Just a few hours’ drive from Cape Town lies South Africa’s world-famous Garden Route, a sunny stretch of southern Cape coastline featuring a mix of modern golf courses, ancient forests, secluded artists’ communities, retirement estates, modern malls, craft centres, mountain hideaways and beach holidays. A long-time favourite for family holidays, this malaria-free region is also a paradise for nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts while the easy-to-navigate roads and short driving distances make the Garden Route the ideal destination for an independent-minded self-drive holiday.
The main arterial highway through The Garden Route in South Africa, a highlight on most visitors’ itineraries, is the N2 stretch running from Heidelberg in the Southern Cape to Storms River Village on the Eastern Cape border. While the Garden Route road is extremely scenic, it is the hidden destinations on its side roads that are the secret of this region. That’s probably how Oudtshoorn (the ostrich capital of the world) found its way onto the Garden Route. In reality, both early inhabitants and elephants have been crossing the Outeniqua Mountains from Oudtshoorn to the coast for many centuries.
The secret behind the Garden Route is that it combines the fun of a classic bucket-and-spade holiday with unforgettable African adventures. You could go on an elephant-back ride, take a forest canopy tour or visit a monkey or bird sanctuary. Dolphins are often seen offshore – as are whales in season – and for even more wildlife thrills, round off your beach holiday with an authentic Big 5 safari in one of the conveniently close – and also malaria-free – reserves in neighbouring Eastern Cape Province.
While outdoor sports and activities take centre stage on a Garden Route holiday (don’t forget that several of the country’s best golf courses are found here) fine food is always close at hand. Indulge in fresh-from-the-boat seafood at the ever-popular Knysna Waterfront or at a restaurant overlooking the beach in neighbouring Plettenberg Bay.
The Garden Route National Park, which weaves together the existing Tsitsikamma National Park’s ancient forests and wild coastline with the Wilderness National Park via a chain of lakes and preserved sections of fynbos, is a fascinating mix of ecosystems. And don’t forget to look out for the raucous cry and vivid scarlet wings of the Knysna turaco.