Life, for most of us, seem to be happening in the fast lane these days and the idea of taking a break and getting away from it all – even just for a day or two, often seems like a bit of a foreign concept. But who can put a price on some time out, some time away from it all, time to simply rest and reflect, time to spend with family and friends, to love, laugh and simply enjoy life? Nope – that stuff can’t be bought.
Planning such a get-away can however seem like just another thing on the ‘to do’ list, which means that it will probably never happen. That is why we’ve decided to do most of the work for you so that you can easily plan that next get-away to one of the most beautiful areas of our country, the Garden Route.
Why the Garden Route?
There are only a few places in this world where beauty seems to be all around. The Garden Route is such a place. Everywhere one looks, creation is echoed in the most stunning of ways. From the sandy, white beaches and impressive mountain passes, to the mysterious forests, lazy lakeside towns, wonderful wildlife and lush vegetation. Everything speaks to the heart and soul and makes one feel like you’ve escaped to another world. Whether you enjoy the odd rush of adrenaline through your veins, some fun outings with the kids, a spot of golf, some pampering, some exploration or a quiet afternoon lazing in the sun, the Garden Route has it all.
How to get there?
If you find yourself in the Western or Eastern Cape, simply hop in the car and head onto the N2. The Garden Route officially starts in Mossel Bay and stretches all the way to Storms River on the other side of this main highway. From Cape Town it will take you about 4 hours by car and from Port Elizabeth only about 2 hours. If you live a bit further afield, try one of these airlines that fly to George and Port Elizabeth from most of the main centres – Kulula, Mango Airlines and Safair. SAA only flies to PE and CemAir to George and Plettenberg Bay. From these airports there are a variety of companies that will safely transfer you to and from your accommodation or anywhere else you’d like to go. You can try EZ Transfers (www.airportshuttle.co.za) or Gecko Tours (www.geckotours.co.za). Or why not simply rent your own car with which to explore the area? All the major car rental agencies have branches in George, Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth.
What to pack
The Garden Route has a Mediterranean climate, which means you can expect moderate to warm days, ranging from 24 – 30˚C in summer (November – March) and sunny and mild to chilly days in winter (June – August). The area also has quite a high rainfall figure in winter, which would explain the lush, green vegetation, so remember to pack a rain jacket or umbrella if you intend visiting during that time. Also remember to pack comfortable walking shoes, your camera and binoculars. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to miss a thing.
Where to stay
The Garden Route has a wide variety of accommodation options on offer, from the humble backpacker type establishment, to the cost-effective family type stay on to gorgeous forest hide-aways, ultra-chic guest houses and luxury hotels – whatever you like. Just be sure to book early to avoid the peak season rush.
Carmel Guest Farm
With breath taking views of Victoria Bay, magnificent gardens, delicious food, comfy rooms and warm hospitality, this Christian guest farm is perfect for a getaway. Whether it’s a personal retreat, family holiday, conference or wedding, Carmel offers so much. Many come for the quiet, reflective space, some for the fun holiday activities; all leave renewed by God’s love. (www.carmelguestfarm.co.za)
Looking for a secluded, romantic getaway near Knysna? Then Cliffhanger Cottages is just for you. It offers a haven for nature lovers or anyone looking for privacy, peace and beautiful views. Two beautifully appointed, cosy, sunny and spacious wooden chalets overlook a forested valley with the Outeniqua mountains in the background. Come and put your feet up, lite the fireplace and wash the city from your soul. (www.cliffhangercottages.co.za)
Make that childhood fantasy come true with a stay in one of these eight gorgeous, self-catering tree houses situated on the Karatara river. With 35 hectares of pristine, bird and butterfly filled indigenous forest surrounding it, this truly is a paradise for any nature lover. Whether you’re looking for a romantic hide-out or a amily getaway, this is definitely more than a one night stay. (www.teniquatreetops.co.za)
The Wilderness Hotel
This hotel is conveniently situated in Wilderness, halfway between George and Knysna on the N2 and impresses with its quiet location, friendly service and countless facilities. Start the day with a buffet breakfast and a swim in their outdoor pool before spending a relaxing day at the beach. Pop into the wellness centre for a spa treatment or opt for a spot of outdoor chess or miniature golf before you end the day with some sundowners and dinner overlooking the lagoon. (www.wildernesshotel.co.za)
Farm & Fellow Restaurant and Guesthouse
Discover the warm hospitality of the Farm & Fellow Guest House and Restaurant, situated just outside George. Stay in one of their thirteen luxury en-suite rooms or two fully equipped self-catering units or simply pop in for a visit at their lovely restaurant and open-air lounge under the trees. Come and enjoy a hearty breakfast or enjoy a rustic farm style meal while the kids have some fun in the play area. (www.tramonto-venue.co.za)
Madison Manor Boutique Hotel & Conference Centre
Come and find an aura of grandeur at this charming boutique hotel in Knysna, beautifully decorated with antique furniture pieces made from indigenous woods, such as yellowwood, stinkwood and blackwood. Although the décor reminds of yesteryear, each of the sixteen uniquely decorated suites offer complete luxury and comfort, together with 21st century amenities to create a very memorable stay. (www.madisonmanor.co.za)
What to do
If you enjoy the great outdoors, there is definitely no shortage of things to see and do in this beautiful area. There are numerous exquisite beaches to explore and hiking trails from which to pick and choose.
In the Mossel Bay area you can pop into the Bartolomeu Dias Museum, do some shark cage diving, visit a game reserve or do some horse riding, while George is famous for its golf courses and beautiful scenery. Explore the gorgeous Outeniqua mountains with a trip on the Power Van or have some fun with the kids at Redberry farm, before cooling off at one of the popular beaches like, Victoria Bay, Wilderness Beach, Herolds Bay or Glentana.
Indalu Game Reserve
If you’re looking for that once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience, you have found it. Indalu has everything to offer the discerning wildlife traveller, from fabulous big five game drives and luxurious bushveld chalets, to up close and personal encounters with Africa’s most gentle of giants. Their popular guided elephant walks also include an informative session during which visitors can interact, feed and pose with the animals, so book today. (www.indalu.co.za)
Venture on to Knysna where the lagoon offers countless opportunities for water sports and boat rides, while the area also boasts a variety of markets, little shops and restaurants to explore. The stunning natural forests and surrounding areas also create the ideal space for outdoor enthusiasts to hike, cycle and conquer by 4 x 4.
Plettenberg Bay on the other hand, is the ideal place to a get a bit of an adrenaline rush with some bungy jumping, tree top ziplining, abseiling, sky diving, ocean kayaking or some other adventure activity. It also offers a wide variety of wildlife sanctuaries to visit if a more laid-back nature experience is your thing.
Go Garden Route & Klein Karoo
The world-famous Garden Route and Klein Karoo towns offer a myriad of attractions, from the international, award-winning South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance sanctuaries, Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and Jukani, to the highest commercial bungy jumping bridge in the world, Bloukrans Bridge. Activities also include skydiving, surfing, ziplining, swimming with indigenous Cape Fur Seals, horseback riding or safari experiences. Whatever your personal preference, there is so much to enjoy in our warm and hospitable, malaria-free corner of Africa. (www.gogardenroute.co.za)