Guest blogger Cara Caulkins is currently traveling the world. Follow her adventures on her blog, Round the World with C.
Most, if not all, trips to South Africa include a stop in the most vibrant and cosmopolitan city in the country (and one of my personal favorite cities in the world) Capetown. The city has much to offer a tourist through food, wine, sights, arts, history, entertainment and more. However, just a few hours outside the city, stretching the south-eastern coast of South Africa from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, is an area known as the Garden Route filled with diverse vegetation, beautiful sights and charming, pristine towns filled with a wide range of activities for all types of travelers.
I would highly recommend this scenic drive as a must to include on your Capetown itinerary. Rent a car and set out along the Garden Route either to or from your trip into Capetown. How long you take to complete the drive will vary, but I think allowing at least 3-4 days provides a satisfying taste of this beautiful part of the country. Some of my favorite stops along the way include:
- George, the Garden Route's largest city and where you might fly in or out of depending on your Capetown plans. I flew into George from Johannesburg and rented a car that I drove along the route to Capetown. There isn't much else in George, so you're better to utilize the airport and then get moving elsewhere.
- Oudtshoorn: home to the world's largest ostrich population, you can tour local ostrich farms and even eat many varieties of ostrich-meat products (if you are so inclined). Just outside the main area of town are the Cango Caves, a majestic limestone and rock formation. Here you can take a guided 1-hour standard tour or a 1.5-hour adventure tour, which includes slithering through tight crawl spaces and climbing rocks. Rest your head at the charming and hospitable, Gumtree Guest House. Your home-cooked breakfast in the morning will provide all the energy you need for the next day's adventure.
- Knysna: a beautiful coastal town where forest, golf resorts and seashore meet to form a epicenter of sport, food and fun. The famous Knysna Heads are a breathtaking photo opportunity not to miss, a lagoon that feeds into the Indian Ocean formed by two mountains. For the active traveler, the nearby forests provide plenty of opportunity for hikes, picnics and even bike paths. if you are more of and adventurous type, you can also join up with groups or organize your own hiking/camping multi-day excursion. For foodies, plan your trip in July to coincide with the Knysna Oyster Festival. If you're in town during any other time of the year, don't fret, fresh seafood is caught and prepared daily. Near the center of town is the Knysna Elephant Park where you can see, touch and feed rescued African elephants, a truly magical experience for any traveler and family-friendly. Need a place to stay? I suggest the Knysna Country House for a comfortable, quaint guesthouse experience with knowledgeable owners.
- Plettenberg Bay: for beach-goers this is a must-see. Beautiful stretches of shore-lined sand, dolphins scampering in the ocean and an overall laid-back atmosphere perfectly cater to a relaxing vacation. It is better to stop here during the summer months in order to enjoy the beach, however, there are some delicious cafes and restaurants if you are driving through in wintertime.
- Hermanus: a historical fisherman village located on Walker Bay, the town is most known for whale watching, but offers additional tourist activities in the form of seafood restaurants and interesting museums. If whale watching is on your list, try and visit during the prime season, July-December.
The Garden Route offers a beautiful view of a spectacular country and hopefully will be a part of your future visits to the Cape.
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(Photo: South Africa, Garden Route Rivers via Shutterstock)