Located in the south-western coast of South Africa, this 300 km stretch between Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape is considered by many to be one of the best drives in the world. There is everything on the Garden Route: while on the road, you will see mountains and vineyards on one side, and rocky shores and beaches on the other. You will see different kinds of wildlife from ostriches, sheep, and seals, to friendly locals.

The best way to enjoy the Garden Route is to rent a car and go on a road trip! The flexibility to stop wherever you want and the short driving distances between places means that you get spend more time exploring places and less time in the car. 

I enjoyed my experience so much that I made a budget traveller’s guide to the Garden Route road trip! Hopefully you will this will inspire you to get on the road yourself. 

The Garden Route is officially from Storms River to Mossel Bay, a total of 300 km. In this guide, I have decided to cover more as this there are other places worth visiting around the area. I will be covering the route from East (Port Elizabeth) to West (Cape Town) as that was the direction that I took. 

Table of Contents

When to Go?

According to the Guinness Book of Records, this region of South Africa has the second mildest climate in the world after Hawaii. This makes The Garden Route a great year round destination.Remember that South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the summer months are from December to March and winter is between June to August. I would suggest avoiding the summer months, especially around the holidays (Christmas and New Years) as the beaches and roads will get super busy. The Garden Route is also popular among South Africans. I went during the winter and it was super quiet. You will get viewpoints and hikes all to yourselves. A downside is that it gets chilly in the mornings and night. Homes in South Africa do not have insulation, so be prepared to have some warmer clothes to wear inside. If you are travelling on a faster pace, you will get less sunlight in a day due to the shorter days.  


The Rand (ZAR) is what they use in South Africa. The exchange rate as of February 2020 to other currencies are as follows:

  • $1 USD = 15 ZAR
  • $1 CAD = 11.3 ZAR
  • €1 EUR = 16.6 ZAR
  • £1 GBP = 19.8 ZAR
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere; make sure you get one that does not charge any foreign transaction fees. My favourite from Canada is the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card. You can find more about them here! However, you should always have some cash handy for parking and other small purchases. I recommend getting a debit card that does not charge any foreign transaction fees or withdrawal fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend getting STACK!

Port Elizabeth

Known as the friendly city, PE is South Africa’s fifth largest city. This was my first destination on my road trip, having flew from Durban to here. There are plenty of car rental options in which you can get straight from the Port Elizabeth Airport. If you want to stock up on any snacks or other supplies, this is a great place as there are plenty of stores in the city.

What to Do

  • Addo Elephant Park– This is your best shot to see elephants in South Africa as the park is home to over 600 elephants and a huge variety of other African species including buffalos and black rhinos. The game reserve can be explored from your own car at 307 ZAR per adult.
  • Alexandria Dune Fields – These beautiful dune fields are around 45 minutes from the city. Go there before sunset to see some beautiful shades of colours paired with the sand dunes and the ocean. There are roads that lead to the dunes, but you will have to pay a 80 ZAR fee. 
  • Kragga Kamma Game Park – This small reserve just off of PE is home to the southern white rhinoceros, South African cheetah, Burchell’s zebra, South African giraffe, African buffalo, among some other animals. The self drive entrance fee is only 100 ZAR!
  • Summerstrand Boardwalk – This wealthy beachfront area of PE has a great boardwalk area with plenty of restaurants and shops. 
Addo Elephant Park The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip
Alexandria Dune The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Riverfront Backpackers (or 28 Towpath on the Riverfront)

This riverfront accommodation has a rural countryside rustic feel, with its wooden floors and large bedrooms with high ceilings. What I like most about this place is how unique it is. Being on the river makes the whole place feel so serene. I enjoyed eating my breakfast out on the riverfront while chatting to the owner’s father. Dorms start at 175 ZAR a night. 

Jeffreys Bay

If you are big on surfing and beach, then J-Bay has to be on your list. This beach town has been attracting the surfing crowds for decades and is renowned for its gorgeous beaches and its waves.

What to Do

  • Go to the beach – There are many in the area, such as Dolphin Beach and Paradise Beach
  • Surfing -with so many surf schools and surf shops in town, take a board and surf!
  • Sandboarding – the area is home to some of the biggest and most spectacular dunes in South Africa. You can go with Sandboarding Jeffreys Bay. Rates start at 200 ZAR for two hours
Surfing at Jeffreys Bay The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Island Vibe Jeffreys Bay

Located on a sand dune overlooking the Indian Ocean, you won’t find anything closer to the beach. It’s also walking distance to the town if you need groceries or anything else. The cleanliness and facilities were pretty good but nothing special. This is a great hostel for those wanting to be close to the beach. Dorms start at 170 ZAR a night. 

Storms River

This is the official start (or end) of The Garden Route. It is the centre for many adventure activities found in the area. 

What to Do

  • Tsitsikamma National Park – This national park is a protected coastal reserve known for its lush forests, incredible coastline, and many hiking trails. Check out the suspension bridges (pictured below) and the many viewpoints overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean. Entrance fees are a little steep at 235 ZAR for international visitors. 
  • Bloukrans Bungee – Jump down 216 metres off the Bloukrans Bridge for the world’s highest commercial bungee jump from a bridge. Not a budget activity but is reasonable price for bungee jumping. 1,350 ZAR
  • Otter Hiking Trail –  At 43 km (26.7 mi), this popular five-day trek is no easy task and requires bookings made in advance. 1,375 ZAR
Tsitsikamma National Park Suspension Bridge The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Wild Spirit Lodge

Technically closer to Plettenberg Bay, but if you are going west then you will hit this hostel before the town. Wild Spirit Lodge is a popular recommendation among other backpackers. When you arrive, you can see that the beautiful property is nestled in among nature, with cozy lodges and camp fires set up. This is a great place to stay a couple of days and let out your hippy side. Dorms start at 200 ZAR a night and you can also choose to stay in a provided tent. 

Plettenberg Bay

“Plett” is your classic resort town packed with a lots of great hostels and guesthouses, making it a great place to stay and relax for a couple of days. 

What to Do

  • Robberg Nature Reserve – One of the highlights of my road trip! In this nature reserve, you can hike along cliffs, walk on beaches and watch some cape seals! I was able to spend half a day here as there are three trails that range from 30 minutes to a 4 hour hike. A bargain for only 50 ZAR!
  • Whale Tail Lookout Point – This lookout point gives visitors an aerial overview of the town and its beaches! 
  • Birds of Eden – See all kinds of birds at the world’s largest free flight aviary and bird sanctuary. 280 ZAR
Robberg Nature Reserve The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip
Cape Seals at Robberg Nature Reserve The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

African Array Backpackers Lodge

Away from the bay and the beach, this hostel is perched up on a cliff giving guests panoramic views of the surrounding area. The outside facilities such as the patio and bonfire make for a great relaxing night. The dorm rooms are pretty standard but clean. Dorm room start at 180 ZAR a night.  


This picturesque town is situated between the mountains, the ocean, and surrounded by lush green forests. In addition, at the heart of Knysna is a lagoon protected from the sea by the large sandstone “Heads”. Make sure to stop by for its famous oysters!

Things to Do

  • Knysna Heads – Capture amazing photographs from the Eastern Head viewpoint. The famous Knysna Heads protrude from the sea to create a passageway of turquoise waters separating the lagoon and ocean.
  • Knysna Elephant Park – If you didn’t get to go to Addo, there is another elephant park to visit. They are the first facility in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants.
Cliffs Knynsa ​Heads The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Jembjo’s Knysna Lodge & Backpackers

Located within the town of Knysna, it is close to supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants. This cozy and homey place is staffed by friendly people. Breakfast is also included in the price. There are also no bunk beds, so no chance of you getting top bunk! Dorms start at 180 ZAR a night. 


As the name suggests, this village is surrounded by wilderness. There are endless beaches, lakes, rivers and lagoons. This is popular spot for outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking, horse riding, mountain biking and is great for birding as many water birds breed here.

Things to Do

  • Map of Africa Viewpoint – This view shows the bends of the Kaaimans River, imitating the African continent (pictured below).
  • Dolphins Point Viewpoint – a lookout point offering great views of the coastline
  • Wilderness National Park –  with many activities such as hiking, canoeing and mountain biking.  There are five hiking trails scattered throughout the park with varying degrees of difficulty and distances.
  • Rent a canoe – paddle up the gorgeous Kaaimans or the Touw river. Rentals start around 250 ZAR. 
Map Of Africa View Point Wilderness The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Fairy Knowe Backpackers

This great hostel offers visitors all the facilities and services you need in Wilderness. They offer many activities within the area such as kayaking and biking. It is a chill and laid back place with a bar and a fire pit, as well as welcoming staff. The rooms themselves are pretty basic but are clean. Dorms start at 170 ZAR a night.


Halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, George is the biggest city along the Garden Route. It’s not worth spending too much time in George, I just used it as a stop to fill up on gas and shop for snacks and supplies. They have the largest selection of stores and restaurants in the area. 

Things to Do

  • Outeniqua Pass – Drive this pass which connects George to Oudtshoorn. The pass offers sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. 
  • Herolds Bay – This picturesque quiet village is a short 15 km drive away from George. The picturesque bay is a quiet spot, popular among surfers, fishermen and beach-goers.
  • The Outeniqua Transport Museum – if you love steam locomotives, then definitely check this place out. You can learn more about South Africa’s train history. Entrance is 20 ZAR. 
Outeniqua Pass The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip


Oudtshoorn and the surrounding area of Little Karoo offers a very different landscape to the rest of the Garden Route. Gone are the lush green fauna and ocean views; instead you have semi-desert and rocky landscapes.

Things to Do

  • Ostrich Farms – There are some 400 ostrich farms littered around the area. Many farms have tours which give visitors insights on ostrich farming (from incubation to tanning). They used to offer people an opportunity to ride ostriches, but that has since been stopped. Entrance prices vary but are around 140 ZAR.
  • Cango Caves – This cave is one of the great natural wonders of South Africa. There are tours that go through the series of spectacular limestone caverns. Tours start at 150 ZAR.

Where to Stay

Backpackers Paradise

This family run hostel offers an outdoor swimming pool, garden, as well as a bar. Dorms start at 190 ZAR per night.

Mossel Bay

This small harbour town mixes natural beauty with rich cultural history. It was here that the first modern Europeans set foot on southern African shores.

Things to Do

  • St. Blaize Trail – At 13.5 km (8.3 mi) long, this four hour trail starts at the Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse and continues along the cliffs, ending at Dana Bay. Don’t forget your camera as there are tons of photo ops! 
  • Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex – Quite a big museum where you can learn about the history of early European sea voyagers who discovered this area. There is also a life-size replica of the ship that was used by Bartolomeu Dias and his crew when they landed in Mossel Bay in 1488. Entrance is 40 ZAR. 
St Blaize Hiking Trail The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Santos Express Train Lodge The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Santos Express Train Lodge

If you ever want to sleep in a non-moving train, here is your chance! It’s pretty basic accommodation but pretty cheap for a private room. It also helps that it is right by the beach! There was a pretty good breakfast included with a lot of selection. A private room like this starts at 205 ZAR per night. 

Route 62

Route 62 is becoming one of the more popular road routes in South Africa. While doing the Garden Route, if you need to return to the same place you started, I highly recommend taking Route 62 back.

Things to Do

  • Kogmanskloof Mountain Pass – this pass makes you feel like you are driving straight through a rock! 
  • Ronnies Sex Shop – an old style biker bar in the middle of nowhere! A great place for a snack and refreshments.
  • Drive   Just drive around and take in the gorgeous landscapes!
Route 62 The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip


This picturesque seaside town was one of my favourites along my road trip. It was a beautiful town with such a great vibe. It also helped that the town was full of great restaurants and shops. It is also a great base to explore some of the southern coast, like Cape Agulhas.

Things to Do

  • Cape Agulhas – Just under two hours drive away, you can visit the geographic southern tip of the African continent and the beginning of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
  • Whale watching – Hermanus is considered the best place in the world for land-based whale-watching. You can try searching for whales from the many viewpoints around the town. But your best bet are the many tours that allow their guests to get up close to these giants.
  • Shark cage diving – Nearby is home to the densest populations of great white sharks in the world. Go cage diving where you can go face-to-face with Jaws! Not a budget activity but a once in a lifetime experience. Check out the best deals from Viator below. With direct access to more than 200,000 bookable activities, I recommend Viator as they makes it easy for travellers to book incredible experiences.
Meisho Maru Ship Wreck The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip
Cape L'Agulhas The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip
Hermanus The Budget Traveller’s Guide to the Garden Route Road Trip

Where to Stay

Hermanus Backpackers & Budget Accommodation

What made this town feel so homey was this hostel. The dorm rooms and the common areas were really comfortable and cozy. The staff and other guests I was able to meet here were so friendly and helpful. The location was great as I was able to take a break from driving and walk to the town centre and many hiking trails. The hostel had free breakfast with bread, butter, spreads and tea. A great value for dorms starting at 197 ZAR a night.


This world renowned region is home to over 140 different wineries! Stellenbosch is also a university town, meaning there are plenty of bars and clubs geared towards the younger crowd.

Things to Do

  • Visit the Wineries – Drink at the many many renowned wineries. There are plenty of wine tours available or go vineyard hopping yourself! Many wineries give free tours and samples of their wine. 
  • Dine at the Restaurants -Apart from their incredible wines, this region is considered the culinary capital of South Africa.
Wine poured onto a wine glass

Cape Town

While it may be the end of the road trip, this amazing city has so many things to do and deserves its own guide. I have made a guide for Cape Town on a Budget. Click below!

Driving in South Africa

Here are some things to note while driving in South Africa:

  • South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you have never driven on this side before, start slow and you will pick it up after a while. 
  • Unlike in Canada and the US, left (or right) turns on red at traffic lights are illegal.
  • The roads have a lot of roundabouts, so make sure you know how to safely drive through them.
  • On single-lane highways, if there is a car behind you that wants to pass, drive slightly (and safely) onto the left shoulder, making way for them to pass. This also works if you want to pass someone. Once you’ve completed the pass, turn your hazards on for 2-3 flashes as a thank you.
  • If you are parking in the street or a parking lot, you might be approached by a ‘car guard’. They will help you park and keep an eye on your vehicle in exchange for a tip. I would usually tip around 2 to 10 ZAR depending how long I park.
  • All the gas/petrol stations are full service meaning that an attendant will fill your tank and clean your windows. I would usually tip around 2 to 5 ZAR.

Rental Car

In order to rent a car and drive, you need a driver’s licence in English with photo identification. Otherwise, you would have to get an International Driver’s Permit in your home country. For the most part, I found the roads in the Garden Route to be in great condition; A 4WD is definitely not required unless you are planning on some exploring off the beaten paths. 


For my road trip from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, I got a Volkswagen Polo with Hertz at a cost of 4,542 ZAR for 11 days. The website I used to book my rental car was Rentalcars.com. I found that they show more rental companies and had better prices compared to other sites like Expedia and Kayak.

Tips on Saving Money

  • If you can drive a manual, you can save a lot of money as most rental fleets in South Africa largely have manual transmissions.
  • Rather than eating out all the time, buy food at the grocery stores and cook your own meals. There are full kitchens in every hostel and South Africa has an abundant of fresh and delicious produce and meats in their supermarkets. Major supermarket chains in order of affordability are Checkers, Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Spar, and Woolworths Food. 
  • There is an abundance of campsites in the national parks, which save you on accommodation costs. 
  • If you are a temporary resident of South Africa (student or expat), bring a document to prove it so you can pay local entrance fees, which can be half of what foreigners pay.

Staying Safe

South Africa is notorious for an extraordinarily high violent crime rate. However, being vigilant and using common sense, you will likely have a safe trip. Here are some precautions to take: 

  • Never walk around in deserted areas at night
  • Leave your valuables in your accommodation. Don’t wear anything to attract attention
  • Do not leave your valuables in plain sight when parking your car
  • Try not to drive around at night. This is also good tip to avoid hitting any wildlife on the road
  • Do not carry large sums of money. Like I mentioned in the currency section, credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. 

I found The Garden Route and the smaller towns of South Africa to be a lot more safe than Johannesburg and Cape Town. Throughout my time in South Africa, I did not encounter any crime. 

Alternatives to a Road Trip

If you are not keen on renting a car and driving, there are other alternatives. Baz Bus is a hop on hop off bus service. They pick up and drop off at the door of your accommodation and travellers can spend as much time in one place as they like. I think this is a great option for solo travellers looking to save as much money as possible. Especially for those under 25, renting a car is going to be more expensive with the added insurance premiums. 

There are also tours provided by G Adventures for The Garden Route as part of their South Africa tours.  


My whole journey from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town took 7 days. I think that is a good amount of time to do that route. 

While this route can be done a shorter time, I think the best thing about this route is exploring some of the more off the beaten path places. There are many viewpoints along the road that are majestic to look at. Plenty of beaches and hiking trails to wander. I suggest taking a minimum of 5 days to really enjoy the best of the Garden Route. 

Hope you enjoy my budget traveller’s guide to The Garden Route road trip. Let me know if you have been to The Garden Route and if I have missed anything!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *