- Countryside Verdant coastal wilderness
- Country life Adventure on a grand scale
If variety is the spice of life, this swathe of South Africa has to be one of the spiciest spots on earth.
It’s a feast of beauty, with rolling vineyards for starters and milky lagoons for dessert. The Garden Route offers a breathtaking journey from Cape Town past Stellenbosch and the Winelands down to the coast, where it passes through Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay to Stormsriver. As you meander east, the landscape changes from positively Mediterranean to wild, wet and mountainous, with dense forests, bushland and dramatic cliffs. Beyond the N2 motorway and the sleepy seaside towns, you’ll find the land (and sea) that time forgot, patrolled by elephants, rhinos and whales. Whether your holiday preference is beach barbecues or bravura bungee-jumping, one thing's for sure: you won't be short of things to do.
Do go/Don’t go
There’s no bad time to go, as the climate is Mediterranean and you’ll get about 300 days of sunshine a year. However, areas such as Plettenberg Bay can get crowded in peak season, particularly at Christmas and Easter. Winter days from March to November will still be warm but temperatures dip sharply at night. July to November is the best time for whale-watching.
Planes Cape Town International airport (www.airports.co.za) is well served by international carriers; Virgin | BA and South African Airways fly direct | with flights taking 11–12 hours from London. Globespan has great-value flights from Manchester in high season (November–April). If you’re staying at the eastern end of the Route | you could also take the 50-minute domestic flight to George | or Port Elizabeth | a two-hour drive from Plettenberg Bay (aka ‘Plett’).
Trains There are limited public train services; you’re better off sticking to the road (see below). There is a vintage steam train that runs along the coast from George to Mossel Bay, the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe (+27 (0)44 801 8288), but it’s not exactly a commuter service.
Automobiles Having your own wheels (whether you prefer cars or motorbikes) is pretty much essential; whilst most hotels can arrange transfers and ferry you around | you’ll get far more by being independent | and car hire is cheap. The route is simple: take the N2 out of Cape Town and follow it all the way. If you’re making a detour to the winelands around Stellenbosch | take the R45. Driving is easy here (especially if you're British; they drive on the left) but watch out for speed cameras; the law is very strict and the fines will follow you home.
- Taxis Out in the Garden Route towns, taxis are expensive and difficult to flag down. Find one in a taxi bay or ring ahead and book.