The journey along the Garden Route, stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, is a staple for many travelling to South Africa for the first time. As a newbie myself to the country, it was easy to see why! An itinerary that can fit into under 2 weeks, offers a bit of everything. From dynamic cities, wild coastlines to adrenaline activities and relaxing wine tasting; South Africa is the country that truly caters to everyone.

Stop 1 – Cape Town

As soon as we landed, we threw ourselves into everything the Mother City could offer. We reached the top of Table Mountain, devoured our way through the V&A Food Market, exploring the stunning Cape Point & Peninsula, wandering through Kirtsenbosch Gardens, sipped cocktails whilst watching the sunset over the Twelve Apostles and my personal dream-come-true, seeing the African penguins on Boulders Beach! The added bonus was coming back to Table Bay to the sight of Table Mountain framing the city. I can’t think of a better room view in Cape Town!

Stop 2 – The Winelands

A short drive down the Garden Route, we are taken through the twists and turns of this mountain region. The views are simply breathtaking! After a sunny bike tour, we certainly had worked up an appetite for our well deserved al fresco lunch and a few delicious glasses of wine. Its safe to say Boschendal Wine Estate took great care of us. That evening we enjoyed an exquisite evening meal and rested our heads at Franschhoek Country House. Its clear the hotels pride themselves on hospitality as they went above and beyond for our groups needs.

Stop 3 – Hermanus

Famed for being the best land based whale watching area in the world! And within half an hour of our arrival to the town, we had spotted one right off the coast! We travelled in land towards Grootbos Nature Reserve, a haven for flowers and fauna. Now, I realize going on a safari to look at plants may not sound the most appealing, however I can reassure you that it is a unique experience not to be missed. The knowledge and passion of the guides plus the jaw-dropping scenery makes this place unforgettable. Its also a lot of fun when your guide puts their foot down so your vehicle is leaping all over the place! We set off to go caving however we were interrupted by not 1, not 2 but 3 whales! We watch in awe as a mother and baby passed us less than 30 meters off the shore, whilst a male breached in the distance. We finished the day on the beach, watching the most beautiful sunset with a glass of champagne, unbelievably perfect!

Stop 4 & 5 – Knysna and Plettenberg Bay

We continued onwards, stopping in Knysna for a tasty fresh fish lunch at the quaint waterfront. Lined with boutique shops and independent restaurants, this town also boasts a stunning lagoon, which can be viewed from both sides of the land as it opens out to the ocean. Just an hour and a half away lies the vibrant Plettenberg Bay. We stayed at Lairds Lodge which was like a home-away-from-home. Its plain to see that service is at the core of everything they do and I think I can speak for my group when I say some of us are still dreaming of their homemade chocolate cake! For a different view, we went up Tsala Treetops and overlooked the forest below us. From there we thoroughly enjoyed a hearty meal tucked away at Hunters Country Lodge! This area has so much to offer, not just in accommodation styles but also with activities. Whether its tranquility or thrills, you are spoilt for choice. Spend time hiking through the Robberg Peninsula or Tsitsikamma National Park, go on a whale watching boat trip, visit the Birds of Eden or Monkeyland, or if you are feeling brave take on the world’s highest bridge bungee off Bloukrans Bridge.

Stop 6 – Eastern Cape Safari

The final stop and a huge bucket list highlight was finishing at the Eastern Cape to visit a malaria free game reserve. With many to choose from, you can argue Shamwari Game Reserve is the alpha of the lot. Offering everything from the Explorer Camp, where you sleep in canvas amongst the bush to the new, ultra modern luxury of Eagles Crag, hidden within the hills. During our stay we had some amazing game drive viewings; from lions on their ‘honeymoon’ to rhinos up close, something I will never forget and which genuinely brought tears to my eyes. A safari is an extraordinary experience, I truly believe that nothing beats seeing animals happily roaming in the wild. To believe it, you really do have to see it with your own eyes.

Stop 7 – Port Elizabeth

Sadly it was time to conclude our Garden Route adventure. We ended with a short but insightful Route 67 walking tour, educating us on the life and amazing influence Nelson Mandela had on South Africa. Its something that evidently still resonates with the country and the people. Its this passion and kindness within the community, the beautiful landscape and unforgettable experiences that make me realize why people continue to return to South Africa again and again. And now, I am also one of those people. SA, I will see you soon!