November 27, 2013

Mossel Bay and the Garden Route

We live in one of the world’s most beautiful countries with so much to offer right on our doorstep here in South Africa. Doriane from Sure Travel Scene in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, shares her story of the family holiday she took to the Garden Route last Christmas…

We’re fortunate here in South Africa to have fairly good national roads to get us anywhere we want quite easily, but the thought of toll gates can put people off at times. Last year I headed down to Mossel Bay for the Christmas holidays with my family from Johannesburg. Yes it is a long journey but there are only 3 toll gates during the entire journey from start to finish and the scenery en-route is worth every minute spent on the road!

The Garden Route had always been a place everyone spoke about but the distance always put me off. But after taking a chance and giving up on the usual KZN North Coast holiday, the Garden Route will be seeing plenty more of me now!

I chose Colesberg as our first stop and what a beautiful little town it is. After an estimated 7 hours’ drive, we stopped to spend the night at a lovely guesthouse called Honeylocust Guesthouse. This 4* establishment has excellent accommodation being a new property and the poolside drinks were just what the doctor ordered after a long hot journey – not to mention the large bath tubs which are fantastic for a long bubbly soak!  The food is very well prepared and of impressive standard for a guesthouse literally in the middle of nowhere. They take your dinner orders when you arrive and prepare whatever you like.

Honeylocust Guesthouse in Colesberg

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast we hit the road for the last stretch to our destination. The 6 hour journey was through the arid Karoo with a few hundred km’s of just desert-like terrain and extreme heat! We passed the beautiful landmark in Graaff-Reinet - the Dutch Reformed Church which was designed along similar lines to some of the cathedrals seen in England & Europe.

Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet

The views along the Outeniqua Pass winding its way down towards George were simply breath-taking. Once you’re in George you’re only 55km away from Mossel Bay. In Mossel Bay we stayed in beautiful sea-facing self-catering apartments smack in the middle between Dias & Santos Beach – a place called Nautica. All the apartments are new, decorated in the same contemporary style and fully equipped with everything you need for the ‘home away from home’ experience with a magnificent view of the ocean.

Interior of the Nautica apartments

Santos Beach is for the families wanting a quieter day on the beach and Dias Beach has all the fun & excitement for the younger crowds with music & waterslides so there’s something for everyone beach-wise in Mossel Bay.

Santos Beach from the lighthouse

Some days the ocean was so calm and clear that you could forget you’re in South Africa. We were used to being twisted & turned by the waves on the Kwazulu Natal Coast and here the kids had the freedom to jump in and out the water with ease and us parents could sit back and relax without worrying about strong waves washing the kids away. Truly a relaxing holiday on the beach and one I had never experienced before in South Africa. The ocean water was warm too – most people think that Mossel Bay has the same icy waters as Cape Town, but it doesn’t – the temperature is very pleasant.

Over a period of two weeks, these are all the things we did - all within a maximum drive of 1 ½ hour’s away from Mossel Bay:

•  Visited the Dias Museum - just 2 minutes into the middle of town - which has the famous old Post Office Tree and the Shell Museum. The kids loved seeing the thousands of different shells on display.

Dias Museum

•  Visited the Aloe Farms in Albertinia (56km). We did a tour to see how they use the Aloe Ferox plants in natural products and there’s a great store to buy Aloe products to take home.
•  We drove through the mountains to Oudtshoorn (84km) to the Safari Ostrich Show Farm where we went on a tour of the farm & learned more about these amazing creatures. Driving 29km further into the Swartberg Mountains left the best for last… The Cango Caves are truly a sight for sore eyes – simply amazing!

The Cango Caves
•  In Mossel Bay there are regular boat trips to Seal Island which is visible from the apartments & very close to shore – great for an afternoon cruise and to view Mossel Bay from the ocean. There are sunset cruises too.

•  Drove to George to the Redberry Farm  - Each of us took baskets into the fields to pick our own strawberries. The farm has a coffee shop, playground & mini train rides for the kids – was fun for the adults too!

Picking strawberries at the Redberry Farm

•  While in George we spoiled ourselves with coffee & sweat treats at the Hyatt Regency Oubaai Golf Resort & Spa.
•  Drove to Knysna (106km) for lunch at the Knysna Waterfront with plenty of restaurant options, took a cruise on the lagoon and lastly before heading back home – drove up to the top of the mountain to see Knysna from above at the Knysna Heads – beautiful view up there. For those adventurous types there are some interesting walking trails there too.

•  Scenic drive through Sedgefield and Wilderness ending off at Plettenberg Bay for a day on the beach.
•  For nature lovers visit Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and the Elephant Sanctuary.

I really recommend this route to all who would like to explore more of South Africa but are not sure where to go. Everyone who has been to Mossel Bay and the Garden Route will agree that it’s truly an amazing place!

Doriane is a travel consultant at Sure Travel Scene in Kempton Park. A mother of three boys, she has been in travel for over a decade in various fields of the industry. Her favourite beach destinations are Zanzibar, Mombasa, Mauritius and the Seychelles and she also loves exploring South Africa as a “tourist” with her family. She loves the outdoors with all things nature and being part of the travel family.

Sure Travel Scene in Kempton Park can be contacted on 011 391 8571 or at
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