Scattered along the Garden Route, fashionable seaside resorts abound, attracting jet-setters from around the globe. Tiny coastal villages appeal especially to outdoor people who enjoy an unstructured holiday agenda. The coastal drive links a series of charming towns interspersed with natural beauty. Along the way, every kind of adventure activity is possible; scuba diving, abseiling, fishing and more.
Mountains crowd close to a shoreline dotted with beaches and bays, and vividly coloured wild flowers delight the eye. Between Heidelberg and Storms River, the Garden Route runs parallel to a coastline featuring lakes, mountains, tall indigenous forests, amber-coloured rivers and golden beaches. Meandering trails are followed by hikers, the forests invite long, leisurely drives, and the lakes and rivers lend themselves to swimming, boating and fishing. A wide range of leisure options, spectacular scenery and a mild climate guarantee an unforgettable holiday experience.
The Garden Route has a Mediterranean Maritime climate, with moderately hot summers, and mild to chilly winters. It is one of the richest rainfall areas, most of which occurs in the winter months, brought by the humid sea-winds from the Indian Ocean. Any time of the year is good for visiting the area, depending if you enjoy a peaceful retreat during the winter months or a bustling holiday destination during the summer.
The region provides a stirring study in contrasts:
Situated halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, beautiful Mossel Bay is a coastal village and harbour of the World Famous Garden Route. This popular holiday town is surrounded by a sunbathed peninsula and the refreshing waters of the Indian Ocean. It is a busy summer destination as well as an ideal winter retreat. It is blessed with a mild climate all-year round but its most important feature is its status as the historical capital of the Garden Route. Mossel Bay is sportsman's and waters sport enthusiast's paradise, it has a very wide variety of adventure sports facilities as well as sport of the conventional type, such as golf, squash, tennis, bungi and bridge diving, indoor heated pools, horse riding to name but a few. And if you're into water sports, there is some of the countries most adrenalin induced activities available - such as, shark cage diving, ship wreck diving, snorkeling, power boating and others.
The delightful town of George, known as "The Gateway to the Garden Route", graces a coastal plateau in a fertile area of lush greenery at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. George has many historical landmarks to be visited. Like The Slave Tree, an ancient English Oak planted by Landdrost van Kervel. Known as the Slave Tree because of the very large chain and lock embedded in the trunk, it has been declared a national monument. And the King Edward VII Library building is said to be the best example of Edwardian architecture in George.
15 km West of George, nestled in a magnificent and sheltered rocky cove where the golden beach sands meet the frothy, turquoise waters of the ocean, Herold's Bay has coastal walks and trails ideal for spotting dolphins and whales. The unspoilt coastal fynbos makes it a popular spot for birders and nature-lovers.
Oudtshoorn, "Capital of the Klein Karoo", is set in a semi-arid valley, providing the ideal habitat for ostriches which are farmed here on a grand scale. Amidst the 400 ostrich farms surrounding the town, 3 have distinguished themselves worthy to be named " show farms". Become exposed to this exotic bird species, the largest in the world.
Also situated close to the Klein Karoo Town of Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves - one of the worlds great natural wonders, sculptured by nature through the ages. Mysterious and breathtaking limestone formations in a wide variety of natural colours, a subterranean wonderland. The Cango Caves are among the top ten most visited South African attractions.
Wilderness is set between the Kaaimans River and the Goukama Nature Reserve, whilst being bordered by the Outeniqua Mountains. Renowned for it tranquil sea and beaches which stretch on forever, Wilderness has become an internationally sought after holiday resort. Wilderness is also surrounded by many rivers and natural lakes and lagoons. This makes it a great spot for water sport enthusiasts, who flock there regularly. There is a 2500 ha National Park with five rivers, five lakes, two estuaries and 18km of coastline. Wilderness sports many types of wildlife, in particular birds. Many types of water birds breed here and this makes it ideal for bird-watchers. The many other types of recreation include hiking, dolphin and whale-watching, hang-gliding, paragliding, horse riding, mountain-biking, scenic drives, Wilderness Lakes Art Route, day tours, ferry cruises, angling, boating and other water sports. Wilderness also has a great number of craftsmen and women in the area. There work is often for sale and the tourist can pick up many bargains at the monthly craft markets, held in the middle and end of the month. This and many other interesting aspects of the town add to it's rustic charm. A place that must be visited by any tourist in the Garden Route, it truly is a place of timeless beauty.
Knysna is one of the Southern Cape coast's best known holiday destinations, situated between lush forests and the shores of the peaceful lagoon - it offers many activities and attractions of a wide variety. The most well known attraction being the heads - two great sandstone cliffs guarding the mouth of the lagoon which connects the estuary with the sea. A lookout has been erected on the Eastern Head, commanding spectacular views of the lagoon, Leisure Isle and Knysna. The Western Head is a privately owned nature Reserve - Featherbed Bay. The Knysna Lagoon is one of the few places along the coast and in the world that supports an oyster hatchery.
Tsitsikamma is the Khoi-San word for a place of many waters. It is the perfect description of this exquisite area but does not do justice to the overwhelming experience the Tsitsikamma provides for those fortunate enough to visit it and to indulge in its unique pleasures.
The Tsitsikamma National Park is internationally recognized for its forests which harbour and conserve the giant Outeniqua yellowwood - one of the few true monarchs of the world's forests. This enormous tree is one of the most successful species in existence, having survived unchanged for millions of years. Tsitsikamma National Park is also Africa's oldest and largest marine reserve, playing a vital role in the preservation and conservation of marine fauna and flora. Tourists, and particularly hikers from all over the world, visit the area which is known for its rugged, unspoiled coastline - a photographer's dream.
The region has many wonderfully scenic hiking trails of which it is justifiably proud, though its greatest asset remains the world-renowned Otter Trail. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that remains indelibly imprinted on the mind.
Addo Elephant Park is located in the Garden Route - a delightful reserve near Port Elizabeth. Its biggest attractions are its big 330 Elephants and many Antelope like Eland, Bontebokke etc. The Elephants used to be tightly packed in this park but it has recently been expanded so that these large but quietly trodden pachyderms have a wider area in which to roam. Another animal that lives here is the flightless dung Beetle; it has survived in South Africa only in this area.
The rocky heights of Mountain Zebra National Park's Bankberg embrace rolling plains and deep valleys becoming an entrancing preserve for the Cape mountain Zebra. Currently the population of Zebra here stands at 350. Other mammals found here include Eland, black Wildebeest, red Hartebeest and Gemsbok. Mountain Reedbuck and grey Rhebok frequent the higher areas, whilst Caracal occupies the niche of primary predator.