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The Best Food and Places to See - Garden Route, South Africa

Updated on June 20, 2013
These Elephants truly are "Gentle Giants".  Knysna Elephant Sanctuary
These Elephants truly are "Gentle Giants". Knysna Elephant Sanctuary | Source

A trip to the Garden Route can be a soul searching retreat, or it can be a long awaited adventure trip. Or, it can be both! There are so many things to see, places to explore and food to taste - it's hard to know where to start.

You could always do an online search before you leave to find a few well known restaurants and attractions that are a must see when visiting the Garden Route - or, you can simply wing it and see where the wind takes you! On our recent trip here, we decided to just go with the flow and find out from the locals where the best places to go were. You'll have plenty of options to choose from on any given day as there are flyers and brochures almost everywhere you go.

The  most delicious pizza at Café Mario at the Knysna Waterfront
The most delicious pizza at Café Mario at the Knysna Waterfront | Source
The best steak you will ever taste at Joplin's in Wilderness
The best steak you will ever taste at Joplin's in Wilderness | Source
The freshest and tastiest food at Zucchini's in Wilderness
The freshest and tastiest food at Zucchini's in Wilderness | Source

Top 3 Places to Eat

Food - Glorious Food!

It was hard to choose three restaurants along the Garden Route, as there are just so many fantastic places to eat.

These are my top 3 recommendations:

  • Joplin's in Wilderness. This restaurant only offers steak on their menu. There are no pastas, no salads, no fish - just steak, any way you like it served with chips and an egg. There's a reason why they only serve steak and why they're so proud of it, it's because it's that good! This is a must go to restaurant, it's comfortable and casual, and the staff are friendly.


  • Zucchini in Wilderness. A country restaurant offering organic and delicious food, set in the Timberlake Village. The food is outstanding - in fact Lonely Planet have chosen them as their restaurant of choice in the Wilderness. The ambiance is country, with a hint of chic inside - while outside feels more country with a touch of art and provides gorgeous views of the rest of the village. The service is friendly and efficient.


  • Café Mario in Knysna. Set in the Knysna Waterfront on the water's edge, this Italian style restaurant is eyecatching with it's bright orange umbrellas. The menu is large and varied, and the food is out of this world! They even offer wheat free pasta, I was quite impressed! Fantastic and friendly service.


One of the many beautiful birds at the Birds of Eden Sanctuary
One of the many beautiful birds at the Birds of Eden Sanctuary | Source
A walk in the Knysna Forest really is this magical!
A walk in the Knysna Forest really is this magical! | Source
My husband and I saying hi to one of the baby Elephants at the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary
My husband and I saying hi to one of the baby Elephants at the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary | Source
One of the many monkeys in the Monkeyland sanctuary happily eating his fruit
One of the many monkeys in the Monkeyland sanctuary happily eating his fruit | Source

Top 3 Things to Do

Where to go, what to do?

The list of activities, places to go and things to do in the Garden Route is endless, and this section was even harder to narrow down. These are my top 3 choices:

  • Hike, walk or cycle through the Knysna forest. There are a large variety of trails to take - something for every fitness level. We did a short 3km walk through lush green forest, stopped for lunch near the Millwood Mine and then did another 3km walk through another part of the forest with streams and waterfalls. It was breathtaking. I couldn't believe that such a beautiful place existed and that we had the opportunity to explore it. This place really brings you back in touch with nature.


  • Come into contact with monkeys and birds at Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. Both places are situated next to each other, which makes this a convenient day trip. At Monkeyland (the world's first free roaming multi-specie primate sanctuary), you will be taken on a one hour tour and come into contact with many different species of monkeys. Birds of Eden is the worlds largest free flight bird aviery. This place is incredible. You will see parrots, flamingos, swans, doves, ducks and more!


  • Be touched by an Elephant at the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary. It's hard to put into words the emotions I felt while feeding, touching and standing amongst Elephants. These incredible creatures are gentle giants, and this was the highlight of our trip - something that we will never forget. The tour is an hour long and you will have a chance to explore where the Elephants sleep, you'll be able to feed and touch them, as well as watch them interact with each other only a few steps away!


Other things to do while on holiday in the Garden Route:

  • Climb through the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn
  • Do the treetop canopy tours in the Tsitsikamma forest
  • Go canoeing in Wilderness
  • Paraglide
  • Go blackwater tubing
  • Bungee jump from the Bloukrans Bridge
  • Shop to your heart's content at the Garden Route Mall
  • Visit the many day and night craft and farm markets in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay
  • Read a book on Buffalo Beach
  • Go wine tasting
  • Visit the Wolf Sanctuary in Knysna at night
  • Eat exotic foods at the night market in Plettenberg Bay
  • Go bird watching
  • Have dinner on a boat cruise in Knysna
  • Visit the Puzzle Park and work your way out of a maze in Plettenberg Bay

Comments

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    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Olde - thanks so much!! :)

    • profile image

      Olde Cashmere 6 years ago

      Another place to visit added to my list. Beautiful and fun hub MelChi and the photos are great. Voted up, beautiful, awesome, and interesting :)

    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi cbpoet - that's a great bucket list 'to do'! The sanctuaries are truly pieces of paradise. Thanks for the comment! :)

    • cbpoet profile image

      cbpoet 6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      South Africa is most definitely on my bucket list of places to visit. Thanks especially for pointing out some of the area's sanctuaries.

    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Hi Lady_E, thank you! :)

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks for sharing. The photo's are awesome.

      I enjoyed it.

    • Suelynn profile image

      Suelynn 6 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      MelChi... I wish I could! My first stop would be to visit you. :)

    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Suelynn, thank you so much for your comment - it made my day! I think you should try to make another trip to SA later in the year to visit this special place if you can. :) Wheat free pasta is normally made from corn. It's really good with olive oil and fresh ingredients. Thanks for reading and for your lovely comment! :)

    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      billybuc - thanks for the comment! :) It was an incredible journey, and definitely one that fed my soul. It was the best trip I've ever taken - and one worth going back for again and again. Thanks for reading :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a great experience! Some day, maybe, I'll be able to travel there and see the wonders of that area. Until then I have your hub to feed my imagination. Thanks for the great tour and the pictures are wonderful.

    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      gchisnall - it was incredible, and it was amazing to be able to share it with you on our anniversary! :))

    • MelChi profile image
      Author

      Melanie Chisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Thanks bdegiulio! :) Seeing those elephants and touching them is something magical that you will never forget. I still can't believe we did that! Thanks for reading and for the great comment, I look forward to reading about your time in Italy! :)

    • gchisnall profile image

      gchisnall 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      My experience with elephants for the first time was totally mindblown!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      MelChi, just beautiful. I hope to get to South Africa someday and would love to visit the elephants at the sanctuary. The food looks great, especially the pizza. Thanks for sharing.

    • Suelynn profile image

      Suelynn 6 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      MelChi! This has to be the most beautiful part of South Africa and you have made me HOMESICK!!! Beautiful article and I am DYING to taste that organic food at Zucchini!! Question: What is wheat-free pasta made from? I LONG to go and see the sites you mention and visit the elephants! Oh I LOVE this article and it is a wonderful testament to the beauties of South Africa, yourself included. :)))) Voted up and across the board!!

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