Garden Route - Abbey Travel, Ireland

Garden Route

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Welcome to Garden Route

Garden Route

The stretch of southern coastline between the town of Heidelberg and the Tsitsikamma National Park makes up South Africa's well-travelled 'Garden Route', scattered with popular resort towns. The coastal plain is backed by spectacular mountain ranges, offering scenic lakes, indigenous forests, golden beaches and secluded bays.

The main town on the route is George, which is a bustling commercial centre with some good hotels making it a good central point from which to explore the coastal region. From George it is also a short drive inland over the Outeniqua Mountains to Oudtshoorn, site of the world-renowned Cango Caves and home to several ostrich farms that welcome visitors to enjoy their entertaining and educational tours. Other popular holiday towns on the Garden Route include Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay.

Attractions along the Garden Route encompass a wide variety from historic sites to scenic vistas, and beaches to nature reserves. There are ample opportunities to interact with nature, and you may spot whales, dolphins, seals, baboons, and nearly 300 species of bird. To make the most of the area one needs to stray from the national N2 highway and explore the towns, villages and resorts en route. A fun way of enjoying the scenery is to ride on the Outeniqua Choo-Choo vintage steam train between George and Knysna. There are also great recreational opportunities to enthrall active holidaymakers, from bungee jumping and water sports, to hiking trails and canopy tours.

Information & Facts


The Garden Route has a maritime Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild, winters with chilly nights. The area experiences the most rainfall in South Africa, but this mostly falls at night; the western half of the Garden Route has most rainfall in the winter months, while towards the east rain tends to fall predominantly during summer. Average temperatures from December to March are about 75-86ºF (24-30ºC), while winters average 64ºF (18ºC).

South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. English is widely spoken.

South Africa's currency is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and the larger hotels. ATMs are widely available (there is a daily limit for cash withdrawals) and major international credit cards are widely accepted, except in petrol stations where cash is required. Visitors should be vigilant when drawing cash from ATMs, as con artists are known to operate there. Travellers cheques and some foreign currencies are accepted at larger hotels and shops, but commission is charged, otherwise all commercial banks will exchange them.

Local time is GMT +2.

The rather industrialised town of Mossel Bay, about 250 miles (400km) east of Cape Town, is traditionally regarded as the gateway to the Garden Route and is famed for being the spot where the first European set foot in South Africa. The Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Dias, came ashore here seeking water after battling a fearsome storm at sea in 1488. The town now commemorates this event with the Bartholomew Dias Museum complex in Market Street, which houses a Maritime Museum and a life-sized replica of the caravel in which Dias sailed. Mossel Bay has some good beaches and all the trappings of a seaside holiday town, with cruises available from the small harbour to view seals, whales and dolphins, and shark cage-diving adventures. The nearby village of Albertinia sports the only aloe factory in South Africa, and visitors can call in to sample medicinal and skincare products made from this indigenous plant.

Tsitsikamma is the word of the indigenous Khoi-San people meaning 'place of many waters', which accurately describes the naturally beautiful thin 50-mile (80km) stretch of coastline that makes up the Tsitsikamma National Park, Africa's oldest and largest marine reserve. The park boasts many attractions, including a giant Outeniqua yellowwood tree that is hundreds of years old. The region is criss-crossed by hiking trails, including the world-renowned Otter Trail, starting at Storm's River and running along 25 miles (41km) of spectacular coastline to Nature's Valley. A number of private operators, notably Storms River Adventures, offer numerous adventure activities in the area such as black-water rafting and abseiling, mountain bike tours and fishing trips. A particularly exciting diversion is to undertake a 'canopy tour' of the forest, gliding across the treetops on steel cables strung between platforms.

The village of Wilderness, set on the Touws River estuary, is fast developing with a plethora of luxury holiday homes lining the cliffs and hills along the long sandy beach and river. It is, however, a pretty spot surrounded by a chain of fresh-water lakes, and encompassing the Wilderness National Park with about nine miles (15km) of inland waterways. There are some wonderful hiking trails and canoe trips offered through the Park wardens, and numerous accommodation facilities are available.

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