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The 186 miles of stunning scenery is a road trip of a lifetime.

Why the Garden Route needs to be on your travel bucket list

Driving along the Garden Route is one of the best ways to experience South Africa. The 186 miles of stunning scenery is a road trip of a lifetime. One of South Africa’s most famous self-drive itineraries thanks to its diverse landscape, here you will encounter nature at its best – waterfalls, rivers, forests and mountains that weave into open plains. This combined with picture perfect coastlines and sweeping sand beaches makes it one of our favourite travel bucket list experiences.

Our Garden Route holiday starts with five days in glorious Cape Town. Use the included 2-day hop-on hop-off bus pass to make your way around the city, then make sure you spend a day exploring the peninsula. Cape Point and Boulders Beach are easily accessible by car and you’ll be rewarded with a drive through the rich vegetation of Table Mountain National Park, views of the ocean lapping at the dramatic cliff line dotted with hidden beaches and a colony of penguins. 

Boulders Beach, Cape Town

Spend your time in Cape Town wisely and add on experiences curated by our travel experts with you in mind. Our ‘icons’ experiences include tickets up the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway for views across the entire city and highly sought-after tickets to Robben Island for a thought-provoking insight into the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, spoken from the words of ex-guards and other ex-prisoners.  

View from Table Mountain, up the Aerial Cableway

And our ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ champagne sunset cruise experience is a must. Renowned for its picturesque sunsets, Cape Town is the perfect place to enjoy this unique experience. Where better to watch the blazing sun dip under the horizon than from the dazzling ocean itself? Travel out across the Atlantic’s shimmering surface on a luxury boat and toast the end of the day with a glass of bubbly. Bliss! 

After five days in the shadow of Table Mountain you have the option to add Franschhoek - just an hour’s drive away from Cape Town and home to over 40 wine estates. Here you can easily tour the vineyards with our ‘food & wine’ experience, the Hop-on Hop-off Wine Tram and our ‘active’ Bikes & Wine experience to sample the region’s finest wines. You’ll also find excellent food in Franschhoek, home to three of the country’s top ten restaurants.

Franschhoek wine estate

From Cape Town or Franschhoek you’re off on your first stop of the Garden Route to Oudtshoorn, known as the ostrich capital of the world. This is a five hour direct drive, but our self-drive Garden Route South Africa itinerary allows you to take your time and stop off along the way at places of interest, after all, self-drive holidays are just as much about the journey as the stops! We recommend taking a couple of detours, sure they’ll add some time but trust us, you’ll be please you covered the extra miles.  Take the coastal route along Clarence Drive, dotted with lay-bys and lookout points, this is a popular for spot for whale watching. Then stop for lunch in one of the cafes in Hermanus and stretch the legs with a stroll along the coastal path, also known for whale sightings and outdoor art sculptures.  

Once you arrive in Oudtshoorn, the scenic drives continue. Capture amazing views with a drive up to the summit of the stunning Swartberg Mountains at sunset – known as the most spectacular mountain passes in the world – the mountains curve to reveal breath-taking views of hills and valleys. 

Swartberg Mountains, Oudtshoorn

The following morning, enjoy an included visit to the Cango Caves, a maze of stalagmites and stalactites. Here, the aim of the game is to get lost in the natural beauty of the caves’ myriad delights – a Heritage Tour will see you jumping right into the rich history of this underground wonder as your enthusiastic guide makes sure that you don’t miss a thing. And with the cave formations all skilfully illuminated, in no sense of the phrase will you be left in the dark.

Your next stop is Plettenberg Bay and you should definitely take the longer coastal route via Mossel Bay. This is officially the start of the Garden Route, right through to Storms River. This stretch of spectacular coastline lives up to its name, a garden of indigenous forest, beautiful flowers and quaint towns bordered by beautiful beaches, lagoons and coves. 

Plettenberg Bay is a stunning seaside town with some of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa and a gateway to the Tsitsikamma  and Garden Route National Park. The town is known for its beautiful white-sand coastline, and a relaxing stroll on the beach is a lovely way to wind down after a busy day of driving and sightseeing. The impressive waves of the Indian Ocean also make this stretch of coast a haven for watersports lovers – surfs up! 

Plettenberg Bay

With two days to play in pretty Plett, add experiences to discover the uniquely diverse nature on offer here. Opt for our ‘wildlife’ experience for a whale watching boat trip or go ‘active’ with our zipline & canopy tour for a bird’s eye view of the enchanting inland forests of Tsitsikamma National Park.  

If you have the luxury of two weeks, we highly recommend adding three days in the Eastern Cape to the end of your Garden Route itinerary, home to the dramatic slopes of Drakensberg peaks and incredible safari. During your stay, you’ll be taken on exhilarating game drives into the wilderness with an experienced ranger to observe animals in their natural habitat. The park offers stunning views of the river valleys, acacia forests and savannah grasslands where Africa’s most iconic animals, including the Big Five, roam the plains. 

Eastern Cape safari

Sold? We hope so! Meraki makes it easy to tailor your own self-drive Garden Route itinerary. In less than an hour, you can add winelands or a safari to your itinerary. You can even add a short flight and finish your trip caught in the spray of Victoria Falls or relaxing on a beach in Mauritius. Car hire is included as well as must-do experiences and our classic accommodation. Continue tailoring your trip with extra experiences and upgrade your accommodation to our Premium, Boutique or Luxury properties. It’s as simple as that! Planning a South Africa holiday with Meraki Travel allows you to create a truly unforgettable Garden Route holiday, created by us and tailored by you. 

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