The Garden Route
Two laughing young female friends having drinks while sitting arm in arm together on a boat on the open ocean during summer vacation

South Africa’s Garden Route is world-renowned for its natural beauty, stunning coastline, popular holiday towns, outdoor activities (from wonderful hikes to whale watching) and adventurous pursuits. But it’s also the perfect place to spoil yourself with some unashamedly indulgent experiences.

Spending a few days on the Garden Route? Here’s how to do it in style:

  1. Base yourself at the Manor House

Fancourt’s historic The Manor House is the epitome of five-star luxury and understated elegance.  It’s no surprise that the Manor House has been recognised as South Africa’s Leading Country Hotel in the World Travel Awards for the past two years. From the moment you enter this exquisite boutique hotel, you’ll feel your worries drift away. With just 18 suites, personalised service and beautiful park-like gardens, there is no place quite like the Manor House.

It’s also the perfect base from where to explore the Garden Route. Located just outside George, Herold’s Bay, Glentana and Mossel Bay are a hop, skip and a jump away, while Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley (not to mention Oudtshoorn and the Klein Karoo) are all within easy reach.

Once sight-seeing is over for the day, retreat to The Spa at Fancourt and spoil yourself with a range of blissful treatments – or simply enjoy the Roman bath, tepidarium, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.  Unsurprisingly, The Spa at Fancourt was named the ‘Best Hotel Spa in South Africa’ at the annual Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Awards in 2018.

  1. Take to the seas on a chartered yacht

A boat trip on the Knysna lagoon is a Garden Route must-do. Take it one step further by chartering a private yacht, sailing through the Knysna Heads and out into the vast Indian Ocean. Springtide Sailing Charters offers uber-exclusive and unique sailing cruises. Soak up the natural beauty of Knysna, while sipping on champagne and nibbling canapes. Sundowners anyone?

  1. Wine and dine in Wilderness

The Garden Route is a smorgasbord of cafés, coffee shops and fabulous restaurants. Fresh seafood and local, organic produce abound. There are also spectacular vineyards offering tasting menus and platters of delicious, regional cheese, while La Chocolaterie Rococo in Groot Brak, Chocolats Marionnettes in Knysna and Shautany Chocolatiers in Plettenberg Bay create the most indulgent artisanal chocolate you could hope to find.

For a fine-dining experience, make a reservation at Serendipity restaurant, situated on the banks of the Touw River Lagoon in Wilderness. Serendipity has just scooped both the ‘Global Winner, South African Cuisine’ and the ‘Country Winner (South Africa) Fine Dining Cuisine’ at the 2019 World Luxury Restaurant Awards. It is a gastronomic experience you won’t soon forget.

  1. Discover the freshest oysters

Each year, this wonderful delicacy is celebrated at Knysna’s July Oyster festival. The festival has cemented Knysna’s reputation as the oyster capital of South Africa. Whether this is strictly true or not, there is something quite hedonistic about shucking fresh oysters, enjoying them straight from the shell and chasing them down with crisp white wine or champagne.

Join a Knysna Charters Oyster Tour, departing from Thesen Island in Knysna and learn all about Knysna’s oysters while cruising the lagoon. It’s the ultimate experience for oyster lovers.

  1. Invest in local art

If you are an art collector, it’s hard to leave the Garden Route without a special piece. Explore interesting, out-of-the-ordinary galleries up and down the coastline, or consider Oudtshoorn’s quirky ‘Art, Cheese, Chocolate and Liqueur Route’ and discover the art and culture of the Klein Karoo.  

A visit to Knysna Fine Art is an absolute must. The gallery handles the work of some of South Africa’s finest sculptors, painters and ceramicists and works closely with curators and collectors from around the world.

The Garden Route offers plenty in terms of adventure and outdoor living, but it’s also the perfect place to slow down, recharge and experience a little five-star luxury. We highly recommend it.

Getting to the Garden Route:

While many travellers drive into the Garden route via Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, the most efficient way to get there is via George Airport. It is serviced by a number of domestic airlines including Airlink, Flysafair, Kulula and Mango.