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South Africa’s Garden Route: The 5 best luxury lodges

The Garden Route in South Africa is an area stretching for 124 miles through the Western Cape between Mossel Bay and Storms River. It’s a touristic route is set up for road-trippers with pit stops and countless detours which showcase the region’s culture, beauty and hospitality.

The route can be done over a few days or a couple of weeks, depending on how how deep under the skin of the region you wish to get.

Mossel Bay is the western gateway to the Garden Route and is less than 250 miles from Cape Town as you head along the N2 highway which has minimal traffic and easy driving conditions.

Mossel Bay provides the opportunity to explore the St Blaize Trail, a nine-mile rugged coastal walk which leads to Dana Bay from a cave below Cape St Blaize Lighthouse.

The historic town of George is 30 minutes further down the coast and home to the Garden Route Botanical Garden for an introduction to the fynbos that characterizes the Cape Floral Region, recognized by UNESCO for its staggering biodiversity. While the region only spans 0.5% of Africa, it contains 20% of the continent’s plant species. As you drive past George, the striking Outeniqua Mountains provide a wonderful backdrop as you head towards Wilderness and on towards Knysna.

Just beyond Knysna is famed for its 10-day Oyster Festival which takes place annually in late June. The town overlooks a lagoon dotted with sailing boats with the ocean just beyond two headpoints which make for a perfect sunset backdrop.

Plettenberg Bay, an hour further east, is a favourite throughout the Western Cape. Think breathtaking beaches, sandy coves and sheer cliffs with waters which teem year-round with migrating dolphins and whales.

Garden Route culminates at Storms River village, 50 minutes east from Plettenberg Bay. Inland lies the dense, mountainous Tsitsikamma Forest, home to a wide range of adventure activities such as kayaking expeditions as well as the world’s highest bungee jump (709ft) at Bloukrans Bridge. While to the lies Tsitsikamma National Park, home to some wonderful walking trails including the oldest hiking route in the country, the five-day Otter Trail.

Along the Garden Route, to complement the many activities, are some fabulous luxury accommodations. Here’s our favourite five;

The Manor House at Fancourt – George

The Manor House at Fancourt is located in the heart of the Fancourt Estate in George. It’s a luxury boutique hotel that combines historic charm with modern elegance. Originally built in 1859 by Henry Fancourt White, the Manor House is an exquisite example of 19th-century architecture, featuring grand, Cape Dutch-style design elements.

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The main attraction is the golf and most guests will be looking to play. Boasting 3 superb golf courses, including the Links, designed by Gary Player and currently ranked as the number 2 course in the country.

The exterior of the Manor House boasts whitewashed walls, gabled roofs, and beautiful verandas that offer panoramic views of the surrounding gardens and Outeniqua mountains. The lush, meticulously landscaped gardens include mature trees, vibrant flowerbeds, and tranquil water features, creating a serene and picturesque setting.

Inside, the Manor House is elegantly appointed with high ceilings, original wooden floors, and antique furnishings that exude a timeless sophistication. The decor seamlessly blends classic and contemporary styles, with luxurious fabrics, rich colours, and bespoke artwork adorning the walls. The rooms are luxurious with individually decorated suites but with modern amenities. After a round of golf, guests can enjoy exclusive access to the Manor House’s private facilities, including a lounge, bar, and outdoor swimming pool.

The Manor House is part of the wider Fancourt Estate where you’ll find a wellness spa, gourmet dining options, and recreational activities such as tennis and hiking. Plus the world-class golf facilities.

If you’re a golfer and visiting South Africa, you’ll want to stay for at least a night.

Simbavati Fynbos on Sea – Sedgefield

Simbavati Fynbos on Sea is located halfway between George and Knysna in the small coastal town of Sedgefield. This luxurious lodge can be hard to find as is situated on the top of a hill with a winding road to the top.

Once there though you’ll discover breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean and the surrounding fynbos landscape in an area characterized by its diverse plant life, part of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

The lodge overlooks the beach below, providing easy access to sandy shores and coastal activities.

The rooms at Simbavati are elegant, often designed with natural materials and a focus on blending with the environment. Rooms typically have large windows or private terraces to take advantage of the scenic views. Interiors are tastefully decorated with a mix of modern amenities and rustic charm.

The region is known for its activities and Simbavati is no different. Here guests can enjoy guided nature walks, bird watching, and exploring the unique flora and fauna of the fynbos region. The lodge is also home to freeroaming game animals such as eland, waterbuck and zebras.

Close to the property you can discover lovely fossil dunes and beaches, kayak on the Swartvlei and Sedgefield lagoons or visit the neighbouring protea farm. In summer at low tide, snorkelling in the rockpools can be a treat. The area is also a big draw for advanced paragliding with companies using Simbavati as a jumping off point.

Dining at Simbavati Fynbos on Sea is an exquisite experience, with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and guests can enjoy meals in a beautiful dining area with ocean views or in more private, romantic settings.

Simbavati Fynbos on Sea is a perfect stop on the Garden Route, especially if you’re looking for an alternative to Knysna.

Kanonkop House – Knysna

Kanonkop House is perhaps the top boutique luxury property on the Garden Route. Located in on the hills above Knysna, this hotel offers stunning panoramic views of the Knysna Lagoon and the lush surrounding landscapes.

There’s no official reception at the property and guests are met individually by an attentive concierge who takes you to you room. The rooms and suites are exceptionally appointed, each individually decorated with a mix of contemporary and traditional African styles. Many of the rooms offer private balconies or terraces with spectacular views over Knysna Lagoon.

The rooms come equipped with modern amenities such as air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, mini-bars, and luxurious en-suite bathrooms with high-end toiletries.

There’s a spacious lounge and bar area, designed for relaxation which includes an extensive bar stocked with a huge range of South African gin and other spirits, a large beer fridge and also a wonderful selection of South African wines. The best thing being that all the drinks are included in the cost of your stay.  

An a la carte breakfast is served every day often served on a terrace with lagoon views. There are also light meals and snacks available throughout the day but no main restaurant. Knysna has some great dining options and is a short drive away and most people have their own car when visiting Knysna.

The guesthouse is conveniently located close to the town centre of Knysna, offering easy access to the popular tourist spots such as the Knysna Heads, Featherbed Nature Reserve, and the Knysna Waterfront.

A beautiful outdoor pool surrounded by a sun deck and lush gardens provides a perfect spot for relaxation and soaking up the sun while there are also beautifully manicured gardens with indigenous plants.

The concierge at Kanonkop House can arrange various activities such as lagoon cruises, hiking, golfing, visits to local wildlife reserves and beaches, massage and spa services, as well as restaurant reservations.

Kanonkop House is the place to stay in Knysna.

Tsala Treetop Lodge – Plettenberg Bay

Tsala Treetop Lodge is a luxurious retreat nestled in the heart of the Garden Route in Plettenberg Bay. This exclusive and unusual lodge is unlike any other property on the Garden Route and offers a unique blend of seclusion, comfort, and natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for couples seeking a serene escape.

The lodge features a selection of elegant suites and villas that are elevated above the forest floor on stilts, providing breathtaking views of the lush forest canopy. The suites and villas are designed with a mix of stone, wood, and glass, offering a blend of modern luxury and natural elements. Each suite or villa comes equipped with a private deck, a plunge pool, and spacious living areas, ensuring utmost comfort and privacy. It’s perfect for a honeymooning couple.

The main dining area provides stunning views of the forest, enhancing the dining experience and guests can enjoy excellent food, from hearty breakfasts to decadent dinners, all prepared with the finest ingredients.

The lodge boasts a range of facilities and activities designed to enrich the guest experience. The lodge has a beautiful infinity pool, a library, and a lounge area where guests can relax and unwind. For those seeking adventure, the lodge offers activities such as forest walks, bird watching, and guided tours of the surrounding area. Set within the forest, the lodge is a convenient 20-minute drive to Plettenberg Bay, where you can enjoy the excellent surf beaches, whale watching, and various water sports.

The lodge offers a range of spa treatments for those looking to unwind away from your room or the beach.

Tsala Treetop Lodge is committed to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. The lodge takes measures to minimize its environmental impact by using sustainable materials in its construction, implementing water and energy-saving practices, and supporting local communities through various initiatives.

All of this makes Tsala Treetop Lodge offers a truly unforgettable experience, ideal for those looking for seclusion in style.

Walkers Beach Hotel – Plettenberg Bay

Walkers Beach Hotel is one of Plettenberg’s newest hotels and in my opinion the best. It’s a stunning boutique hotel offering guests incredible views of the Indian Ocean and direct access to pristine sandy beaches. The hotel’s architecture and decor blend modern elegance with a coastal charm, featuring large windows, airy whitewashed rooms and spacious balconies to maximize the breathtaking ocean vistas. It feels very much like a Mediterranean villa.

The rooms at  Walkers Beach feature contemporary interiors with soothing colour palettes and high-end furnishings and plush bedding.

There are two outdoor swimming pools with comfortable loungers and parasols, perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun while enjoying the ocean views if you don’t fancy getting sandy down on the beach.

The restaurant and bar overlook the ocean and in a bright open space, serving fine food with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. The beef carpaccio salad at lunch is excellent!

Plettenberg Bay is famed for its various activities and excursions, and the hotel can offer help to book water sports, whale watching, and trips to nearby attractions, ensuring guests can fully experience the beauty and adventure of surrounding area.

With its prime location, stylish rooms and exceptional service, Walkers Beach is our go to property for anyone looking to stay in Plettenberg.

Simon Williams

Simon Williams is Director of Humboldt Travel. Humboldt Travel is a luxury travel company specialising in tailor made holidays to Latin America, Africa and Asia. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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14 Comments

  1. If there were just one travel experience that I could do again, it would be South Africa’s Garden Route. It is simply stunning.

  2. Too late for this year’s oyster festival. June would be a great time to visit, maybe next year. I’m an oyster addict, well I would be if they weren’t so expensive in the UK.

  3. The way travellers talk about the Garden route I always had an idea that it was much longer than 124 miles. Next time we go on safari we could add 3 or 4 days onto the trip to do the route.

    1. It’s super easy to combine with a safari. After Plettenberg, it’s about a 3 hour drive onto the Eastern Cape reserves such as Kwandwe, Shamwari or Kariega where you can see all the big 5 and it’s not so crowded as Kruger or Sabi Sands.

  4. The Manor House would be my choice. It’s certainly got the calm elegance of another age to it. Plus you’ve got some top class golf too.

  5. The Garden Route has been on my travel wish list for some time now. Thanks for the reminder that I ought to get booking some flights and accommodation.

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