The Garden Route is a 300-kilometer stretch of coast in the south-western coast of South Africa. Famed for its modern golf courses, the Garden Route is also home to ancient forests and secluded artists’ communities, mountain hideaways and beach holidays.
Knysna with its ±70 000 residents and year-round visitors, is a small town situated between the Knysna estuary and forest. The N2 highway runs through Knysna via the main road from Heidelberg to Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The scenery along this road boasts luscious forest canopies and white sandy beaches, enough to make you stop and stare at this magical landscape.
Don’t miss the hidden gems along the highway which is the real allure of this peace of heaven on earth. There are various turnoffs indicating secluded villages forgotten in time, historic walks in the forest, mining and forestry village camp sites and astonishing hiking trails.
Knysna, founded in 1770 and later renowned for its gold and timber production, had woodcutter clans, artists, writers and fisherman settling in the Garden Route. Today Knsyna is a well-known town partially due to Dalene Matthee, well-known for her books: “Circles in a forest”, “Fiela se kind” and “The mulberry forest”. She fell in love with the magnificence of the forest and this is also where she was laid to rest. Her books were also prescribed to South African high schools and a walkway in the forest has been dedicated to her, near the biggest tree in the Knysna forest, called the Dalene Matthee Big Tree, towering above the rest of the forest at 40m tall and some 880 years old.
“Like a mighty king, it stood towering above the white alder and mountain saffron, stinkwood, assegai and hard pear. As if God had planted it long before the others. Its giant roots anchored it to the ground like giant arms…” – Dalene Matthee – Circles in a Forest, 1984.
Exploring the nooks and crannies of the Garden Route can sure be time consuming due to the number of activities and places of interest. The Crags, outside Knysna, offers animal lovers and tourists a glimpse into a time gone by. Jukani, a wildlife sanctuary, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden, allow visitors to join a guided walk with up-close encounters with these animals.
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The Knysna Elephant Park, located in the Crags is a one of a kind elephant orphanage. Visitors can feed the elephants, join walks along a scenic route and even stay over in guestrooms.
Activities in the Garden Route includes, horseback riding, treetop canopy trails, discover a hedge maze at Redberry strawberry farm, ocean safaris and bungee jumping with Face Adrenalin at the Bloukrans bridge, 216m high. With activities for sunny and rainy days, for adults and families, this destination satisfies all your pleasures.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Humpback and Southern Right whales as well as bottlenose dolphins known to frolic near the shore, especially in Plettenberg bay. The bays along the Garden Route serve as nurseries to these whales who go there to calve in the winter and spring (July to December). The Garden Route has recently been awarded with several blue flag beaches between Mosselbay and Plettenberg bay.
The Garden Route plays host to various annual festivals which is another major attraction for local and foreign visitors. The Knysna Literacy festival, Sedgefield Slow festival, Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, Knysna Oyster festival and the Plett Food and Film festival are amongst the events with the highest turnout.
Accommodation in the Garden Route is plentiful. From houseboats, to literally hundreds of guest houses and even 5-star hotels, this stretch caters for all visitors, no matter their budget. As golf is one of the unique characteristics of the Garden Route, several award-winning golf resort hotels have opened their doors to visitors. To name a few, Conrad Pezula, located on the Eastern Head of Knysna, offers the Pezula Championship Golf Course while the Simola Hotel and Country Club is home to the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, found on the opposite side of Knysna against the Knysna heights. Fancourt, designed by the legendary Gary Player and located in George, was voted one of the World’s 10 best golf courses by CNNgo.
Recommended by CapeTownInsider
Visiting the Garden Route allows you to find your inner peace or just lose yourself in one of the greenest, friendliest, most beautiful parts of Africa.