Five-day adventure itinerary for driving South Africa’s Garden Route 1

Posted by Beth | May 3, 2016

Our two-week South Africa trip in January was split up into three separate chunks: five days for a safari in Kruger National Park, five days in Cape Town, and five days driving the Garden Route. The Garden Route on the Eastern Cape is a beautiful drive dotted with unique coastal towns and lots of adventure opportunities. Rental cars are quite cheap in South Africa, less than $20 a day, and allow you the flexibility to travel the Garden Route at your own pace. Here’s the breakdown of our full five day itinerary.

Day 1: Cape Town to Swellendam

  • Groot Constantia Winery-The oldest winery in South Africa (Read more about our tastings at Groot and other SA wineries here). Set a new record for ourselves for showing up at a winery at 8:55 a.m. In our defense we had planned to do laundry all morning but couldn’t find a laundromat so decided to hop on the road instead and really didn’t want to skip the most famous winery.
  • Muizenberg-Brunch at Empire Cafe and saw the brightly colored beach huts.
  • Vergelegen Winery-Tasting, museum and short hike around the grounds.
  • Hermanus-Famous town for whale watching but it was off-season.
  • Stanford-Ate lunch/dinner at Peasants Pizza.
  • Birkenhead Brewery tasting flight
  • Swellendam-stayed overnight at Swellendam Backpackers Lodge. Booked here after it was highly recommended on another travel blog because of the horseback rides offered, but we left disappointed. I tried to book our trail rides for the next day via email but the owner told me we could book on arrival. Then on arrival she said it was fully booked. After spending the previous night at the Radisson Blu Cape Town Waterfront, the no AC, no wifi, no outlets, no hot shower was a bit of a reality check. Back on the backpacker trail!

Day 2: Swellendam to Wilderness

  • Laundry-Dropped off our laundry at Lemon Drop Laundry and hung out at a coffee shop nearby.
  • Wildebramm Strawberry Farm-Unfortunately strawberry season ended early this year so no picking for us, but did get to sample a plethora of jams and liqueurs.
  • Oudtshoorn-After a few hours in the car we arrived at our out-of-the-way stop of Oudtshoorn, specifically for the chance to ride an ostrich! We did a short tour at Highgate Farm then I got to take a short but wild ride before watching the “pros” race.
  • Wilderness-Ate dinner at Blue Olive, but there’s lots of cute restaurants in this little coastal town.
  • Stayed at the Far Hills Hotel (redeemed 4,746 Citi points). It was old but quite charming, and included a free breakfast.

Day 3: Wilderness to Plettenberg Bay

  • Canyoning/Kloofing tour with Marthinus from Paradise Adventures. This may be the single coolest/most adventurous/most scenic thing we’ve ever done! Full post coming up in next day or so with more details.
  • Buffalo Bay-Picked up a new passenger, our new Australian friend Janet from our kloofing tour, we set off for Knysna. We got out to wander around a bit, admire the views, eat PB&Js and to cheer for some fellow foreigners who were elated to catch their first fish.
  • Knysna Heads-After ditching Janet on the side of the road (she insisted) we detoured to drive up to the Knysna Heads for gorgeous views over the bay.

  • Plettenberg Bay-stayed at Sea Shell Cottage Airbnb. Our first truly great Airbnb experience! Attempted to cook French food in our little kitchen.

Day 4: Plettenberg Bay

  • Today was all about relaxing by the beach and pool. Except it was cloudy and rainy, so it ended up just being about relaxing in our cottage and walking around  “downtown Plett.”
  • Ate lunch at “The Table” (pizzas and pastas)
  • Robberg Beach-Sunset hike and picnic. The highlight was we saw dolphins!
  • Ate dinner at the Fat Fish-Our Airbnb host recommended this trendy hotspot and it was very crowded with locals and tourists alike, but the amazing food and view were worth it.
  • Night number two at our Airbnb.

Day 5: Plettenberg Bay to Port Elizabeth

  • Bramon Winery-Champagne tasting
  • Storms River-Stopped in this quirky town near the Tsitiskamma Forest. Marilyn’s Diner is practically a museum dedicated to Elvis and the 1960s.
  • Toll road problems-Since this was the end of our trip we were a little low on local currency and ran into a toll road. Sign said they accepted Visa but the lady refused to take our “foreign card,” so we ended up having to backtrack about 17K to an ATM. Save enough cash for toll roads!
  • Random mall-stopped to buy a few long skirts for Uganda and ate some amazing quick casual Thai food at the food court (Simply Asia, think it’s a chain but possibly only within South Africa).
  • Stayed at the Radisson Port Elizabeth, which was right near the beach and also a short drive to the airport for our early morning flight.
  • Grabbed some fish and chips and fish tacos nearby for dinner.

Garden RouteThis five-day itinerary was about 550 miles. You could probably drive it in 11-12 hours if you drove straight through, but of course the fun of road tripping is being able to pull off at random beaches, towns, restaurants, etc. Our total budget for the Garden Route portion of our trip was about $500.

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