Stellenbosch to Port Elizabeth: 3 Days on the Garden Route

When we went to South Africa, in my mind we were always going for the animals and probably the wine. I never thought I would be so impressed by the general landscape of the country. The scenery changed in an almost chameleon-like fashion. One minute you’d be driving along in dry scrub bush territory, but after climbing over a hill, you suddenly found yourself in a lush green grassland or a forested mountain pass.

While staying in Cape Town, we heard a story about the settlement of South African by Europeans that was particular funny based on the quickly changing environment. The Dutch arrived in Cape Town first and begin setting up a community there. They never made it very far inland, however, because the area is ringed by mountains and the Dutch had absolutely no idea how to build roads through mountains. As you know, Holland is a pretty darn flat place, and so these mountains were completely baffling to the Dutch engineers who knew everything about digging canals. It wasn’t until the British showed up later with their Scottish engineers that they penetrated further into the country’s interior.

If only the Dutch had known what they were missing.

For all the differences, the terrain was also quite familiar. South African possesses the amazing ability to simultaneously resemble the Texas hill country , Arizona/New Mexico, North Carolina, Ireland, Southern France, the and Rocky Mountains.

What is there to do along the way? This was probably the hardest part of trip to plan, exactly because of this question. There landscape itself is the attraction. We broke the drive up into three days and spent 2-5 hours each day on the road. For outdoorsy folks, there are opportunities to go river rafting, kloofing (it’s like running through a river… sort of), hiking, sea kayaking, bungie-jumping, etc. For those less in to adventure sports, there are lots of little towns to stop in. We didn’t do a whole lot of either, honestly, but did enjoy our brief visit to the Cango Caves.

We opted for the shortest tour, lasting about 45 minutes. There’s a longer 90-minute tour, but it requires visitors to acrobatically insert themselves through tiny openings in the cave’s deeper sections. I’m sure I could have gotten through them, but they basically did have a sign that said “you should be this short and this thin to comfortably enjoy this experience.”

I’ve been to a few caves in my experience, but this one did something I liked. Rather than keeping the bright lights on all the time in the larger halls, they kept everything at a very low setting. It allowed your eyes to adjust to the dark and appreciate a slightly more “natural” cave experience. But, they would crank up the light in each room for a short period so that you could really see all the details and get some good pictures.

If you go to South Africa and decide to tour the Garden Route, you stay in the places we stayed. Both were fantastic guest houses run by very attentive staff.

In Wilderness, we stayed at the Moontide Guest House (www.moontide.co.za). They’ve been re-thatching their roofs, so it was a bit messy when we visited, but you couldn’t help but notice the charm. It’s build right on an ocean inlet and the rooms are all very unique.

Just outside of Plettenberg Bay, we stayed at a fantastic place called Hog Hollow (www.hog-hollow.com). It’s far enough away from civilization that eating at the hotel is your only real option, but it’s one you should accept happily. The chefs prepare an absolutely amazing multi-course meal. The best part, however, is the big communal table where everyone sits. By having guests sit together, it provides an opportunity for people to interact and get to know one another. We had a fabulous time and made fast friends even though we only stayed there one night.

  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Driving the Garden Route
  • Inside the Cango Caves
  • Inside the Cango Caves
  • Inside the Cango Caves
  • Inside the Cango Caves

One Response to “Stellenbosch to Port Elizabeth: 3 Days on the Garden Route”

  1. Texas Mom says:

    As always….enjoyed your photos and comments.

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