Guide to the Garden Route
In my last post, I shared the highlights of our incredible road trip along South Africa’s garden route.
To follow up on this, here’s a guide for those planning to do their own garden route trip (and if you’re not, you should!). Enjoy!
Start and End Points:
The garden route officially stretches for just 300km, from Stormsrivier in the east to Mossel Bay in the west. But most visitors start or end their journey in Cape Town, which is 385km west of Mossel Bay.
Visitors who also want to take in a safari (and why wouldn’t they? It’s South Africa after all!), can start at Port Elizabeth and spend a day or two at Addo Elephant National Park. This is 177km before the official eastern start of the garden route at Stormsrivier.
So, starting at Addo NP, driving through the garden route and ending in Cape Town meant our journey was 755 km in total. We took just under two weeks to do the trip. You could easily spend longer, but I wouldn’t recommend less than nine days (and even then you’d be rushed!).
The best way to tackle the garden route is by hiring your own car. Car rental can be as little as SAR200 (£8/$12) per day, but this can double if you want to add an extra driver. You can pick up and drop off the car in different places (for example, we picked the car up in Bloemfontein and dropped it in Cape Town), but expect to pay a hefty one-way fee of around SAR800 (£35/$50).
The garden route itself is relatively easy to drive, especially if you’re used to driving on the left. But be on the lookout for reckless drivers, especially those who overtake on corners.
Though the garden route is a comparatively safe part of South Africa, don’t leave your belongings on display in your car.
Attendants are usually on duty in car parks by beaches and outside supermarkets. They’ll keep an eye on your car in exchange for a tip.
Most hotels, hostels and campsites will have secure overnight parking.
Stop signs are littered throughout towns, even in places that seem to make no sense! But make sure to come to a complete stop, even if you can see the way is clear, or you face a large fine.
Public buses don’t stop at the main points along the garden route, so if you don’t fancy driving or hitchhiking, your best bet is the Baz Bus. This is a hop-on, hop-off bus that runs along several routes in South Africa.
You can either buy a ticket for a certain destination and hop on and off as many times as you like along the way, or you can buy a 7-day or 14-day pass and go wherever you like. The bus picks up and drops off at several affiliated hostels along the garden route. For more information, click here. Or, to read a tips from a blogger who’s done the garden route on the Baz Bus, click here.
All types of accommodation, from luxury hotels to basic hostels to campsites are available all along the coast, especially in towns and near major attractions.
We bought ourselves a cheap tent at the start of our trip, and stayed in campsites along the way. Usually this was comfy enough, though some sudden bursts of rain had us running for our car in the middle of the night!
The campsites are attached to hostels, most of which have a bar and communal area. Campsites usually cost SAR60-120 per person, and dorms cost SAR100-180.
Even though we traveled in the peak season (early December), we found there was no need to book ahead. We’d very rarely find a place to be booked out, and when we did it was easy enough to drive to the next campsite.
Stopping Points and Distances:
Port Elizabeth (not officially on the garden route)
For: Addo Elephant National Park
Stormsrivier (the official eastern start/end point of the garden route)
Distance from Port Elizabeth: 177km, 1hr 58mins
For: Tenikwa Big Cat Sanctuary, Birds of Eden, Monkeyland and more
Distance from Stormsrivier: 62km, 44mins
Distance from Plettenberg Bay: 32km, 29mins
Mossel Bay (the official western start/end point of the garden route)
Distance from Knysna: 109km, 1hr 21mins
For: cage diving with great white sharks, whale watching (seasonal)
Distance from Mossel Bay: 303km, 3hrs 2mins
For: penguin watching
Distance from Gansbaai: 88km, 1hr 14mins
Distance from Betty’s Bay: 95km, 1hr 31mins
Got any other tips for the garden route? Share them in the comments!