Our Roadtrip up the Garden Route

We set out from Capetown in Betty (our Around About Car Rental and fearless companion).  This wasn’t just any old highway—we drove along Whale Route and the views were spectacular.  We stopped by Stony Point to see a huge penguin colony and then drove on to Hermanus.

In Hermanus, we stayed at the lovely Baleia Hermanus B&B.  Hermanus is known for whale watching but, since we aren’t the type who can patiently wait, we decided to take the Cliff Walk and keep our eyes peeled.  This walk runs for miles and takes you all along the rugged coast with greenery around you and the beautiful ocean views.  We even stopped by an amazing cafe called Nourish as an after walk treat!


The next day we drove on to Cape Agulhas, the most Southern Point in Africa (and, with the cold winds whipping us, it felt it!).  It’s beautiful with a lighthouse that dates back to the 1800’s and one of the most helpful tourism departments we’ve ever met.  Morine, if you’re reading this, we love you!

We then booked it up to De Hoop National Park.  We stayed outside the park at Potterberg Guest Farm.  The owner cooked us a homemade traditional South African meal that included “bobotie.”  It’s a delicious minced beef with curry and it warmed us right up!

The next morning we hit De Hoop Nature Reserve.  This was one of our favorites.   The park has rugged beaches, huge dunes, and wildlife around every corner.  It being low season, we hardly saw a soul and it felt like we were explorers discovering the rugged coastland ourselves.

Afterwards we drove to Gansbaii- the capital for Great White Shark diving.  The reason shark’s love this area is this: Off the coast, there are two islands with a very large seal population (which happen to be Great White’s favorite meal).  The channel between the islands is called Shark Alley.  It was absolutely freezing, but we got to see some beauties and gain a new appreciation (and apprehension!) to the seas.  We even saw a whale and her pup on the way back to shore!


After that we drove to Wilderness and stayed at The Beach House.  With gorgeous views from our cottage and a short walk to the beach, we wanted to stay forever.  

The next morning we had breakfast at a favorite called Flava Cafe.  Then we headed for adventure.  We started at Eden Adventures who outfitted us with a canoe.  We paddled up the local river to the trailhead and hiked up to a waterfall. We had the trail to ourselves again so we’re starting to feel spoiled!

After the hike we drove through Knysna and, thanks to a tip off from the locals, stopped by an amazing wood shop called Timber Village.  These craftsmen use only wood native to South Africa and partner with South African National Parks to ensure the conservation effort of their beautiful trees.  If that wasn’t cool enough, the finished products are gorgeous and we had to resist purchasing some of their furniture (it won’t fit in the pack!).  They even make custom designs to order (be still my heart!).

Next we drove on to Plet Bay in time for a goodnight sleep and then we conquered the hike at Robberg Nature Reserve.  This one is a favorite.  We hiked along their cliff peninsula blessed with caves, amazing overlooks, and Swiss Family Robinson beaches.  Oh, and whales galore!  

"I can't look at you now, I just saw a whale."

Next we drove to Tsitsikamma Forest.  This park is wonderfully clean and even has family style lodging.  We hiked through the lush and ancient forest to their beautiful suspension bridges.

Afterwards, we drove to Jeffreys Bay and stayed at the lovely Beach Music.   Jeffreys Bay is known in the surfing world for it’s “perfect wave."  Unfortunately, during a surfing competition the week before, a Great White Shark attacked a competitor on live television (don’t worry, miraculously he wasn’t injured).  The attack scared us and others into staying on the shore, plenty of surfers were out there enjoying the surf.  To complete the magic, a huge school of dolphins came to play in the waves beside the surfers.  Unfortunately, Blakely was jumping too much to take a picture so you’ll just have to trust us!

I dunno...they look like seals to us!

While at “J Bay" we ate at two favorite restaurants: Nina's Real Food for a wonderful, filling, and healthy breakfast.  Then Kitchen Windows for seafood and traditional South African fare.  Both had exceptional food and incredible service.

J Bay ended our Whale Coast and Garden Route road trip.  If you can’t tell from all of the effusive adjectives, we loved it and hope with all our hearts we get to come back.

Next up: The Wild Coast and the Drakensberg Mountains!


Garden Route Learnings

1.  The Garden Route and Whale Coast Route run along the Southern coast of South Africa.  The views are similar to Highway 1...without all the Malibu traffic.

2.  Wildlife, including whales, performs for no man.  You gotta be patient.

3.  When whale watching, you can determine the different whale species by the shape of the spout of water that the whale projects.  The Southern Right Whale (which is common in SA) spouts a V shaped spray.

"I can't look right now I just saw a whale."

4.  Scientists have yet to record how Great White Sharks give birth or mate.  So that's something to think about.  Also, Cage Diving with Great Whites is a lot easier when you're too cold to be scared.

5.  Every price is a negotiation.

6.  Our new scale for accommodation negotiations: Over $40 per night, no way.  $35-$40, it should be on the beach with a beach view.  $30-$35, it better be a block from the beach and include breakfast.  $20-30, is it safe and clean?  Ok fine.

7.  While we think monkeys are adorable, locals here find them a menace.  They break into homes and cars, steal, bite, and wreck.  Ends up this isn't too far off.

8.  African cuisine is hearty and ALL about the meat.  The food has tribal, Dutch, and Indian influences.  When eating at someone’s home, it’s polite to leave a bit of food on your plate after you’re finished to show the host that you’re satisfied.  We're having a bit of trouble with that one.

9.  KFC is huge in South Africa.  It’s everywhere.  The small villages may not have a grocery store, but they have a KFC (no we haven’t given in and eaten there yet.  We are models of self discipline.).

10.  Driving on the left side is easier than expected.  Tip for the driver: Always keep yourself at the center.  This is the opposite of our advice for couples traveling.

Next up, The Wild Coast and the Mountains of Drakensberg!  Until then, Click Here to read details on What We Did on the Garden Route.

Ryan and our noble steed, Betty.

Baboons.  Are.  Everywhere.


The view from our room at our hostel in Wilderness, SA.