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The Most Perfect Two-Week Garden Route Itinerary for an Epic Road Trip

The Most Perfect Two-Week Garden Route Itinerary for an Epic Road Trip

Driving the Garden Route is one of the world’s most incredible road trips.

I can say that because I have made road trips around many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Europe. Still, my road trip through South Africa remains one of my favourite adventures.

In this post, I will help you to plan your own Garden Route self-drive adventure in South Africa.

I start with all the essential South Africa travel tips you will need to know, followed by a day-to-day 2-week South Africa travel itinerary outlining where to go and what to do in Cape Town and along the Garden Route.

It’s the perfect guide for planning a Garden Route self-drive itinerary through South Africa.

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Need to arrange travel insurance, car hire or accommodation? Check out my resources page to help you plan your trip.
Close up of African elephant head

Table of Contents

Helpful Information for Planning a Trip along the Garden Route

What and Where is the Garden Route in South Africa?

The Garden Route is a 300 kilometres (190 miles) stretch of road running through the southeastern coast of South Africa and gets its name from the abundance of flora growing along the route.

While the Garden Route officially starts in Mossel Bay in the Western Cape and finishes at Storms River Mouth in the Eastern Cape, for most tourists planning to drive the Garden Route, the starting point is usually in Cape Town. It finishes on a safari near Port Elizabeth (or vice versa).

Visit Europcar to book a hire car in South Africa

Why Choose The Garden Route in South Africa?

The Garden Route speaks for itself (as you can see in my itinerary). What makes it unique is that it is malaria-free, unlike other parts of South Africa and other safari destinations such as Kruger National Park.

You won’t need to worry about malaria as you explore the Garden Route, which is a plus, especially if you have children and aren’t happy to give them anti-malarial drugs.

Best Time to Drive the Garden Route

The Garden Route is gorgeous all year round but at its best between November and April.

These months are South Africa’s autumn (fall) season when temperatures start to cool off to a manageable heat. If going on safari, you can expect to see babies in the wildlife at this time, which is a magical event to witness.

How to stay safe driving the Garden Route

The Garden Route is driven by tourists and locals during the day and is considered relatively safe; however, driving at night is not advised.

Don’t turn off into the bush or a township and leave the car – dangers from wildlife and humans may be present! Use common sense and only make stops at well-known tourist towns during the day.

World Nomads have some excellent tips for staying safe on South Africa’s roads and offer comprehensive travel insurance for your trip.

Driving times from Cape Town to Amakhala Safari Reserve?

My Garden Route self-drive itinerary starts from Cape Town in the west. It runs to Amakala Safari Reserve in the east, where I turn around and return on the same route.

Individual driving times between Garden Route locations are highlighted throughout this article.

The distance one-way on the N2 motorway is around 800 kilometres (500miles) in total. Driving in South Africa is on the left-hand side of the road, so perfect if coming from the UK!

What is the accommodation like in South Africa?

Accommodation in South Africa varies in style and budget, and you can stay in some stunning properties.

My accommodation ranged from 3-star to 5-star properties, and all offered a comfortable and enjoyable stay. I have listed my Garden Route hotels in each section of this Garden Route travel guide.

There are many hotels to choose from in each locale, so please look below at alternative accommodations along the Garden Route that will suit all budgets.

Cape Town accommodation to book

Knysna accommodation to book

Storms River accommodation to book

Amakhala Safari Reserve accommodation to book

Plettenberg Bay accommodation to book

Gansbaai accommodation to book

South Africa Time Differences (GMT)

It is vital to understand time differences between countries to plan when you arrive in South Africa. You don’t want to land late at night and have to find your hire car and accommodation in the dark.

South Africa is:

2 hours ahead of London, England

7 hours ahead of Washington DC, USA

9 hours behind Canberra, Australia

11 hours behind Wellington, New Zealand

3.5 hours behind New Delhi, India

My Garden Route Self-Drive Itinerary

My self-drive Garden Route itinerary reflects a 14-day return trip starting and finishing in Cape Town.

A direct flight from London Heathrow to Cape Town will take 11 hours and 45 minutes.

My 2-week trip to South Africa gave me plenty of time to experience the highlights of Cape Town and the Garden Route (including going on a non-malarial safari) without feeling rushed for time or fearful of contracting malaria!

I took my trip in April at the beginning of South Africa’s autumn season, and I experienced warm weather with only one day of rain.

My road trip consisted of stops at these places:

  • Cape Town
  • Knysna
  • Storms River
  • Amakhala Game Reserve
  • Plettenberg Bay
  • Gansbaai
  • Cape Town

Garden Route Map

Days 1 – 4 / Cape Town

Where to Stay in Cape Town

Lawhill Luxury Waterfront Apartments – 4 nights / 5-star rating

The Lawhill Luxury Waterfront apartments are the perfect place to stay if you want to explore all of Cape Town’s tourist attractions.

The luxurious self-catering apartments are well-designed and equipped with everything you need to enjoy a comfortable stay in Cape Town.

The apartments are a short walk from the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and have stunning views of Table Mountain.

Lawhill Apartments with Table Mountain in the distance

Best things to do in Cape Town

Day One – Victoria and Albert Waterfront

Cape Town’s famous waterfront is where you will find restaurants, bars, boat trips to Robben’s Island and many other great activities.

You can read more here about 12 of the top attractions to visit in Cape Town.
cape-town-waterfront-with-fishing-boats

Day Two – Table Mountain

One of the most iconic natural landmarks in South Africa is Table Mountain, and no visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip up this magnificent mountain.

Either hike to the top and take the cable car back down or take the cable car both ways. Whatever you choose, the impressive views from the top will blow your mind!

You can read more here about How to climb to the top of Table Mountain

Day Three – The Cape Peninsula

Encircling Cape Town central is the Cape Peninsula, home to one of the most popular tourist sights in South Africa, the penguins of Boulders Beach. Aside from penguins, the Cape Peninsula has beautiful sandy beaches, great surfing spots and colourful neighbourhoods.

The Cape of Good Hope nature reserve is a place to spot mountain zebras, baboons, and many birdlife varieties. At the same time, Constantia vineyards offer visitors the chance to sample delicious South African wines.

You can read more about the 10 Best Places to Visit Around the Cape Peninsula.
penguins on Boulders Beach in South Africa

Cape Winelands

If you want to visit Cape Winelands, the drive is a 60-minute drive from Cape Town Central. I hadn’t factored in a visit to the wineries within my garden route road trip as I had children with me.

Still, on a return visit (now they are adults), you can be sure I will be including the vineyards in my next South Africa itinerary!

You can read here about Visiting South African Wineries in the Cape Winelands.
wineglass filled with red wine on the side of a wall with vineyards in the background
Day Four – Driving Times – Cape Town to Knysna 6 Hours along N2 motorway

Angie’s Top Tip

After around 2.5 hours of leaving Cape Town on the N2, stop at Tredici in Swellendam for delicious Italian pastries and coffee.

Days 4 – 6 / Knysna

Where to Stay in Knysna

The Lofts Boutique Hotel – 1 night / 4-star rating

The Lofts Boutique Hotel is unique in its styling and location. Perched on the edge of Knysna Lagoon on Thesen Island, this beautiful hotel offers a contemporary stay in stunning surroundings.

Breakfast vouchers are valid at four local eateries, and guests can book evening meals at the local Knysna waterfront restaurants.

view of the lofts hotel in knysna along the garden route in South Africa

Angie’s Dinner Recommendation

For great fish dishes in an enviable waterside setting head to The Dry Dock Food Company

Best things to do in Knysna

Knysna is a beautiful town with activities based around the Knysna Lagoon. Take a boat tour and combine it with tasting the famous Knysna oysters. Or why not enjoy a sundowner aboard a sunset cruise?

Adrenaline lovers will find hiking and biking around the Knysna forest a fun activity to do. And those looking for animal-centred experiences can swim with seals or interact with elephants at Knysna Elephant Park.

Paddle boat crossing Knysna Lagoon as the sun is setting

Organised activities in Knysna

Day Five Morning – Knysna Heads

Knysna Heads is the most popular place to visit in Knysna and is a famous landmark on the Garden Route. Enormous sandstone cliffs separate the Knysna Lagoon from the Indian ocean.

Visitors come to the ‘The Heads’, as they are commonly referred to, so they can enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding town and ocean. A walk along the rocks takes you to the entrance of Knysna Heads, which is worth doing.

Angie’s lunch recommendation:

Find a seat with a view at East Head Cafe and enjoy lunch and drinks in this beautiful spot

viewpoint looking towards Knysna HEads along the Garden Route in South Africa

Day Five Afternoon and Day Six Morning/Lunch – Knysna Elephant Park

Knysna Elephant Park – 1 night

The Knysna Elephant Park offers guests the opportunity to have a sleepover with elephants and join them on a sunrise walk to their watering hole. This activity is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave long-lasting memories.

You can read more here about: Walking and sleeping with elephants in Knysna.
five elephants standing by a watering hole in Knysna Elephant Park
Day Six – Driving Times – Knysna to Storms River 60 minutes

Days 6-7 / Storms River

Where to Stay in Storms River

Tsitsikamma Village Inn – 1 night / 3-star rating

Tsitsikamma Village Inn is a unique place to stay close to the official end of the garden route at Storms River. It is a collection of colonial and heritage buildings scattered around a central garden, all different in their styling and offering basic but comfortable accommodations.

I chose this property for its quirkiness and proximity to Tsitsikamma National Park and Storms River. The hotel has three on-site eateries, De Oude Martha restaurant, a pub and a cafe. An outdoor swimming pool is also available for guests.

a white heritage house with a green roof in Tsitsikamma Village along the garden route in South Africa

Best things to do in Tsitsikamma

The Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park is a must-visit destination if you love the great outdoors. Hike through its numerous trails or head to the mouth of Storms River, where it meets with the Indian ocean. The mouth of the river is where you will find the Storms River suspension bridge.

Other adrenaline sports include zip-lining through the forest canopy or bungee jumping from one of the world’s highest bungee jumps (216 metres) at Bloukrans Bridge. Arborists will be interested in visiting Tsitsikamma’s famous 800-year-old ‘Big Tree’, standing 37 meters high and with a nine-metre circumference!

Bloukrans Bridge for bungee jumping along the garden route

Day Six Morning – Storms River

Storms River Mouth Trail in Tsitsikamma national park leads through coastal forest and along boardwalks, stairs and suspension bridges that cling to the cliff edge. It is one of the most popular things to do in Tsitsikamma.

You can read more here about Storms River suspension bridge in Tsitsikamma.
three men standing on the suspension bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park

Organised activities in Tsitsikamma National Park

Day Seven – Driving Times – Storms River to Amakhala Game Reserve 3 Hours

Days 7-10 / Amakhala Game Reserve

Where to Stay in Amakhala Game Reserve

Quatermain’s 1920s Safari Camp – 3 nights / 3-star rating

A once-in-a-lifetime experience is to go on safari, and there is no better place than Amakhala Game Reserve. There are several different types of accommodation to book, but for me, the real sense of being on safari is sleeping in a tent – luckily, the rest of my family agreed!

You can read more here about My review of Quatermain’s Safari Camp
Quartermains Camp Tent South Africa

Safari on Amakhala Game Reserve

Going on a safari is a magical experience that will stay with you forever.

To see wild animals in their natural environment will undoubtedly bring tears to your eyes; it did with me. Watch the animals interact with one another, feed, bathe, fight and sleep all right in front of you.

Red earth dirt track through Amakhala Safari reserve with zebras and antelopes on each side of the track
You can read here about My incredible lion encounter in South Africa
A lioness sitting in the bush in South Africa

After being on safari, we turned around and headed back along the Garden Route to Cape Town. We stopped in Plettenberg Bay and Gansbaai on the route to participate in more exciting animal encounters.

Day 10 – Driving Times – Amakhala Game Reserve to Plettenberg Bay 3 Hours 15 mins along N2 motorway

Days 10 – 12 / Plettenberg Bay

Where to Stay in Plettenberg Bay

Milkwood Manor on Sea – 2 nights / 4-star rating

Milwood Manor has direct access to the beach with fabulous views of the Keurbooms River lagoon and the Indian Ocean. The hotel has a restaurant and a bar with two communal lounge areas. The hotel has a 4-star rating and offers an upmarket stay in Plettenberg Bay.

White hotel on the beach in Plettenberg Bay South Africa

Angie’s Top Tip:

Head to Old Nick Village in Plettenberg Bay and discover artisan shops, galleries and eateries in heritage buildings scattered amongst lush gardens.

Best things to do in Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, or ‘Plett’ as the locals call it, is a premier seaside destination along the Garden Route. It is popular because of its sweeping golden beaches, indigenous forests and wine estates.

The world-heritage Robberg Peninsula nature reserve offers visitors the chance to hike some of South Africa’s most iconic trails.

Day Ten – Our visit to the Plettenberg animal sanctuaries

Plettenberg Bay is also the home to The Crags, where visitors will find plenty of Garden Route wildlife encounters. We visited Birds of Eden, Monkeyland and Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and would recommend all of them.

You can read here about 10 ethical animal encounters along the Garden Route.
Leopard with its tongue out of its mouth

Organised activities in Plettenberg Bay

Day 11 – Relaxing by the sea

Today was the first time we had seen rain, so the day was a complete washout, but staying inside is no hardship when you are at a beachfront hotel. In some ways, the weather did us a favour as it gave us a chance to rest. We watched films, read books and went for an evening stroll once the rain stopped.

Angie sitting on a wall looking out to the sandy beach in Pletternburg Bay  on the Garden Route
Day 12 – Driving Times – Plettenberg Bay to Gansbaai 5 Hours along N2 motorway

Days 12-15 / Gansbaai

Where to Stay in Gansbaai

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve – 3 nights / 5-star rating

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is one of the most exclusive hotel resorts along the Garden Route. It offers guests sumptuous rooms overlooking the fynbos (indigenous plants) and down to the coastline. There is no reason to leave the reserve as it has a gourmet restaurant, bar, gym, and spa; however, you will be spoilt for choice with plenty of things to do in Gansbaai.

During your stay, there are plenty of activities to try out. These range from horse-riding, forest, beach and fynbos walks, shark cage diving, one of South Africa’s top tourist activities, and the chance to visit ancient caves.

You can read here about My review of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
view of Grootbos Resort in Gansbaai along the Garden route in South Africa

Best things to do in Gansbaai

Gansbaai is the heart of marine life and outdoor activities in South Africa. Cage dive with sharks and observe whales migrating across South Africa’s oceans. Visit African penguins at the seabird sanctuary or horse ride along the beach; there’s something for everybody in Gansbaai.

All the activities I experienced in Gansbaai were part of the package for guests staying at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.

Day 13 – Horseback Riding and Ancient Caves

A horses head with bridle
silhouette of four people jumping into the air in the mouth of a cave

Day 14 – Shark Cage Diving

You can read about How to Cage Dive with Great White Sharks in Gansbaai.
Shark coming out of the water on a shark cage dive

Day 15 Morning – Forest and Fynbos Safari

View across the Fynbos to the sea at Grootbos

Organised activities in Gansbaai

Day 15 – Driving Times – Gansbaai to Cape Town 2 Hours

Day 15 Evening – Cape Town Airport

With heavy hearts, we left Gansbaai and headed back to Cape Town airport for our evening flight back to Heathrow.

Our 14-night Garden Route road trip had been exceptional in every sense of the word. We had experienced once-in-a-lifetime activities that would stay with us forever.

Are You Ready to Plan a Two-Week South African Road Trip?

Has my post inspired you to plan a self-drive road trip along the Garden Route? If it has, I would love to know – receiving feedback is how I can help my readers even more.

And if I can answer any questions you may have about my 2-week Garden Route itinerary, please leave me a message below. I will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Alternatively, if you prefer someone to drive you around South Africa, why not join a week-long Garden Route tour?

Are you are looking for further South African travel inspiration? Please check out the following in-depth blog posts on South Africa to give you the ultimate information on each location I visited.

Please PIN for future holidays in South Africa.

Matteo

Wednesday 12th of October 2022

Very beautiful and inspiring post.

Bea

Sunday 6th of March 2022

Thank you very much! You have just planned my next holiday!

Ildiko

Sunday 6th of March 2022

Wow!! What an amazing adventure. I would LOVE to do this 2 week Garden route trip ... sans the shark cage! Love your tips and lodging recommendations. Pinned for future travel.

Leah

Sunday 6th of March 2022

Always loved the idea of visiting South Africa but never heard of the Garden Route. Will definitely use this to plan our upcoming trip there!

Jenn

Saturday 5th of March 2022

This is a thorough post to help plan a tour along the Garden Route in South Africa - pinning for later in case I get to go!