Stretching along the southern Cape coast for 300-or-so kilometres, the Garden Route is a favourite holiday playground for good reason. Lined with deep, lush forests on one side and a sparkling blue ocean on the other, it offers spectacular scenery, natural attractions and its fair share of creative quirkiness.
We’ve rounded up some of our favourite ways to make the most of a visit to this neck of the woods. From pleasant walks, foodie experiences and animal encounters to a dozen ways to take to the water (be it river, lagoon or ocean), not to mention a few extreme leaps for the adrenaline junkies, there is something to suit everyone.
Here are the top 40 things to do along the Garden Route, ordered by town:
Fittingly named, you’ll find some of the Cape’s most beautiful scenery here. Protected as part of the Garden Route National Park, this is South Africa’s “Lake District” – with waterways to explore, a pristine stretch of coastline and lush forest.
Don’t-miss local gathering: Milkwood Sunday Funday Market
Taste the local tipple at: The Blind Pig & Bootlegger Brewery
Canyon trip with abseil
A half-day adventure through the beautiful Kaaimans River Gorge – on foot, by water and by rope. It starts with a hike through the forest, then an abseil 30 metres down to reach the water. The river is explored by scrambling over boulders and swimming, with a bit of cliff jumping (from three to 13 metres high). It’s professionally guided and participants are taught the best techniques to ensure safety. An alternative “dry canyon” abseil adventure is also offered for those who prefer to stay out of the water.
Times 8.30am + 2.30pm
Cost R800 (or R500 for “dry canyon” trip)
Good to know Canyon Adventures also offers rock-climbing for children near George, as well as a shipwreck and caves coastal hike at Glentana and guided mountain hiking in the area.
Where to find it Aloe Avenue, off Remskoen Street (the road to Map of Africa), Wilderness
Kayak the Kaaimans River
This serene waterway invites exploration, and Kaaimans Adventures, based in a private nature reserve on a bend in the river, offers kayaks and SUP boards to use to wind your way downriver towards the estuary or to a secret waterfall, or upstream (for fantastic views of the iconic railway bridge). There is also a four-seater paddle boat for use on the estuary side. Afterwards, tuck into pizzas, boerie and prego rolls, toasties, coffee, beer and ice cream at the outdoor foodcourt on the lawns.
Times Daily, 8am – 5pm
Cost R180 (one-hour kayak/SUP rental)
Contact 063 561 0509, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Off the N2 (just before/after the bridge), Wilderness
Forest hiking trails
There are five hikes in the Wilderness National Park. The only one that leads to a waterfall and pool, where you can swim and picnic, is the 3.5km Giant Kingfisher Trail along the Touw River. For a pleasant, shady stroll through the forest beside the river, there’s the 7.2km Half Collared Kingfisher Trail, or the 4.1km Brown Hooded Kingfisher Trail, which leads to the Duiwe River picnic spot. To explore the fynbos-lined shores of the Serpentine and the beach, choose the 10km Pied Kingfisher Trail (great for birders).
Times Daily, 7am – 5.30pm (SANParks office)
SANParks permit R52 (adults); R26 (children)
Contact 044 887 0046/1197
Where to find it Ebb & Flow Camp (SANParks office), Ebb and Flow Drive, off N2, Wilderness
Touw River boating
Wilderness National Park protects the natural wonderland of this corner of the Garden Route, which stretches from the Touw River mouth to the Swartvlei estuary, with five lakes in between – not forgetting the pristine beach and forests. There are many ways to enjoy its beauty, but one of the best is a slow cruise on the river, passing reed-lined wetlands and forest, listening to birdcalls and enjoying the tranquility. An Island Lake cruise (especially good for birdwatching) is also offered by prior arrangement.
Times Daily, 9am; 10.30am; 12pm; 3pm; 4.30pm; 6pm (sunset cruise)
Cost R220 (adults); R150 (children)
SANParks permit: R52 (adults); R26 (children)
Where to find it Ebb & Flow Drive (off N2), Wilderness
Good to know You can also paddle out on your own (the twisty-turny Serpentine, a channel that connects the Touw River to Island Lake, is especially appealing, with a picnic spot onshore). Eden Adventures at the Fairy Knowe Hotel rents out single and double canoes. You will need a SANParks permit (R52,adults; R26 children) included in the rental fee.
Paraglide from the Map of Africa
The Map of Africa viewpoint is well worth the drive for an aerial perspective of this lake district – and for seeing how the Kaaimans River has cleverly created the shape of Africa in its meandering course through the forested valley. It is also a popular (and awesome) launch site for tandem paragliding. You’ll step off the edge of the cliff and soar like an eagle over the sparkling blue ocean, with unbeatable 360-degree views of the 18km stretch of beach and the lakes. The standard flight is about 10 minutes, or you can opt for the longer 20-minute adventure flight where you can take the controls yourself.
Good to know Minimum age is 14 years old. There is a discount for groups of four or more. Paraglide Africa also launches from the “Cloud 9” site in Sedgefield.
Times Daily, 9am – 6pm
Cost R1 100 (standard); R1 600 (adventure)
R250 GoPro video + photos
Where to find it Map of Africa, Remskoen Street, off Hoogte Road, Wilderness
(Paraglide Africa, 3 Outeniqua Road, off Hoekwil Road, Wilderness)
A little further along the N2, skirting the edge of the Swartvlei Lake, Sedgefield is proud to call itself South Africa’s “Slow Town” (see if you can find the tortoise emblem and other mosaics decorating the village). Visitors can enjoy a range of wholesome delights in keeping with that philosophy, and beautiful beaches.
Don’t-miss local gathering: Scarab Village Art & Craft Market
Taste the local tipple at: Sedgefield Brewery
Wild Oats Market
This community farmers’ market – started way back in 1999 – was a trailblazer in all things local, sustainable and ethical. Fresh seasonal produce, homemade foods and a lovely country atmosphere encourage free-range shopping in the great outdoors. You’ll find cream-of-the-crop products exclusive to this market, ranging from yoghurt, pasta sauces, breads and kimchi to cheese, eggs, Karoo lamb and oysters. It’s a great place for breakfast /brunch or to pick up picnic goodies, and there’s lots to please vegetarians and vegans.
Times Saturday, 7.30am – 12pm
Cost Free entry
Contact 082 376 5020, email@example.com
Where to find it Paul Kruger Street, next to Swartvlei lake (Sedgefield Island turn-off from N2 at Engen garage)
For a fun family day of outdoor activity, this rope-based aerial obstacle course is just the ticket. Nestled in a patch of forest, it provides a network of brain- and muscle-stimulating routes to navigate in a picturesque, fresh-air setting. Aerial platforms are connected by swing ropes, bridges, beams, nets and ziplines. For the little ones, there’s Acro-twigs, then Monkey Moves for slightly older kids (or nervous adults!); Swinging Tarzan steps it up a level, and for the brave hearts, there’s High Flying, the highest course which ends with a 130-metre Big Zip ride.
Times Wednesday – Sunday + public holidays, 9am – 6pm
Cost R150 – R280 (depending on course)
Where to find it Timberlake Organic Village, N2 (towards Sedgefield)
Good to know Timberlake Organic Village is home to a range of small businesses, including a mohair shop, sweets shop, bakery, possibly the best coffee on the Garden Route (at Pause) and the Oyster Shack (one of the few places you’ll find wild-caught oysters).
Garden Route Trail Park
Hidden in the hilly forests behind Sedgefield, a playground of extreme fun awaits cyclists. There are six trails – Lunacy Lane, Manic Monkeys and Madcows (easy), and Forest Frenzy, Crazy Creek and Jungle Fever (moderate) – which will soon have you gliding through tree tunnels, shady fern glades, streams and more. Trail-runners and hikers will also find a paradise here, complete with rock pools and waterfalls. There is a pump track, trail café and plunge pool on site, and picnic and braai facilities.
Good to know Bikes can be hired from the Trail Park or from Cycleworx on Sedgefield’s Main Road.
Times Dawn to dusk
Trail Café: 8am – 4pm
Cost R100 (adults)
R240 (family rate via mySOS app only)
Contact 072 464 1439, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Dormehl Farms, Barrington, on Ruigtevlei/Karatara road off N2 (5km from Sedgefield heading to Knysna)
Seven Passes Drive
A 75-kilometre mix of dirt and tar connecting George and Knysna via an inland “back route” through pastures and forest, over fynbos-clad hills and streams, this is a fantastic alternative to the N2. If you like scenic drives, this is a must-do. All seven passes were the work of master 19th-century road-builder Thomas Bain. From Wilderness/Sedgefield, you can hook up with it on Hoekwil Road. (From George, head up Madiba Drive to connect to the Seven Passes Road). Worthwhile stops include the Big Tree at Woodville (a 33-metre-high, 800-year-old Outeniqua yellowwood reached via leafy forest paths), the Woodville Trading Store (to stock up on padkos) and Black Horse Trails (if you fancy saddling up). Eventually, you’ll reach Rheenendal, where Bibby’s Hoek Road leads to some iconic Knysna forest walks (see Knysna section below). The last stretch down the Phantom Pass into Knysna is spectacularly scenic, popping out of the forest with your first sighting of the famous lagoon.
This town’s unique natural setting – backed by deep, majestic forests, skirting a serene lagoon, with the iconic Heads cliffs forming a gateway to the ocean – has made it one of the most popular spots on the Garden Route, with plenty of manmade character to boot. It may not have a coastline, but the nearby beaches are a must-visit: Buffalo Bay, Brenton-on-Sea and Noetzie (with its famous “castles”).
Don’t-miss local gathering: Totties Country Market (Sundays)
Taste the local tipple at: Knysna Distillery
Immerse yourself in Knysna’s diverse marine environment on this 1.5-hour oceanic boat trip that takes you across the estuary, through the iconic Knysna Headlands and out onto the vast Indian Ocean. While out at sea, keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, penguins, Bryde’s whales and an array of pelagicbirdlife while enjoying the coves, caves, cliffs and beaches of the unique Garden Route coastline. Close-encounter whale-watching tours are also available from the June till November.
Times Daily, 9.30am; 12pm; 3pm (December – May, depending on sea and weather conditions)
Cost R1 040 (adults); R780 (children 0 – 12 years)
Good to know The flat waters are ideal for stand-up paddling. Ocean Odyssey rents out SUP boards by the hour and offers guided paddling. You can also opt for a sunset or lunch yacht cruise on the lagoon.
Where to find it Ocean Odyssey Charters, TH22, Long Street, Thesen Island, Knysna
Good to know It’s advisable to book your tours for the first day you are in the area, so can reschedule in the event of poor conditions.
No trip to Knysna would be complete without sampling its famous oysters, and this 1.5-hour tour gives you the full story – you’ll cruise the scenic lagoon, getting an in-depth experience of the delicacy, including learning the difference between wild and cultivated oysters. Of course, bubbly is the natural accompaniment, so for an additional cost you can have some fine cap classique added to the experience (white wine is complimentary).
Times Daily, 3pm
Cost R700 (adults); R250 (children under 13); R120 (snack platter); R320 (bottle of MCC); R120 (extra oysters); R50 (kids’ activity pack)
Good to know Knysna Charters offers a range of other tours, including lunch and dinner cruises on a 44-foot catamaran that heads out to the open ocean. Or you can rent a kayak to explore the waters of the lagoon at your own pace.
Where to find it TH 23, Sawtooth Lane, Knysna Heads up Coffee and Co, Sawtooth Lane, Thesen Island
Good to know Knysna Charters offers a range of other tours, including the Heads cruise, Scootours and quad-biking. Or you can rent a kayak and explore the lagoon at your own pace.
Scootour in the forests
Descend through the famous Knysna forests on an exhilarating, downhill scooter ride, with professional guides ensuring your safety along the way. The Swiss-designed, non-motorised scooters are resilient and able to handle sweeping bends and slopes easily. Anyone from age 10 upwards can steer one of these; younger children can ride along as a passenger with an adult. Along the way, you may glimpse the creatures that populate these lush forests, such as bushbuck and wild boars.
Times Daily, 9am; 12pm; 3pm
Cost R600 (adults); R300 (children 4 – 9 years); R80 (snack pack)
Where to find it Thesen Island Café & Shop, Long Street, Thesen Island, Knysna
Featherbed Eco Experience
The Featherbed Reserve is a 75-hectare patch of pristine nature on the Western Head, only accessible by boat. It protects one of the last-remaining stands of rare Knysna sand fynbos, along with over 300 other species of fynbos and trees. Visitors are taken by paddle-cruiser ferry to the reserve, then transported by 4×4 to the top of the headland for spectacular views, and enjoy a guided walk through coastal forest to a sea cave. It finishes with an optional alfresco buffet lunch under milkwood trees on the shores of the lagoon.
Times Daily, 10am; 11.30am (with lunch); 8.30am; 2.30pm (without lunch)
Cost R950 (adults); R450 (children, 4 –12 years)
Without lunch: R750 (adults); R350 (children)
Good to know The paddle cruiser can be booked for a lagoon cruise with a tapas meal (midday and sunset), and the Featherbed Co. also operates the John Benn, a historic double-decker à la carte floating restaurant.
Where to find it Featherbed Ferry Terminus at Cruise Café, Remembrance Drive (off Waterfront Drive), Knysna
Hiking in Knysna
Those lush forests hold a vast network of trails to explore. Three iconic walks (all around 3.5km there and back) start from the Goudveld Forest Station at Bibby’s Hoek, Rheenendal. The Millwood Mine Walk goes back in time, taking in the remains of the village and mine tunnels (take a torch). Or head to Jubilee Creek’s picnic spot and river pool. En route to Millwood, the Drupkelders trail leads to an enchanting, sun-dappled stretch of the Homtini River with large rock pools and a waterfall. On the other side of Knysna (halfway to Plett), the Garden of Eden Trail is ideal for those looking for a short walk in the woods, traversing wooden bridges across gentle streams, and includes bench tables along the way for a picnic. Most trails require permits, which can be purchased at the SANParks office on Thesen Island.
Good to know For those seeking a big adventure, the famous Outeniqua Trail is a seven-day journey from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay, through forests, across rivers and along the coast. Booking is essential.
Cost SANParks conservation fees:
SA citizens/residents with ID: R44 (adults); R22 (children)
SADC nationals with passport: R88 (adults); R44 (children)
International visitors: R176 (adults); R88 (children)
Contact 044 302 5600
A fleet of seven luxury houseboats are the perfect vehicle for exploring the special spots and secret coves of the vast Knysna Lagoon, for lazy sunbathing and dipping in the cool waters, for fishing and braaiing, for stargazing on the roofdeck, enjoying gentle dawns and golden sunsets away from the crowds… Each sleeps four adults and one child. A designated captain in your group will be shown the ropes and receive a temporary skipper’s licence, and from there it’s up to you where you end up.
A full service is available at the charter base to top up your boat with fresh water, gas for cooking, fuel and cleaning as required. It’s a floating holiday you won’t forget.
Good to know The houseboats can also be hired for a self-drive day trip (10am – 4.30pm). Fishing rods, tackle and other extras can be rented.
Times Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 5pm (office hours)
Saturday, Sunday + public holidays, 8.30am – 1pm
Cost From R870 per person per night (sharing)
Where to find it Sawtooth Lane, Thesen Harbour Town, Thesen Island, Knysna
The Garden Route’s most sophisticated and upmarket town, Plett has long drawn urbanites keen on having a seaside holiday with all the familiar, fabulous attractions of boutique shopping, wining and dining, and cocktails with a view. It’s blessed with some of the best beaches too.
Don’t-miss local gathering: The Midweek Market at Old Nick Village
Taste the local tipple at: Barrington’s Brewery
Robberg hiking trails
The Robberg Peninsula is a natural national monument, due to its prehistoric rocks and Stone Age sites. It’s also an incredibly beautiful, pristine place to go for a walk, with its rugged coastline, stunning sea views and diverse landscapes. You’ll encounter seabird and seal colonies, see dolphins and whales (in season) and might just spot a rare blue duiker (as tall as a 30cm ruler!). Along the three hiking trails (Gap Circuit – 30 minutes; Witsand Circuit – 2 hours; Point Circuit – 4 hours), you’ll encounter ancient caves, a lighthouse, picnic /viewing decks, a shipwreck, rock pools and the majestic Witsand dune.
Times Daily, 7am – 8pm
Cost R60 (adults); R40 (children)
Contact 087 087 8250 (permits, Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm)
Where to find it Robberg Road, off N2/Piesang Valley turn-off
Good to know For forest hiking near Plett, head to Diepwalle on the R339, which offers three well-marked Elephant Trails. Or on the same road, the charming Dal van Varings (Valley of Ferns) offers a short trail and picnic spot, plus there’s panoramic views from nearby Spitskop.
Swimming with seals
The Robberg Peninsula is home to around 8 000 Cape fur seals. To get up close with them, you can take a trip on a semi-inflatable boat – and then jump into the water to swim and frolic with these playful and inquisitive creatures. Under the watchful eye of a qualified guide, you snorkel with the seals and learn more about them. Those cute little faces coming right up to you and checking you out from every angle will stay in your memory forever.
Good to know Offshore Adventures has the only Blue Flag-accredited boat in SA.
Times Daily, 10am; 12pm; 2pm
Cost R895 (snorkelling); R750 per person (groups of four or more)
R495 (seal-viewing from boat)
Where to find it Central Beach car park, Hopwood Street, Plettenberg Bay
Birds of Eden + Monkeyland tours
A rainbow nation of birds of all colours and sizes live in Eden, the largest free-flight aviary in the world (50 metres high and two hectares big). There are more than 220 exotic and indigenous species here; all formerly caged or pet birds, they now fly free in this protected forest, which includes a deep gorge and waterfall. Wandering along boardwalks, visitors can enjoy the birdsong of more than 3 500 birds. Next door, Monkeyland is the “forever home” of more than 550 rescued primates from around the world. Here you’ll see free-roaming lemurs, squirrel and spider monkeys, gibbons and hear the deafening call of the howler monkeys on a guided walking safari (private tours are available too). Monkeyland also boasts the longest suspension bridge in the southern hemisphere (128 metres), where the animals love to hang out.
Good to know Both sanctuaries have a strict, ethical policy of no touching, feeding, petting or posing with the animals.
Times Daily, 8am – 5pm
Cost R280 – R320 (adults); R140 – 160 (children); R750 (private tour)
Combo ticket: R450 – R540 (adults); R225 – R270 (children)
Combo ticket + Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary: R560 – R640 (adults); R228 – R320 (children)
Free (children 0 – 3 years)
From 1 January 2023: R350 (adult); R175 (child)
Combined ticket for both: R590 (adult); R295 (child)
Combo ticket + Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary: R700 (adult); R350 (child)
Free (children 0 – 2 years)
Where to find it Monkeyland Road (off the N2), The Crags
Keurbooms River boating
The dark waters of this river twist and turn through a beautiful forested gorge, offering a day of adventure and fun if you’re skippering your own motorised boat – the river’s navigable for 5.5km, up to just before Whiskey Creek. Along the way, there are six beaches on either bank to stop at for a swim, picnic or braai. No previous boating experience is required to hire a cabin boat (for up to 5 people) or red boat (for up to 8 people, no cabin but with a sun canopy) from Plett Boat Hire, and the cost includes fuel and safety equipment.
Times Daily, 8.30am – 4.30pm
Cost R1 100 (cabin boat for up to 8 hours)
R1 650 (red boat for up to 8 hours)
Where to find it Plettenberg Bay Angling & Boating Club, N2, Keurbooms River
Established in 2000, SA’s youngest wine region has made a splash – especially for bubbly and sauvignon blanc. Bramon was the pioneer, and the vineyards now stretch from Harkerville to The Crags (a particularly scenic area, with several farms conveniently concentrated here within a 45km radius). Wineries with tastings and restaurants include Bramon, Newstead, Kay & Monty, Lodestone, Packwood, Luka and Plettenvale. The estates are small and family-run, ensuring an authentic and hospitable experience.
Times Most open Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm (check with individual farms)
Where to find it Redford Road in The Crags, off the N2, has several farms; for others, see the map available from Plett Tourism.
What may have seemed like a beyond-your-skills dream can now come true: jumping out of a plane, then freefalling, floating and flying like a bird. It starts with a plane flight up to 10 000-feet altitude (that’s around 3km up), where you’ll be attached to the harness of a skydiving instructor, exit the plane together and experience the rush of freefall at 200km/h for 35-40 seconds before the parachute opens. There’ll be plenty of time to enjoy the scenery from up there before landing – either back at the airport or on the beach. There is an option to jump from 12 000 feet for an even longer freefall.
Good to know The weight limit is 100kg for safety reasons; the age limit is 12 years or older.
Times Daily, 9am – 4.30pm
Cost Airport landing: R3 150 – R3 850 (depending on altitude)
Beach landing: R3 950 – R4 650 (depending on altitude)
R980 (video + pics)
Where to find it Plettenberg Bay Airport, Airport Road, off Robberg Road, Plettenberg Bay
Kurland horse trails
You can cover a lot more ground on horseback, so saddle up to enjoy the magnificent scenery of this section of the Garden Route. Starting from Kurland Park (a renowned equestrian centre at The Crags), guided rides take you through the indigenous forest, over fynbos-covered hills, across farmlands and along the ridges of the Tsitsikamma Mountains. For example, the two-hour fynbos river ride follows the course of the Hol River along dappled shady banks; a half-day trail, which includes a river crossing, heads out to Newstead wine estate for a tapas lunch. There are horses to suit every kind of rider.
Good to know Children under six years can enjoy a pony ride at the stables.
Times Daily, 8am – 4pm
Cost R625 (one hour) – R1 550 (half-day)
Where to find it Kurland Park Horse Trails, off the N2, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay
📍TSITSIKAMMA / STORMS RIVER
At the farthest end of the Garden Route, things get a little wilder… Tsitsikamma means “place of much water”. Adventures abound and adrenaline junkies gather in droves in this stunning neck of the woods. Apart from Storms River, do take a drive to Nature’s Valley – every inch as lovely as its name sounds.
Don’t-miss local gathering: Storms River Village Market (biweekly Saturdays)
Taste the local tipple at: Tsitsikamma Micro Brewery
Storms River kayak + lilo trip
Head through the magnificent Storms River Gorge and discover the quiet pools, caves and ancient forests of this hidden and mostly inaccessible world. The 2.5-hour adventure begins with an ocean paddle underneath the famous Storms River Mouth suspension bridge, then heads upriver between spectacular cliffs and into a small cave. When the water gets shallower, you swap the kayak for a lilo and simply float deeper into the gorge. On the way back, there’s a stop-off to try some cliff jumping into deep pools. There is also a new “extended” half-day adventure that ventures even deeper into the gorge on Anvil whitewater kayaks.
Times Daily, 9am – 2pm
Cost R750 (2.5 hours); extended adventure R1 300 (4 hours)
Conservation fee: R70 (SA adult); R35 (SA child)
R140 (SADC adult); R70 (SADC child)
R280 (international adult); R140 (international child)
Where to find it Storms River small boat harbour (via entry gate to Tsitsikamma National Park office)
Good to know The extended adventure is closed between 10 December and 10 January. Untouched Adventures also offers guided snorkelling tours at the river mouth, where you can discover what happens beneath the waves where river meets ocean.
Zipline Canopy Tour
Get an unbelievable view of an enchanting world… The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour zips through the ancient indigenous rainforest of the Garden Route, 30 metres above the ground. You’ll spot rare, colourful birds and other forest creatures, and learn more about the giant yellowwoods and the secret life of the forest. There are 10 steel-cable ziplines running from tree to tree, plus a suspension bridge to traverse. You’ll be harnessed up, given a full safety briefing and escorted by informative guides. Children can do it in tandem with a guide.
Times Daily, 8am – 3.30pm
Good to know Stormsriver Adventures also offers guided hikes in the Tsitsikamma forests and a unique journey for tree-lovers, navigating an old woodcutters’ pass in a specially-designed safari vehicle.
Where to find it 101 Darnell Street, Storms River Village
Segway forest tour
Glide through the Tsitsikamma forest on a two-wheeled, battery-powered personal transporter – they’re self-balancing, eco-friendly and easy to operate (a short training session is provided). The tour kicks off in the quaint village of Storms River – the best way to get around town! – before heading into the forest. There are a variety of paths to explore, and the longer two-hour tour includes a visit to the famous 1 000-year-old Big Tree. It’s a great family adventure; children (6 – 17 years) ride for half-price. Tip: the early-morning slots are R50 cheaper.
Good to know Riders should be a minimum of 1.1 metres tall.
Times Daily, 8am – 5pm; two-hour trips at 9am; 11am and 2pm only
Cost One-hour trip: R500 (adults); R225 (children)
Two-hour trip: R750 (adults); R375 (children)
Where to find it 40 Darnell Street, Storms River
Bloukrans Bungee + Sky-Walk
Its reputation precedes it, drawing thousands to the highest bridge in Africa – to leap off it. Even Prince Harry has given it a go. The world’s highest natural commercial bungee jump is a drop of 216 metres, and it’s a real adrenaline buzz. You reach your launch site at the top of the bridge arch via zipline (which is exciting enough) and once you’ve jumped you get to do the Sky-Walk – a walkway suspended from the bottom of the bridge, also for those who’d like to experience the lofty views but don’t want to bungee.
Good to know Minimum age for bungee is 14 years; minimum age for Sky-Walk is 6 years. Minimum weight is 35kg and maximum weight 150kg.
Times Daily, 9am – 4pm
Cost R1 490 (bungee)
Where to find it Face Adrenalin, Bloukrans River Bridge, N2 (2.7km after toll plaza, 23km before Storms River)
Hiking at Storms River
There are nine self-guided hiking trails in and around Storms River, ranging from a 2km stroll through the forest to a stream and various routes to The Big Tree, as well as a small taste of the world-famous Otter Trail on the 6km Waterfall Trail. The showpiece walk is the 2km Mouth Trail, which crosses the suspension bridge and visits a Khoisan heritage cave en route to a panoramic lookout point. If it’s a hot summer’s day, the 5km Striptease Trail from Tsitsikamma Lodge takes in 11 crystal-clear rock pools.
Cost Conservation fee: R70 (SA adults); R35 (SA children)
R140 (SADC adults); R70 (SADC children)
R280 (international adults); R140 (international children)
Contact 042 281 1607 (SANParks office)
A seaside-holiday favourite for generations, this scenic harbour town promises fun and good times (as the self-styled “Adventure Capital” of the Garden Route), and abounds with historical curiosities as well as beautiful beaches and cliff-top strolls on either side of town. It’s also known to have the second-mildest all-year-round climate in the world (after Hawaii).
Don’t-miss local gathering: Great Brak Market (first Saturdays, every week in the holidays)
Taste the local tipple at: Cape St Blaize Distillery and Harmony Distillery
Mossel Bay zipline
So you’ve ziplined through forests and valleys and over mountain gorges – now’s your chance to whizz over the big blue sea, from atop a cliff (90 metres high) down to the rocky shore and tidal pools below, with a pretty good chance of getting splashed by crashing waves as you come in to land. This is the longest over-ocean zipline in the world (1 150 metres), and you’ll be gliding at around 80km/h. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll get grand views of the bay, lighthouse and town.
Good to know Suitable for anyone age 8 and up; maximum weight 120kg.
Times Daily, 8am – 5pm
Where to find it 6 Point Road, Cape St Blaize, Mossel Bay
Sandboarding on Dragon Dune
Another “record-setting” adventure to tick off is sliding down this monster sand dune, the biggest and longest sandboard ride in South Africa (170 metres high, 350 metres down) – speeds of up to 90km/h have been clocked. This outing caters for all ages and levels of experience, as there are two other dunes on either side for novices or the nervous – Baby Dune (100-metre ride) and Big-Boy (180-metre ride). You can choose to lie down, sit or stand on the boards. The dunes are on private land inaccessible to the public, so they’re absolutely pristine – with views to match.
Times Daily, 9am – 12pm (afternoon sessions available on request)
Cost R350 (SA citizens); R400 (international visitors)
Where to find it Meeting point at Engen 1-Stop Mossel Bay, N2
If you fancy seeing the stunning Garden Route coastline from above, book a seat in a helicopter for a quick flip or a longer journey. Mossel Bay Helicopters is the highly skilled go-to for firefighting, search-and-rescue missions, VIP services, filming and game counting – and also for pleasure trips. They offer great white shark and whale-watching flights, short trips up the coast to Hartenbos, Glentana and Klein Brak River, or to various areas of Mossel Bay (including the casino at Pinnacle Point), and from its base at Bergsig Game Farm, a game-viewing flight – with picnics thrown in, if you’d like. The headliner, though, is the one-hour coastal flight to Knysna and back.
Times Daily, 5am – 7pm
Cost R650 – R1 250 (various points around Mossel Bay)
R1 550 (great white spotting)
Coastal flights: R2 800 (to Glentana); R9 100 (to Knysna)
Where to find it On the R102, Hartenbos, or Bergsig Game Farm, off the R328
Botlierskop Game Reserve Horseback Safaris
There’s horseriding – and then there’s a horseback safari, one of the best ways to view game. The horses can go places vehicles can’t, and get quite close without scaring off their fellow beasts, which means you could find yourself in the midst of a dazzle of zebras or herd of antelope. With the sights, smells and sounds somehow amplified, riders really feel at one with the wilderness. Botlierskop Game Reserve offers horseback safaris and longer outrides (for more experienced riders), exploring woodlands and the coastal and mountain fynbos.
Times Daily, 8am – 12pm; 2pm – 5pm
Cost R430 (1 hour); R860 (2 hours); R1 300 (3 hours); R1 550 (outride)
Good to know Children need to be at least seven years for the horseback safari. Botlierskop also does guided walking trails and game drives for day visitors, and has a leisure centre (entry R50) with a swimming pool, waterslides and fountain pool, a restaurant and picnic decks beside the dam.
Where to find it Gonnakraal Road, Little Brak River
The oystercatcher is an endangered seabird that nests on beaches and feeds on mussels. Hikers on this guided slackpacking trip won’t have to sleep on the sand, but they will likely get to eat mussels and cover long stretches of rugged, protected coastline, spotting dolphins (and oystercatchers and much more), enjoying breathtaking views from cliffs and gaining an insight into the biodiversity and rich heritage of the region – and a look into our deepest past (Stone Age fish traps and middens). The four-night experience includes Cape St Blaize, Fransmanshoek, Dana Bay and the Gouritz River Mouth. Overnight accommodation is in charming cottages, with superb meals.
Good to know A minimum of six guests is required. Custom trails are offered on request, with activity add-ons or additional days of hiking.
Cost 4-Day trail: R8 450 per person sharing (all-inclusive)
3-Day trail: R5 900 per person sharing (all-inclusive)
Single supplements apply
1-Day hikes: R750 (Fransmanshoek); R850 (St Blaize); includes picnic lunch and snacks
Where to find it Boggomsbaai, 26km west of Mossel Bay
The capital of the Garden Route, this is where you’ll land if you’re flying in. Its greatest claim to fame is among golfers (Fancourt and Oubaai, enough said…), but there’s a lot more to do if you look around. It’s also a short drive from here over the spectacular Outeniqua Pass to Oudtshoorn and into the Klein-Karoo.
Don’t-miss local gathering: Elvis Brew (coffee roasters and farm stall)
Taste the local tipple at: Houtbosch and Herold Wines, 10 Oxes Craft Distillery
Ceramic painting at Wonki Ware
The world-famous pottery brand (Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver are fans) was born in George, and a visit to the factory offers an insight into the fascinating 14-step process, and the delightful opportunity to create your own unique piece of dinnerware. The adjacent The Pottery, in the original working studio, is an urban oasis garden café, where you can order something to eat and drink and paint your unfired bisque item (or do some mosaic work) at your leisure. Surfer couple Jocelyn and Dillon Marshall run the café so it has all the laidback good vibes you could wish for – plus great pizzas and burgers.
Good to know In addition to Wonki Ware, the shop sells a range of cool, sustainable beachwear and surf gear, and also hosts a summer night market.
Times Monday, 9am – 7pm
Tuesday + Wednesday, 9am – 5pm
Thursday – Friday, 9am – 8pm
Saturday, 9am – 2pm
Where to find it The Pottery Garden Café, 42 York Street, George
Learn to surf at Vic Bay
A visit to Victoria Bay is essential if you’re in the area – a gorgeous hidden beach just outside George, offering a small swathe of golden beach between forested headlands, complete with swaying palm trees, a pier and tidal pool, and the best right-hand point break in the southern Cape. It’s a great spot to learn to surf or improve your skills – the experienced crew from Vibe Surf School (who are all qualified lifeguards too) will kit you out with a wetsuit and board, and share their infectious enthusiasm and knowledge of wave-riding. You’re sure to be stoked.
Good to know Maximum five people per group lesson. They also offer lessons in Wilderness and Herold’s Bay.
Times Daily, 7am – 5pm
Cost From R350 (one-hour lesson)
Where to find it Victoria Bay Road (off the N2), Victoria Bay, George
Outeniqua Power Van trip
Be prepared for an unforgettable “train” journey that heads up into the Outeniqua Mountains, traversing four old railway passes in a vintage rail-inspection trolley. As the journey progresses, the surroundings become ever wilder and unspoilt, through fynbos and indigenous forests, past waterfalls, crossing bridges and through dark tunnels, opening up every so often to breathtaking vistas (and sheer drops on the side of the railway line!). The destination is “Topping”, the highest point on the line, and then it’s back down again, stopping for a scenic picnic at “Power”.
Good to know Passengers bring their own picnic basket. Booking is essential as the trolley only seats 21.
Times Daily, 9am – 11.30am; 12pm – 2.3pm
Saturday 8.30am – 11am
Cost R200 (adults); R180 (children)
Contact 044 801 8239
Where to find it Transnet Transport Museum, 2 Mission Road, George
Trails in George
A good place to start for a stretch of the legs is in the beautiful (and slightly wild) Garden Route Botanical Garden, with its indigenous Southern Cape flora, birds and butterflies, a large dam and wetlands – and a “mushroom meander” through a patch of forest. Several hiking (and mountain-biking) trails lead out of the garden into the bigger plantations, forests and mountains beyond. The most popular of these is the 11.5km hike east to the Pepsi Pools – a popular swim spot with its Coke-coloured waters, a little waterfall and rock pools. They can also be accessed from the tranquil Garden Route Dam trails, which are also worth a meander.
Good to know George has SA’s largest and most diverse network of trails for hikers, trail runners, mountain-bikers and paddlers, with over 2 300km mapped and GPX downloadable.
Times Botanical Garden: Daily, 7.30am – 5.30pm
Cost R20 (garden entry)
Contact 044 874 1558 (garden)
044 801 9295 (dam)
Where to find it Botanical Garden, 49 Caledon Street, Campher’s Drift, George
Garden Route Dam: 115 Stander Street, Loerie Park, George
Outeniqua Family Market
A buzzing weekend gathering for locals, this market is spread out over large grounds, with vast stretches of lawn, lots of trees with shady picnic benches underneath them, and rustic wooden sheds housing the wares of over 130 vendors – from churros, deep-fried Oreos, bruschetta and fresh produce to jewellery, a pet portrait artist and SA’s only producer of hand-rolled cigars. There’s live music, a plant nursery on-site and a massive kiddies’ playground (with a mini tractor-train, electric GoKarts, sand art, and more).
Times Saturday, 8am – 2pm
Cost Free entry
Contact 076 781 3621, email@example.com
Where to find it Close to the SASOL garage on the N2 to and from Wilderness at the circle (big sign indicating turn-off to market)
Canyon + river trips
Paradise Adventures, based in George, offers personalised adventure trips. The ultimate adrenaline-pumping Adventure Canyon trip combines river swimming, hiking, boulder-jumping/kloofing and abseiling down waterfalls inside a 100-metre-deep gorge. For something more mellow, there’s a guided kayaking trip to a waterfall for a picnic in the forest. Other trips in the area can be custom-designed to combine your choice of kloofing, kayaking and rock climbing. They also rent out two-seater kayaks if you simply want to paddle around the Garden Route Dam on your own.
Good to know Owner Marthinus Esmeyer, ex-pro mountain-biker, also offers customised mountain-biking packages on the Garden Route’s best trails – from forestry roads and jeep tracks to singletrack in the mountains.
Cost R500 (guided kayak trip); R400 (4-hour kayak rental)
From R750 (canyon/kloofing trip)
From R300 (mountain-biking)
From R650 (rock-climbing)
Where to find it Various locations around George and Wilderness
Some of the featured activities require the presence of an experienced guide and safety equipment; do not attempt them alone. Those venturing along the Garden Route should have the following emergency number on hand: 044 805 5071.
We also recommend @safetymountain as a useful resource for hikers. This free safety tracking service allows you to notify local trackers of your contact details, intended route and travel time via WhatsApp. You are then able to provide hourly updates on your progress, and to notify trackers when you are safely off the mountain.