Ultimate 5 Day Garden Route Itinerary

5-Day Garden Route itinerary 

Are you planning a 5-day trip along the beautiful garden route in South Africa? Or do you still need to decide if five days are long enough for the garden route? This article will help you on your journey. The garden route can be done in many ways. From the short 3-day itinerary to spending a couple weeks on the Garden route. It depends on how much time you have on your trip. We always encourage that going a bit slower - thus taking more time - is the better option for the Garden Route. As there is a lot of things you can do. And the region is very big.

This is our route on the five-day Garden Route road trip:

Day 1 | 5-day garden route itinerary starting in Cape Town 

The first day of your 5-day itinerary on the Garden Route is a driving day, as you have to get towards the start of the Garden Route. Start your trip in Cape Town early in the morning (7 - 8 am) and drive towards the beginning of the Garden route along the N2. If you have more time, you could stop at many places; it is worth taking some time at Hermanus, Good Hope National Park or the wine region (Stellenbosch and Franschhoek).


It would be best if you arrived in Mosselbay (the official start point) around lunch. Park your car close to the lighthouse (not the city centre, unless you like to walk for 20 minutes). Mosselbay has a beautiful coastline where many surfers are in the water. There are a couple of restaurants on the beachfront. The most scenic part of the coastline is when you go beyond the Italian restaurant Delfinos. And walk around the block (approx. 20 minutes). If you are lucky, you can spot some dolphins or whales (June, July) in the water.

This is the view you have from Delfino's Restaurant in Mosselbay. A great place to spot whales, dolphins and surfers.

After your lunch drive another 60 minutes to Wilderness. You will find that most itineraries recommend staying in George - but it’s a bit of a boring city. So take the scenic drive just 15 minutes after George to Wilderness. This will be your first destination of your trip. The moment you drive the scenic pass, you will understand why the garden route is called the garden route.

Activities when you arrive in Wilderness:

  1. Depending on your time (and energy), there are some things you can do on your first day at Wilderness:
    There is the option today to drive to the ‘map of Africa’. This is a beautiful viewpoint at the top of the mountain in the Wilderness. There is a viewpoint that shows the beautiful jungle that lies beyond Wilderness. Some see the shape of Africa. Others see a crocodile. Some see nothing. Don’t forget to ask the two ladies there any questions about the viewpoint. They keep the place clean daily so that others can enjoy this viewpoint. You can tip them cash or by card (optional!).

  2. Another option is to explore the beach of Wilderness with a romantic walk. Make sure there is enough daylight when you start your hike so you come back around when the sun is setting. Either start at Beach House Backpackers or somewhere along the beach and walk towards the west.  If. you walk inlands you will pass by the old railway building. 

Best Places to stay in Wilderness:

Best low-budget option for overlanders and backpackers in Wilderness: Beach House Backpackers

The Beach House Backpacker is a classic in Wilderness. Guaranteed for great evenings. And one of the best views of Wilderness beach. It caters for different sort of travelers. We decided to park our car outside on the parking garage in sleep in our rooftop tent. They also offer dormitories, tents and private rooms for decent prices. This is your budget option in Wilderness. Check out Beach House Backpackers.


Best place to stay for couples on the beach: Dune Beach House (9.6 / 10)

Nestled in the heart of the Wilderness, Dune Beach House offers the ultimate seaside escape. With its breathtaking views, luxurious amenities, and pristine location, you'll experience nothing short of pure relaxation and rejuvenation. Whether you're seeking a romantic getaway or a family vacation, the beach house is the perfect destination.  Check out more information about Dune Beach House at Booking.com


Best Places to stay for families in Wilderness: Treedom Villas and Vardos  (9.5 / 10)

Looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in the Wilderness? Treedom Villas and Vardos offers charming and cozy accommodations nestled amidst the beauty of nature, perfect for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can enjoy a refreshing dip in the sparkling pool or relax and rejuvenate in the soothing sauna. With personalized service and attention to detail, visitors will feel right at home while experiencing the magic of the Wilderness. Check out more pictures and information at: Treedom Villas and Vardos.

Camping at Beach House Backpackers with 4x4

Our Landcruisers camping spot for the night at Beach Hostel Backpackers.

Unique place to stay Wilderness
Unique place to stay Wilderness photo frm inside

Above pictures provided by Treedom Villas and Vardos. This unique getaway in the middle of the nature of wilderness is one of a kind.

The most unique place to stay on the Garden Route in Wilderness

A hidden gem in Wilderness is the TAO Campsites. You will get your private camping area. The area comes with private ablutions, a braai area (with wood) and (the best part) an outdoor bath tube! You can only stay here if you bring a tent or a 4x4 with rooftop tent like us. What is more magical than having a bath (naked if you like) in the middle of the jungle? With a romantic campfire and fairy lights above your head? This was one of our favourite places on the whole garden route! Check out Lekkeslaap (the South African Booking.com) for bookings. 

Tao Campsites Camping spot
Tao campsites camping spot Wilderness

Day 2 | Garden Route Itinerary Knysna and surroundings

In the morning, we recommend you explore the region around Wilderness. There are multiple things you can do. The things we did in Wilderness (note we stayed there a week, so you can't do all these things) are:

  • Hiking the Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness National Park (50% cano, 50% walking) (approx. 3 hours)
  • Skydiving at George Skydive Center (2-3 hours)
  • Surfing and Victoria Bay beach (one of the best surfing spots along the garden route) - the best time to go is around 6 am.


After your activity, drive onwards towards Knysna. The ride is about 1-hour drive from Wilderness. There is an excellent option to go to - a short 10 minutes detour by car, which will give you one of the best beaches on the garden route. It's called Gericke's Point. Gericke's Point is an excellent place to stroll along the sand and reefs. When you arrive in Knsyna, find a nice place to Lunch. 


There is a couple of restaurants that have daily specials. For example Drydock. Every day between 11:00am and 16:00pm, one dish will be super cheap. Wednesday, it was Sirloin and Prawns for 139 rands and Tuesdays, they had a Seafood platter for 2 for just 250 rands.


Left the Kingfisher trail which is done 50% by canoe. On the right the Drydock Daily Specials.

During the afternoon in Knysna, there are multiple options for you to explore:

  • Enjoy the marine harbour with its fine restaurants serving good food and drinks.
  • Watch the critically endangered Knysna Seahorse in the Knysna seahorse rescue centre. 
  • Visit the local Rastafari village. It's safe to go here and to walk around. Plenty of people will offer your their sacred herbs.

The Best Places to stay in Knysna

The best place to stay in Knysna for Larger Groups    The Oyster Creek Lodge (9.1/10) 
Oyster Creek Lodge is a charming B&B that used to be a residential house. The owner, who happens to be German, designed it to seamlessly blend with the surrounding lagoon. You'll notice typical German wooden characteristics in the building's architecture. The Lodge is situated right by the lagoon, creating a peaceful and serene environment. It has 5 cozy bedrooms, and a shared living room that's perfect for large groups or families.


The best place to stay in Knysna for families: Valley Studio (9.7/10) 
Escape to Paradise at the Valley Studio, a sustainable apartment in Knysna that offers guests a relaxing oasis in the heart of nature. With stunning views of the surrounding valley, this eco-friendly accommodation features a beautiful pool, a spacious garden, and a cozy terrace where you can unwind and soak up the sun. Visit this link for more pictures.

Places to stay on Garden Route 5 itinerary Knysna
Alternative Places to stay on Garden Route 5 itinerary Knysna

The Valley Studio is completed solar powered. The whole roof is kitted with solar panels. So need need to worry of Loadshedding. See pictures above of intererior.

Garden Route Itinerary day 3 | Too many options for a five day itinerary!

On day three, we recommend spending time in nature. As you are on the beautiful garden route, there is so much that Mother Nature has to offer here. As you are limited in time, we recommend one of the following three options with an overnight stay.


Option 1: A day full of adventure and hiking in the Garden route: Visit Diepwalle National Park for an overnight stay. It's a 30-minute drive from Knsyna up north. Just follow road R339. You don't need a 4x4 to get there. At the Diepwalle National Park, you find the oldest part of the rainforest along the garden route. You can explore one, two or three (we don't judge) of the Elephant hikes there. Each is around 7 km long. If you are lucky, you can spot some game (bush pig, gannets, small deer). Unfortunately, the Knysna forest elephant has not been seen in a long time. 


Accommodation in Diepwalle:

The park offers two options for accommodation. You can pitch your tent on a plateau in the jungle for campers. For non-campers, you can rent a pre-pitched tent on a plate fully equipped with good beds and camping gear (stools, cooking equipment, lights etc..). Both options come with a braai. Remember to bring wood or coals. Booking can be done at the website of the National Park itself. There are only 12 plateaus available - so make sure to book in time.

Option 2 (Romantic and for wildlife enthusiasts). Visit the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary. We also recommend you stay here for the night. The Elephant sanctuary is a place for rescued elephants. The lodge offers a variety of options for encountering elephants. Don't worry. These are non-intrusive encounters. The park doesn't allow any touching or riding of the elephants. What is so special about staying here for the night is hearing elephants snoring from your room. The lodge is built next to the stables where elephants like to sleep at night (they are free to walk in, but like humans, elephants rather sleep indoors). The lodge has an open living area that gives you a fantastic view of the elephants while sleeping. This is the closest you can get to sleeping with elephants.

Option 3. (For families and animal lovers) Visit three animal sanctuaries! Spend your time at Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and Jumanji. You can view one, two or three of the parks as they come in a bundle and are all close to each other. Expect to spend about 2 hours per park.

  • Our personal favourite is Monkeyland. There is a beautiful hanging bridge where you can walk among the apes. They have a large variety of apes. The smaller ones roam freely around the park (you can buy food to feed them). The bigger ones have protected areas where they can stay (like a zoo). 
  • The second is Birds of Eden. We love watching birds. And in this park, you can see various birds flying around freely. Get your camera with you for those beautiful shots of the birds. Like in Monkeyland, there is an option to feed birds at a small cost. This is an enjoyable activity for smaller kids.
  • Third is Junaji Park. This park is dedicated to the big cats of Africa. You will find all sorts of cats here. Most cats don't belong to the region and are rescued from private owners who used to hold them as pets. At the park, they can rest their final days in peace. No interaction with cats is offered here (as it should!).


Accommodation for option 3.

For people looking for a unique place to stay, we recommend staying at Holt Hill. Carla has created a beautiful place to stay with individually designed rooms and a garden full of peacocks! Another good option is to drive further towards Plettenberg Bay and keep at xx or xx or xx. And make it a 2-night stay at this location.

Garden Route Itinerary - Day 4

Depending on where you come from, drive early morning to Plettenberg Bay (about 1 hour from Knysna). Grab your camera and binoculars. Today is the best chance to spot whales, dolphins, seals, and great white sharks! We don't suggest you go cage dive (you could, though). On day 4, we recommend hiking along the Robberg Nature Reserve. The nature reserve named after the many robes (= Dutch for seals) is a beautiful day hike. You can drive your car to the start of the park. A conservation fee is required (free for wildcard owners).


There are different routes available. The big one (about 14km is a bit strenuous. You have to start your hike before 14:00 to be allowed to go in). While you walk along the Robberg, you can spot on the east side thousands of seals. Watching them swim is fantastic. If you are lucky, you can sometimes spot groups of dolphins or a lonely great white. We spotted about 30 dolphins on our hike. Unfortunately, there is no great white, but the shark spotter told us they had spotted multiple great whites the day before.


If you don't like hiking, you can opt for a boat tour along the Robberg. Diving with seals is an activity being offered in Plettenberg.


After your hike, you can find one of the more excellent restaurants at the beach to enjoy the sunset. Plettenberg also has one of the better nightlife of spots along the garden route. So if you want to spend a night partying on your 5-day garden itinerary, this is the place to be. The club we recommend going to for a night out is xx.


Overnight stay at the Joneses B&B in Plettenberg on Garden Route 5 day itinerary

The view of our B&B The Joneses in Plettenberg. This places is probably the best value for money in Plettenberg.

Day 5 | The last day of the five-day garden route itinerary

The last day of your 5-day garden route trip. Early in the morning, you drive to Stormsrivier. On your drive there, you will go over the Bloukansrivier Bridge. This place is famous for the world's highest bungee jump, a bridge. This is not for the faint-hearted. But rest assured, in the 26 years of its operation, nobody ever died doing this 280m bungee. 


Stormsrivier is the final stop on the garden route. At Stormsrivier, it's all about being in the jungle of the Tsitsikamma. There are plenty of options to explore:

You can go canoeing in the river mouth. 


Depending on your travel plans from Stormsrivier, you can drive onward towards Port Elizabeth. This is another 3 hours of driving, and you will pass the famous Jeffreysbay, which is worth a stop for a couple of days. Another option is to drive back from Stormsrivier to Cape Town. This will take you about 10 hours. We once did it in one day. But in all honesty, it's a long drive (on a good road, though). Alternatively, fly back via George, Plettenberg or Port Elizabeth to your next destination.

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