6 Unique - but cheap - 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! 

Otters Bend Lodge - Franschoek 

Ok technically this one is a bit of the Garden Route - but still worth mentioning. As it's just before you start on the Garden Route if you take the wine route. Looking for a unique place to stay in Frranschoek? You want something affordable (cheap), close to the Wine-tram. Unique. Both camping and rooms? With a communal area in the nature? Then stop looking. Then check out the Otters Bend Lodge.


The Otters Bend Lodge is an unique accommodation off the main road in Frranschoek. What we liked about this place was the large communal area. The owners got it custom made  with an old wooden wine barrel. Light the fireplace at night after your wine-tram experience. The wine tram is approx. 20 minute walk from the Otters Bend lodge (depending on your starting station).

Apparently there are Otters, Porcupines and other small mammals in the area. We didn’t get the opportunity to see them. 


Price we paid: Rand 600 (30 euro) (May / 2023)



TAO Forest Camp - Wilderness


This hidden little gem in the Wilderness is only for campers. It just opened in Autumn 2023. The TAO Camp site provides two unique camping  spots (caters 6) under the stars. What makes this place so unique is the open air Bath Tub. Dawid built this place himself, and lives next to the property with his family - completely off the grid. 


For a camping spot the place could be considered a bit pricey looking just at the price. But trust us, it will be worth it. The cleanness of the space. The bath tub. The home-made soaps and shampoo’s. It’s an unreal experience.


Even though the spots only accommodates tents. It was no problem to sleep in our rooftop tent, and get it parked close enough to the camp site. Dawid told us, he was going to create a bit more space for campervans / overland trucks. So don’t miss out in your overland truck. 


Price we paid:  480 Rand (24 euro) (May / 2023)

3.Diepwalle Forest Camps - Knysna


Want to sleep in the Diepwalle forest? The SanParks organised forest tents provide an unique opportunity to sleep in the wild. The site has 10 wood tent decks, of which 4 are provide with a tent (with 2 beds). All tent decks come with a braai, camping chairs, braai equipment and a fridge!


While you stay there, it gives you the amazing opportunity to walk the 3 Elephant trails. We managed to did al 3 in 2 days. So they are relatively easy. The Red Trail (7km) we found to be the most pretty. It feels like you are walking in a Jurassic Park movie. The Black trail (9km) was the least interesting. We used it as a hike to get fit for our upcoming Otter Trail. Lastly the White Elephant trail (8km) is a good alternative for both hikes. It contains a bit of the ‘Jurassic park vibe’ like the red one, but is also as easy do-able as the black one.


If you are interested in booking the Tent decks (with or without tents). Visit the Sanparks website to book it in advance. Be mindful parking conservation fees are excluded. We always use the Wildcard which gives you unlimited access to all Sanparks including this one.


Price we paid: 600 Rand (30 euro) (May / 2023)


4. Holthil - Plettenberg bay

Do you want to release your inner-child? Looking for something playful in the middle of the jungle? Then this little place created by Carla. The different rooms feel like you are entering the set of a romantic venetian movie. The place is full of interesting artefacts, games and peacocks! Yes, Peacocks, we counted 10 in total.


What is nice about the place is the fact that it’s very close to all the major parks around Knsyna and Pletteberg (e.g. Knysna Elephant sanctuary, Wolf Sanctuary, Jukanji, Monkeyland, Birds of Eden). So a great spot to discover the area.


We stayed for 1 night in the house. It was a very elegant room with a bathtub, and heated blankets (nice for the cold winter months). 


Price we paid: 400 rand (20 euro)


5. Oyster Creek Lodge

This accommodation is especially good if you are looking for a group accommodation close the Knysna. Just 5 minute drive outside of Knysna you’ll find this large wooden villa located on a private part of the lagoon. The villa is enclosed by the lagoon from two sides (amazing for bird watching and fishing!). The villa contains of 5 rooms with one large shared common room with - recently placed - fire place.  Unfortunately we were only with the two of us - as we were out of season. Downside off this place is that you need a car to get somewhere (a bar or restaurant). But we would have loved to stay here with a group of friends for a weekend.


The Oyster Creek is managed by Esther - a lovely lady (pensioner) - who is accompanied by her birds and one very cheeky monkey. Of which the latter she rather gets rid off. She is amazing in helping you with anything. She let us use her private laundry machine so we could do all our laundry after a couple weeks of traveling.

6. Wild Spirit Lodge

Once it was a secret. A hidden place somewhere in the jungle. A myth. But today it has grown to the most desired spot on the garden route. A true legend. Living up to its name. The Wild Spirit lodge accommodates everyone. It’s a place for those who wonder, those who are lost and those we are looking for a home. Most people that come here stay - sometimes for months or years. As the place has an unreal vibe around itself.


You can book on of the dorms, ensuite private rooms (our choice!), camping spots, tents or family rooms. The place can host hundreds of people on their campsites. And therefor every year during their annual new-years festival - the place gets very crowded with people coming from all over the world.


This is a must visit place on your garden route itinerary. Don’t worry about bringing in food. Join every night for the family style dinners (1 veg and 1 meat option). And have food altogether on large dining tables on the beautiful treehouse terrace. When it gets dark get around of the fire places, play some drums, share stories. Or just listen. And in summer make use of the beautiful outdoor natural water pool that is overlooking the jungle (out of this world).


At the premises of the Wild Spirit lodge there are 3 hikes you can do. The big tree hike (20 min), the magic forest hike (45 min)  and a secret waterfall hike (60 min). Swimming underneath the secret waterfall was an absolute highlight. The water is chilly, but you are in a Jurassic Park type of a jungle.


We’ve stayed here for 4 nights in total. But we are definitely coming back for more.


Price we paid: R660 (33 euro) per night

Family style (vegan) diner: +- R120 p.p.