Garden Route & Klein Karoo
The incredible contrast between the Cape Province’s verdant Garden Route and the adjoining desiccated Klein Karoo reflects the influence of South Africa’s topography and climate on its vegetation.
The semi-arid Klein Karoo is characterised by ostrich farms, spectacular mountain passes, hot springs and world-renowned caves.
Along the Garden Route, the mighty Atlantic and Indian oceans pound the coast, whales and dolphins frequent sheltered bays, waterfalls feed lush forests, mountains circle the surrounding landscape and lakes and rivers run into the sea.
A semi-Mediterranean climate makes the region’s indoor and outdoor attractions accessible all year round. Whether they visit beaches, lagoons, mountains, valleys, or forests, visitors will find the climate generally pleasant and welcoming.
A number of game reserves along the Garden Route and Klein Karoo boast the Big Five – lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. Other interesting activities involving animals include elephant-back rides, feeding tame eels, stroking a cheetah and riding an ostrich.
The Karoo also plays host to Route 62, possibly the longest wine route in the world.
The hub of the region is Oudtshoorn, which lies between the Swartberg Mountains and the Outeniqua range. This is also the location of South Africa’s famous Cango Caves, an underground network of spectacularly colourful limestone caverns.
The dryness and the heat of the Karoo can be offset by a visit to the Boulders Lodge & Spa, en route to the Cango Caves. It offers full-body massage, Indian head massage, de-stress and pamper packages.
The Knysna area comprises the towns of Sedgefield, Brenton, Noetzie, Rheenendal, Belvidere and Buffalo Bay. It is here that lush indigenous forests, a peaceful estuary, fynbos, lakes, rivers, mountains and beautiful coastlines combine with a moderate climate to create a natural Eden.
Whether it’s relaxation, high-energy adventure, trendy shopping, fine cuisine, or sampling locally brewed beer, Knysna offers a taste of the finer things in life.
Sedgefield is renowned for its Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday in town. Residents also produce a diverse range of arts and crafts at Scarab Village and the Tortoise Arts & Craft Route points out the location of other craft gatherings.
Paragliding and horse riding afford visitors an opportunity to take in the beauty of Sedgefield, while beaches with lovely rock pools at Platbank and Swartvlei alongside the majestic Gericke’s Point, are a hit with kids.
The Wilderness is a bird-watcher's paradise where wetlands, forests, mountains, beaches, open fields and fynbos provide ideal habitats for more than 200 feathered species.
Canoeing on the Touw River, or whale and dolphin watching are sedentary pastimes, while the more active might prefer mountain biking, paragliding, horse riding, or hiking along a number of scenic trails. The indigenous forest at the 800-year-old Woodville Big Tree is a favourite hiking spot.
This region of the Cape with its contrasting hot and dry hinterland and wet and lush coastal forests make it a fascinating place to visit. There’s much to see and do along the Garden Route and Klein Karoo. Here’s what we’d include on our itinerary …
Five of the best
Cango Caves and ostriches
Oudtshoorn’s Cango Caves are an underground network of spectacularly colourful limestone caverns and South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction. Combine a visit to this underground wonder with a topside visit to Cango Ostrich Show Farm in the lush Cango Valley, Schoemanshoek.
For the brandy connoisseur
Why not combine a drive along the R62 Brandy Route as a way of experiencing the South African landscape and the country’s brandy-making tradition? The route offers a scenic and historic trip through Worcester, Montagu, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn, De Rust and Barrydale, while creating a memorable journey for the brandy connoisseur.
Rejuvenation, restoration and reiki
Replenish your body and mind with yoga, meditation, detoxifying, massages, reiki and a range of beauty treatments at Little Samadhi near Barrydale. Include a hike in unsurpassed scenery and finish off with a swim in a refreshing rock pool.
Knysna Oyster Festival
Celebrating the famous Knysna mollusc is one of the longest-running festivals in South Africa and boasts a jam-packed programme of sport and entertainment – and 200 000 oysters! Whether it’s the seafood, sporting challenges, wine and whisky tastings or gala evenings, this popular July festival draws more than 65 000 visitors annually to celebrate all that Knysna has to offer.
Play golf at its picturesque best
A number of the world’s best golf courses dot the coasts of Mossel Bay, George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, most notably the Fancourt Country Club Estate in George, the Pinnacle Point Golf Course near Mossel Bay and the Pezula Championship Golf Course and Club in Knysna.
Image credits for Six of the Best. From top to bottom: 1. Cango Caves. Photo courtesy andy jou 2. Game lodge. Photo courtesy Ani Lange 3. Foot massage. Photo courtesy innabovetidehtc 4. Knysner Oyster Festival. Photo courtesy South African Tourism 5. Train. Photo courtesy hyper7pro 6. Knysner Golf Course. Photo courtesy Deano8
Follow the N2 coastal route from Cape Town to Hartenbos and the R328 over the Robinson Pass, or to George, then over the Outeniqua Pass (N12) to Oudtshoorn. Alternatively take the N1 inland route to Worcester and link up with the R62 to Oudtshoorn. National bus service routes offer transport to and from major centres in the country. These services include Greyhound, Intercape, Translux and Inter City.
By air, you could travel from Cape Town International Airport to George Airport, situated 7km from the city centre. Shuttle services and taxis are available at the airport to transfer visitors to any part of the city, or region.
Both the Garden Route and Klein Karoo are year-round destinations. The Garden Route enjoys a semi-Mediterranean climate while the Klein Karoo enjoys higher temperatures, which peak from December to March.
- De Rust
- Plettenberg Bay
- Mossel Bay