Driving Along the Garden Route: Is it for You?
I’ve always been one of those ‘wind in your hair’, sunglasses at the ready travel types, so in short – road trips suit me. They’re pretty casual and anything that has ‘laid back travel’ written all over it is me hands down.
Back in 2009, my family and I whizzed up Highway 1 and took over California and Nevada for three weeks. It was bloody amazing and without a doubt it was that trip that got me into this whole ‘travel malarkey’ and forced a ridiculous geographical itch to take over my everyday life. Since then, I’ve wanted to get back in a car and actually ‘see places’ properly, behind a window screen, with a ridiculous amount of stop offs (snaps and snacks – required) but until recently it hadn’t popped back up on my radar. UNTIL NOW!
The road tripper’s back! Whippersnapper Laura, Santa Barbara - 2009
The Garden Route is world renowned as being one of the best drives, ever. And as natural progression from the West Coast of the US, South Africa is probably the closest it gets. I loved that one, so I’d love this one too – right? Right?!
Get your pitch forks at the ready, you’ll love the Garden Route if…
You’re one of those people who goes away ‘to get a change of scene’
If like most of the general public one of the reasons you travel is to shake things up (me!) then the Garden Route is perfect as the landscape transforms constantly, and if you got bored looking out of the window it’d be practically illegal. One second – rocky, cutesy coastal sea route. The next, alpine trees galore – and thereafter, rolling hills a la Austria style. Basically, there’s more landscape variety than you can shake a stick at and compared to Cali there’s more to see behind the wheel.
You’re snap happy
Every family member has a resident photographer, and to satisfy said snapper they need ample ‘photography genius’ moments so they can wind their neck in. SLR carriers, you’re a given to love this route. iPhone obsessors, same applies. Just look at these bad boys! Prepare to have your socks well-and-truly blown off.
Canada, is that you?
Food is your life
… so technically I’m talking to the whole world here, right? South African food is nothing short of incredible, and over the course of two weeks we didn’t have one bad meal. Not one! It’s a miracle! One of the best restaurants we’ve ever eaten at – La Petit Ferme, is located just off the Garden Route in the beautiful Franchhoek. If you’re going to this part of the world, please promise me you’ll visit? (It’d be a crime against knives and forks everywhere if you didn’t…)
This happened. Along with iced coffee for good measure. Cue: instant food heaven
You’d hate the Garden Route if…
You’re a holiday hibernator…
Some people like to just sit and see, in one place. All week. By a pool, with a book. If relaxation is key then this drive probably isn’t for you, seeing as though it’s 750+ miles long (and you’re sort of guaranteed a numb bum at some point…)
You’re scared/don’t like animals. Pick one!
The wildlife in South Africa is MINDBLOWING. You’re driving down the road and hey up – there’s a baboon, or you’re working your way around private reserves and suddenly, you’re playing ‘spot the giraffe’ #classic. You can’t escape from the little blighters, even if you wanted to (but in all seriousness, why would you want to?! It’s so much fun!!). If you’re a general wildlife hater, then stay clear. It wouldn’t be good for them, or you!
See, they’re even in Cape Town! (Ha. ha.)
You hate on nice landscape, as apparently ‘it’s boring’
Not too sure how you could get bored of this but apparently, you can! If you’re just down for beaches and palm trees, then go to LA and hit Hollywood. There’s more glitz and glam for you there! But if you’re after something a bit more cultural, easy on the eye and just god damn spectacular, then the South African scenery is your cup of tea, big time.
Tell the Difference: Garden Route vs Highway One, ding ding!
Can you tell the difference between the two drives above? Reckon the only dead cert giveaway is the infamous lingering mist (top - SA, bottom- California) but there’s no doubting that parts of both drives are very similar. I’m going to come out and say it –if you love cities, then Highway One is your bag. With LA and San Francisco on its radar, not forgetting Monterrey, which is pretty sizeable too- Highway One is full to the brim of big, big places. The Garden Route just doesn’t have that. We started off in Port Elizabeth (so so) and ended in Cape Town (off the chain!) but in between, we only came across average sized towns - the biggest being Plettenberg Bay and Knysna and other little villages (Swellendam) and this is the by far the easiest way to compare both drives. Small and cute vs big and brash.
Got some serious love for Cape Town! (Shown: Cape Grace/Table Mountain)
Like big cities, the bright lights and beautiful, rocky coastlines? Then you’re more American than Paris Hilton. Like big beaches, but also taken aback by stunning scenery and really good food? South Africa is probably more you.
Noetzie beach, Knysna
Personally, I loved both. There’s by far more variety in the location, activities and scenery in South Africa (safari one week, abseiling down Table Mountain the next?!) but there’s just something about America which makes it extra special.
Alas, no decision has been made. Both drives = amazing. DO THEM. Add them to your bucket list. Now!
We’ll be heading along our next big road trip in April - along the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Updates inevitable. Be there, or be square!