Best Garden Route Itinerary for 10 Days: Driving from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

> September 19, 2023
Best Garden Route Itinerary for 10 Days: Driving from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth

Welcome to the Garden Route: the unexpectedly extraordinary road trip that even I, the self-proclaimed connoisseur of skepticism, couldn't resist falling head over heels for. I had to eat my words as I cruised through this astonishing stretch of South African coastline, even going as far as making a mental note on my “possible places to retire” list.

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This is no ordinary 10-day itinerary. This is a tale of untamed wilderness, long but worthwhile drives, ocean scenery like no other, and more surprises than a magician's hat (seriously, make sure you check the tides on some of these hikes!). So, if you’re driving the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, prepare to be amazed, and don't forget your sense of wonder—it's going to get a serious workout.

For each day of this itinerary, I include a full trip plan with restaurant and hotel recommendations (pay attention, because these accommodations were my absolute favorite in the entire country!), and of course, my two cents worth of travel tips and insider info.

This Garden Route itinerary is for 10 days and assumes you rent a car in Cape Town and drive it all the way to Port Elizabeth, where you will likely return it and fly off to your next adventure. It goes something like this:

Garden Route Cape Town to Port Elizabeth 10-day trip plan

View of the sea along the Garden Route, South Africa

I assure you that all the 10 days of Garden Route are going to be unforgettably amazing!

Here’s the trip outline of the best 10-day self-drive Garden Route itinerary, starting from Cape Town and ending in Port Elizabeth:

Day 1:Stellenbosch/Franschhoek wine region 
Day 2:Cango Caves
Day 3:Around Knysna
Day 4:Wilderness National Park hike + kayaking
Day 5:Robberg Nature Reserve, 7 Passes Road
Day 6:Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary and Salt River Hike 
Day 7:Storms River Mouth adventure!
Day 8:Day 1 Otter Trail
Day 9:To Port Elizabeth (with shark cage diving??)
Day 10:Addo Elephant Park

Garden Route map with distances

Garden Route map with distances, from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth with stops

A map showing the distances between some of the main areas of interest on the Garden Route

Day 1 of Garden Route itinerary: Wine!

The vineyard in Stellenbosch, South Africa

The beautiful vineyards of Stellenbosch...

Main sites visited on day 1: Stellenbosch and/or Franschhoek wine region
Restaurant tipsDelaire Graff Estate | Le Petit Manoir Restaurant | Delheim Wine Estate | Tokara Wine Estate
Hotel recommendations: Le Petit Manoir Franschhoek | De Zeven Guest Lodge in Stellenbosch | Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch (big splurge, but best views!)
Further reading: Garden Route top places | 7 Unique places to visit in South Africa | Garden Route 5-day itinerary

Gather round, everyone, because we're about to kick off this 10-day itinerary of the Garden Route, and we're starting with a curveball. Day 1 takes starts far from the Garden Route itself, yet straight in the heart of one of the world's leading wine regions—Stellenbosch and Franschhoek! Why, you ask? Well, who needs a better reason than 'wine tasting' to begin an adventure? So, let's toast to the fact that even though Stellenbosch and Franschhoek isn't exactly Garden Route territory, it's definitely the best kind of detour. Just don’t go crazy with the wine, you have 9 more Garden Route days ahead of you!

There are so many manors you can overnight in in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek (and everywhere in between), so book yourself into some place nice for two nights so you can spend a full day exploring the region. Le Petit Manoir Franschhoek and De Zeven Guest Lodge in Stellenbosch are two places to consider. But seriously, there are dozens of amazing options.

Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are two towns about an hour away from central Cape Town, and you can spend your day tasting wine, eating cheese, and tasting more wine, all while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Winte tram in Franschhoek, South Africa

Take a wine tram tour around the vineyards!

You can do that on wine trams that take you on a hop on, hop off tour of different wineries, take horse tours, or hire a driver and explore the region more privately. Any full-day wine tour usually includes up to 6 wineries.

My personal recommendation in Franschhoek: Le Petit Manoir Restaurant. One of best restaurants in South Africa, on Michelin level. More about my Franschhoek experience in another article.

In Stellenbosch, schedule in a stop at Delaire Graff Estate. You may not be able to afford to stay in the lodge, but you sure as heck shouldn’t miss tasting those incredible wines in similarly amazing surroundings. This place has some of the best views of all the wineries we visited, not to mention top-notch service.

Tip: When buying bottles of wine, ask to have them transported by air to your home. It’s super cheap and you won’t have to worry about airport regulations or luggage limits.

Day 2 of Garden Route itinerary: The real Garden Route begins

Day 1 of the 10-day Garden Route itinerary, South Africa

May the Garden Route adventure begin!

Main sites visited on day 2: A looot of driving, Cango Caves
Restaurant tipsBuffelsdrift Game Lodge Restaurant | The Kombuis (both near Cango Caves)
Hotel recommendations: Kambaku at Sea
Further reading: Garden Route top places | Garden Route 5-day itinerary | The best hotels in South Africa

Buckle up for a very long day of driving... hey, you’re the one that wanted to drive the Garden Route from Cape Town! Did you look at a map?? It’s far away!

Depending on who you believe, the Garden Route officially starts in Witsand in the west and ends in Storms River in the east. But it’s not like there’s a start and finish line, so stick with me, because the first stop of the day will be another that’s not on the Garden Route: Cango Caves, one of the Seven Wonders of Southern Africa.

Day 2, stop 1: Cango Caves

Cango Caves on Garden Route, South Africa

The gigantic stalagmites and stalactites of Cango Caves

Distance from Stellenbosch: 420 km (260 mi), 5-hour drive 

First, you’ll need to drive 5 hours from Stellenbosch to Cango Caves, so I hope you didn’t overdo it with the wino yesterday, because you need to be up and in the car bright and early today.

At the Cango Caves, you can either choose a regular 1- hour tour, or the 4-hour Adventure Tour, which is a must-do if a) you can get there in time, and b) you can fit into the narrow passages and aren’t claustrophobic! In all honesty, you will not manage the Adventure tour on this itinerary unless you move stuff around a bit. But no worries, the regular tour goes on a fantastic and very interesting route, too, and includes four sections adorned with gigantic stalagmites and stalactites. The lighting makes these underground rooms even more amazing. Our guide was very knowledgeable, so I could ask all my pesky questions and I even got answers to most of them!

Once you’re done under ground, it’s time to head to your hotel. If you take my advice, it’ll be one that’s an experience in itself!

Day 2, stop 2: The unmissable, the unforgettable Kambaku at Sea

Hotel Kambaku at Sea, Garden Route in South Africa

Mornings on the terrace were unforgettable @ Kambaku at Sea

Distance from last stop: 120 km (75 mi), 1.5-hour drive 
Time spent here: 12 hours of the best hotel in your life 

My top hotel recommendation for this Garden Route itinerary is the epic Kambaku at Sea. I can’t stress this strongly enough: this was our favorite hotel in all of South Africa, and we’re a picky bunch!

If I had to pinpoint one thing I can’t get over at Kambaku, it’s the mornings on the terrace overlooking the incredible scenery. I almost didn’t notice how delicious the breakfast was, and that’s saying something in my world. Picture-perfect doesn't even begin to cover it.  

They’ll also feed you wonderfully, take care of your every whim, and you can chill out in the swimming pool, too. Not to mention that we got a huge room with a bed so plush it was like sleeping on a cloud made of slightly old marshmallows (because nobody wants to sleep in a super soft bed, duh). 

Kambaku is about 1 h 45 mins from the Cango Caves, and you can base yourself there for the majority of your garden route drive until you move on to Port Elizabeth in the very end.

Day 3 of Garden Route itinerary: Around Knysna

Knysna Lagoon in South Africa

The Knysna Lagoon

Main sites visited on day 3: Knysna Forest Hike or Kranshoek Coastal Trail, Knysna Heads
Restaurant tipsAnchorage Restaurant in Knysna
Hotel recommendations: Kambaku at Sea
Further reading: Garden Route top places | Garden Route 5-day itinerary | Best Garden Route hikes

Day 3, stop 1: Knysna Forest Trail OR Kranshoek Coastal Trail

Knysna Forest Trail, Garden Route itinerary from Cape Town

Knysna Forest Trail

Distance from Kambaku at Sea: 50 km/30 miles, 1-hour drive  
Time spent here: 2–3 hours depending on which hike you choose

You’ll start out today with a choice: either a walk in a deep, ancient forest in the hills above Knysna, or a mountain-goating experience along the coast at Kranshoek (where you are the goat).

Knysna Forest Trail 

You’ll feel like you’re world’s away from the coastal Garden Route area in the hills above Knysna, but you’re not. Time sure does seem to slow down here though.

There are 3 “Elephant Walks” that start at the Diepwalle Forestry Station and Camp. The word “Diepwalle” literally means “deep walls”, and you’ll see why when you get there. This forest is so deep and so dense that it really does look like giant walls of trees flanking the narrow walkways. You’ll feel tiny, and the forest is just magical.

All of the 3 hikes are of similar length, ranging from 7 km to 9 km (4.3 to 5.6 mi), all easy and almost flat.

Kranshoek Coastal Trail

Remember those childhood days when you'd scramble up trees and jump from boulder to boulder? Well, Kranshoek is the grown-up version, complete with some epic climbing up ladders. The Kranshoek Coastal Trail is literally a natural playground, perfect for those that just can’t get enough of adventurous coastal exploration.  

But don’t worry, it’s not the entire 8.5 km that’s like that. The last 2.5 km are on a dirt road, which, depending on your perspective, is either a nice and chill ending or way too boring after what you’ve just been through. 

Here’s the Google Maps link to trailhead where you can also park your car.  

Day 3, stop 2: Knysna Heads 

Knysna Heads along Garden Route, South Africa

The gatekeeper between Knysla Lagoon and open sea

Distance from last stop: 25 km/15 miles, 30-minute drive
Time spent here: 30 minutes 

Both options for the hike on the first stop of today’s itinerary are equally far from Knysna Heads—the

sandstone cliffs that play gatekeeper between the serene Knysna Lagoon and the mighty open sea. We're talking a 300-m-wide watery gap, and most of all the viewpoints on the East Head where you can take it all in. 

No hiking is needed at the Knysna Heads, you basically just park (that’s the hard part) and rock up to the wooden viewpoint. There, you’ll be treated to gorgeous vistas of the channel, the Indian Ocean, Knysna Lagoon, and even the Outeniqua Mountains in the background.  

There’s a footpath will take you to the lower viewpoints from the main area, so take some time to explore. Bonus points if you’re there for sunset!

When you’re done at Knysna Heads, you’re only a 30-minute drive from Kambaku at Sea. Or, if you’ve booked yourself into another hotel in Knysna, well, you’ll be home before the sweat on your forehead dries off.  

Day 3, bonus stop: Ziplining in Knysna

Ziplining in Knysna, Garden Route in South Africa

Hop on a zipline with this view!

If you want to spice up your day with a bit of adrenaline, you can easily get your high at the spectacular Knysna Ziplines. We didn't try this, as I used up all my ziplining energy on the Panorama Route at Graskop Gorge, but it looks pretty epic!

Day 4 of Garden Route itinerary: Wilderness National Park

The bridge in Wilderness National Park, South Africa

The Kaaimans River Bridge

Main sites visited on day 4: Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail, canoeing
Restaurant tips: Joplins Steak Bar in Wilderness | Cornerstone Creek Art Gallery (cafe) in Wilderness
Hotel recommendations: Kambaku at Sea 
Further reading: Garden Route hikes | Garden Route best places

Before you start your day, I want to emphasize one thing: On the Garden Route, you will be staying in some incredible accommodations. And if you’re like me and cram a lot into each day of your itinerary, you may find yourself checking out at the end of your stay with a bit of regret: that you didn’t leave yourself enough breathing room to really appreciate all that your hotel offers. I cried a secret little tear when we were leaving Kambaku at Sea, since we certainly didn’t make enough use of the unforgettable terrace or even the pool there. Don’t be like Jan, plan more terrace time!

So today, start your morning with a slow, hearty breakfast. We're talking leisurely sips of coffee while gazing out at the views right from your breakfast table on Kambaku’s terrace. Then, off to Wilderness National Park for some canoeing and hiking!

Canoeing to the Hal-Collared Kingfisher, Garden Route in South Africa

No risk of encountering a crocodile in the Touw River

Distance from Kambaku at Sea: 25 km/15 miles, 25-minute drive  
Time spent here: 3–5 hours depending on your canoeing route 

When we vistited Wilderness National Park, we did the full Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail and canoed separately, taking up about 4 hours total. But how long you are in the canoe depends entirely on how long of a route you choose—you can paddle out to Island Lake for a 3-hour round trip, or choose the slightly more exciting trip to the river mouth for a maximum 1.5 hours round trip. Or, if you (like me) have a girlfriend that has never sat in a canoe before, you can spend an unforgettable hour battling it out against the gentle river's slow current.  

Or, there is an option to connect canoeing and hiking that I think is just too good not to mention. You’ll need about 3 hours in total for this.  

You start at Eden Adventures where you pick up your canoe and gear (they give you a waterproof bucket for your stuff), and off you go, trying to balance on the water in your yellow boat. Just in case you were wondering: no, there aren’t crocodiles in the Touw River.  

In about 45 minutes (this clearly depends on your canoeing skills) you’ll park your canoe and continue on foot on the Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail. A wooden boardwalk will take you all the way (2.5 km/1.5 mi) to a waterfall, which is where you can take a swim in the natural pools. Don’t get too excited about the waterfall visit—it’s nice, but setting that the waterfall is in is much more spectacular than that bit of water falling. Also, watch out for cheeky vervet monkeys trying to steal your phone/snacks/glasses!  

The return route is exactly the same and in total, this water+land adventure should take you 3–4 hours.  

If you prefer to do the full Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail completely on foot, get the details in my Garden Route hikes article. You’re in for a 2-hour 7.6 km (4.7 mi) hike, complete with some epically fun river traversing!  

Day 5 of Garden Route itinerary: Robberg Nature Reserve

Robberg Nature Reserve on Garden Route, South Africa

Coastal walk along the Robberg Nature Reserve

Main sites visited on day 5: Robberg Hike, 7 Passes Road
Restaurant tips: Adi’s Kitchen in Plettenberg Bay | African Experience Bush Caf'e on 7 Passes Road | Bistro Celeiro on 7 Passes Road
Hotel recommendations: Kambaku at Sea 
Further reading: Garden Route hikes | Garden Route best places | Garden Route 5-day itinerary

Today is all about one of the best hikes on the Garden Route, and then a leisurely drive through the lanes of nostalgia. Have you ever wondered what the Garden Route was like way back when? And are you ready for the pungent smell of 6000 seals? Today, you’ll find out!

Day 5, stop 1: Robberg Nature Reserve hiking trail  

Robberg Nature Reserve hiking trail on self-drive Garden Route itinerary

The incredible scenery on the hike in Robberg Nature Reserve

Distance from Kambaku at Sea: 60 km/38 miles, 1-hour drive  
Time spent here: 2.5 hours

About an hour from Kambaku at Sea you’ll arrive at my 3rd favorite hike of the Garden Route, Robber Nature Reserve hiking trail (see my full hike list here). It’s about time for a proper coastal hike, am I right?!  

Here are the hike stats:  

Hike length: 8.7 km (5.4 mi) loop, with the option to cut it in half  
Elevation gain: 280 m (920 ft)  
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate  
Hiking time: 2.5 hours for the full trail  
Trailhead: Google Maps link to trailhead  

The Robberg hiking trail is jaw-dropping coastal goodness all the way. If you don’t mind a long sandy walk (aka a decent calf workout), the full route will take you about 2.5 hours. If you take the shortcut in the middle of the peninsula, you can shorten this hike to about half the distance and skip most of the sand walking.

Some sections of the Robberg hike are quite steep, but there are ropes you can hold onto.

Be ready to encounter a very large and smelly seal colony, and you can also try to spot whales from the higher ground.  

Before you even start the hike, I strongly recommend you stop by Nelson Bay Cave. It's an interpretation center right by the parking lot, inside a cave, that educates you on the story of the local San and Khoi people, their local lives spanning 120k years.

Robber Nature Reserve hiking trail map, Garden Route itinerary for 10 days

You’ll circle the entire peninsula on the Robberg hiking trail (but there’s an option to cut it in half) (full route details on Alltrails)

Day 5, stop 2: 7 Passes Road 

Driving through the 7 Passes Road on the Garden Route, South Africa

Retracing history on the OG Garden Route (Seven Passes Road)

Distance from last stop: 42 km/26 miles, 40-minute drive (from Robberg to the start of the 7 Passes)
Time spent here: 2 hours

On your return drive back to your hotel, let’s first take a trip down Garden Route’s memory lane. The 7 Passes Road was the original Garden Route. The journey is all about winding through dense forests, over little bridges, and cruising over farm patches. It’s not jaw-droppingly amazing scenery, more like really nice and peaceful.  

You can turn onto 7 Passes Road it right after crossing the Knysna River at the very end of Knysna. You’ll quickly see all the roads are either tarred or dirt and there’s never a straight section that’s too long. Tip: don’t drive this route without a 4x4 if it has rained. 

The official 7 Passes Road is 75 km (46 mi) long and continues all the way to George, but there are places you can end your adventure on the OG Adventure Route and cut it short if all you can think about is Kambaku’s pool with a beer in hand.

There are a couple of places where you’ll be able to get a great meal and experience, too. Try African Experience Bush Caf'e or Bistro Celeiro.  

Day 6 of Garden Route itinerary: Monkeys and low tides!

Monkey in a Monkeyland and Salt River lagoon on Garden Route, South Africa

The 6th day on this itinerary is the perfect combination of monkeys and low tides

Main sites visited on day 6: Salt River Mouth, Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary
Restaurant tips: Down to Earth in Plettenberg Bay | Papa Africa in Storms River| Taste Restaurant and Farmstall in Storms River
Hotel recommendations: The Fernery Lodge | The Tsitsikamma Pyramid (both in Tsitsikamma NP)
Further reading: Garden Route hikes | Garden Route best places | South Africa’s Best Hotels

You are slowly but surely inching closer and closer to Port Elizabeth, as today you have officially passed the halfway point in your Garden Route 10-day itinerary!

Today would also be the day you may want to switch accommodations to something closer to Storms River Mouth, where the Garden Route officially ends, but where you’ll also be spending a good chunk of the next 4 days. My tip: The Fernery Lodge—you are now spoiled and need terrace sea views every day, so I’m happy to report that The Fernery’s got you covered.

Or, if you like your walls made of glass, The Tsitsikamma Pyramid is glamping extraordinaire! Look at this:

Glamping in Tsitsikamma National Park at The Pyramid, Garden Route accommodation

The closest thing to camping that I would be willing to consider: The Tsitsikamma Pyramid

But for now, one last day exploring the Western Cape (but very close to the Eastern Cape). Monkey’s, anyone?

Day 6, stop 1: Salt River Mouth

Salt River Mouth hike, Garden Route itinerary for 10 days, South Africa

Pretty, right? @ Salt River Mouth Hike

Distance from Kambaku at Sea: 90 km/56 miles, 1.5-hour drive  
Time spent here: 1.5 hours  

What you need to watch out for on this hike is the tides. You should only do the lower section along the rocks by the ocean at low tide. Otherwise, bring a boat.   

Then there’s a top section with stunning sea views and a walk along the river mouth where you can also take a swim if you so desire. You’ll only need about 1 hour for the hike, but add extra time if you need it for the swimming or chilling. This is a vacation, not a race.

Alltrails has the full hike map that you can follow, but I recommend doing it clockwise to start on the rocks and get the tide timing just right that way. Then, you can spend as much time at the river mouth beach as you wish without having to worry about being stranded there forever... I always like a hike that has a bit of a fear factor to it, don’t you?

You can park in Nature’s Valley close to the beach, which is steps away from the trailhead.

Note: If you’re visiting Salt River Mouth in 2023, note that there was a landslide that slid away some of the railing in one section of the hike, resulting in a big warning sign at the entrance forbidding entrance. Just *cough* ignore it *cough*. But like, don’t fall, ok?

Day 6, stop 2: Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary 

Monkeys in Monkeyland Sanctuary, Garden Route, South Africa

Let’s meet these friends in The Monkeyland Sanctuary

Distance from last stop: 16 km/10 miles, 20-minute drive  
Time spent here: 1.5 hours  

Not far from Salt River Mouth is your second stop of the day: Monkeyland. Despite it’s name, this is no zoo! Monkeyland is a true primate sanctuary, and it's sprawled over acres of pure monkey paradise. You’ll be guided through this massive enclosure that's like stepping into their jungle homeland. It’s entertaining to see these fellas out in the “wild”, especially when sometimes, they are equally as interested in the humans as we are in the monkeys. It seemed the vervets were really into sunglasses, so watch out!  

On the one-hour guided tour, you're walking under and in the trees, across the suspension bridge, trying to catch a view of the cheeky monkeys. Sometimes you’ll need to have an eagle eye to see them, and other times they might be very much in your face.

Guides are excellent and full of monkey facts. When our guide wrapped things up, I felt like I'd just come back from a mini safari.  

Note: It’s also possible to combine Monkeyland with a visit to the bird sanctuary next door (apparently the largest free-flight bird aviary in the world), and with Jukani Wildlife Sanctaury just a 10-minute drive away. We didn’t, so I can’t say anything relevant about them, but you could easily fit those into your itinerary if you’re craving more animals.

If you’re driving to your new hotel, The Fernery Lodge or maybe even The Tsitsikamma Pyramid, after seeing all the animals you may possibly want to see in an afternoon, you’re looking at about 1-hour driving time.

Day 7 of Garden Route itinerary: Storms River Mouth

Storms River Mouth on Garden Route, South Africa

Me, happy on the Storms River Mouth

Main sites visited on day 7: Storms River Mouth suspension bridges, gorge kayaking adventure
Restaurant tips: Papa Africa in Storms River| Taste Restaurant and Farmstall in Storms River
Hotel recommendation: The Fernery Lodge | The Tsitsikamma Pyramid (both in Tsitsikamma NP)
Further reading: Garden Route hikes | Garden Route best places | Garden Route 5-day itinerary

The saying “last but not least” is a huge understatement on this trip. That’s because if you’re driving the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, you’ll see the Tsitsikamma National Park section of the Garden Route last, which means you’ve literally saved “the best for last”! That’s why I’ve planned for you to stay 2 full days in Tsitsikamma, and one partial day before you drive the final stretch to Port Elizabeth. Read more: 14 Top Things to Do on South Africa’s Garden Route

I strongly urge you to book yourself into a hotel in Tsitsikamma where you can be surrounded by the incredible nature day in and day out. I’ve chosen The Fernery Lodge. Once you see the location, you’ll understand:

The Fernery Lodge’s location on the edge of the cliffs, Garden Route itinerary accommodation

Wait till you see the views from this place @ The Fernery Lodge

Day 7, stop 1: Storms River Mouth suspension bridges and trail

Storm River Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa, Garden Route day 7

Storm River Mouth was stunning!

Distance from The Fernery Lodge: 30 km/19 mi, a 30-minute drive
Time spent here: 1.5 hours minimum

Storms River Mouth is where the river meets the ocean, and in one word, it’s spectacular. The coastal scenery in Storms River Mouth is some of the most beautiful you’ll have ever seen.

The top thing to do there—if you trust me, the hundreds of daily visitors, and Instagram—is walk across the suspension bridges over the wild waters below. You start at the parking lot near Untouched Adventures (see the next stop of the day) and make your way to the bridges. You’ll walk through the luscious forest, on wooden paths, and, after the bridges, you’ll need to manage some steep stairs to the viewpoint.

There are views after views that you won’t be able to get enough of; you can spend way more than the 1.5 hours I suggest here just soaking it all in.

In total, it’s about 3.7 km (2.3 mi) out-and-back, but if you wanted, the trail does keep going longer than that... in fact, the Dolphin Trail takes you all the way back to The Fernery Lodge! So, if you’re not up for the kayaking adventure that is about to go down, you could consider just turning this into a long hike instead.

Day 7, stop 1: Kayaking in the river mouth

Storms River Mouth on Garden Route, South Africa

Storms River Mouth is perfect for kayaking

Distance from last stop: 0
Time spent here: 2.5–4 hours

But you aren’t going to settle for just looking at the river mouth, oh no. You want to experience it to the max! So head to Untouched Adventures and sign up for an epic trip (realistically, you’ll email them beforehand and make a booking). No affiliation, but their trips are the real deal.

You can choose from two options: a kayak under the suspension bridges followed by lilo-ing into the shallower waters of the gorge, including a swim and possible cliff jump (price: ZAR 810/USD 45). OR try their new trip, which sounds absolutely epic: Where the regular trip usually turns back you can now switch to an Anvil boat and continue into the most beautiful section of the gorge (price: ZAR 1500/USD 80). They had to think long and hard about how to make this portion of the trip possible because the vessel had to be light enough to carry (there are some rocky sections). I did not do this but I really wish I had the chance!

If you decide on the longer trip that goes deeper into the gorge, note that the trip starts by walking over the suspension bridges, so you don’t need to do that part on your own first.

Day 8 of Garden Route itinerary: Otter Trail Hike

Day 1 Otter Trail along the Garden Route, South Africa

Who loves rock jumping?!—this hike is a challenge with a waterfall as a reward at the end

Main sites visited on day 8: Day 1 Otter Trail Hike, Big Tree
Restaurant tips: Papa Africa in Storms River| Taste Restaurant and Farmstall in Storms River
Hotel recommendations: The Fernery Lodge | The Tsitsikamma Pyramid (both in Tsitsikamma NP)
Further reading: Garden Route hikes | Garden Route best places | Garden Route 5-day itinerary

You have one more day in Tsitsikamma National Par, so make it count!

Day 8, stop 1: Day 1 Otter Trail

Day 1 Otter Trail on Garden Route, South Africa

Day 1 Otter Trail is a day 8 of our itinerary

Distance from The Fernery Lodge: 30 km/19 mi, a 30-minute drive
Time spent here: 3 hours minimum

Located right next to Storms River Mouth, there are parking spots available right at the trailhead to the Day 1 Otter Trail. 

First of all: What’s with the weird hike name?! Day 1 Otter Trail? There is a famous South African multiday hike called the Otter Trail, considered one of the finest hiking trails in the world, which goes on for 44 km. But for folks that don’t have the time or will for that kind of walking, they can do the first section of the Otter Trail, which is the part that you’d normally do on your first of five days of the full hike. Hence the Day 1 Otter Trail. Makes sense, right?

This hike (also called the Waterfall Hike) is a 4.8 km (3 mi) out-and-back route that’s slightly technically challenging. The trail goes all the way to a pretty waterfall and then back the same way.

You’ll be walking (and jumping over) rocks along the ocean with a fair bit of scrambling, but if you aren’t a total klutz or wearing flip flops, you’ll do just fine. I saw people of all ages on this route, so though some like to say this route is hard, I’d describe it as “adventurous and really fun”.  

Note: If you don’t like to backtrack, there is a way to make the Otter Trail hike a loop: Blue Duiker Loop.

We did the Day 1 Otter Trail in a little over 2 hours, but we didn’t stand around too much anywhere, and after taking some snaps of the waterfall, headed right back (we had places to be). But you could spend ages taking photos and even taking a dip in the pool by the waterfall. The Otter Trail delivers unbelievable scenery—you’re in the luscious forest one moment and exposed on the boulders right next to the wild ocean the next. Seriously, the waves were something like 3–4 m high, it was insane! So make sure to leave yourself enough time to experience it all.

Day 8, stop 2: Big Tree

The Big Tree trail on Garden Route, South Africa

Hike through the jungle!

Distance from last stop: 14 km/9 mi, 15-minute drive
Time spent here: 30 minutes (or more if you hike the longer trail)

On your drive back to your hotel, make a short stop to visit a huge tree. Right off the highway is the Big Tree Trail. The star of the show is a tree that casually stands at 38 m (125 ft) and is 800 years old. I was all prepared for some regular trees, but whoa, this tree was something else! It’s a Outeniqua Yellowwood. 

Think less than 30 minutes of easy strolling on a wooden boardwalk to the giant and back, just over 1 km (0.6 mi) round-trip. It’s so close that you’ll actually hear traffic when you’re walking in the gorgeous forest. (You can stretch it even further on the Yellow Trail if you’re feeling like a longer walk in the dense forest, and clock in around 3.5 km (2.2 mi) total.)

Right after you leave Mr. Big Tree, you may consider stopping at Storms River Bridge if you haven’t already, since you’ve crossed it numerous times by now on your way to and from Storms River. There are multiple viewing decks at the bridge, and you can stock up on drinks for yourself and your car at the nearby shop and gas station.  

Day 9 of Garden Route itinerary: Drive to Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth on Garden Route, South Africa

And here we are, at the end of our journey—Port Elizabeth

Main sites visited on day 9: Platbos Nature Reserve, Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area
Restaurant tips: Taste Restaurant and Farmstall in Storms River | De Kelder Restaurant in Port Elizabeth | The Hussar Grill in Port Elizabeth
Hotel recommendations: Nova Boutique Hotel 
Further reading: Best places in South Africa | Visiting Addo Elephant Park

Today is the day you drive to the endpoint of your Garden Route itinerary: Port Elizabeth. This is where you’ll potentially return your rental car and fly to your next destination in South Africa.

But you’re not leaving quite yet—you still have 2 nights before you move on, so spend them sleeping in a hotel that looks like my apartment! Just kidding... but not kidding. I literally felt right at home! The owners of Nova Boutique Hotel have excellent taste and made some great design choices... And they were my favorite hosts on my entire South Africa trip (and not just because they like the same style of furniture, I promise)!

You can either drive the 2 hours straight to Port Elizabeth and hang out there for the rest of the day (maybe with a great white or a whale of some kind), or take one last look at Tsitsikamma NP. Here are the options I’d choose from:

Day 9, option 1: Platbos Trails in Tsitsikamma NP

Photos from the Platbos walking trails, river on the left, boarwalk on the right, Garden Route itinerary

It was a wonder there were no snakes or obvious creepy crawlies in this jungle!

Distance from The Fernery Lodge: 17 km/11 mi, a 30-minute drive
Time spent here: 2.5 hours

Platbos Nature Reserve is a gorgeous indigenous forest that is a quiet, tranquil area to walk in. If you need to settle your nerves from all the cliff hikes and rock scrambling of the previous days, Platbos is the place to do that. 

Platbos is actually a series of loop trails, so you can tailor the route and distance to suit your needs. There are markers along the way that will help you do that.  

The red loop takes you through thick forest, and if you extend it down the yellow trail, you’ll get all the way down to Storms River. You can experience the river in a much mellower state than what you will see at Storms River Mouth. No selfies on suspension bridges here! But a perfect spot for a picnic or quick stop.  

The Platbos area is easy for anyone to explore, though you may find some of the trails a bit overgrown. There are a few boardwalks, and some of the way is on a dirt road. Here are the hike stats:

Hike length: 10 km (6 mi) loop (red trail + part of official yellow trail) 
Elevation gain: 280 m (920 ft) 
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate 
Hiking time: 2.5 hours 
Trailhead: Google Maps link to trailhead 

After your hike, you’re a 2-hour drive away from Port Elizabeth. Get over there, get checked in to your hotel, and head out to a nice dinner.

Day 9, option 2: Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area

The animals in Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area, Garden Route, South Africa

All of these species can be spotted in Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area

Distance from The Fernery Lodge: 183 km/114 mi, a 2-hour drive
Time spent here: up to a full day, depending on the trip

I was as ecstatic as you probably will be when you find out that you can see right whales, humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, and oh, great white sharks, near Port Elizabeth in what’s called the Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area. It’s the reason that Addo can say that you can find not just the Big 5, but the Big 7 in the park.

Addo Elephant Park recommends using Raggy Charters for the different trips, so who am I to go against their wishes. I’m going to straight up say that I haven’t used them, since I didn’t go sea creature-searching on my last South Africa trip. Also because I still have strong enough memories from my last great white cage dive experience, thankyouverymuch!

Most of the trips with Raggy Charters, be it to see great whites, whales, dolphins, or penguins, start in the morning and can last up to a full day. That means you’d need to leave The Fernery Lodge very early in the morning in order to make it there in time. But dude, you’d be diving in a cage among great whites (or seeing other cool animals that you’d rarely get to see elsewhere)!! Worth one early morning I’d think.

Day 10 of Garden Route itinerary: Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant National Park, Garden Route, South Africa

Addo is full of beautiful elephants and other animals which you can see from a very close distance. Where else you can experience this than in Africa?

Main sites visited on day 10: Addo Elephant Park
Restaurant tips: De Kelder Restaurant in Port Elizabeth | The Hussar Grill in Port Elizabeth
Hotel recommendations: Nova Boutique Hotel 
Further reading: Best places in South Africa | Visiting Addo Elephant Park | South Africa itinerary

You wanted to end your Garden Route itinerary in Port Elizabeth, so I’m here to oblige. Actually, I think today’s plan should very much be a priority on any visit to the part of South Africa, so it’s not just a filler trip. For some people, Addo Elephant Park could even be the highlight of their Garden Route drive, and that’s even though it isn’t even on the Garden Route!

Don't be fooled by its name—Addo Elephant Park offers much more than just elephants. It’s a sprawling, multi-species haven for Africa's diverse wildlife where you can spot the Big 5 (though you probably won’t, because the leopards try really hard to avoid humans).

There are about 600 elephants currently living in Addo, and when we stopped at one of the watering holes at prime elephant watering hole time (in the afternoon around 3 pm), it literally felt like they were all there at once. I’m not sure if you can imagine hundreds of elephants in one spot, but it’s surreal! That was the moment when Addo shot to the top of our South Africa highlights list.  

You can either self-drive or get a guide at Addo Elephant Park—choose form the tourist trucks or pay a guide to join you in your own car. Addo has 120 km (75 mi) of tourist roads that’ll keep you busy for a full day.

From Port Elizabeth (official new name: Gqeberha), I recommend using the South Gate if you’re self-driving as it’s just a 30-minute drive along the N2. If you want a guide or guided tour, you’ll want to start at the Main Gate, because that’s where you’ll find all of Addo’s tourist facilities. The Main Gate is 72 km (about 45 mi) from Port Elizabeth—make sure to drive around through Paterson for safety reasons.

Elephants in Addo Elephant Park, Garden Route, South Africa

These beauties are on every corner in Addo 

Addo’s gates open at 7 am and close at 7 pm (Main Gate) and 6:30 pm (South Gate). It’s a good idea to check the closing times when you enter, because times are subject to change based on season. 

I’ve put together an Addo Elephant Park Trip Planner with all the details on visiting the safari and what to expect, so check that out before going. That way, you won’t be surprised that they’ll check your car trunk at the entrance, and know what to do if you want to go on a night safari.  

Now that you’re done planning your Garden Route itinerary, shouldn’t you think about where to next? Check out my full South Africa itinerary for inspiration on other places to add to your South Africa trip.

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission if you make bookings through my links, at no additional cost to you. This helps keep this blog free, thank you!

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About me

About me

Hi! I’m Jan. I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I try to experience the best the world has to offer, and I don’t cease to be impressed. But if I’m not, I’m sure going to tell you! You can count on my full honesty and real opinions here. No bullcrap. I own and run several companies, which gives me great (but not unlimited) freedom to roam the world.  

I was first inspired to start this blog by my own experience of researching for upcoming trips—I often struggle with a lack of good information, accuracy, and authenticity of resources. You wouldn’t believe how many “travel bloggers” don’t even visit the destinations they write about! 

My goal with this blog is to provide you with complex and practical information so that you can plan your own vacation, complete with insights you’d only get if you visited the place. I also put together itineraries that are fully planned out trip guides.

Another aspect that drives this platform is my curiosity about the history, geography, politics, and economy of each country I visit, so I try to include this information in my articles, too. It’s always great to get the bigger picture, right? 

And just to be clear, I am not trying to compete with backpacking blogs or provide hacks for an economical and affordable experience. My vacations follow the standard pattern of traveling by plane, staying in good hotels, and renting a car on the spot to get around. I’m also always up for a fantastic meal, though I don’t shy away from local delicacies and street food, either.  

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