The Garden Route has a lovely scenery with beautiful beaches and verdant forests.
Garden RouteStrictly speaking, the Garden Route stretches from around Mossel Bay to Tsitsikamma – it's a narrow coastal band of land. On one side it's bordered by a string of deep-blue lagoons and white sandy beaches, which separate it from the Indian Ocean. On the other side are the forested slopes of the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountains. Between the ocean and the mountains sits this aptly named 'garden' – a stunning patchwork of lush vegetation, including the last of the Cape's ancient evergreen forests.
This is not an area to be rushed. Allow yourself at least four days, and preferably more, to drive into its mountains, potter around its small towns, and explore its coastline and beaches. Below are some of our favourite hotels and guest houses, listed under the areas in which they occur:
The Overberg and SwellendamEast of Cape Town, in the heart of the Overberg region, lies Swellendam; it makes a perfect stop for a night or two on the way to the Garden Route. Relax by pottering around this small, sleepy town's craft studios or museum, or be energetic and drive to Bontebok National Park for spectacular hiking. Places to stay include:
The Old Mill Guest HouseA short wander from the centre of Swellendam, the Old Mill is a rustic, cosy and quiet, idiosyncratic guest house with open fires and earthy colours. It has six individual cottages, and makes a perfect halfway stop between George and Cape Town. (Read more about the Old Mill…)
Klippe Rivier Country HouseJust outside town, Klippe Rivier is a friendly and welcoming place – and almost certainly the region's best-preserved manor house. The spacious bedrooms are decorated in a traditional colonial-style theme, and the gardens are lovely, with manicured lawns and old sweeping oaks. (Read more about Klippe Rivier…)
The Little KarooTucked between the Swartberg Mountains in the north, the Langeberg Mountains in the southwest, and the Outeniqua Mountains in the southeast lies Little Karoo. This generally dry and hot area is one of the most diverse regions in the Western Cape, with gigantic cliffs, desert-like landscapes, crystal clear streams and fertile vineyards. We've two great suggestions for staying here:
Oulap Country HouseOn its own hilltop 55km east of Oudtshoorn stands Oulap: a unique, eclectic guest house with stunning views, exquisite cuisine, and an outdoor swimming pool. It's a real gem of a place, and the owners, Jans and Almeri Rautenbach, are excellent hosts! (Read more about Oulap…)
Rosenhof Country HouseA more conventional place, Rosenhof Country House is situated on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn. 14 stylish rooms are set amidst the blooming rose garden, whilst the main house, a renovated homestead, boasts antique furniture and ceilings of yellowwood. (Read more about Rosenhof Country House…)
WildernessA lush, flat part of the Garden Route around the small town of Wilderness is veined by a network of rivers and lagoons. It's an area to enjoy the outdoors; hiking, mountain-biking, horse-riding and canoeing are all options inland, whilst on the water, fishing, surfing and kite-surfing are popular. It's a relatively quiet spot, where you'll also find good restaurants, and a good small hotel:
Hilltop Country HouseIn an elevated spot, Hilltop Country House overlooks the ocean and Wilderness National Park. It's a small place, with seven rooms, one self-catering chalet, and a historic main building, complete with a restaurant and a lounge. (Please call us for details about Hilltop Country House…)
KnysnaThe small town of Knysna is a popular resort, known for its wood carvings, art galleries and fresh oysters. It stands beside a huge lagoon, which attracts large flocks of migrant birds and is home to an endemic species of sea horse. It's a good base for walkers to explore the coast, and a springboard for boat trips to the lovely Featherbed Reserve.
In the mountains behind the town are the remains of the lush indigenous forests which once covered the Cape. Here are vast towering trees of unfamiliar species; yellowwoods, stinkwoods and hard pears, many now rare due to the value of their timber. Places to stay include: