By Juhi Bansal
The second leg of our SA sojourn started in Johannesburg again from where we flew to Port Elizabeth. While there are a lot of domestic carriers in SA, we chose Mango airlines for all our domestic travel. I loved their bright orange airplanes!
The Garden Route drive is considered one of the best road trips in the world. It has everything you could ask for from a vacation- beaches, wildlife, history, nature, culture, nightlife, winelands and food. There are so many quaint little towns on the way you can take your pick on where you want to stay the nights.
We absolutely loved- Platten Bay, Knysna, George, Wilderness, Oudtshoorn (a little off the Garden Route) and Mossel Bay. The drive from PE to CT is about 850 kms. (if you drive the N2 and don’t take any detours). We decided to cover it over a period of 4 days with several detours.
Day 1- Port Elizabeth
We picked up our rental from Avis. I had booked a luxury sedan for this leg because ZNMD guys!
PE has a lot to offer. It is the perfect big little town. There are beaches, casinos, restaurants dotting the ocean and a lot more. Our apartment in PE had a small pool and a couple of pet dogs. Iy as usual freaked out and had a lot of fun. PE is known as the windy city so the beach is definitely not for lounging. But we did see a lot of people braving the cold for some splash in the ocean.
Day 2- We started our drive towards the Western Cape after a sumptuous breakfast (with a view). Stopped over for lunch at Plattenberg Bay at Cornuti’s. The host at is an Italian so it was authentic Italian fare. He was kind enough to suggest some amazing items on the menu (and wine).
After lunch we continued our drive towards Knysna. We stayed at the beautiful Carpe Diem house which was very tastefully done and had an eclectic mix of vintage crockery and knick-knacks. We drove to Brenton on Sea and the Knysna Bay . Again it was too windy to dip our toes in the water but the sunset was absolutely gorgeous.
Day 3- We started our drive towards Outdshoorn. It is about a 2 hour drive from Knysna. We stopped by at Wilderness and George for a quick look and see because they are absolutely gorgeous! Outdshoorn is famous for its Ostrich farms and Cango caves. We did an Ostrich Safari (and a scary Ostrich ride). We had lunch at an artisanal café called Signature Divine (oh so apt!) with a side of gourmet Mapusa wines ;). I absolutely recommend this café. It is slightly out of the way but so worth the drive!
After lunch, we did the Cango cave tour. Quite majestic I must say and the guide was hilarious! Iy slept through the entire tour. So, when she woke up, we decided to do the Cango Ranch safari as it came highly recommended on the internet. However, I must say we didn’t like it that much. It was almost a zoo with options of personal interactions with a few animals (including the lions and the cheetahs- we didn’t go for it because they clearly drug the animals for it- something I am personally not ok with). It did look like a favourite amongst Indian tour planners because we saw a lot of Indian tourists in hoards. Our recommendation- skip it! The Garden Route is full of natural safari options and this one is as staged as it can get.
After a couple of hours at the Cango Ranch we began our drive towards Mossel Bay where we planned to stay the night. It is again a very beautiful drive to say the least. Mossel Bay is a sleepy little town on the Garden Route. But it does have the best beaches on the entire stretch! We had dinner at a nice Indian restaurant called Punjabi Kitchen. The hosts were amazing! They even made parathas on Iy’s request.
Day -4 We had breakfast at this beautiful café called Carola Ann’s. We then drove down to the pier and from there took the ferry to the seal island. The seal island has over 3000 seals- the only inhabitants of the island. It was quite a sight!
We then began our drive towards Cape Town with a couple of stops on the way. I particularly liked Swellendam and Calendon (that’s where we had lunch). We did find a lot of traffic once we entered Cape Town but the rest of the highway drive was smooth.
We spent that evening and the rest of the 3 evenings of our stay in Cape Town at the V& A Waterfront. It is so lively and fun! In CT we stayed at an airbnb apartment with a lovely view of the promenade. It was Iy’s favourite spot too.
Day 5- We booked a tour to visit Simon’s Town (Penguin Colony) and the Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope in the first half. The drive in extremely scenic with the ocean and beaches on your side. Iy loved the funicular to the top of Cape Point!
We then proceeded to the wine country for lunch and wine tastings in the second half. We preferred a guided tour because we didn’t want to be driving after all the wine we would have tasted. Our tour included several tastings in towns that were slightly apart which felt a little rushed. We’ve done wine tastings in Chianti Valley (Tuscany) and Napa Valley in the US and that’s why this felt a little underwhelming. My suggestion would be to select one town (my vote goes to Stellenbosch- it is a quaint town in the wine country), walk around in the town centre, have lunch at a café and visit a cellar leisurely- spend some time at the tastings. Or if you would rather town hop, keep one full day for the wine route.
As every day, we had dinner at the V & A Waterfront once we got back to CT.
Day 6- Table Mountain (there was a huggggeee line even if you booked online or through an agent) but the view is absolutely gorgeous from up top- the cable car has amazing vantage points. Another absolute gem is Bo Kaap- this is where the Asian African community known as Cape Malay reside. They have beautifully painted houses in all colours- brick red, Barbie pink, bubble gum green and so on. We decided to have some authentic Cape Malay food for lunch.
We spent the afternoon at the Clifton Beach but it being a Saturday, it was extremely crowded. So off we went to our favourite V & A Waterfront and spent time at the Aquarium. Weekends are a particularly fun time to be there. There’s live music, special kid activities and so much more. We spent the late evening walking down the promenade and playing with Iyra at the Kid’s park in Sea Point.
Day 7- Spent the morning at the beach and just walking around. Flew back to Johannesburg for our flight back home.
We gave the Robben Island tour a skip since we’d already had a lot of history in Johannesburg.
Some other activities you may want to do on the Garden Route:
- Big 5 Safaris. We’d already done Kruger so weren’t very keen. We did do the Ostrich Safari
- Adventure sports. Not big on adventure both K & I. We would rather share a bottle on wine on the beach watching the sun go down.
- Wine tastings. We planned to do the wine country in CT so gave the smaller wine tastings a miss.
- Hike & Trails. With the baby? What do you think?
We drove over 3000 kms during our 12 day trip and did not feel it at all. The key lies in taking small breaks every few hours and doing activities that interest everyone in the group.
We travelled in what’s supposed to be the end of Summers for SA but the weather was extremely pleasant. The temperatures never rose above 25 degrees. It did get slightly chilly in the evenings.
CT is extremely child friendly and we were not given weird looks when Iy made too much noise. Infact, we saw that parents even brought them to wine tastings. K and I are ardent believers of taking the baby everywhere and just loved the spirit of the Cape people in this regard. I almost relived the Eurpoeans’ eye rolling and tch-tching at us when we expected to be seated at a fine dine in Prague.
SA has impressed us to no end. The husband and I are die-hard fans of European vacations but this one has bowled us over. Let me take the liberty of saying- US and Europe are passé! Make SA your next holiday destination!
Please write to me for specific queries.
PS: All pics from our handphones.
Blue Denim Dress: c/0 Stalk Buy Love
White & Yellow Dress: c/o Masaba for Stylista
Green Dress: Vero Moda
Crop Top: Shoppers Stop
Denim Skirt: c/o Stalk Buy Love
Blue Skater Dress: c/o Femella
White off Shoulder Top: c/o Stalk Buy Love
Blue Pants: H & M