The Garden Route has a name that evokes green landscapes and idyllic views. This popular scenic route runs along the southern coast of South Africa, coinciding with the N2 highway from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, touching the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
The region crossed by the Garden Route is characterized by a pleasant Mediterranean climate, more rainy than the rest of the country. Situated between the spectacular views of the Indian Ocean on one side and the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountains on the other, it features a rich fynbos vegetation and forests, much appreciated by lovers of birdwatching and hiking. The ocean waters are teeming with marine life, including coral reefs, sea lions, dolphins and whales in particular, visible from July to December.
During a trip to South Africa you cannot miss the experience of the Garden Route, which is one of the most popular attractions in the country.
While driving along the Garden Route, you will be fascinated by the alternation of lush forests, golf courses, picturesque beaches and quaint shops. Many artists have chosen to come and live in this area, charmed by the beauty of the coastline. Not to be missed along the way are the secondary roads that connect to it, bastions of hidden treasures.
Outdshoorn, known as "the ostrich world capital" because of the abundant presence of this animal, is one of the most appreciated stops along the way. It is located inland and is connected to the coast via the Outeniqua Pass, a pass that crosses the mountains of the same name and leads to the ocean. Other towns worth a visit are Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Calitzdorp, Sedgefield and Wilderness.
If you love nature, you will notice the fynbos, typical plant species of the Garden Route, while if you love the beach life you will be spoiled for choice among the many bays that dot the road. Here nature is protected by famous national parks: the Garden Route National Park encompasses both forests (former Tsitsikamma National Park) and the most pristine shores (former Wilderness National Park). Between the two habitats there are lakes and fynbos plants, creating a unique ecosystem, home to the Knysna Turaco, a typical bird of the region.
The Garden Route is served by Cape Town and Port Elizabeth airports, the two cities at its ends, but it can also be reached landing at George airport, set in the middle of its course.
There is no bad time to visit the Garden Route, yet it is very busy and crowded during Easter holidays and summer vacations, which in South Africa are in December. The Garden Route is best appreciated travelling by car, taking four days with stops along the way. If you want to go birdwatching remember to bring your binoculars and a good camera.
As it often rains throughout the year, umbrella and raincoat need to be packed, but also the swimsuit for unforgettable stops in its wild coves. If you are traveling along the Garden Route in July, do not forget to make a stop in Knysna, home to a popular festival of oysters, a product for which the town is famous.
In spectacular Knysna lagoons in fact the finest oysters in South Africa are breeded. Further down the road you will find instead the rugged coastline of Robberg Peninsula and the long beaches and elegant villas of nice Plettenburg Bay.
Entering the former Tsitsikamma National Park, you leave the glamorous atmosphere behind to explore the wild forest, which reaches the sea. The forests are crossed by the famous Otter Trail, a hiking trail of 41 kilometers, crossed by about 11 rivers and where you can admire giant ancient trees.
This wonderful park, located east of Plettenburg Bay along the Garden Route, owes its name to its proximity to the ocean and to the presence of many rivers. In Khoisan language it means "place with much water." It also includes Storms River Mouth and a stretch of sea along the coast which is one of the largest marine reserves in the world. Overall, the Tsitsikamma stretches approximately along 80 km of coastline. The forest of the Tsitsikamma is home to the Outeniqua Yellowwood, a massive 36 meters high tree.
In 2009 the park was expanded by merging the neighboring protected areas, forming the Garden Route National Park.
The Otter Trail is a hiking trail that winds along the Garden Route, and which takes its name from a particular species of otters present in the Cape Town area. This trail is considered one of the most beautiful and spectacular in the world, stretching from the mouth of the Storms River in the east to Nature's Valley to the west, is 26 km long as the crow flies and 41 for those who walk on foot.
It takes 5 days to hike it all, with the possibility to spend the nights in comfortable huts where you enjoy magnificent views of the ocean. The Otter Trail is placed entirely inside the Tsitsikamma National Park and passes through a scenic landscapes with steep slopes and river crossings. The typical vegetation of the Otter Trail includes fynbos, gallery forest and a rich variety of wildflowers.