Garden Route hikes are plentiful and breathtakingly beautiful. There is no better way to experience the beauty of the Garden Route, than by exploring the trails. We are so fortunate to live in a place with a moderate climate, beautiful mountains, beaches, indigenous forests, wildlife, bird life, plant life, lakes and rivers. When on foot, you don’t only get to see this beauty; you get to use all your senses: the smell of the forest, the sound of the birds singing and waves crashing, and the taste of salty Indian Ocean when diving into a cool rock pool.
There are plenty of hiking trails that show off the spectacular beauty of the Garden Route; here are a few of our favourites.
1: Cape St Blaize Trail, Mossel Bay
My favourite, although I might be a bit biased. I grew up in Mossel Bay and my friends and I (and ex-girlfriends – some romantic viewpoints 😊) have been exploring these trails, caves, cliffs and rock pools along the coast for many years. We still hike the trail several times a year with family, as it’s only a stone’s throw from my parents’ house in Mossel Bay. This 14-kilometre trail starts at the Light House and Cape St Blaize cave at the Point, Mossel Bay. The trail follows the coastal cliffs all along the Indian Ocean to Dana Bay. Look out for schools of dolphins, whales and Cape fur seals. On land you often see dassies, duikers, and bush buck; I’ve even seen a caracal on the trail before!
Fitness level: moderate
Time: allow 4-6 hours, depending on fitness level and how often you stop. (If I take my wife, I have to add another hour for photos.)
Local Tip: Take your swimming gear, there are a few magical rock pools to explore. Recommended as a one-way hike, so arrange for a transfer to pick you up at the end of the trail in Dana Bay.
2: Giant Kingfisher Hiking Trail, Garden Route National Park, Wilderness
This 7 km return hike starts and ends in Wilderness National Park, Ebb and Flow camp site, and takes you all along the Touw River through indigenous forest to a waterfall. We highly recommend taking swimming gear for a swim in the rock pools under the waterfall, as well as a picnic to enjoy on the rocks. This trail is special to me as I hiked this trail with my parents when I was a child, and we’ve taken thousands of Earthstompers guests to explore this trail since 2006. On our tours (link) we combine the hike with canoeing through a section of the forest on the Touw River.
What can you find in Wilderness National Park?
The National Park is home to more than 200 species of birds, and birders travel from all over the world to view the birdlife here. Look out for the Knysna loerie (nowadays called a turaco), four species of kingfisher, a breeding couple of fish eagle that can be seen (and heard) on this trail – just to mention a few of the bird species. When hiking through the forest, look out for baboon, vervet monkeys, dassies, bush buck and even the endangered blue duiker that is endemic to this part of the world. You will also see some beautiful yellowwood trees along this trail, the national tree of South Africa. A highlight for the youngsters is the pontoon crossing over the Touw River.
Cost: R 160 per adult, R 80 per child (International visitor)
R 48 per adult, R 24 per child (local South African visitor)
Prices valid till 31 October 2021
Fitness level: Relatively easy to moderate hike. Most is on a flat trail and boardwalk.
Time: allow +/- 3 hours, but please take some extra time for a picnic and swim.
Local Tip: Visit Eden Adventures to rent canoes. Combine the hike with canoeing in this beautiful National Park, getting the views from all directions.
Contact: Eden Adventures for canoeing and hiking or San Parks for hiking only.
3: Robberg Peninsula hike, Plettenberg Bay
Every time I start describing these Garden Route hikes, I want to say “this must be the most scenic”, but this one might actually really be the winner when it comes to scenery. You hike along the Robberg Peninsula with the Indian Ocean on 3 sides and the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the Bay of Plettenberg Bay in the north. With views of the completely vast, open Indian ocean to the south and east, this must be the winner. You have 3 hiking options for all fitness levels, ranging from 30 minutes to 4 hours. If you have the time, go for the longer hikes that take you north, east and south of the Peninsula with spectacular scenery all the way.
Why is it called Robberg?
The name Robberg comes from the Cape fur seal colony that lives on the peninsula. Look out for the thousands of Cape fur seals frolicking in the waters below the Peninsula. Note, you will smell them before you see them if the wind comes from the north or east. 😊 Where there’s seals, you will find great white sharks, and a few hikers have been lucky enough to view a predation from the hiking trails above. Keep your eyes open!
Also look out for schools of bottlenose and humpback dolphin, southern right whales, humpback whales, Brydes Whales and if you are lucky, even orcas. Thousands of sea birds make Robberg their home; look out for gannets, terns and cormorants.
Cost: R50 per adult, R30 per child
Fitness Level & Time:
Gap Circuit – easy 2.1 km hike will only take about 30 minutes.
Witsand Circuit – Moderate to easy hike of 5.5 km will take you about 2 hours.
Point Circuit – Moderate to difficult, requires medium to high fitness levels. This 9.2 km trail will take about 4 km.
Local Tip: Take you swimming gear and picnic stuff for a picnic and a swim on the beach (Witsand and Point Circuit). A pair of polarized sunglasses makes a big difference when looking for marine life as it takes away the glare of the sun and you can see deeper into the sea.
Contact: These trails and the Nature Reserve is operated by Cape Nature.
4: Waterfall hike, Tsitsikamma National Park
This beautiful coastal forest hike is situated in Storms River rest camp in the Tsitsikamma section of Garden Route National Park. Thousands of people visit this beautiful rest camp and join the short hike to the furthest eastern point of the Garden Route which is the Storms River. This is a spectacular walk with absolutely incredible views, taking you over the Storms River with a suspension bridge.
Explore a little further:
I would like to highlight the lesser-explored western side of Storms River rest camp where the famous Otter Trail starts. Day visitors are allowed to walk the first 3 kilometres of this 5-day trail, to a waterfall on the coast. The trail will take you along the coast, over some boulders and through pieces of forest. You will reach the waterfall with a deep pool that flows out to the ocean – absolutely perfect for a swim! Always keep a lookout for bottlenose dolphins and whales. On land you can look out for the Knysna loerie (turaco), bush buck, duiker, dassie, caracal and even African clawless otter, after whom the Otter Hiking Trail is named.
Cost: R 262 per adult, R131 per child (International visitor)
R 65 per adult, R 32 per child (local South African visitor)
Prices valid till 31 October 2021
Fitness Level & Time: Waterfall hike: 3 km each way (6 km return) and will take about 3 hours. Moderate fitness is required with quite a few scrambles over rocks. Suspension Bridge walk: 2km return walk, this is an easy walk on a board walk and would take about 1 hour.
Local Tip: Take you swimming gear and snorkeling gear for a swim at the waterfall and snorkeling along the route in the many rock pools.
Contact: This trail is managed by SANPARKS.
5: Beach Walks, The Garden Route
Not an official hiking trail, but who’s making rules here? Just walk the beaches! Beaches are plentiful along the Garden Route, cost nothing to walk on, safe (always walk with a friend and during the day) easy and accessible. Go at low tide when there’s a big beach of hard sand to walk on, and explore the rock pools with all the beautiful sea creatures. Some of our favourites are:
Gericke Point walk, Sedgefield
We love the beauty of Sedgefield beach, exploring the rock pools with our 5-year-old and snorkelling and fishing in the rock pools. On one day we saw five different octopuses. Best on low tide as the rock pools would all be under water during high tide and at spring high you will not be able to reach Gericke’s Point.
Shipwreck walk, Glentana
This beautiful beach walk takes you all along the rocky coast to a shipwreck. Take a knife; we always enjoy fresh oysters from the rocks.(get a license to take oysters of the rocks form a local post office) The shipwreck is only accessible during low tide, so check the tide tables before you go.
Wilderness beach walk, Wilderness
Park your car and walk in any direction and enjoy the beauty of this beach. This is really a special place. Wilderness beach is not safe for swimming, be careful of strong sea currents.
Arch rock, Keurbooms Beach
Follow the beach east from Keurbooms main beach parking area, to Cathedral Rock for about 1.5 km. You can walk all the way along the beach on low tide, but will have to use the coastal path during high tide.
This blog only mentions a few hikes, but there are hundreds more. Earthstompers includes many short hike options on our Garden Route tours, but please let your tour consultant know if you are keen to explore more hikes. We can certainly recommend and include a bigger variety of hikes in your Garden Route experience.