The Garden Route runs along the south-eastern coast of South Africa between the mountains and the Indian ocean. Its name comes from the huge variety of vegetation and wildlife that can be found along the route. It is a stunningly beautiful journey that loads (I couldn’t find an official figure but I’m sure it’s a lot) of tourists travel every year, and we were six of them.
Monday / Port Elizabeth / No5 Boutique Art Hotel
We arrived at Port Elizabeth International Airport after connecting flights from safari, and after a brief kerfuffle with the hire cars, headed off to our hotel in Port Elizabeth where we promptly had dinner and fell asleep, exhausted.
Tuesday / Plettenberg Bay / Tsala Treetop Lodge
We woke up on Tuesday morning and began the drive from Port Elizabeth to our next stop in Plettenberg Bay. Our luck seemed to have run out after our amazing safari, and the weather alternated between drizzle and rain so torrential that we couldn’t see the road in front of us. Sadly this meant that most of the beautiful scenery was obscured, though it was evident that we weren’t just driving along a random English motorway because of the dramatic gorge, ostriches and baboons we came across by the side of the road (one of whom was missing a hind leg and half of his front arm but didn’t seem to have noticed judging by the way he was prancing around). Instead, we amused ourselves with Spotify’s ‘Pop Songs I Secretly Love’ playlist.
We arrived at the Tsala Treetop Lodge tired and a little damp but still happy and very much looking forward to seeing the lodge, which was my favourite hotel of the whole trip. As the name suggests, the whole lodge was up in the trees with walkways connecting the rooms to the main building and restaurant. The rooms themselves were beautiful, each with its own infinity pool, outside shower (which I insisted on using, even in the rain), fire burning in the fireplace, stand-alone bath and glasses of port to welcome us into the warm and dry. Even though the rain was still hammering down, the views over the tops of the trees were incredible and the sound of the rain and the frogs croaking with delight was so relaxing that we settled down to watch a film (Bridget Jones’ Diary – a classic) before heading to a delicious dinner and then to bed on the softest sheets I have ever experienced.
Wednesday / Oudtshoorn / Altes Landhaus
After waking up to a gorgeous view over the treetops, baboons skipping down our hotel ‘corridor’ (AKA the walkway) and an amazing breakfast buffet of tropical fruits I’d never tried before in any other form than juice (like guava, passion fruit and papaya), we had the world’s quickest drip into our private infinity pool (!!!!). It was probably the coldest I have ever been in my entire life, but it was worth it because you’re not gonna have a private infinity pool and not use it, are you? I was probably in the pool for a grand total of ten seconds because the water was so cold that I turned blue almost immediately and it was still drizzling apathetically, but I have no regrets.
The horrendous weather meant we didn’t see much of Plettenberg Bay, but the drizzle cleared up not long after we set off on the drive to our next stop in Oudtshoorn so we stopped a few times for cliff top walks and to marvel at glorious coastal scenery. We even managed to spot some whales and dolphins!
The rest of the drive was spent singing along to such classics as ‘Air Hostess’, ‘Stargirl’, and an entire album of Taylor Swift, which left me with a sore throat (again, worth it).
Arriving at our next hotel, we climbed out of the cars to be greeted by two adorable Rhodesian Ridgebacks who came bounding out and led us to reception. We were shown to our rooms and had a quick tour of the hotel, which felt just like somebody’s (very big and grand) house. Helen, who ran the hotel with her husband and her grandson, told us that the rain we’d experienced the day before is very rare – in fact, she claimed that it hasn’t in that part of South Africa for over two years. Dat shit cray.
Thursday / Montagu / Mimosa Lodge
Before leaving Oudtshoorn we paid a visit to Cango Caves and an ostrich farm before hopping in the car for another stunning drive to Montagu, which was quite literally in the middle of nowhere. We had a delicious meal and drinks in the bar, before all heading to bed having had a little too much to drink.
Friday / Hermanus / The Marine
We woke up the next day, some more hungover than others, and made an effort to find something interesting to see in Montagu. We unfortunately failed as there were only about 5 streets in the whole town, and began the drive to Hermanus, stopping for a very brief wine tasting on the way through.
Hermanus is famous for its whale watching, so after arriving at the (very posh) hotel, we immediately left to go for a wander and to watch some whales. We saw loads of them, it was wonderful! We also saw a whole load of dassies, which I like just as much as seeing the whales to be honest. They’re just too cute.
That night back at the hotel we went for a fancy wine-paring dinner. The food and wine were delicious, although people kept insisting on giving full speeches about the wine we were about to drink before we were allowed each course which I could have lived without, but each to their own…
Saturday / Franschhoek / Le Quartier Français
On leaving Hermanus the next morning (after seeing seven more whales in the bay!), we stopped off at Stony Point to see the penguins who were cute beyond words.
Our next stop was Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek (which literally means French Corner), which quickly became my second favourite hotel of the trip. It was set out like an adorable little village around the pool, each room complete with its own front door and door number. We arrived relatively early, so we had a little bit of time to wander round Franshoek before heading back to the hotel to drive the free wine in our rooms (any hotel that gives you free alcohol on arrival is a good one in my book).
In the evening, we went for dinner at the hotel restaurant The Tasting Room, which I later found out had won various ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ awards – and I’m not surprised. It was so good that it merits its own blog post.
Sunday / Cape Town / Victoria and Alfred
I was sad to leave Franschhoek the next day as I would have liked to have spent a bit longer there – but then again, I felt that way with most places! We set off again for another fabulous drive through the mountains, stopping off for another very brief wine tasting but long enough for Matt to take some arty photos for our Pretentious Faux-Arty Photo context, or Farty Photos Contest for short.
We arrived in Cape Town not long later, and this is where The Garden Route ends! It was a gorgeous drive with some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery I have ever seen. Unfortunately, I don’t have much photo evidence of this as I thought that photos through a car windscreen splattered with dead bugs wouldn’t do it much justice… so you’ll just have to go and do it yourselves :)
That’s all for now,