Samantha’s Luxury Garden Route Self Drive

Cape Town, Garden Route and a Big 5 Safari


Starting and finishing in Cape Town, Samantha’s Luxury Garden Route Self Drive Expedition is a 22-day self-drive tour that includes the Cape Winelands, Hermanus, Plettenberg Bay and ends with a Garden Route Safari. The driving part ends in Port Elizabeth from where you fly back to Cape Town and connect to your homeward-bound flight.

Here’s what Samantha has to say about her favourite Garden Route tour:

This itinerary feels like home to me: I was born in Port Elizabeth, worked for six years in luxury lodges on the Garden Route and now I live in Cape Town. It’s safe to say I know the Garden Route like the back of my hand and I’m going to let you in on my favourite tour.

The hotels and lodges I have chosen are all places I know personally and have stayed at many times in my career. I worked at Tsala Treetop Lodge and Shamwari Bayethe Lodge for a total of six years combined and they are each to this day very dear to me and will always be among my top recommendations in their respective areas.

The journey starts in our beautiful city of Cape Town and follows the coastline stopping along the way at a handful of my favourite hotels in South Africa, each offering that extra special “X-Factor”, whether it be their prime locations, excellent management or great food and wine and all give you the option to either do as little or as much as you want to from the array of activities along the Garden Route.

This trip to me is the superb combination of bush, beach, city, forests, sun, sand, culture and colour.  And the routing is undoubtedly the safest in Southern Africa making it a great holiday enjoyed with the rental of a hired car, which you will self drive and use at your leisure to amply explore this amazing part of our country that I call HOME!

Day 1 - 5: The Cape Grace, Cape Town

Arrive at Cape Town International, collect your hired car and take a short drive to the Cape Grace Hotel in the beautiful V&A Waterfront.

Centrally situated on a private marina in the harbour, the Cape Grace has all the hallmarks of a classic five star hotel: luxury rooms, friendly service, effortless sophistication and the overriding sense that everything in this world is right.

Stay four nights at the Cape Grace exploring Africa’s most beautiful city. Attractions in Cape Town are many and varied. Starting at the Waterfront itself you have plenty to see and do and from there you can explore the city, the beaches, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Boulders Beach, Constantia Winelands, Robben Island and Kirstenbosch.

Meals: breakfast

Day 5 - 7: La Residence, Franschhoek

If the Cape Grace is one of South Africa’s finest large hotels, La Residence is easily one of South Africa’ finest boutique hotels. More a private villa than a hotel, La Residence is a palatial five star guesthouse in the beautiful Franschhoek valley surrounded by the patchwork patterns of vineyards framed by enormous mountain ranges in every direction.

With hundreds of wine farms to discover, award-winning restaurants on every corner and wonderful scenery, Franschhoek and the Cape Winelands is South Africa’s equivalent of Provence in southern France.

Meals: breakfast and local drinks

Day 7 - 9: Birkenhead House, Hermanus

A short drive from Franschhoek to the Whale Route town of Hermanus takes you to another Royal Portfolio luxury hotel: Birkenhead House. Featuring the same eclectic and grand decor and the same five star service and luxury, Birkenhead is on a rocky promontory overlooking Walker Bay where the whales come so close the shore you can almost touch them.

The whale-watching season runs from June to November, which happily coincides with the best game viewing in South Africa. While the coastline along the Garden Route supports 37 species of whale and dolphin, the Whale Route is most known for its close encounters from land or boat of southern right and humpback whales and Haviside’s, common, dusky and bottlenose dolphins.

Meals: full board including local drinks

Day 9 - 11: Views Boutique Hotel, Wilderness

Drive about four hours to the seaside village of Wilderness, about 15 minutes past George. Your destination is the delightful Views Boutique Hotel situated, like your accommodation the night before, on a cliff’s edge above the sea.

Where Birkenhead House is all about the whales and lavish living, Views Boutique Hotel is all about relaxing, walking along the beach and exploring the Garden Route along the coast and inland towards to Oudtshoorn.

Meals: breakfast

Day 11 - 15: Tsala Treetop Lodge, Plettenberg Bay

A shorter drive today - about an hour - takes you to Plettenberg Bay with a slight inland deviation into the forests of a private reserve where the luxury suites are built at canopy level. Tsala Treetop Lodge successfully combines luxury, privacy and an exciting treetop experience.

Well spaced and connected by elevated boardwalks, the suites comprise a lounge, en suite bathroom, large bedroom and a private deck with a bracing plunge pool built-in. So sublime is the luxury you can easily forget you are several metres in the air. But the surrounding trees and views of the forest-covered hills are a gentle reminder of your elevated status.

Plettenberg Bay has wonderful beaches and the surrounding area has plenty to do including some first rate golf courses, nature reserves, hiking trails, river excursions, animal rehabilitation programmes and a many excellent restaurants and cafes.

Meals: breakfast

Day 15 - 16: No. 5 Boutique Art Hotel, Port Elizabeth

Heading east along the coast, drive about two and a half hours to Port Elizabeth for an overnight stop at the lavish Shamwari Townhouse a short walk from Summerstrand Beach. This stop keeps the pace gentle so you don’t have to rise early at Tsala to reach the game reserve by lunchtime and you can even spend the morning in Plett for one extra activity.

Shamwari Townhouse is a modern and sophisticated hotel in a tranquil location with an excellent restaurant and some pretty natty amenities including a plush lounge that opens onto the pool terrace; a private cinema; a spa and a gym.

Meals: breakfast

Day 16 - 19: Shamwari Bayethe Lodge, Garden Route Safaris

Another slow and relaxing start to the day - thanks to that stopover - will see you taking a leisurely breakfast and setting for Shamwari Private Game Reserve about an hour and half inland from Port Elizabeth and the scene of some serious Big 5 game viewing and even more serious luxury safari lodges.

Shamwari Bayethe is one of a handful of luxurious accommodation options in this spectacular private game reserve in the Eastern Cape. The added bonus here is that you have a complete safari experience every bit as amazing as you will find elsewhere on the continent but without the malaria risk. In fact, this whole tour is malaria-free so it’s a wonderful option for families (note: families with children under 12 will stay in Riverdene Lodge or Sarili Lodge instead).

Enjoy four days of game viewing in the early morning and late afternoon into the night; you can also take guided bush walks and some unique activities including historical tours, birdwatching and stargazing.

Meals: full board including local drinks

Day 19 - 22: Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve, Port Alfred

After your morning safari and breakfast it’s time to hit the road for your final destination and it’s back to the seaside we go after a two-hour drive through the gentle Eastern Cape hills.

Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve is a charming owner-run hotel in a safari lodge style with wonderful sea views and seven kilometres of private beach on your doorstep. Rooms are large and luxurious, the service is personal and attentive and the relaxing mood all pervasive.

Beach walks, birdwatching and game drives are all in a day’s work at Oceana and make a rather tidy wrap to your luxury Garden Route expedition.

Meals: full board including local drinks

Day 22: Departure

Drive to Port Elizabeth Airport along the coast for about two hours. Drop off your car at the airport and board your flight to Cape Town and onward travel plans either home or for more holiday fun.

Tailormade Itinerary

As with all the tours on our website, this is just an example of what you can do. We create our tours from scratch every time, matching the destinations and accommodation not only to your budget but also to your individual tastes and needs. Contact us now to begin planning your dream safari holiday.

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