Whether it’s winter or summer, the Garden Route has a great variety to offer holiday makers. Apart from dramatic mountain ranges, abundant plant life, and friendly waters, the scenic South African coastline is also known to have the second mildest climate in the world – perfect to experience relaxing beach days in summer, and adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities on cooler days. And, the modes of exploration are as diverse as the Garden Route’s landscape. Mountain biking, paragliding, rock climbing; there are options for all types of travellers. Here are some of our picks.
Counter to popular belief, mountain biking can actually be quite chilled (although it doesn’t have to be!), making it a fun, easy-on-the-joints way to exercise and explore nature. The Garden Route Trail Park, located at the foot of the Outeniqa Mountains and Karatara River Gorge, midway between George and Knysna, is filled with scenic, family-friendly trails for all levels of mountain bikers. For the adrenaline junkies, there are flowing turns, ramps, and berms, but there are also options for beginners to take it easy and simply enjoy the waterfalls, rock pools and mountain views. According to the Garden Route Trail Park’s website, riders will explore “a secret place off the beaten track, where endless trails snake their way through ancient forests.”
Did you know that ziplining can improve your eyesight? Apparently, when you’re alternating between objects that are near and far a lot, your eyes are trained to focus quicker, and hence your vision becomes sharper. But besides having unforeseen health benefits, ziplining can also be a really fun way to get a new perspective on nature and, like mountain biking, it’s not only for the daredevil adventurers. At the Tsitsikamma Falls Adventure Park, for instance, you can stop midcable to take in the scenery, before you continue zigzagging down one of their eight slides, of which the longest is 211m. Situated next to the N2, above the Kruis River, their website promises sightings of indigenous flora and fauna as you cross over gorges and waterfalls, while a guide provides commentary about the area.
If all of the above sounds a bit too relaxed and boring, you could give paragliding a go. An altitude of around 150 m and a 360 degree bird’s eye view will surely get some of that adrenaline pumping. SA Paragliding in Wilderness offers day courses for solo pilots, as well as tandem flights for those who want to get up in the air straight away. “We operate from Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna, and all our sites have majestic views overlooking the sea, lakes, and rivers of the area,” says founder Deon Borrett.
The Outeniqua Mountains, running alongside the Garden Route’s coastline, are full of scenic climbing routes for all levels. Testing your strength, balance and endurance, rock climbing can be physically and mentally demanding. But it’s equally rewarding. You’ll reach places the average hiker doesn’t get to, and thus have unique views of the sea, forests and mountains. And there are many companies offering guided tours to ensure you feel safe and comfortable.
Walking some of the Garden Route’s many hiking trails is a great way to get up close with the area’s plant and animal life. There are short-to-long and easy-to-difficult trails traversing beaches, rivers and forests, to ancient caves and secluded lagoons. You could, for instance, do the Dolphin Trail, a fairly laid-back two-day-three-night hike along the wild Tsitsikamma coast, and enjoy leisurely picnics, tidal-pool snorkelling and whale sightings (in season) en route. Or you could try some of the shorter medium-to-difficult Knysna Forest Walks. They’re full of bird life, indigenous trees and cool streams for hot days.