- Bastion of imperial glamour
- Stunning South African savannah
- Cape Dutch country house
- Matjieskuil Farm winelands estate
- Elegant Anglo-Dutch polo estate
- Nature’s Valley – says it all
- Cape château
- Magnificent vineyard vistas
- Tranquil Victorian homestead
- Foothills of the Langeberg Mountains
- Sexy boho beach chic
- Overlooking Plett lagoon
- Modern Africa
- Up in the forest canopy
Garden Route & Winelands Overview
- Verdant coastal wilderness
- Country life
- Adventure on a grand scale
If variety is the spice of life, this swathe of South Africa has to be one of the spiciest spots on earth.
It’s a feast of beauty, with rolling vineyards for starters and milky lagoons for dessert. The Garden Route offers a breathtaking journey from Cape Town past Stellenbosch and the Winelands down to the coast, where it passes through Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay to Stormsriver. As you meander east, the landscape changes from positively Mediterranean to wild, wet and mountainous, with dense forests, bushland and dramatic cliffs. Beyond the N2 motorway and the sleepy seaside towns, you’ll find the land (and sea) that time forgot, patrolled by elephants, rhinos and whales. Whether your holiday preference is beach barbecues or bravura bungee-jumping, one thing's for sure: you won't be short of things to do.
Genuinely Garden Route & Winelands
Tsitsikamma National Park (www.sanparks.org) is Africa’s oldest and largest marine reserve, with 50 miles of coastline, dense indigenous forests of mighty trees, miniature antelope, honey badgers and leopards, cross-crossed by tumbling rivers. It sums up what makes the Garden Route so spectacular: diversity on a massive scale. Where else can you drive for miles with lush wilderness to your left and dazzling blue ocean to your right; watch monkeys in the morning and dolphins at midday; have oysters for lunch and ostrich for dinner; or watch great white sharks on a sunset beach ride?
- Out in the Garden Route towns, taxis are expensive and difficult to flag down. Find one in a taxi bay or ring ahead and book.
- Tipping culture
- Service is generally very friendly and deserving of a 10–15 per cent tip. If you accept an offer from someone who approaches you wanting to watch your car or pack your shopping, give them a few rand.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops and banks generally close at 5pm and on Sundays; in larger towns or malls they may stay open till 7pm. Outside big towns, where bars and restaurants are still buzzing late at night, life on the Garden Route is pretty rural and remote, so your options will be limited.
- Packing tips
- Don’t bother with ballgowns: with the exception of a few Cape Town hotspots, South Africa is very laid-back. You will see a few people dressed to the nines, but walking boots or trainers, golf clubs and your favourite beach kit are a much better use of your suitcase. The wind can be quite cold, so bring something warmer for winter evenings on the coast.
- Recommended reads
- The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer; Nelson Mandela’s autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom; JM Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K or Disgrace.
- With miles of coast and open spaces, serious seafood and red meat are the mainstays of South African cuisine, with more unusual options including ostrich and kudu. Afrikaners like their meat roasted, typically on a braai (a type of barbecue), and their portions large (no doubt to help them hike over, swim round, ride across or climb up one of the region’s many large topographical features. The main discernible influences on modern cuisine are European, particularly Portuguese, but there is a growing trend in restaurants to get back to basics and revisit South African staples, such as corn, millet, sweet potatoes and pap, a maize porridge.
- South African rand (ZAR). The exchange rate is roughly R14 to £1; R7 to $1.
- Time zone
- GMT +2.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for South Africa: +27. Cape Town area: (0)21. Garden Route: (0)44.
- Do go/don't go
- There’s no bad time to go, as the climate is Mediterranean and you’ll get about 300 days of sunshine a year. However, areas such as Plettenberg Bay can get crowded in peak season, particularly at Christmas and Easter. Winter days from March to November will still be warm but temperatures dip sharply at night. July to November is the best time for whale-watching.
Don't go home without...
… doing a day safari. At the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve (+27 (0)44 535 0000; www.rhinobasecamp.co.za), you can do a few hours’ game drive to gawp at rhinos and giraffe in open-sided jeeps or on horseback. Botlierskop Private Game Reserve (+27 (0)44 696 6055) near George and Mossel Bay offers 4x4 game drives, bush walks and helicopter tours – you can even picnic with elephants.