6 Unique Affordable Places to Stay on the Garden Route

Where to sleep in the garden route? Looking for Hidden Gems at the Garden Route? Or unique places to stay close to Knysna? We've came up with a list that we tested out ourselves, and highly recommend you staying. None of the accommodations has paid or given us anything in return for this article. We just really liked these places, and think you might like the too! Check also our 5 day Garden Route Itinerary.


1. The Otters Bend Lodge - Camping close to the WineTram and the Garden Route

If you're looking for a unique and affordable place to stay in Franschhoek, Otters Bend Lodge is a great option. It's conveniently located just before the start of the Garden Route if you take the wine route. The lodge offers both camping and rooms, with a communal area in the midst of nature. One of the best things about Otters Bend Lodge is its large communal area, which features a custom-made old wooden wine barrel. You can light the fireplace at night after your wine-tram experience.


The wine tram is just a 20-minute walk from the lodge, depending on your starting station. According to the owners, there are otters, porcupines, and other small mammals in the area, although we didn't get to see them during our stay. Overall, we paid Rand 600 (30 euro) for our stay in May 2023.

2. TAO Campsites - The most romantic campsite on the Garden Route

There's a hidden gem in the Wilderness that's only available for campers. It opened in Autumn 2023 and is called the TAO Camp site. This unique campsite offers two camping spots that can accommodate up to six people each, allowing you to sleep under the stars. What makes this place special is the open-air bath tub. Dawid, the owner, built it himself and lives off the grid with his family next to the property.


At first glance, the price for the campsite might seem a bit high, but trust us, it's worth it. The space is clean and the homemade soaps and shampoos make it an unreal experience. Although the spots only accommodate tents, we had no problem sleeping in our rooftop tent and parking it close to the campsite. Dawid mentioned that he plans to create more space for campervans and overland trucks, so don't miss out on the opportunity to stay here in your overland truck.

3.Diepwalle Forest Camps - Sleeping in a rainforest close to Knysna

Are you looking for a unique opportunity to sleep in the wild? The Diepwalle forest, organized by SanParks, provides forest tents for a memorable experience. There are 10 wood tent decks available, four of which come with a tent equipped with two beds. Each tent deck is equipped with a braai, camping chairs, braai equipment, and a fridge!


During your stay, you can take advantage of the three Elephant trails. We were able to complete all three trails in just two days, making them relatively easy. The Red Trail (7km) is the most beautiful, giving you a Jurassic Park-like feeling. The Black Trail (9km) is the least interesting, but it's a great hike to prepare for the Otter Trail. Lastly, the White Elephant Trail (8km) is a good alternative for both hikes. It has a bit of the 'Jurassic Park vibe' like the Red Trail, but it's also as easy as the Black Trail.


If you're interested in booking one of the Tent decks (with or without tents), visit the Sanparks website to book in advance. Please note that parking conservation fees are not included. We always use the Wildcard, which gives us unlimited access to all Sanparks, including this one.

4. Holthil - The very affordable Plettenberg bay

Are you looking for a playful and adventurous experience in the midst of the jungle? Carla's little place may just be the perfect fit for you! As you enter the different rooms, you'll feel like you're stepping into the romantic set of a Venetian movie. The place is filled with intriguing artifacts, games, and even peacocks - we counted a total of 10!

One of the best things about this place is its close proximity to major parks in the Knsyna and Pletteberg areas, such as the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary, Wolf Sanctuary, Jukanji, Monkeyland, and Birds of Eden. It's an ideal location for exploring the surrounding area.


During our one-night stay in the house, we were impressed by the elegant room that featured a bathtub and heated blankets, perfect for keeping warm during the chilly winter months.


5. Oyster Creek Lodge - A huge wooden house for large groups Garden Route

If you're in search of group accommodation near Knysna, this is the perfect spot for you. A short five-minute drive outside of Knysna, you'll discover a spacious wooden villa situated on a private section of the lagoon. The villa is surrounded by the lagoon on two sides, providing an excellent opportunity for bird-watching and fishing. The villa features five rooms, along with a large shared common room that boasts a newly-installed fireplace. Although we were only two people, as it was the off-season, we would have loved to stay here for a weekend with a group of friends.


Esther, a delightful pensioner, manages Oyster Creek, along with her birds and one very cheeky monkey, which she would rather get rid of. She's incredibly helpful and responsive, always available to assist with anything you need. She even allowed us to use her personal laundry machine to wash our clothes after a few weeks of travel. The only downside to this location is that you must have a car to access nearby bars and restaurants.

6. Wild Spirit Lodge - The best accommodation of the Garden Route

There was a time when it was a secret, a hidden spot in the jungle that was just a myth. But now, it has become the most sought-after destination on the garden route and a true legend in its own right. The Wild Spirit Lodge is a place that caters to all, whether you are a wanderer, lost soul, or someone searching for a home. Many visitors end up staying for months or even years, drawn in by the magical aura that surrounds the place.


At the Lodge, you can opt for a dorm, ensuite private room (our recommended choice!), camping spot, tent, or family room. The campsite can accommodate hundreds of visitors, and during the annual New Year's festival, it gets packed with people from around the globe.

If you're planning a trip along the garden route, be sure to add this destination to your itinerary. No need to worry about bringing food, as the lodge offers nightly family-style dinners with a vegetarian and meat option. Enjoy your meal at large dining tables on the beautiful terrace of the treehouse. Once night falls, gather around the fireplaces, play some drums, and share stories or simply listen. In the summer, take advantage of the stunning outdoor natural water pool overlooking the jungle - it's out of this world!

Wild Spirit Lodge offers three hikes on their premises:

  • the Big Tree Hike (20 minutes)
  • the Magic Forest Hike (45 minutes)
  • Secret Waterfall Hike (60 minutes)

Swimming under the Secret Waterfall was an absolute highlight of our trip. The water may be chilly, but the experience of being in a Jurassic Park-like jungle is worth it. We stayed at the lodge for a total of four nights and are already planning our next visit.


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