It is quite possible that Rose Bilbrough knows the Garden Route and all its wonders better than anyone else. Go to any place between Mossel Bay and the Bloukrans River, and you are likely to see her paragliding, hiking, enjoying the markets, seeking out the best coffee shops, chatting to locals, telling visitors about some hidden corner or long-lost history, or just taking incredible photographs to post on her blog Travelbug Rose (don’t believe us, check out her Instagram).

She is a true explorer. After spending some time with Rose on a beach in Wilderness, hiking a forest in Knysna, and drinking coffee at the Ile de Pain on Thesen Island, we asked her to list a dozen of the lesser-known places worth visiting along the Garden Route. And if Rose says to go there, do yourself a favour and go! And prepare yourself by reading her blog.

goukamma marine protected area garden route south africa

1. Goukamma Marine Protected Area – Knysna

The Goukamma Nature Reserve lies between Sedgefield and Buffalo Bay and has so much to offer the traveller who loves the outdoors. Although they have accommodation, it is a lovely place to spend a day hiking or exploring the coastal dunes and beach or laze floating on the Goukamma River that spills into the Indian Ocean. The estuary is perfect for the water lover that enjoys wading in the shallows or paddling upstream in a canoe or on a stand-up paddleboard.

wild oats market sedgefield south africa

2. Wild Oats Market – Sedgefield

The Garden Route is known as the food basket of South Africa, and as locals we have access to some of the most wonderful freshly plucked produce that is sold at a variety of farmers markets. One specific one that stands out for me is the Wild Oats Community Farmers Market, as it has such good food ethics and it’s all local. (Read more of Travelbug Rose on her great blog.)

goudveld forest knysna garden route south africa

3. Goudveld Forest – Rheenendal

This must be my favourite escape from the world. South African National Parks is the custodian of most of our natural forest in the Garden Route, and we have 55,000 hectares of it. The Goudveld holds a special place in my heart, as it is so rich in history, bubbling creeks, waterfalls and ancient trees, and all this is sprinkled with a bit of mystery of elephants, miners and wood loggers long forgotten.

zipline knysna harkerville garden route south africa

4. Zip line Knysna – Kranshoek Harkerville

What is life without a bit of adventure? Zip your way over the massive fractures of rock filled with coastal fynbos and views that will take your breath away in an instant. This is a must if you love a bit of adrenalin that won’t frighten you to death. Plus, the outing to Kranshoek is superb and the views are some of the best in the Garden Route.

freansmans hoek mossel bay garden route south africa

5. Fransman’s Hoek – Mossel Bay

This rocky point on the outskirts of Mossel Bay has a certain kind of charm that keeps drawing me back time and time again. Maybe it is the interesting rock formations with its crashing waves or the tiny little hidden beaches that keep bringing me back. Or is it perhaps the noiseless hours I spend here looking over the ocean while spotting the multitude of marine life passing by? Either way, this is where I enjoy the ocean the most.

kaaimans waterfall garden route south africa

6. Kaaimans Waterfall paddle – Wilderness

Isn’t it always exciting to be drawn to a place that only a few ventured to and not many have seen? The Kaaimans Waterfall is such a place for me, and from the moment I put my hired canoe into the water up until where I can feel the spray on my face of this gorgeous waterfall is a thrill for me. From passing through the cleft cliffs and dodging the rocks in the shallows to the moment where you stare in awe at a magnificent body of water tumbling over ancient rock formations.

travelbug rose bilbrough south africa garden route

7. Sky Organics – Rooiberg Pass

Near the quaint little town of Van Wyksdorp, which is buried in the mountain folds of the Klein Karoo, lies Blue Sky Organics. This arid piece of land has an interesting past and is filled with olive trees that provides Liz with her huge range of olive products. She has a hidden cottage that hosts up to 5 people comfortably and is a real diversion from the crazy world. The Rooiberg surrounds feed the soul of any back-road traveller who wishes to find the solitude feeling of the Karoo.

ox wagon trail langkoof wilderness garden route south africa

8. Ox Wagon Trail. Langkloof or Wilderness

A trail that links up the Klein Karoo with the coastal region of Garden Route and winds its way from Bergplaas near the Wilderness to the beautiful farm of Louvain in the Langkloof. It appeals to the adventurer. It’s rugged and tough, so choose your means of transport carefully, whether it’s a 4×4, a motorbike, an MTB or a horse, they are all exciting!! The views alone are unique and insanely picturesque. It is a journey the makes my heart leap from my chest and fills every corner of my mind with its vast splendour.

black burn nature reserve garden route south africa

9. Brackenburn Nature Reserve – Plettenberg Bay

Not far from the town of Plettenberg Bay is a place called the Crags. It’s here that I meet up with Mark Jones every now and then to explore the forest near the coast. Completely unique, Brackenburn has been left alone for many years and has flourished on its own. With newly cut paths Mark guides you through this lush green valley next to a stream with its abundance of small creatures, plant life, insects and magnificent trees. Be ready to open your mind to the biomimicry of nature.

garden route fishermans walk south africa

10. Fisherman’s Walk – Brenton on Sea Knysna

The best way to enjoy our beautifully shaped fossilised dunes is to walk next to them, it’s like finding hidden treasure and mystical caves. One such a place is the Fisherman’s Walk in Brenton on Sea. The hike down should be done at very low tide to experience it. It’s a climb, so be prepared!! I normally take along a slack pack armed with water and snacks, for there is no reason not to stop and just take in this coastal beauty shaped by wind, water and time.

hoekwil country cafe wilderness garden route south africa

11. Hoekwil Country Café – Wilderness

I have to mention this quaint little spot on the Garden Route. The famous “Koek Oppie Hoek” café serves up some of the best cakes in the region. It’s all country in this little hamlet, and the coffee is served with love. A real treat for kids too. Go there hungry, for this is a real delight.

garden route trail park mtb knysna garden route south africa

12. Garden Route Trail Park – Barrington Knysna

If you wish to grind some gears in the indigenous forest on single tracks, take that mountain bike with you because this is the real deal for the avid mountain biker!! Situated on the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, the trail park offers a variety of routes that is suited for everyone in the family. A great day out; and after you are done and dusted the café serves up some delicious eats and the inviting plunge pool is an ideal way to cool down after the ride.