On the must-do list of most South Africa tourist´s, you can find the Garden Route. I have listened to different stories. A few people were saying traveling the Garden Route is an amazing trip, others were saying its all about tourism and has nothing to do with the real South Africa. A friend advised me to go further east to actually experience this beautiful country. As I had two weeks to spend I decided to go on a trip from Cape Town to Durban to find out for myself what is true. I decided to go up the coast by Baz Bus. Baz what? Baz Bus!
Quick Tip: For those looking for a convenient way to travel South Africa, in my opinion, Baz Bus is the best choice. Is is a bus mainly used by Backpackers. The bus stops at a bunch of hostels and enables you to hop on and hop off anytime and anywhere.
Another benefit is that you meet people from all over the world while traveling. The Baz Bus drivers are super friendly, entertaining and welcoming. Additionally, they understand themselves as a sort of tour guide and provide information about history, culture and the landscape of South Africa.
Sedgefield – Garden Route
First stop for most tourists traveling the Garden Route is Mossel Bay. It´s a cute city about four hours east from Cape Town. A definite tourist attraction is the train hotel “Santos Express” It is a train right on Santos Beach that has been turned into a hotel. The beach is perfect for a swim as there is not such a strong current. For those looking for a smaller village and a bit more peace and relaxation I would recommend to go further east and to stop at Wilderness or Sedgefield. These villages offer stunningly beautiful beaches and an outstanding landscape. Swimming is a bit dangerous though due to a strong current and the tides. I stayed over in Sedgefield for one night. My hostel “Afrovibe” is situated on Myoli Beach— 14 km of unspoilt beach. Either you go for a long beach walk, a run, take a surf lesson or book one of the day trips they offer. Besides that, this place is perfect to just relax. Meeting new people is easy in the restaurant “The Pili Pili”, which is next to the hostel and provides delicious food and drinks. In fact, I had one of the best Pizzas in South Africa there!
[Disclaimer: This blog post contains some affiliate links. Purchasing something may earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. This tiny commission will help support my blog hosting and other maintenance costs. All my opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. Thank you!]
The Crags – Garden Route
214 meter of pure adrenaline. The highlight – 15 minutes away from my second Baz Bus stop “The Crags” – is definitely the Bloukrans Bridge. With 214 meters it is the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world. Surrounded by the vibes of African house music I was number one to jump from our group of 15 people. It was an incredible feeling. I spent 2 nights at the hostel “Wildlife Spirit”. The name already says it all, I think. “Wildlife Spirit” is situated in the heart of the Garden Route and the Tsitsikamma National Park. It is surrounded by indigenous forests, pristine beaches, waterfalls and mountains. A must stop for nature lovers. Besides that, the hostel is the perfect spot to start your hiking experience from. My recommendation: don’t miss The Big Hike at Natures Valley – insanely beautiful.
Do you already follow me on Instagram?
Jeffrey’s Bay – Garden Route
The surfer´s paradise – Jeffrey’s Bay. “Jay Bay” was the place where I wanted to catch my first wave. Learning how to ride a surfboard like a professional was my ultimate plan. Eventually, I ended up not taking my lessons in Jay Bay. Why, you ask? Because of my hostel “Island Vibe”, their amazing staff and the new friends that I made in Baz Bus had other plans: Party, Party, Party. The hostel has an amazing vibe, beer pong is on every single day and that means you are hungover most of the time. If I hadn’t have planned my next pick up with Baz Bus, I would have been happily ‘stuck’ there for days. That is what happens to most tourists in Jay Bay. Besides that, whilst you are in Jay Bay don’t miss out on the bargains in one of the Billabong outlet stores- you won’t be sorry.
Port Elizabeth – Eastern Cape
Located about an hour away from Jeffrey’s Bay, you’ll find Port Elizabeth. As one of South Africa’s biggest cities, PE is also the pretty much end of the Garden Route. We arrived in the friendly city at 10 pm and I had to leave with the next bus at 6 am in the morning. That´s why I did not really have time to explore PE. My hostel “Lungile Backpackers” is located in a safe area about 5 minutes away from the beachfront with lots of bars, restaurants, clubs and the main beach. PE is also the gateway to the game reserves of the Eastern Cape. The most famous one is “Addo Elephant Park” but there are many other remarkable reserves in this region. Don´t forget to stop at one of them. They offer some incredible wildlife experience.
What else to do in PE?
- visit Red Location Museum (Apartheid museum in the New Brighton township of PE)
- party at the beachfront, Central and Walmer.
- catch a wave at Humewood (famous surfing spot)
Don´t forget to pin my post:
Chintsa – Eastern Cape
Finally, we left the Western Cape and we were on our way to another side of South Africa. Famous for the Eastern Cape are the colorful round huts. We passed small villages with about 20 huts but also bigger towns. People, cows and chickens walked on the streets. Our driver stopped in the middle of nowhere dropping off 20 loaves of bread for a family he helps with food. About 30 adults, children and animals waited for us to arrive. 3 and a half hours further east from PE we were about to arrive in the ‘real’ South Africa- something I had been waiting for that so long. Chintsa was my first stop in the Eastern Cape and about 40 km away from East London. Welcoming me from the balcony of my Backpacker/ Lodge “Buccaneers” was a breathtaking view of the endless beach and the lagoon. At “Buccaneers” I met Asanda. She worked for this hostel and is Xhosa. From a last minute decision, she joined me on my way to Durban. Later on, she moved to Cape Town and is still one of my best friends.
Would you like to read more about Asanda? Then click here and “Meet Asanda”!
Coffee Bay – Eastern Cape
My second last stop 250 km away from Durban was Coffee Bay. On our way, we were surrounded by incredibly beautiful nature. Whoever thought Chintsa as being in the middle of nowhere was wrong. I think that title can be reserved for Coffee Bay. We had 5 more minutes to go to Coffee Bay – the streets weren´t even tarred anymore. Oh, you thought Coffee Bay is famous for its coffee? Then you are wrong. Coffee Bay got its name from a cargo ship that ran ashore and scattered beans which grew to coffee trees.
Coffee Bay itself is a small village surrounded by the incredible landscape of the Eastern Cape. Here, I did one of my best hiking experiences the “Hole in the Wall” hike. The hike itself is four hours and it offers you the most stunning landscape of the Eastern Cape. Definitely, a must do activity. Furthermore, Coffee Bay is famous for surfing too. In my hostel “The Coffee Shack” they offer the cheapest surf lessons I have found so far. A two-hour lesson including wetsuit and board for just R 50. Another fact I really loved about the hostel is that they give free mussels and oysters to their guests every evening. They also offer cultural experiences like a sleepover in huts or traditional dinners with a Xhosa family. My recommendation: try Xhosa bread – it is delicious.
Durban – Kwa Zulu Natal
From Coffee Bay to Durban it took us another 8 hours by Baz Bus to get there. My hostel “Happy Hippo” is just 5 minutes away from the endless uShaka Beach. If someone would have taken me to that beach without telling me where we are I would have assumed I am in Miami. In fact, the beach promenade with its bars, restaurants, surf shops and skyscrapers in the back reminds of the city in Florida. Actually, Durban is more Indian influenced. Durban! Indian? Exactly, because Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India in South Africa. When you are in Durban you have to try Bunny Chow. This is half a loaf of bread which is either filled with chicken, beef, beans or fish curry. It is delicious.
Here are my recommendations of what else to do in Durban:
- visit Aquarium uShaka Marine World (largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere)
- eat some good seafood at the Durban Harbour
- shop at the Eastern Spice Market
- party in Florida Street
- do some watersport
Johannesburg – Gauteng
This time my trip ended in Durban but I have been to Johannesburg 4 time. Why it is worth it to visit the ´City of Gold´, you can read here. Would you like my recommendation of what to do and see in Johannesburg? Here is my answer for you.
Indeed, the Garden Route is beautiful but it is really touristy. For those who are keen to get to know the real South Africa my advice is to go further or all the way from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Also, the trip I did to Durban is worth it.
Have you been to Eastern and Western Cape? What is your opinion? Let me know in the comments!
Would you like to read and see more about my Africa trips? Here we go!