Sightseeing on the Garden Route
August 18, 2006 8:58 PM   Subscribe

South Africa -- what to see while driving the garden route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth?

Tucked inside an otherwise overbooked South Africa trip, we've left ourselves eight days for a fairly leisurely road trip down the length of the Garden Route.

I'm into natural beauty, as well as things that are just plain bizarre. My travelling companion is into fabrics, beading, and local cultures.

Any suggestions, particularly in the parts further away from Cape Town, would be greatly appreciated...

(Just for the record, we've already got "drinking ourselves silly in Stellenbosch" planned as a day trip from Cape Town.)
posted by tkolar to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well the entire Garden Route (which technically starts from Mossel Bay, Cape Town to Mossel Bay is mostly famland) is beautiful so there will be plenty of places to stop and admire the view.

If you're here till the end of Decembers you can stop off and see the Southern Right Whales which move up from the arctic to breed off the coast of Hermanus.

If you want to do some shark cage diving the place to do it is in Gansbaai.

Knysna (voted Best Town in South Africa) is quite nice and there's a lot to do and it's very pretty. The tours to the Featherbed Nature Reserve (on one half of the Knysna heads) is pretty cool. The town is quite the tourist attraction so it might be quite busy. If you play golf then Fancourt in George (60km further on) is the place to do it.

The beaches in Wilderness (between George and Knysna) are great in summer.

Once you're in Cape Town the choices of things to do gets a helluva lot more. If you're looking for fabrics and beads the place to go is either Greenmarket Square in Cape Town itself or the Greenpoint Market which is held every Sunday. Of course the required activities in Cape Town include going up either Lion's Head, Table Mountain (or both), Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Point and the Southern Peninsula and so on and so forth.

Have fun!
posted by PenDevil at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2006

If you're driving, my 2 key rules are:
- Never leave anything visible in your car. Not even for a few minutes.
- Assume that everyone else on the road is drunk. Especially at night.

Having said that, the roads are excellent and drivers are generally courteous. Most of the N2 highway you'll be on is a single lane, but there's a very wide shoulder that's the size of a full lane, and you should move into it when people come from behind. Flashing your lights to encourage the person in front to move onto the shoulder is common (and not offensive) practice, and briefly turning on your hazard lights is how to say thanks.

So onto the things to do:
- Jump the highest bungie in the world at Bloukrans bridge. Or do the Flying Fox
- Cable slide across the canopy of the Tsitsikamma rainforest
- Tsitsikamma Forest Village has a whole bunch of crafts and Tsitsikamma forest itself is a great place to go hiking
- See the elephants at Knysna Elephant Park
- Visit Jeffreys Bay, one of the world's top surfing spots.
- I'm not sure what your budget is, but if you can, splurge on a night or two at the Phantom Forest Eco Reserve. And if not, I highly recommend dinner at their boma
posted by quiet at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2006

My partner and I just finished driving the Garden Route as far as Tsitsikamma (started in Cape Town). My suggestions, based on the things we really enjoyed...

- Bloukrans bridge bungee jump and flying fox. Really amazing. Cost is approx US$80 for the jump. The staff (and there are lots of them) are friendly, very safety conscious, and really put you at ease. It was my first bungee jump and I wasn't even nervous! Even if you don't jump, stop to view the bridge (and other jumpers) from the jump-area lookout (free) - it is a spectacular bridge and you won't see anything but the boring roadway if you just drive over it.
- Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary near Nature's Valley. Very educational and you will see many species of monkey's up close. Quite inexpensive (around US$15). We really enjoyed it.
- "The Heads" at Knysna. A spectacular view of the twin cliffs framing the entrance to Knysna Bay. Drive to the scenic lookout (there are signs) and spend some time soaking in the amazing view.
- If you are into scenery and are OK with getting off the Garden Route for a detour, try this drive which is spectacular... Drive north off the N1 through George to Oudtshoorn and then north some more along the Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert. This mountain pass is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world, and is you are interested in such things, it is an engineering marvel. The drive "feels" dangerous but it really isn't. It just adds to the excitement. I can't recommend it enough!

One thing I found disappointing generally about travelling in South Africa is that a lot of the craft stalls and markets seem to sell the same stuff. You will see the same items everywhere. This is not to say a lot if it isn't good quality and interesting (I bought tons of stuff), but I found it hard to find variety after visiting a few. You really need to look hard for unusual things.

Oh, and about driving, I echo the other comment about drivers wanting to pass. It is very common, just pull over a bit and let them go.

Have fun!
posted by jameskul at 3:22 AM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone. I leave tonight...
posted by tkolar at 9:55 PM on August 24, 2006

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