The Garden Route is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s golden zones. It’s a hive of lush, ancient greenery and coastal wonder that keeps visitors coming back for more - come rain or shine.
The route from George to Stormsrivier can be traversed in mere hours, but for the full scenic experience, one has to get out there and spend some time at some of the hidden gems along the way.
This is a comprehensive guide to the Garden Route - it’s any camper’s dream getaway. Get ready to tame the Tsitsikamma!
Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, Wilderness
What looks like an unassuming coastal hamlet straddling the N2 highway is actually the gateway to the Garden Route National Park’s southernmost secrets.
Beyond the holiday homes and village pubs lies the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp, a selection of campsites and chalets embedded in the hilly, green landscape.
The Touws River snakes its way through the reserve just a few hundred meters from the neighboring Indian Ocean, and it’s teaming with fish and bird life.
Watersports enthusiasts are welcome to use the vleis bordering the camp, while five hiking trails will keep trekkers busy until it’s time to hit your next destination.
All chalets have their own ablution facilities and various degrees of kitchen equipment. Camping, on the other hand, means shared ablutions, but it’s worth a spot right on the banks of the river.
Time from CT: 5hrs
Price per campsite: R290 - R415
Conservation fees: R37 p/d for adults, R18 p/d for children
NB! Wilderness is notable for being wet all year round. Be sure to pack something warm and dry!
Diepwalle Forest Station, Knysna
In the wake of the devastating Knysna fires, the town is desperate for revenue, and tourism is a fantastic way to contribute to the rebuilding of homes, businesses and natural environments.
Everyone knows the Knysna Heads and its charming waterfront, but to get the best out of the region’s ancient forests, you should drive further inland.
Diepwalle’s wooden camping decks offer a truly isolated camping experience - they’re embedded deep in the woods, and out there, the monkeys rule!
Daytime is best spent tackling the forest’s challenging hiking and biking trails. Be warned, though - if you’re not home by the time it starts to get dark, you will get lost in the monstrous maze of yellowwood and ferns.
At night, your tent becomes an island of light in a vast, inky ocean of darkness. Eerie noises run imaginations wild, and card games keep candles burning all night long. It’s a genuine escape from the rush of the world.
Ablution facilities are immaculate, and each deck is fitted with a light, power point, braai and countertop. There’s also a quaint tea room and museum near reception, in case you need to wind down after an evening of spooky stories!
Time from Wilderness: 1hr
Price per campsite: R290
Conservation fees: R30 p/d for adults, R15 p/d for children
NB! Knysna Forest is home to a mysterious, tiny relict population of elephants, which have rarely ever been seen. Keep your eyes peeled for these massive forest specters!
De Vasselot Rest Camp, Nature’s Valley
Known worldwide as the end point of the magnificent Otter Trail, Nature’s Valley is one of the most beautiful places in all of South Africa.
Tucked just a few kilometers past Plettenberg Bay, the tiny village is an ancient meeting-point of forest and ocean, flanked by two stunning river mouths.
The beach stretches on for kilometers, and separates the ocean from the tannin-tinged lagoon.
De Vasselot campsite lies on the banks of the Groot River, and is a portal to both the lagoon and the indigenous forests that saturate the surrounding mountains.
On the opposite side of the village, a trail leads to the Sout River mouth - a precarious, cliff-hanger of a journey with a sublime reward at the end of it. On your way back down, there’s also a viewpoint that gives you some proper perspective on just how tiny and isolated Nature’s Valley is.
Campsites are cordoned-off by towering trees, but there’s nothing separating you from the buck, bushpigs and baboons wandering the area.
Aside from the campsites, there’s also a selection of chalets for honeymooners and small families. Ablution facilities, as always with SANParks, are fantastic, and there’s a communal kitchen for those tired of tuna and crackers.
Time from Diepwalle: 1hr 15m
Price per campsite: R290
Conservation fees: R44 p/d for adults, R22 p/d for children
NB! If Nature’s Valley is the last stop on your Otter Trail adventure, why not stay for a few nights? It’s the perfect way to rest those weary legs!
Storms River Mouth Rest Camp, Stormsrivier
The grand-daddy of the Tsitsikamma and the crown jewel of the Garden Route, Storms River Mouth is a monumental icon of nature carved out of the earth by Mother Nature herself.
Known for its impressive suspension bridges, the largest of which spans the entirety of the mouth, it’s an epic destination for a camping escape.
Campsites and chalets line the rocky coast, just beyond the battering-range of the choppy, frothy sea. If you’re lucky, you might catch a brief glimpse of the rare clawless otter.
Higher up on the surrounding slopes, Knysna loeries swoop between moss-ridden branches, while leopards oversee their domain, far from the eyes of oblivious visitors.
Aside from several hiking trails, there’s also a selection of adventure activities on offer around the river. From rafting along the stormy rapids to canopy tours through the towering yellowwood forest, there’s an adrenaline rush for everyone.
As with the other stops, there are shared ablution facilities for campers. Even the smallest chalets are cosy and well-equipped, but the best way to experience the ‘storm’ is out under the stars.
Time from Nature's Valley: 40m
Price per campsite: R390
Conservation fees: R49 p/d for adults, R24 p/d for children
NB! Don't forget about the bungy jump at the Bloukrans Bridge just before Stormsrivier! At 216m, it's the world's highest from a bridge!
All above campsites can be booked at www.sanparks.org.za.