Whether you’re a road trip enthusiast or not, a drive along South Africa’s most iconic route should feature high on your bucket list simply for the plethora of opportunities on offer. With endless detour options, the route can be explored to cater to the appetites of culinary aficionados, those who appreciate fine wine and local spirits, adventure enthusiasts, beach lovers, and mountain people alike.
With food that’s so good, it’s true- a large number of people will plan their entire journey around visits to clifftop restaurants or tiny, hole-in-the-wall waffle and coffee stops. So whether you were looking for it or not, here’s a roundup of our favorite stops along the Garden Route that demand a definitive place on your breezy and beautiful drive.
Before we dive in, here’s the traditional route at a glance to familiarize yourself with.
- Mossel Bay
- Plettenberg Bay
- Storms River
While the above is the typical route, if you’re starting from Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, there’s more to be covered and your itinerary can span anywhere between 5 to 14 days!
For now, we’ll stick to restaurant recommendations along the traditional route. Here’s a list of our favorites.
Mossel Bay: Hugging the coast, this harbor town boasts the bounty of the ocean complete with wild oysters, (quite possibly) the best fish and chips, and steaks. Mains aside, delectable dessert tarts and pudding is paired with the finest coffee from master roasters.
Cafe Gannet | Cuisine: Seafood
What we love: Stylish decor, great seafood, and even better gin paired with incomparable, sweeping views of the coast.
Cafe Axara | Cuisine: Cafe
What we love: Set cozily in a beautiful 116-year-old building, their strawberry milkshake cream puffs and pink hot chocolate are a must-try.
Carola Ann’s | Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Cafe, Mediterranean, Healthy
What we love: Historic farm setting with an imaginative menu featuring lovely, fresh, produce. Must try their Baklava ice cream.
George: Sitting in the shadow of the famous Outeniqua mountains, surrounded by lush valleys, forests, and lakes, George is so much more than just a transport hub on the Garden Route. Within the historic town, the local markets boast delicious cream teas and immersive culinary activities spanning strawberry picking, craft brewery tours, cheese farm visits, and more- you’re sure to enjoy great country hospitality.
Bayleaf Cafe | Cuisine: Cafe, European
What we love: A hidden gem in George with a humble yet cozy warm, wooden cafe-style set-up. What’s not to love about a lovely big breakfast spread in the cool shade of the garden followed by an indulgent lemon cheesecake?
101 Meade | Cuisine: Steakhouse, African, Seafood
What we love: Excellent cocktails with a flamboyant chef serving up the most exquisite lamb chops. Beautiful decor and vibe for George.
Kafe Serefe | Cuisine: Turkish, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
What we love: A no-frills setup, serving a mean Camembert Parcel starter, with a balsamic glaze and rocket salad.
Knysna: A melting pot of cultures- Knysna is a culinary hotspot that attracts people from all over. Famous for its 10-day long Winter Oyster Festival, impeccable seafood is paired with sparkly Chardonnay and savored while overlooking the glistening waters of Knysna’s lagoon.
East Head Cafe | Cuisine: Healthy, Vegetarian, Seafood
What we love: Fuss-free, with stunning views of the blue lagoon, sandstone cliffs, the Milkwood Forest. Inimitable calamari and chips!
The Drydock Food Co | Cuisine: Sushi, Healthy
What we love: Set on the water’s edge, the staff ensures you’ve got a great wine pairing to go with incredible food. You must try the sirloin steak and fresh catch of the day.
Ile de Pain | Cuisine: Cafe
What we love: Hands down, the decadent chocolate mousse and a cappuccino.
Wilderness National Park: A world of rivers, lagoons, beaches, forests and mountains, spoil yourself silly in the great outdoors. When you’re done for the day, pamper yourself to little restaurants that dot the small town for a mellow experience.
Serendipity | Cuisine: African
What we love: Thoughtful decor with ostrich egg tea lights and cozy nooks shows the level of passion for this project. Featuring a seasonal menu, Serendipity always is a pleasant surprise.
Joplins Steak Bar | Cuisine: Steakhouse
What we love: Simply put- Great steaks, cooked to perfection!
The Girl’s on the Square | Cuisine: African, Fusion
What we love: A lovely garden setting, surrounded by local artwork that showcases the soul of the region. Great wine, flavorsome curries, and outstanding African food.
Plettenberg Bay: With sandy coves, sheer cliffs, and boasting the coast’s best beaches, the waters of Plett are home to migrating whales and dolphins. Sporting a careful selection of culinary experiences, you’re left with superlative wine estates, great seafood, and candlelit fusion dinners overlooking shimmery waters.
Emily Moon | Cuisine: Fusion
What we love: Butter chicken samosas to Bali bowls- Emily’s carefully thought out menu is extraordinary and needs to be experienced to be understood.
Bramon Restaurant and Wine Estate | Cuisine: Mediterranean
What we love: The stunning vineyard set-up overlooking the Tsitsikamma Mountains. Grilled prawns, asparagus ravioli and the most outstanding ice creams.
Enrico’s | Cuisine: Italian, Seafood, European
What we love: Incomparable sunset views with dolphin spotting, paired with the finest pizzas and fresh catch.
Storms River: Across dizzying bridges, deep canyons, and pristine forests, a drive to Storms River brings you to the Eastern Cape to a tiny town that is also the gateway to ‘the garden’ of the Garden Route- Tsitsikamma.
Fynboshoek Cheese Restaurant | Cuisine: Deli, Light meals
What we love: An experience we’d really travel for, the wine and cheese along with every item off the lunch menu is worth coming back for!
De Oude Martha | Cuisine: Organic, African
What we love: Simple, yet elegant little restaurant with views of the Tsitsikamma forest.
Tsitsikamma Cattle Baron | Cuisine: Steakhouse, Seafood, Grill
What we love: Lovely viewpoint accompanied by comfort food of burgers and chips.
We hope this list gets you thinking of a dreamy South African self-drive holiday, even if for just a tiny part of this fabled route. If you’ve already done the Garden Route, tell us what made for your key moment across the drive!