The approximately 250-mile (400 km) stretch of South African coastline from Heidelberg to the Tsitsikamma Forest and Jeffreys Bay boasts a remarkable kaleidoscope of topography and outdoor activities. This area includes top attractions, like Cape Town, vineyards in Cape Winelands, Oudtshoorn (with its abundance of ostriches), nearby game parks, and even cage diving with great white sharks. The information below will help you plan a trip for your timeframe and interests.

The Garden Route in 2-3 days

Dip your toes in the Knysna Lagoon

Having already explored Cape Town and Cape Winelands, begin your Garden Route adventure in Heidelberg, considered the official starting point of the route. Reaching the coast at Mossel Bay—a prime surf spot—continue east via George to the lovely coastal resort town of Knysna. Set beside an exquisite estuarine tidal lagoon (and the country's "National Lake"), Knysna is a heaven for foodies, outdoor adventure enthusiasts, and travelers seeking a relaxing getaway.

After checking in to your hotel, spend your afternoon golfing, shopping in town, or visiting the town's Old Gaol heritage museum. Knysna Lagoon is world-famous for its oyster farming, so round out your evening with a decadent oyster dinner on the lagoon's paddle-boat steamer.

Dedicate your second day to nature and the outdoors. Start your morning with a relaxing stroll on the beach, then enjoy a guided walk in the coastal Featherbed Nature Reserve. Birders might look for curlews, sandpipers, and African black oystercatchers while enjoying a boat cruise or paddle-boarding on the lagoon. In the afternoon, head inland to Diepwalle Forest Station and hike the mist-shrouded Knysna Forest in search of the elusive and endangered Knysna elephant.

On day three, head east along the coast to Monkeyland in Plettenberg Bay to hike the forest in search of free-roaming primates from Asia, Africa, and South America. After a brief stop at Bloukran's Bridge (where daring travelers leap into the gorge on the world's highest commercial bridge bungee jump), continue via Port Elizabeth to Addo Elephant National Park or a nearby private game reserve. After arriving, head out for an evening game drive, then spend the night in the park.

Alternatively, if you're an avid photographer, check out this itinerary combining Cape Town with a few days along the Garden Route.

The Garden Route in 4-6 days

Come face to face with ostriches, the largest bird in the world, in Oudtshoorn

Arriving from Cape Town via Berrydale, begin your Garden Route adventure in Oudtshoorn, in the Klein Karoo. As you drive along the highway, you'll pass by countless ostrich-filled paddocks and show farms. Stop at Cango Ostrich Show Farm for a glimpse into the farming industry and for face-to-beak encounters with the world's biggest bird. Next, delve deep underground at the nearby and spectacular limestone chambers of Cango Caves, featuring dramatic dripstone formations and ancient Khoikhoi petroglyphs.

Time permitting, you might head out for an evening game drive at Buffelsdrift Private Game Reserve as well. Round out your day with ostrich steaks or kebabs at one of Oudtshoorn's gourmet eateries.

On day two, drive south to George and follow the coast road east to Knysna. The balance of the day, plus days three and four, will follow the itinerary described above in "Garden Route in 2-3 days." Stay overnight at Addo Elephant National Park or a nearby private game reserve.

Start day five with an early morning game drive, and spend the rest of the day relaxing and/or enjoying other activities at your chosen reserve before another sunset game drive in search of the Big Five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino) and other creatures. The next day, drive to Port Elizabeth and continue back to Cape Town by road or air. Check out this itinerary to combine the Garden Route with a safari to seek out the Big Five.

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The Garden Route in 1 Week

Explore the historic village of Greyton

Begin your week-long self-drive tour after exploring Cape Town and the Winelands. To start, follow a scenic route via Franschhoek to sleepy Greyton. There, stroll the historic village with its many fascinating well-preserved buildings. Buy some carrots in preparation for a delightful visit to EARS Donkey Sanctuary. Taste chocolates at the town's artisanal chocolatier. For a more active alternative, enjoy an afternoon mountain biking or hiking in Greyton Nature Reserve.

The next day, follow the famous Route 62 toward Oudtshoorn with a not-to-be-missed stop at Ronnie's Sex Shop roadside bar and restaurant. Other notable attractions along the way include the Ladismith Cheese Factory and the Barrydale Heritage Garden. Arrive at Outdshoorn in the afternoon. On day three, visit the Cango Ostrich Show Farm and Cango Caves, and follow the "Garden Route in 4-6 days" itinerary detailed above to complete your week-long vacation.

This 10-day itinerary combines a few days in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands with the best of the Garden Route and Route 62.

Cape Town & the Garden Route in 2 Weeks

Have lunch at the Victoria & Albert waterfront

With two weeks, you can really explore both Cape Town and the Garden Route in depth. This 14-day itinerary combines the best of both, beginning in Cape Town. Take time to explore the city and get acquainted with your surroundings. The next day, indulge in a guided bicycle tour of the Winelands, stopping for wine tastings and a picnic lunch at a wine estate. On day three, enjoy a full-day sidecar adventure along the Cape Peninsula. This will include the Cape of Good Hope, the penguin colony at Simons Town, and, in the afternoon, the Constantia Winelands.

Day four is action-packed. Start your morning with a guided kayaking excursion from Moullie Point—a chance for eye-to-eye encounters with dolphins and whales. In the afternoon, ride the hop-on-hop-off open-top tour bus to Table Mountain, then take the rotating cable car to the summit for hiking. Dine at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

The next day, catch the ferry to Robben Island—the former prison where Nelson Mandela served 18 years of his 27-year term for anti-apartheid activism. After the morning's guided tour, return to the mainland and spend the afternoon browsing the seven floors of contemporary African art at the Zeitz Museum

On day six, pick up where the "Garden Route in 7 days" itinerary detailed above begins to complete your two-week vacation. Alternatively, this 14-day itinerary also showcases some of the best that Cape Town and the Garden Route have to offer.

Looking for more ideas for your trip to the Garden Route?

Check out more Garden Route itineraries.