There are countless outdoor and adventure activities available on a Garden Route holiday - this is definitely not one of those places where you find yourself bored and wondering what to do! Add to the abundance of amazing activities the spectacular scenery, top-class accommodation, charming towns and mild year-round climate and you get the unforgettable Garden Route experience!
This 200 kilometre stretch along the scenic south coast of South Africa is considered one of the world's great coastal drives, stretcthing from Mossel Bay to the Storm River mouth, near Plettenberg Bay.
The Garden Route is named for its lush vegetation and natural splendour, incorporating indigenous forests, tranquil lagoons, unique fynbos, pretty lakes and beautiful mountain passes. Travelling along the dramatic coastline you encounter rugged cliffs, deep gorges and rocky coves interspersed with golden sand beaches, flanked by the majestic Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua mountain ranges.
Things To Do on the Garden Route
The choice of activities along the Garden Route is endless, ranging from whale-watching and lollng on beaches to hiking, cycling and bungee jumping.
For the tamer, less active traveller there are plenty of cultural and more laid-back things to do too, including browsing local arts and crafts markets, galleries and boutiques, sampling delicious cuisine, enjoying local entertainment and events, and sightseeing in the charming towns of the Garden Route.
Back to the outdoor sports and adventure activities, here are some fantastic options:
Hike in Glorious Nature
Explore lofty mountains, seaside cliffs, scenic lakes, winding riverbanks, indigenous forests and unique fynbos areas on foot!
Whether you hike in the ancient coastal forests of Knysna, the nature reserves of Wilderness, the indegenous forests of Tsitsikamma or the Outeniqua Mountains, the beauty of the Garden Route will take your breath away!
The Garden Route's best known hike, called the Otter Trail, follows the rugged coastline in Tsitsikamma National Park. There are however countless hiking trails through the nature reserves and diverse ecosystems all along the Garden Route, so take your pick.
Take a Scenic Cycle
Take in the spectacular scenery as you ride a bike over the famous Montagu Pass and into the Outeniqua Mountains! As with hiking, your mountain biking options along the Garden Route are endless and incredibly beautiful.
Knysna is a good base for mountain biking trails, with numerous options in the area. There are a variety of mountain biking trails in Harkerville Forest, the Swartberg Mountains, Baviaanskloof, Gamkaskloof Valley and the forests of Knysna, to mention a few.
Commune with Animals & Birds
The Garden Route is not a traditional African safari destination, but there are a few wildlife centres, nature reserves and game parks where you can see a good variety of wild animals and birds.
The Plettenberg Bay area features some wildlife and birding attractions where you can get a closer look at the wild things. Encounter Africa's cats up close at the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, home to African Wild Cat, Blackfooted Cat, Serval, Caracal, Cheetah and Leopard. The wildlife centre is in The Crags area of Plettenberg Bay.
Ogle at our feathery firends at the Birds of Eden, the largest single free-flight aviary in the World. This aviary houses over 3000 birds represnting some 220 species and is also located in The Crags. In Plettenberg Bay, you can also visit Radical Raptors, a rehabilitation and awareness centre for birds of prey, as well as the local snake park.
The Crags is also where the Monkeyand Primate Sanctuary is located. The indigenous forests here are home to over 450 free-roaming monkeys, baboons, lemurs, gibbons, and other primates. You can get up close to elephants at the Knysna Elephant Park, and even take an elephant back ride.
The Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve is the biggest game reserve in the southern Cape, home to 150 species of game and birds. Here you can see four of the Big Five, namely rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.
Float your Boat on the Garden Route
Head out onto the waters of lake, estuary, river or sea - whatever floats your boat. Go canoeing in the Wilderness of Garden Route National Park and on the Keurbooms River, black water tubing in Storms River, rafting along the Breede River, or sea kayaking.
Natures Valley, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, Sedgefield and Wilderness all offer canoeing in picturesque natural settings!
Encounter Watery Creatures - see sharks, whales & dolphins
You can go shark cage diving in Mossel Bay to meet this fearless predator underwater.
If that sounds too close for comfort rather stick to shore-based whale and dolphin watching, during season (July to October). From Mossel Bay to Tsitsikamma Forest National Park, whales and dolphins are frequently sighted along the Garden Route.
The in-between option, neither in the water or on land, is to go dolphin and whale watching by boat. Boat trips are easily arranged in Plettenberg Bay, as well as Mossel Bay and Knysna.
Take the 216 metre plunge off Bloukrans River Bridge in Tsitsikamma and tick off the world's highest bungee jump on your bucket list. If Bloukrans Birdge near Nature's Valley is too daunting, you can bungee jump off the 65 metre high Gouritz River Bridge, near Mossel Bay.
A still tamer version of the extreme bungee - the zipline ride through the treetop canopy of the Tsitsikamma Forest.
Take to the Skies
Fancy tandem skydiving or paragliding? Then head to the towns of Wilderness, Knysna and Mossel Bay.
You can also try out hang-gliding or paragliding in Knysna, or hot air ballooning in Oudtshoorn.
Dive into the Indian Ocean
Get into the sea along the Garden Route with your choice of water activities from scuba diving and snorkelling to surfing and simply swimming in the waves.
The Garden Route offers plenty of opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling in Mossel Bay, Knynsa, Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma National Park. There are fantastic dives sites with soft corals, abundant marine life and a good diving infrastructure.
Surfing spots include Victoria Bay and Herold’s Bay (near George), Buffalo Bay (near Knysna) and Plettenberg Bay beach. The Garden Route is dotted with surf shops that hire out boards and wetsuites, where you can also get the scoop on local surf conditions.
Garden Route Getaways
Mossel Bay, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are popular hubs for exploring the Garden Route and diving into outdoor activities, but several other spots also make ideal bases, including Wilderness, Sedgefield, Natures Valley and Storms River.
The Garden Route has something for everyone, whether you're looking for a tranquil retreat, romantic getaway, some family fun or extreme adventure.
Take a look at some options for Garden Route Accommodation.
See our luxurious Garden Route Tours & Safaris, all of which also visit Cape Town.