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Day trips along the Garden Route

Maverick Life


Day trips along the Garden Route

This white beach on the seaward side of the peninsula is called a tombolo, which is a sandy spit that connects an island with the mainland. (Photo by Gallo Images / GO! / Dale Morris)

Whether it’s your destination or you are just passing through, there are countless spots along the Garden Route that are worth the stop. Choose Plettenberg Bay as your home base, and from there, go explore the surroundings and the many animal sanctuaries.

Where to visit

Settled for few days in one of the many sun-soaked towns on the Garden Route – Knysna and Plettenberg Bay remain two of the most popular towns – don’t miss The Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market in Sedgefield. But plan wisely as the market is only open on a Saturday and closes at 12h00, so you must be strategic with your schedule. With that said, however, it’s definitely a must-visit.

The market boasts produce fresh from ovens and local farms and is popular with locals doing their weekly shops and visitors alike who simply pop by to explore. We recommend getting there early, grabbing breakfast from one of the many vendors to choose from and enjoying your meal under the trees. From there, you can meander through stall after stall of fresh fruit and veg, plants, clothing, art and more.

The Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market. Photographs by Sarah Hoek.
The Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market. Photographs by Sarah Hoek.

No visit to the region is complete without a trip to the sea. While there are many beaches and coastal spots to choose from, we recommend taking a drive down into Nature’s Valley and soaking in the sun on the white sands there. The sea isn’t safe for swimming, owing to strong rip currents, but the beach is vast and the lagoon that winds its way into the ocean is often warm and calm.

Nature’s Valley is nestled between the Salt River, the Tsitsikamma Mountains, the Indian Ocean and the Groot River lagoon. (Photograph by Sarah Hoek)
A view of Nature’s Valley from a lookout point on the Salt River Trail which is located in the Garden Route National Park. (Photo by Gallo Images / GO! / Jac Kritzinger)
A woman relaxing next to the lagoon in Nature’s Valley.  (Photo by Gallo Images / GO! / Jac Kritzinger)
An aerial view of Groot River Pass which runs right past Nature’s Valley. (Photo by Gallo Images / GO! / Jac Kritzinger)

For animal lovers, the Garden Route is home to various sanctuaries, such as the Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary, nestled between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna,  Monkeyland in Plett – it is a “free-roaming primate sanctuary” so watch out for your sunglasses, caps and other small objects that monkeys will love to play with. 

Zinhle Seane at Monkeyland on May 14 2011 in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa (Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo Images)
A monkey at Monkeyland on May 14 2011 in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa (Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo Images)
Monkeys at Monkeyland on May 14 2011 in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa (Photo by Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

Don’t miss the Birds of Eden, a free-flight aviary just outside Plettenberg Bay.  The massive dome covering the 2.3-hectare indigenous forest is home to 220 different species of birds and more than 3,500 feathered individuals that can spread their wings freely, many of which have been rescued from lives in captivity. Walking through the sanctuary, you’ll discover more birds than you can count as you make your way through the trees along a 1.2km wooden walkway. Birds of Eden is also home to a few non-feathered inhabitants, and we even spotted a giant bat and a blue duiker in the bush.

Von der Decken’s hornbill (Tockus deckeni) found in East Africa. Photo by Bianca Wroe-Street.

If you’ve spent the day exploring the various farms and sanctuaries on the outskirts of Plett, Moss & Maple Farmstall is the perfect pitstop. Whether you sit down for a meal or browse the shop for a variety of homemade, local goods, it’s worth a visit.

Another Plettenberg Bay padstal that deserves a visit is Thyme and Again, located just off the N2 opposite the turn-off to Keurbooms. This quaint shop offers homemade baked goods and local produce, as well as a garden cafe.

Thyme and Again. (Photographs by Sarah Hoek)

Where to eat

Tucked away just off the N2 towards Buffelsbaai is the RiverDeck Restaurant. Nestled underneath palm and fig trees you can pretend you’re somewhere far more exotic whilst sipping on your cocktails on the water’s edge. The food is plain and simple but good, and what the menu lacks in variety it makes up for in rustic charm. After lunch, you can hire a paddleboat and float down the river, exploring a part of the Garden Route you would have otherwise missed. On a clear, sunny day, making your way around the bends of the Goukamma River is the perfect way to spend a slow Sunday.

In the heart of Plettenberg Bay is one of the town’s best-known dining spots — Nineteen 89. Here, the food, the milkshakes, the cocktails, the view over the town and the sea come together in a powerful symphony for the palate and the eyes. It was named the top restaurant in Plettenberg Bay by Restaurant Guru last year, and from our stop there, it lives up to the hype. 

Passenger seat: Exploring the Garden Route makes one itch to bring Eden back into the city, and our car carried more plants back home with us,  that we had bought along the way, than we’ll readily admit. While we can’t give you the Knysna forests in your living room, Maverick Life’s Emilie Gambade pieceWhat you should know about growing indoor plants and gardening” might provide the inspiration you need to get more greenery into your home.

On the ride, listen to: BBC Earth Podcast: Teenage elephants need a father figure. If you plan to visit an animal sanctuary, you can learn more about some of the creatures you might encounter on your adventures while listening to this podcast. DM/ ML


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