High on the list of “South African Must Sees” is the Garden Route; an incredibly stunning scenic drive that will leave you speechless. Honestly, this is natural beauty like no other.
Whilst the garden route is considered safe (read more about this here: “Is South Africa Safe?”), I would avoid driving at night. We were also instructed to place all belongings in the boot of the car, out of anyone’s line of vision, so when booking a car, make sure you have a boot space big enough 🙂 If you’re worried, know that we had absolutely no problem at all – none. I honestly worried what all the fuss was about, but would recommend anyone take the above precautions.
In terms of drinks, we were told that a large number of restaurants in South Africa have a BYO policy. Whilst they charge a small corkage fee, this is much cheaper than buying your own bottles at dinner, especially if you have a favourite (like the ones we picked up in Stellenbosch); so I’d opt to call ahead and check.
We started the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth given it was an easy destination to fly into from Johannesburg. Port Elizabeth reminds me of Fremantle in Western Australia, without the colonial vibe. It’s a cute city but you don’t need much time here. We arrived in the late evening, stayed one night and drove out the next morning.
After leaving PE we drove through Jeffery’s Bay or J-Bay; a popular surfing beach. To be honest, there isn’t much more than a beach here, so if you miss it, you’re not missing much. Also on the way is the world’s highest Bungee Jump located at the Bloukrans Bridge, for those adrenalin junkies.
From J-Bay, we drove into Knysna a popular tourist destination with the colonial vibes PE was missing. Knysna is a great little town with lots of action during peak season, so I highly recommend spending a few nights here. We stayed at ‘The Lofts Boutique‘ in one of their new rooms overlooking the lake – STUNNING.
In terms of food, on the way into Knysna, we stopped at Plettenberg Bay to try Zinzi – I’d highly recommend it. Knysna is known around the globe for their oysters, so if this is your thing, head to 34South (looks like a diner) for a tasting plate. For breakfast and lunch, hit East Head Cafe but please get there early to avoid lining up. If you’re just after drinks on the water, I’d happily recommend Senza. Again, get their early to grab a table outside with a view.
A small town that most people tend to by-pass altogether however, it’s worth stopping over for both the food and the hikes. La Sosta Restaurant was voted one of the best restaurants in South Africa and with good reason – in saying that, please book at least a month in advance. Another honourable mention goes out to Drostdy, a great place for lunch with a view. In terms of hiking, we drove to the Marloth Nature Reserve where the walks were gorgeous.
Another fantastic holiday town where we wish we had more time. We stayed at One Marine Drive and loved it! In terms of food, we had an incredible meal with wine pairing at Creation Wines (entree pictured below) – please book a few weeks ahead! I’d also recommend Betty Blue Bistro for some healthier breakfast and lunch options – they do greens well!
In our opinion, the most beautiful part of the Garden Route is situated along the drive from Hermanus to Stellenbosch, via the scenic route (you do have to do a slight deter but it is definitely worth it – see first picture of this post).
Stellenbosch & Franschhoek are known as the wine regions of South Africa (and stunning regions at that). Stellenbosch centre also a university town, with a great vibe – I’d highly recommend visiting them both. FYI it’s worth noting that Franschhoek prices are at least 15% more expensive than Stellenbosch.
We stayed at Angala Boutique Hotel and would happily recommend both the the facilities and the in-house restaurant – food was incredible. I’d highly recommend either a wine tasting or lunch at Delaire Graff (pictured below) – just for the view however, see note below. I’d also recommend Jardine, sister restaurant of Jordan with local prices; their food was lovely!
In terms of booking a wine tour, we organised a private day tour through the hotel for a total of approximately $150 + LUNCH + TIPS (much cheaper than the tours on TripAdvisor). This fee included all tasting fees, and we managed to visit 6 wineries in total – I’d highly recommend it!
If you’re sick of wine and wine tasting, make sure you stop at Wilderer Distillery for a Gin tasting – one of the nicest gins we’ve ever had #drinkresponsibly 😉
From Stellenbosch, we drove into Cape Town, you can read more about this here: Alyse’s Guide to Cape Town 2017.