, often with live music. Nice place to have a relaxed bite to eat, without too much fuss. Click here for the location of this restaurant in Wilderness.Wilderness 14

Blue Olive restaurant – Italian food

Blue Olive is one of the first restaurants you see when you drive into Wilderness. We didn’t eat here ourselves but heard good stories about this place. Especially the breakfast seems to be really tasty here. Click here for the location of this restaurant in Wilderness.

The Commonage – best coffee in Wilderness

This nice little place is only open in the morning, when it is completely packed with locals enjoying a good coffee after an early morning surf or yoga class. Breakfast is not served, but you can buy croissants, pain au chocolat and biscuits. Click here for the location of this restaurant in Wilderness.Wilderness 12


Our favorite Wilderness hotels

There are more than enough nice hotels in Wilderness. But the best accommodation fills up quickly, especially in the high season. It is therefore smart to book on time.

Below is a selection of three hotels in Wilderness in different budget categories. We liked being near the city center because restaurants are within walking distance. If you need more peace and quiet, consider staying a bit further from the center, for example by the river.

Amber Light Wilderness

Amber Light Wilderness

You will find this hotel from the same owner as coffee shop The Commonage. The rooms are simple but clean. A perfect budget option, close to the city centre. From €40 for a double room without breakfast.

Book now

Pearl Moon Boutique Suites €€

Pearl Moon Boutique Suites

This beautiful hotel is located on the Touw River, providing great views. The beautiful bright rooms have a small kitchenette, handy because breakfast is not included. From €70 for 2 people.

Book now

Cinnamon Boutique Guesthouse €€€

Cinnamon Boutique Guest House

Ready for a luxury stay? This hotel has a fitness room and swimming pool in the green garden. The rooms are furnished with antiques and large beds! From €115 per night including breakfast.

Book now

Click here for an overview of all hotels in Wilderness.


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