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twoflower Sep 3rd, 2016 10:29 PM

South Africa's Garden Route
We are thinking of spending some time in South Africa on our way to (or back from) Europe next year. We'd be going to Europe in August; returning to NZ in October. Something we might like to do in South Africa is hire a car and drive the Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

Is one of those months (August, October) better than the other for doing this drive? Also, for terrain, impact of scenery, etc, is there a difference between driving the route east to west, as against west to east? (For example, I read that the views coming into Knysna from Cape Town are jaw-dropping - but perhaps they're just as good coming in from the other direction?).

A recommended detour is Oudtshoorn. A travel guide I read describes a beautiful mountain pass drive in from the N2 highway, but Google maps show me two roads in (if coming from the Cape Town end): one via George, and one branching off sooner, near Hartenbos. Are they both beautiful? Might one be more hair-raising than the other? (They both look quite challenging on Google "satellite" view).

Would appreciate any advice and tips from anyone who has already done this drive.

Craig Sep 5th, 2016 03:00 AM

We did the drive from Franschhoek, just outside of Cape Town with a stop at Oudtshoorn before heading to Knysna - a very long day, by the way. We went mostly on the inland route (R62) and the views along the way were often spectacular. We took the R12 to Knysna via George and found it uninteresting. I don't think the views coming into Knysna from either direction are much to write home about. If you take the R62 there are plenty of beautiful mountain passes. I had posted beforehand (not sure if it was here or on the Tripadvisor forum) and was advised that the N2 drive is really not that great. We did take the N2 from Knysna to Port Elizabeth and it was pretty much a well-paved highway and not much else. To really appreciate the coastal scenery around Knysna and Plettenberg (further east), it would be best to spend some time in the area. Since we were there in February, I cannot comment on your timing. I wrote a trip report on this forum. If you are interested, click on my name to bring it up.

Gardyloo Sep 5th, 2016 07:14 AM

<i>Is one of those months (August, October) better than the other for doing this drive?</i>

We did the same drive in September, so split the difference? ;)

It's a superb drive, but then again there are so many superb drives in SA that it becomes an embarrassment of riches...

One thing I'd ask is if the Garden Route drive would be your principal activity in SA or if you'd have time to add on a day or two for safari or other scenic areas while you're there. How long do you have available or is your schedule flexible?

For example, with a few extra days you could fly into Joburg (from NZ or Europe) and drive (roughly 5 hours) north to the Kruger National Park complex (KNP itself and numerous private reserves abutting) - a route that could include the marvelous Panoramic Route - Blyde Canyon, Three Rondavels, God's Window - as well as a day or two (or better, more) seeing wildlife in the park or reserves. Then you'd drive back to Joburg, fly over to Port Elizabeth, and head south from there.

Or fly to Port Elizabeth but start with a couple of days visiting Addo Elephant National Park, a short distance from the city. Addo is a self-drive park with a tremendous selection of resident species including, of course, many elephants, but also plenty of predators, birds, etc., and decent accommodations all around.

I would do either of these options (or extensions, if you will) in lieu of Oudtshoorn. That's not to take anything away from a glimpse of the Klein Karoo, but priorities have to be set. The proximity of Addo to the PE/Garden Route area is too good to miss.

I'd also recommend a stop in Jeffreys Bay on the coast just west of Port Elizabeth. "J Bay" is a mega surfing capital, originally made famous in the landmark surfing film, <i>Endless Summer</i> 50 years ago. It's still a terrific place to watch some pretty competent surfers -

Our fave stop along the Garden Route was Plettenberg Bay, a lovely town with stunning views from the hills above the town, e.g.

Finally, as to exactly when, I'd probably opt for October as that will give the weather in Cape Time to improve, while it still ought to be spring-like in the Winelands. But really, you can't go wrong, and the more time you can spend in SA the better.

twoflower Sep 5th, 2016 05:17 PM

Thanks everyone. Some good suggestions here. One factor that might possibly affect which direction to drive the Garden Route (east to west or west to east) is the sun. Assuming mornings are spent driving, with the aim of settling in for each night reasonably early in the afternoon so as to have time to explore places, driving west to east (Cape Town to Port Elizabeth) will mean driving into the sun. Has anyone noticed this to be an issue on this drive?

annhig Sep 7th, 2016 08:42 AM

twoflower - if you're going to be in SA in August, you ought really to think about seeing the flowers in Namaqualand, north of Cape Town. I've not made it there yet at that time of year, but it's on my bucket list.

Here's what I found out about it:

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