Garden Route | Everything you need to know

The Garden Route is located between Mossel bay (Mussel bay) and Storms River along the coast off the Western Cape South Africa.  It's one the main tourist destinations for people traveling to South Africa.  On this page we will dive into everything you need to know about this region. Beste Places to Sleep in the garden route. The best Restaurants along the Garden Route, and of course all the amazing activities along the Garden Route. Personally we have travelled alogn the Garden route 3 times and spent a total of 9 weeks on the Garden Route. We start with some general information and will dive into the different sections.

Where is the Garden Route Located?

Officially the Garden Route starts in Mossel bay (Mussel Bay, Mosselbaai) and ends in Storms river (Stormsrivier). It stretches a total of 300km with various small towns located along the route. You will notice that when you search for the Garden Route there are arguments whether some parts are part of the Garden Route. Most people when covering the Garden Route also include Hermanus (for whale watching), Jeffreys Bay (Surfing Hotspot) and Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) in their itineraries. Some argue that even Addo Elephant Park and parts of the Sunshine coast (Port Alfred and further) are part of the Garden route. If you have the time it's definitely worth going to those places. But officially the Garden Route starts in Mossel bay (Western Cape) ends at the Stormsriver (Eastern Cape).


What places are on the Garden Route?

This overview shows the biggest towns on the route from west to east.

  1. Mosselbay
  2. George
  3. Wilderness
  4. Knysna
  5. Plettenbergbay (local say Plett)
  6. Nature's Valley
  7. Stormsriver

What places are not on the Garden Route, but nearby and worth visiting?

We recommend visiting the following places west from the Garden Route to visit:

  1. Hermanus - Whale watching
  2. Gansbaai - Shark Cage  Diving
  3. Swellendam - Hiking and Good Hope Nature Reserve
  4. Oudsthoorn - Ostrich Farms and Game Drives

And the following places East of the Garden route

  1. St. Francis Bay  (Surfing, Beach town)
  2. Jeffreys Bay (Surfing, Super tubes)


How do you get to the Garden Route?

The Garden Route can be visited from multiple directions. The five most common routes are the following:

Driving to the Garden Route

Option 1 (most chosen): The Garden Route from Cape Town (directions, Google Maps). From Cape Town its roughly 400km's to the start of the Garden Route in Mosselbay. You have can take the fastest route following the N2 highway (no toll, good road conditions) and you will get there in 4 hours. Via this route you can take a detour to pinguins in Betty Beach, Hermanus, or Good Hope National Park. You can also go via the wine region where you drive through Stellenbosch, Frranschoek and Robertson. This will take you about 4 hours and 30 minutes. Highly recommended to stay a couple days in this region.

Option 2:  The Garden Route from Johannesburg (directions, Google Maps). From Johannesburg it's a long drive to the Garden Route. It will take you roughly 12 to 15 hours to reach Stormsriver, to start the Garden Route from the east side. This road is along the N1. In our opinion this is a boring route to take. As the road is straight and it will feel like a very long drive without too much highlights among the route. Most people coming in from Johannesburg will choose not drive there directly but to combine it with the Wild coast via Durban or make a stop over in Lesotho.  Be mindful that car companies often charge you an extra amount if you don't return your car in Johannesburg.  

Flying to the Garden Route

Option 3. Flying to the Garden Route directly via George. George is located on the Garden Route (about 50km drive from the western Start point of the Garden Route). It is not always easy to find flights to George as it's a smaller airport.

Option 4. Flying to the Garden route in-direct via Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha). From Port Elizabeth its a 170km drive to the start of the Eastern start point of the Garden route. This seems far but everything in between is worth visiting. When you opt to fly in on Port Elizabeth make sure to safe some time for Addo Elephant park, Jeffreys Bay and St Francis. As these are all worth a day-trip or more. You can easily catch affordable flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to either of the cities.


Public Transport to the Garden Route

Option 5. Using the Public transport to the Garden Route.  Public transport in South Africa is not well developed. And the local mini-taxi's are not always a very safe option. Luckily there is the Baz Bus. The Baz Bus gives you a one way tickets from either Cape Town or Port Elizabeth on the Garden Route. Be mindful the Baz Bus takes a full day (early morning till late in the evening) for the garden route. And only stops at designated hostels a long the route. You can chose for example an 8-day ticket which gives you a week time discovery and to hop-on and hop-off on various locations along the Garden Route. The Baz Bus is the best option for solo-travellers on the Garden Route. Tickers are a bit expensive though ($249, June 2023). And local minibuses will be a cheaper (but more dangerous and even slower) option.

Is the Garden Route Worth Visiting?

This is really up to what you like visit the Garden Route if you like any of the following:

  • Hiking in nature (especially lush green jungle, white sandy beaches)
  • Adrenaline boasting activities (e.g. Surfing, Bungeejumping, Skydiving, Kloofing or Kite surfing) on the Garden Route
  • Food, Restaurants and Bars with the most beautiful views and surroundings
  • Game Drives, Animal Sanctuaries and Bird Watching on the Garden Route

If you are looking for the true authentic African experience (remote areas, small villages), the garden route is maybe not the best option. You can then better go for the Wild Coast / Transkei (Eastern Cape / KZN) or Lesotho, as they will give a more authentic local experience. In our trip we combined the comfort and excitement of the Garden Route  (2 weeks) with also the more authentic parts of South Africa East Coast (1 week) and Lesotho (5 days).


Where to stay at the Garden Route?

Are you looking for something affordable or luxury? Take a look at our guides. Low budget places (hostels) to stay along the Garden Route. Luxury Places to stay along the Garden Route. Or - and we recommend this list - We also created a list with our favorite places to stay along the garden route.

To give you a quick summary we recommend staying at the followings towns on the Garden Route (from West to East):

  1. Don't stay in Mosselbay (nice for a day visit, but not worth staying overnight) but but drive further towards George or Wildernis for your first stop.
  2. Only an hour further we recommend staying Knsyna for a couple of days.
  3. After Knysna take some time in either Plettenberg Bay or Natures Valley.
  4. And lastly spend some time in Stormsriver and find accommodation here.

More information detailed information about places to stay at the Garden Route you find in our: 1 week Garden Route, 10 days Garden Route and 2 week-Garden Route itineraries.

Frequently asked questions about the Garden route

Where is the Garden Route?

The Garden Route is located in South Africa. It's partly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. It starts in Mosselbay and ends in Stormsriver.

Is the Garden Route expensive?

Expensive is a relative term. From people outside of Africa (Europe, America) it will be considered cheap. As you can have a main course for less than $5 / €5. And a mid-range accommodation for $30,- €30.-. 


Though in South Africa the Garden Route is considered a more expensive area. As cost of living is considerably higher in this part of the country.

How many days do I need for the Garden Route?

This really depends. You can drive through it in less than a day as it's only 300 kilometers longer. But we recommend spending a minimum of 5 days and ideally 10 days or more.

When is the best time to visit the Garden Route?

The Garden Route is interesting all year round.

  1. The summer months (December - February) are the busiest. Expect to pay more for accommodation and you need to book in advance, but you are guaranteed good weather.

  2. Both Spring (September - November)  and Autumn (March-May) are great as the temperature is not as hot - but still very tropical. And you will find that it's not as crowded as during the summer. Great for hiking and outdoor activities.

  3. The winter months (June - August) are the coldest. You won't struggle to find accommodation, but you might experience a bit of cold during the nights. You will have the cheapest options for accommodations and are in the right season to spot whales.



What to do in the Garden Route when it rains?

Bad luck! But no worries, there a loads of things you can do at the Garden Route when it rains.

For example:

  1. Spend the day on the many spa's and wellness centers around Knysna.
  2. Visit one of the local pubs. If in doubt, ask a local to take you there.
  3. Visit the art galleries in Knysna.
  4. Put on a rain jacket and have a walk in the RAINFOREST Diepwalle. Amazing opportunity to get real Jurrasic Park videos.
  5. Go and visit the Knysna Seahorse center - to see the high endangered Knysna Seahorse
  6. Grab a book - and watch the rain drop while enjoying some nice cappuccino at your favourite coffee spot.
  7. Go to Mitchell's Brewery in Knysna - and enjoy local crafted beer.

What are the Best places to stay garden route South Africa?

The best places to stay are Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg, and Stormsriver. But it ofcourse depends on what you are looking for.