garden route

Unforgettable Garden Route experiences

A road trip along the Garden Route is one of South Africa’s bucket list experiences. Make it even more memorable by including activities that let you stretch your legs and sharpen your senses. Words and pictures by Sanne Welman

The Garden Route is one of South Africa’s most iconic road trips. Stretching for 300km from Mossel Bay to the Storms River, this area is deservedly famous for its untouched nature. Expect beautiful lagoons, beaches and forests.

After a five-month internship in Cape Town, I was ready to explore the Garden Route with my boyfriend. In my native Netherlands, I could travel the length of the Garden Route in four hours. Now we were on our way to the east for 12 days. We were looking forward to a combination of relaxation, adventurous activities and time in nature.

Hiking in Robberg

Although we did not want to spend all our time exploring the great outdoors, we certainly did not want to skip Robberg Nature Reserve. This beautiful area is located 8km south of Plettenberg Bay.

We set off along the path leading into Robberg intending to shoot some landscapes. However, our leisurely amble soon turned into a hike. Clocking in at 5.5km, the Witsand Trail takes about two hours.

The sandy path took us on a circular trail that traverses the Robberg peninsula and I must confess there was a lot of complaining and nagging along the way. But as they say, “the best views come after the hardest climb”. Once we reached the top, all of our suffering was forgotten – the view was breathtaking. If you are as lucky as we were, you will see seals and dolphins playing in the surf below.

I would not recommend the Witsand Trail as an afternoon walk on a warm day if you are not prepared. But take it from me, if you have done one of the Robberg hiking trails, you will have memories you will treasure for life.

Robberg Nature Reserve Sanne Welman
Robberg Nature Reserve is a national monument, nature reserve and marine protected area that lies 8km south of Plettenberg Bay.  Sanne Welman

Also read: All you need to know about the Otter Trail

Wine tasting near Plett

You wouldn’t think the Garden Route is one of South Africa’s wine producing areas. Yet on a rainy day, we came across a gem where we enjoyed wine tasting in the middle of the vineyards.

Bramon Wine Estate lies in the mountainous area of the Crags near Plettenberg Bay. This 5ha boutique vineyard is the first and only wine estate in the east of the Western Cape. Young and old can enjoy themselves on the farm because sitting among the vines is an experience in itself.

Begin your visit in the tasting room where you can taste six wines for R60. Then make your way to the restaurant where you can take a seat among the vineyards and enjoy tapas. Booking with the restaurant is recommended because then you are assured of a place among the vines.

Sanne Welman Garden Route Bramon Wine Estate
The restaurant at Bramon Wine Estate serves up a delectable spread of tapas.

Kayaking and lilo-ing in Tsitsikamma

If you like adventure, then this outing is definitely recommended. During the 2.5-hour kayak and lilo experience, you have the chance to explore the hidden world of Tsitsikamma National Park.

The experience begins with a walk to the Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge where you take a seat in a two-person kayak. Under the supervision of two guides, you set off by kayak to take a closer look at the bridge. Then you paddle up the Storms River Gorge where you get to see the hidden spots of the park.

This is where the adventure really begins as you trade in your kayak for a lilo. (For those who don’t know what a lilo is, it’s a small inflatable raft.) Using the lilos, we floated deeper into the river gorge.

During our adventure, we came to places ordinary walkers couldn’t reach. We ended our trip by taking a refreshing jump into the water from the top of a cliff.

The kayak and lilo adventure is suitable for adventurers of all ages and costs R650 per person. The adventure can be booked throughout the year but is weather dependent. Sturdy shoes are recommended.

Sanne Welman Garden Route Kayaking
Kayaking up the Storm’s River gorge is a great way to explore the park’s hidden depths.

Also read: Essential Summer Travel Gear

Safari with an expert

We ended our Garden Route road trip with a visit to Addo Elephant National Park. A game viewing safari was the one experience missing from our trip. Most travellers would opt for a guided game drive, which can cost a lot of money, especially if you do it through one of the lodges. Instead of a standard game drive, we booked a hop-on guide through SANParks.

The Hop-on guides are a group of guides from communities adjacent to the park that run their own guiding business within the park. They join visitors in their own vehicles and provide insightful information about Addo’s fauna and flora. How nice it is to be one on one with a trained guide in the comfort of your own vehicle.

Addo has a wide selection of wildlife and if you’re lucky you’ll even come across the Big Five. During our visit, we saw elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, warthog and jackal. Even though the park is named after elephants, they aren’t always easy to see. On the day we were there, a lot of rain fell, making it difficult to spot animals. But when we finally ellies, it was extra special.

There are over 600 elephants in Addo Elephant National Park.

Hop-on guides are easy to book via The costs are R210 per two hours for a normal sedan.

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