George, founded in 1811, is the largest town on the Garden Route yet remains little more than a commercial center and transport hub. It has some attractive old buildings, including the tiny St Mark’s Cathedral and the more imposing Dutch Reformed Mother Church, but it’s 8km from the coast and for most visitors its chief draw is the range of championship golf courses.
With gnarly surf spots, some fine beaches, a menu of outdoor activities that covers everything from coastal hikes to leaping out of a plane, and a solid range of places to stay for every budget, Mossel Bay is an excellent destination for the independent traveler. At first glance, the town is the ugly sister of the Garden Route. It was a hugely popular destination until the 1980s, when the building of the world’s largest gas-to-oil refinery and concomitant industrial sprawl marred it, and it fell into a slump. But if you can see beyond the unimpressive approach road, you’ll find a cheery town with plenty of sunny-day pursuits. Much of the holiday action happens around the Point, a promontory with an old-school seaside vibe. There are ice-cream kiosks, a caravan park and minigolf, and it's also a prime spot to surf.
The name says it all: dense old-growth forests and steep hills run down to a beautiful stretch of coastline of rolling breakers, kilometers of white sand, bird-rich estuaries and sheltered lagoons. All this has made Wilderness very popular, but thankfully it doesn’t show – the myriad holiday homes blend into the verdant green hills, and the town center is compact and unobtrusive. Beach bums beware: the beach here is beautiful, but a strong rip tide means swimming is not advised. The only other drawback is that everything is quite widely scattered, making life difficult if you don’t have a vehicle.
Things to do
Dare-devil travelers can find a true taste of adventure some 216 meters above the Bloukrans River on the Bloukrans Bridge. Home to the world’s tallest bungee jump, this destination has been attracting thrill-seeking tourists since the 1990s. But this attractive arch stationed near Nature’s Valley isn’t just for adrenaline junkies. The tarred road that spans the notorious bridge is part of the famed N2 Garden Route. This means that even the faint of heart can still catch a glimpse of the incredible views and the rushing river that serves as the border between the Eastern and Western Capes.
The dark tunnels and shadowy chambers of this popular tourist cave wind through nearly four kilometers of dimly lit underground passages. Visitors can only explore Cango Caves on guided group tours, which are offered in two vastly different options. The standard tour takes travelers through easy-going portions of the caves, where sharply pointed stalactites and stalagmites aglow from spotlights make for impressive photos. Adventure tours take more daring travelers up steep rocky passes and through narrow tunnels, including a 15 centimeter-wide passage that visitors must navigate on their stomachs and elbows.
The town of Knysna sits on South Africa's southern shore, part of the famous Garden Route. It sits on a warm-water estuary called Knysna Lagoon, and the surrounding area is home to some dense forests. It's a beautiful area, full of wildlife, and popular with tourists visiting South Africa's Garden Route as well as those who just want a relaxing holiday destination on the water. Visitors can explore the forests around Knysna, and can also get a taste of local culture with a tour of a Xhosa township on the outskirts of the city. There are three golf courses in the area, and there's an annual oyster festival held in June or July.
Plettenberg Bay Tours
Whether it’s an international polo match, taking a walk with wild cheetahs or heading out on a wild canyoning adventure, the coastal town of Plettenberg Bay—named Beautiful Bay by early Portuguese explorers—offers travelers ample opportunity to explore the outdoors. The surrounding mountains are home to plenty of hiking trails and scenic bike passes ideal for nature-lovers, while extreme sports like skydiving and climbing prove ideal for the thrill-seeking set.
Tsitsikamma National Park Tours
Tsitsikamma National Park is named after the San word for clear water. The rushing river that winds through this scenic destination is as crystal clear as they come and attracts visitors from across the globe in search of untouched South African beauty.
Victoria Bay is a small cove in the Western Cape, South Africa. It is situated on the Garden Route between George and Wilderness. It is a popular beach for surfers, consisting of a right hand reef-like wave which rolls over small boulder-like rocks for about 200m. District and National surf competitions are often held at Vic Bay and despite its small size, Vic Bay is a well-known and much-visited spot.
Four Star Hotels
Diaz Hotel & Resort
Rooms with private balconies and Indian Ocean views await guests at this 4-star resort in Mossel Bay. On the seafront, it offers an infinity pool and aqua park with water slides. Diaz Hotel and Resort provides elegant rooms. Each room has satellite TV and a private bathroom with bath and shower. Adorned with a large ceiling fresco, the hotel’s restaurant offers prepared with locally grown fresh produce. The complex also has a pizzeria and cocktail bar. Leisure options at the Diaz Strand Hotel include a spa with fitness centre. The hotel staff can help arrange helicopter rides and whale watching trips.
Set on the rocks below St. Blaize Lighthouse in Mossel Bay, this hotel overlooks the Indian Ocean. It offers spacious rooms with private balconies. Free WiFi and parking is provided. All rooms at The Point are equipped with air conditioning, a wardrobe, a safe and electric kettle. The modern bathrooms provide free toiletries. Guests can enjoy views of the ocean and Mossel Bay's Tidal Pool. Featuring dramatic ocean and rock views, The Point Hotel & Spa offers guests unlimited drinks, snacks and meals. Meals are served at the onsite Lighthouse Restaurant offering seafood dishes, buffet meals and a la carte menu options, all prepared with local ingredients.
Situated between the Outeniqua Mountains and the beaches of the Indian Ocean, in Mossel Bay, Botlierskop Private Game offers elegant accommodation. It features an outdoor pool, a sauna, and a tennis court. Botlierskop has spacious rooms, elegantly decorated in a colonial style with a 4-poster bed and mosquito net. Overlooking the river or the mountains, each of the air-conditioned tents has a private bathroom with a large oval bath and outdoor shower. Guests can start their day with a breakfast buffet, served in the open plan dining room that leads out onto a wooden deck.
Oubaai Hotel Golf & Spa is located less than seven minutes’ drive from George Airport in an area renowned for its pristine beaches, indigenous forests and nature reserves. The stunning natural landscape is matched by the exceptional levels of service in one of the most beautiful luxury hotels South Africa has to offer. The hotel occupies an ideal position between the Indian Ocean and the majestic Outeniqua Mountains in Herolds Bay, George, on the Garden Route. Oubaai's signature restaurant The Waterside Grill features an open kitchen where guests can see their food being prepared. The more casual Clubhouse Restaurant offers views of the surrounding golf course.
Nestled between mountains and forests in the heart of the Garden Route, Fancourt Hotel offers luxury accommodation and features 3 Gary Player designed golf courses and a wellness centre. George Airport is 7 km away. Guest rooms at The Fancourt have elegant furnishings and balconies with views of the Outeniqua Mountains. They come equipped with a minibar and satellite TV. Including a hairdryer and free toiletries, each room has a private bathroom with a bath and shower. The Fancourt has 4 restaurants that serve international cuisine made from fresh locally sourced ingredients. The hotel also has a bar that offers regional wines and a spacious garden terrace.
Situated in the heart of the Garden Route, Views Hotel offers luxury suites with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. It features indoor and outdoor pools, and free Wi-Fi access. The guest rooms at Views have ceiling-to-floor windows and are furnished in a modern, eclectic style. All rooms have a balcony, a flat-screen satellite TV, and a private bathroom with under-floor heating. A full English breakfast is provided in Views Restaurant, which serves cuisine made from only the freshest local produce. The restaurant features arguably the best view on the Garden Route – a dramatic Indian Ocean panorama.