The Garden Route National Park, home to the largest continuous complex of indigenous forest in the country, is nestled along the south coast between Port Elizabeth in the east and George in the West. It encompasses the Tsitsikamma, Knysna and Wilderness areas, a variety of mountain catchments and one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world.
Things to do in the National Park
- PIT STOP: Take a quick pit stop at the Tsitsikamma Big Tree or the Garden of Eden, both are situated right on the N2 and make for easy access to the refreshing green forests.
- HIKE: Work up a sweat on one of the many day trails in the Wilderness, Knysna or Tsitsikamma Areas of the Park. From easy 1km Fynbos and Forest strolls to energizing 6km hikes in the lush forest complete with waterfalls and tree ferns. You cannot but feel invigorated!
- SCOOTOUR: Not up for the stroll? Experience all the beauty of the National Forests on wheels. Try an exhilarating downhill on a Mountain Scooter. These non-motorized, eco-friendly scooters can accommodate one adult with a child passenger. All trips are guided by professional qualified guides.
- FLOAT: Go for Kayak and Lilo Adventure with Untouched Adventures at Storms River Mouth. You’ll get to explore deeper into the hidden world of the Storms River gorge than most ever do and experience the long, bottomless pools, deep caves and ancient forests with nothing but the quiet noises of nature around you.
- RIDE: Get that adrenaline pumping! Try out one of National Park’s Mountain Bike Trails in the Harkerville Forest Area. These trails offer a range of routes suited to all levels. Four colour-coded routes, ranging from easy family rides to fast-flowing single tracks meander through shady forest and coastal fynbos.
- WANDER: You don’t need to be super fit to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Take a stroll along the many forest paths or visit one of the five bird hides situated along the still banks of the lakes. Paddle down the dark rivers in a canoe and watch the world float by or visit the Forest Legends Museum and learn tales of the majestic forest Elephants and elusive woodcutters.
- BUCKET LIST: The Storms River Gorge Suspension Bridges hang over the red-brown waters of the Storms River Mouth, span 77 metres and remain one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Tsitsikamma Area of the Garden Route National Park. The original bridge was built in 1969. Today it includes two additional bridges that provide visitors with the option of a thrilling circular route along the rocky coastal cliff.
- OVERNIGHT TREK: The Garden Route National Park is home to the famous Otter Trail, a 5 day hike along the coastal forests of the Tsitsikamma Area; the Outeniqua Trail, a 7 day trek through the deepest and oldest parts of the forest; and the Harkerville Coastal Trail, a 2 day meander along the jagged coastline and cliff faces beyond the Harkerville Forest.
Stay the night
The National Park offers plenty of choices for those who wish to overnight. Stay in log cabins on stilts. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the majestic forest at the 4 star Treetop Chalet or camp under the stars alongside the Wilderness’ Touw River.
Global Biodiversity Hotspot
The Garden Route is one of the most significant conservation areas in the country in terms of biodiversity. The Fynbos Biome, boasts at least 45,000 different plants of which over 69% are endemic to the region and found nowhere else on earth. The coastline is home to the Near Threatened African Black Oystercatcher. These black beauties are found only on the coasts of South Africa and Namibia. They have strong, dagger-like beaks that enable them to feed on mussels, limpets and worms and interestingly, they rarely eat oysters!
The forests themselves are home to the smallest antelope found in Southern Africa, the Blue Duiker. At just 30cm tall these shy forest dwellers are not easily spotted in the dense forest undergrowth. Look out for majestic raptor species, including the Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Sparrow hawks and African Goshawks – 22 species of raptors in total.
The protected forests incorporate various cultural heritage sites which range from Khoisan caves, shell middens and rock art to the more recent ruins of small fishing settlements, shipwrecks and grave sites. The conservation of these sites and their related oral history are part of what the Garden Route National Park works to protect and conserve.
Book accommodation online at: www.sanparks.org
Garden Route National Park: +27 (0) 44 302 5600
Central reservations: +27 (0) 12 428 911