Julie Itinerary, South Africa 25 Comments

Driving the Garden Route of South Africa is an amazing journey. Not only is the scenery gorgeous but the opportunities for action-packed activities are almost endless. Feed an African elephant, walk a cheetah, ride an ostrich, go whale watching, hike amazing Robberg Peninsula, and even go shark cage diving if you dare. South Africa is such a wild place to visit, and the Garden Route is one of its best spots.

Technically, the Garden Route stretches 200 km, from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east. Being so close to Cape Town, most trips to the Garden Route will either start or end in this city. Our itinerary includes the entire route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, since there are several very worthwhile places to visit just outside of the Garden Route.

Here is our 7 day itinerary along the southern coast of South Africa, one of our most thrilling, most enjoyable weeks during our trip around the world.


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Day 1

Arrive in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), Drive to the Garden Route

Arrive in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) in the morning. Pick up your rental car and begin the journey toward the Garden Route. Until you reach Storms River (2 hours of driving, 180 km), you are in the Eastern Cape.

In Storms River, spend a little time exploring Tsitsikamma National Park, a maritime reserve with walking trails, suspension bridges, and a beautiful beach. If you are looking for some adventure, go ziplining (Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours) or kayaking in the gorges of the park (Untouched Adventures).


If you are really feeling adventurous, drive a little farther west to Bloukrans Bridge, the site of the highest commercial bungy at 216 meters. This bridge also marks the border between the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape of South Africa.

For the next three nights, you have a choice: stay in Knysna or stay in Plettenberg Bay. Both are great places to stay, with lots of accommodations and restaurants. They are just 30 minutes apart by car. Most of the activities we mention are located closer to Plettenberg Bay. We stayed at the Panorama Lodge in Knysna and loved it.

From Bloukrans Bridge, it is just 30 minutes of driving (40 km) to Plettenberg Bay and one hour of driving (70 km) to Knysna.

Get settled at your hotel or B&B and enjoy dinner in town.

Day 2

Robberg Peninsula Hike

The hike around Robberg Peninsula is one of our favorite hikes of all time. Why? With views and terrain that are always changing, plus a chance to spot whales, dolphins, and seals, there is nothing boring about this hike. Throw in a wide, peninsula of sand and gorgeous coastal views and you have a hike that is perfect for almost all ages and ability levels.

Robberg Nature Preserve

Hiking Robberg Peninsula

This hike is located next to Plettenberg Bay at the Robberg Nature Preserve. The hike takes between four to six hours, so plan for a picnic lunch right on the beach.

Day 3

Animal Encounters on the Garden Route

Now is when the real fun begins!! It’s time for some uniquely African experiences. Located in and around Plettenberg Bay are numerous animal sanctuaries. For a fee, all of these places allow you to get up close with the animals.

Our visit to the Knysna Elephant Park was hands down one of my favorite travel moments, ever. The Park offers various elephant interactions. We opted to just feed the elephants. For ten minutes, we fed assorted fruits and veggies to these giant animals. To be able to get so close them, touch them even, fulfilled a lifetime dream for me. It was tons of fun and pure enjoyment for our entire family. I highly recommend this experience!

Knysna Elephants

Feeding African elephants

Meeting an African Elephant

I also had the chance to walk a cheetah at Tenikwa Animal Sanctuary. In order to do this you must be over the age of 16. Cheetahs must see smaller people as dinner, so Tyler and Kara weren’t able to join me on this one. How often do you get a chance to walk a cheetah?! This is another amazing experience.

Julie Rivenbark

The list goes on. Get up close with monkeys at the Monkeyland Sanctuary, snakes at the Lawnwood Snake Sanctuary, or birds at the Birds of Eden.

Spend the afternoon and evening in Knysna. A must-do in Knysna is to take the view of the lagoon from the viewpoint at the East Knysna head.

Have dinner in town. Some of our favorite restaurants in Knysna are Café Mario, 34 South, and East Head Café.


Knysna sunset

Day 4


This will be the most hysterical, most outrageous day on the Garden Route. It’s time to get up close with ostriches (and more!).

To get to Oudtshoorn, its 1.5 hours (120 km) from Knysna and just over two hours (150 km) from Plettenberg Bay.

The whole reason for visiting Oudtshoorn is to meet the quirky, crazy ostriches. There are several ostrich farms in town. We visited Cango Show Ostrich Farm and had a perfect experience. On our one hour tour, we learned about ostriches in detail, stood on ostrich eggs, fed them, and Tim received a big, fat kiss smack on the lips from a female ostrich.

Kissing an ostrich

Feeding Ostriches

The highlight was riding an ostrich. What’s it like? It only lasts a few seconds, and it is a bumpy, jarring ride where you end up holding on for dear life. And yes, there’s a chance you may fall off. 🙂

How not to ride an ostrich

Riding an Ostrich

After meeting the ostriches, it’s time for lunch. Those ostrich farms are not just there so people can ride ostriches although I am sure that is big money maker. What about an ostrich burger for lunch?

Spend the afternoon at Cango Wildlife Ranch. This is a great place to get up close with more cheetahs, lemurs, and even crocodiles. Plus, they have lions, tigers, and more, and this makes for an interesting, even comical afternoon (but it sure is hard to beat those ostriches!).

Kara Rivenbark

Tyler Rivenbark

In Oudtshoorn, we spent one night at the wonderful Earthbound B&B. The rooms are nicely decorated and the place feels nicer than a 3-star accommodation.

Day 5

Scenic Drive to Hermanus

Today you will drive to Hermanus. However, before starting the journey, there are two activities in Oudtshoorn that you should consider.

If you like scenic drives and mountain passes, one hour north of Oudtshoorn is the Swartberg Pass. This high mountain pass gets rave reviews for its scenery. It is a winding road and a bit of a white-knuckle journey. We did not do this but I wanted to include it in this post because it is one of the highest rated experiences in the area.

Instead of the Swartberg Pass we chose Meerkat Adventures. This is an early morning activity where you are taken out into the fields that surround Oudtshoorn to watch as meerkats emerge from their dens. I have always been fascinated by these animals so this was a must-do activity for me. However, it was a bit of a letdown. This is an expensive activity and after the excitement of cheetahs, ostriches, and elephants, this experience seems rather dull. Unless you really have a fascination with meerkats, this experience may not be worth it.


From Oudtshoorn, it is a four hour drive to Hermanus. You have the option to stop in Mossel Bay along the way. Also along the way is Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in South Africa. 

Once in Hermanus, get settled into your hotel and check in with your tour company for tomorrow’s shark cage diving excursion. In Hermanus, we stayed at Hermanus Backpackers, a hostel with a wide variety of rooms. We had a 4 person room with a private bathroom.

Day 6

Shark Cage Diving

Between the months of June and December, the southern right whale can be seen from Hermanus right from the coastline. We were here in early September and saw them from the roadside.

However, if you want to see more than whales, then consider shark cage diving. Gansbaai, just a short drive from Hermanus, is the white shark cage diving capital of the world.

Most shark cage diving excursions last three to four hours. They typically leave right from Gansbaai. This is an unforgettable experience. We had unusually chilly, unsettled weather on the day that we did this, which made for a wild ride. But seeing those great white sharks up close was an awesome experience!

Great White Shark

We used White Shark Ventures, visit their website here.

From Hermanus, it’s time to drive to your final destination, Cape Town, just an hour and a half away.

In Cape Town we stayed at the Glenlin Apartment. This two bedroom 2 bathroom apartment also has a full kitchen and washing machine. From the large balcony you can look out over False Bay. It’s a great place to stay if you are on a budget, but it is located 45 minutes south of Cape Town in Fish Hoek.

Day 7

Cape Town

Spend the day touring Cape Town. Things to do include Robben Island, a ride on the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, and the Cape of Good Hope.

Earth Trekkers

For more ideas of things to do, read: 5 Days in Cape Town and How to Visit the Cape of Good Hope.

With More Time

Add more time to Cape Town. At a minimum, you should spend three days in Cape Town to visit the main highlights. Five to seven days is perfect.

Go on a safari. If you are unable to make it to Kruger on this trip and want an African safari experience, you have a few options. Addo Elephant Park, located near Port Elizabeth, is a good option. Addo is famous for its high concentration of elephants. You can also see zebras, lions, impala, and so much more. Addo is good, but it’s not great. If you have been on safari before, Addo can be a bit of a letdown. For us, it was a bit of a letdown, but we had just been to Kruger and to Chobe National Park in Botswana. But for those who have never been on safari before, this is a good option.

Many people also rave about Shamwari. This is a luxury safari option located just east of Addo Elephant Park.

With Less Time

There are airports in George, Plettenberg Bay, and Port Elizabeth. You can fly in and out of these airports, eliminating two days of this itinerary: the drive from Oudtshoorn to Hermanus and shark cage diving.

Or you could eliminate day 3 of this itinerary by doing the Robberg Hike in the morning followed by Knysna Elephant Park in the afternoon.

Just don’t eliminate the ostriches in Oudtshoorn. That is a blast!!

When to Go

The Garden Route is great to visit all year long. During the summer months, November to April, temperatures are at their highest and rainfall is low. The Garden Route gets very crowded during Christmas and Easter. Winters are mild although there is a higher chance of rain. This is also the best time for whale watching.

We were here during the winter, in early September. Daytime temps were mild and we did have a little bit of rain but it did not affect our plans. From our experience, this is a great time to visit the Garden Route.

If you have any questions about this itinerary, or want to share your experience, comment below!

More Information about South Africa

PLACES TO GO IN SOUTH AFRICA: Spend a few days in Cape Town, go on safari in Kruger National Park, journey to the Cape of Good Hope, visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and explore the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa.

PLACES TO GO NEAR SOUTH AFRICA: Chobe National Park in Botswana is one of the best places in Africa to see African elephants. Go on a road trip to Lesotho on the Sani Pass. And visit Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Eswatini.

TRAVEL ITINERARIES: For more travel itineraries for destinations around the world, take a look at our Travel Itineraries page.

TRAVEL BLOGGING: This website started with a trip around the world and has become one of the most popular travel sites on the internet. Learn more about what it is like to run this website in our article My Life as a Travel Blogger.


Planning a trip to South Africa? Read all of our articles in our South Africa Travel Guide.



Garden Route South Africa road trip

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Comments 25

  1. Avatar for bri

    hi! do you have an itinerary of all your african travels? curious to know specifically how to combine south africa and botswana!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We don’t have an itinerary published for that. But I can let you know what we did. We flew into Joburg and spent 2 days here. Then we drove to Chobe NP, which took us two days, staying in Francistown along the drive. We spent 4 days in Kasane/Chobe…3 days for Chobe and one day to day trip to Victoria Falls. Then 2 days to drive to Middelburg, South Africa. Then we drove into Eswatini, spent one night at Mlilane NP. Then drove to Hoedspruit and spent a day here. Then 4 days traveling through Kruger, from north to south, ending in Nelspruit (Mbombela). Our moms were with us for the first half and they flew home from Nelspruit/Mbombela). From there we drove to St. Lucia for 3 days, then drove through Durban to the Drakensburg, spent 3 days in Drakensburg and Lesotho, and then drove to Port Elizabeth (Qqerberha). From here, we worked our way down the Garden Route and ended in Cape Town. Overall it was a 6 week trip and absolutely amazing. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Sujatha

    What a treasure trove of information your website is! I stumbled here looking for Greece trip ideas and spent hours browsing. I am a big fan now and hope to use this resource for future travels. We did the Garden route in 2018 and you have captured it so well. The only other thing we did on this route was the Cango Cave tours, which my family of 4 thoroughly enjoyed! They have several tours and we did the adventurous one and it did take us through some amazing formations.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      The Cango Cave tours sounds awesome, I’m bummed we missed that! I’m glad you discovered us too and if you ever have questions while planning your next trips, feel free to write in again. Happy travels! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Sibi


    We are planning a visit of close to 20 days to South Africa during end May and early Jun 22. Your blog has been wonderful in helping take quick decisions and plan our trip. Thanks for the good work and keep it going !! Would be great if you could help me with a few more details as listed below

    Can you suggest some good car rentals which you’ll used during your trip in South Africa?
    Did you need an international driving license for self drive car rentals ?


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      When we book our rental car for a trip, Tim gets prices for the major companies (Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Sixt, etc) and chooses the one with the best price. We have used them all, in different places around the world, and they are all about the same. We did this trip in 2014, so the company we used then (which I don’t remember what that was) may not be the cheapest now. So, I recommend pricing out the main rental car companies and choosing the cheapest one. An IDL translates your license into different languages. Since English is spoken in South Africa, an IDL is probably not necessary, but you can confirm this when you make your rental car reservation. We typically travel with an IDL, so we always have one as back up. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Sibi

        Thank you for the prompt reply, I really appreciate it.

        While I was looking for safari options and stays at Kruger National Park through your blog by clicking on the stay options and I was guided to a website under the name Siyobona. Would be glad if you could confirm if you’ll also used the same website for booking through the safari at Kruger National Park.

        I should acknowledge that your write up on the safari at Kruger is very detailed and helpful for planning a budget safari trip to Kruger. Thank You.

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Yes, we used the Siyobona website when we did our bookings. Here is their link. We loved Kruger! Hearing the animals at night is just as amazing as seeing them during the day. There’s just nothing like hearing lions off in the distance. Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for Christine Anderson
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s a good question. Carjackings and robberies are unfortunately something to be aware of and on alert for in South Africa. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that I would not travel to solo, nor would I advise Kara to do it solo once she is older. With that being said, the Garden Route is one of the safer areas to travel to in South Africa. I have heard about other women traveling solo here, but I personally would feel more comfortable with a companion. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Candice Munz
    Candice Munz

    Hi there, I live in Cape Town and just want to say thank you for capturing my city so beautifully in your blog. I love my city and country so much and seeing it through your eyes made me so happy. I came across your page when researching additional activities to do when in Switzerland (as I have been twice already but looking for a different experience) and your blogs have such a great structure to them and so easy to follow. Wishing you all the best for your future travels.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Thank you Candice! Oh, we love Cape Town and that whole area. What a beautiful place! Have fun in Switzerland!! Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for John carter
    John carter

    Hi Julie
    I love your site and I am planning a RT W adventure with my family in 2021-2022. It will be here soon! A quick question about car rentals. Did you rent a car in Johannesburg and keep that same car until Cape Town six weeks later? We have about 5 weeks in Africa before traveling to Madagascar. Thanks !

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s very exciting you are planning a RTW trip! We rented two cars, but this was because of our group size. We started off with our Mom’s so we were a total of six. For the first three weeks, we rented a van. In Nelspruit, once our Moms flew home, we traded in the van for a Toyota Corolla and dropped it in Cape Town. However, we would have kept the car the entire 6 weeks if we didn’t have to start off with the van. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Salman

    Thanks for such great blog, I really like the way you organise your blog as if its film or story not just blog , You make us inside the trip not just reader, All details you mentioned draw in our mind full picture about South Africa really a trip is the place you visit by your mind not by your body. The best thing about your blog that it works as small travel guide for all who intending visiting South Africa in future as you suggest lots of things to do and places to be visited there in addition its Africa travel story for all who are mad about reading travel adventure.
    Keep on writing you are really talented

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  8. Avatar for Dimi

    Hi Julie,
    Thanks for the great info and ideas on what to do in South Africa. The only thing that stops me from going there is a thought of driving on the left side of the road. Was it challenging for you or you quickly got used to it?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Driving on the left can be intimidating the first time you do it. It was for me the first time I did it (and for Tim as well). But yes, we both quickly got used to it. You just have to really focus on what you are doing and it helps to have the passenger driver keep an eye on the road, too. It’s so easy to forget to stay on the left and automatically get in the right lane – freaky!! Usually, Tim drives and I am his second pair of eyes. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Gwen

        Hello! I have LOVED reading your travel reports. We have used many of them in our travels around the world!! We are taking a trip to South Africa for about a week around the same time of year you took your trip. We will be there at the end of September. We will focus on the Garden Route. Our plan is to fly into Port Elizabeth and then drive to Cape Town making a few stops along the way. I wanted to know if you feel that is enough time to see a few of the sights along the way and see Cape Town. Any tips and thoughts would be appreciated. We would like to hike Robberg Peninsula. We live close to Kruger National Park so seeing many animals during this trip isn’t our highest priority (except for the shark cage trip, and maybe Knysna Elephant Park). Also- was there a car rental company you would recommend? Thanks again for all of your beautiful pictures and reports!!

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Hello Gwen. A week is quick but doable. You can combine the Robberg hike with Knysna Elephant Park (which is what we did). Do the hike in the morning and the elephant park in the afternoon. This will save you one day. From Knysna, you could drive right to Hermanus, maybe doing some kind of animal interaction in Oudtshoorn along the way if you want to. The next morning, go shark cage diving, and that evening drive to Cape Town. Spend the rest of your time in Cape Town. As for rental cars companies, we use them all, and one is not necessarily better than another. Tim prices out the companies for each trip and picks the cheapest one. This can vary a lot so the cheapest during our trip may not be the cheapest for yours. Thank you for writing in to us and enjoy your trip on the Garden Route! Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Jean

    Hi Julie. Fab u lous blogs thanks so much!! My first visit to Africa is being planned. I love wildlife scenery tec not so touristy things. A fit 60 ish years. Can u give me some tips…whete so huge a continent. Thanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Jean. We spent 6 weeks in southern Africa and about 2 of these weeks was the Garden Route. We spent about 10 days in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and some of this time was the drive to and from Johannesburg (it takes 2 days one way). Kruger is a great safari destination. Five days is the perfect amount of time to spend here, in my opinion, because it allows you to stay in several camps throughout the park. We also spent some time driving down the east coast of South Africa, from Swaziland to the Garden Route. The Drakensburg area is gorgeous as is St. Lucia. Both of these places aren’t quite as touristy as Kruger and the Garden Route. I don’t know how much time you have, but you could spend 2 weeks on the Garden Route/Cape Town, 1 – 2 days in Joburg, 5 days in Kruger, with extra time in the Drakensburg area. Check out our South Africa page for all of our articles to learn more. Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Stephanie

    Good day!
    What a lovely description of everything. I’d just like to know how much did this trip cost you?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Aside from flights into and out of South Africa, we averaged about $250 per day for our family of four. This includes accommodations, food, rental car, and activities.

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