The Garden Route
South Africa’s Garden Route is a spectacular road trip along the coast from Mossel Bay east to Storms River. Sandwiched between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Indian Ocean, the road is named not for its floral gardens but because of its lush and varied vegetation, so different from the country’s harsh, dry interior.
From Mossel Bay, an old-fashioned seaside town, the N2 links a series of charming towns, with areas of great natural beauty in between. This is part of the Cape Floral Region, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It is famed for its fynbos, natural heathland vegetation that includes 9,000 species, 6,200 of which are endemic. Of these, many are flowering and others are fragrant. Rooibos and honeybush are both commercially harvested, and one of the many proteas, Protea cynaroides, is South Africa’s national flower.
Pass through the Wilderness National Park – its lagoons and wetlands are home to 250 species of bird, including Knysna Lourie, a bright green bird with red wings, and many kingfishers. If you like oysters, you can feast on them here to your heart’s content, and of course the local wines are excellent. From Plettenberg Bay, another seaside resort, the road descends sharply, winding through old growth forest until it reaches the finest stretch of untamed coastline in Tsitsikamma National Park, before reaching the journey’s end at Storms River.
WHEN TO GO:
November to May
TIME IT TAKES:
It is possible to drive in a day, but to enjoy and appreciate this trip you should spend several days, up to a week.
Watch the endangered southern right whales In their calving grounds, November and December.
Go cage diving with great white sharks at Gansbaii.
Cable slide across the rainforest canopy in Tsltslkamma.
Visit an ostrich farm at Oudtshoorn.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Garden Route and the Wine Route are sufficiently close together to move easily between the two. If
this Is your plan, give yourself a few extra days.