Continuing on from the previous post in the Garden Route itinerary, the next step in the trip is heading towards Plettenberg Bay.
Day 2: Addo Elephant Park to Plettenberg Bay
After a restful night at the Aardvark Guesthouse in the Addo Elephant Park, we depart early (8am) for the drive to Plettenberg Bay where we will be staying for three nights. I don’t know much about the drive between these places except Jeffrey’s Bay is along the way. Nevertheless, the drive is only 3 hours so we could technically be there before noon if we wanted to but that defeats the whole purpose of doing a trip along the Garden Route!
As I check out of our accommodations, I talk to our incredibly helpful and nice host where he tells me I should stop in the Tsitsikama region right before Plett and check out Storms River, Birds of Eden (birds park), Natures Valley (Beach), and some Canopy tours. Gaining knowledge like this would be the theme for the rest of the trip as we would plan much of our day around getting advice from the receptionists at our hotels, the waiters at restaurants, and our guides on various tours.
After speeding for 1.5 hours, we arrived at Jeffrey’s Bay. I didn’t know much about this city besides that it was a popular destination for surfers. I can see why as the beaches here are pristine and the waves are solid. Swells regularly reach 2m here and break close to the beach making it a great casual surf spot.
We had no idea what we actually wanted to do in this town upon arrival so we went to the local mall to stock up on water, sunscreen (after getting burnt the previous day), and snacks before pulling up TripAdvisor and seeing that paradise beach was #1 on Jeffrey’s Bay things to do. Why not? Another nice beach with rave reviews? Can’t go wrong here.
In addition, the main beach at Jeffrey’s Bay is completely packed during the holiday season further acknowledging the fact that all of South Africa migrates to the coast during this time. We didn’t even bother going to the main beach because after seeing Paradise Beach, why would you need to?
Paradise Beach It was too early for lunch (10:30am) so we decided let’s go hang out on a beach for awhile. This place was very hard to find as it is located in a residential area and under some hills so you can’t see it from the main roads. Nevertheless, after asking people walking out of their homes, we finally located it and wow this is an amazing beach! Just like Sardinia Bay in PE, the sand is so soft, the beach stretches for miles, and the water a turquoise blue.
The beach is surrounded by large mansion type homes and you could tell most of the people on the beach were locals, not to mention there were hardly any people on this beach! We didn’t really have enough time to just relax on the beach and this isn’t that type of vacation for us so after walking around for an hour or so, we decided to have lunch.
Kitchen Windows Restaurant
Back to our trusty TripAdvisor, Kitchen Windows was rated the #1 restaurant in town. Paradise beach is all residential so we had to go back into town to get some chow. This place did not disappoint. Lunch did not require any reservations but dinner at any of these top institutions along the Garden Route during this time of year will require reservations long in advance, and this is confirmed after the waitress told us the place was booked full for the next week for dinner.
Erica got the grilled linefish, and I got a calamari burger that was surprisingly very tasty. The linefish was phenomenal and it just looked so simple but so mouthwatering delicious!
Tsitsikama National Park
Tsitsikama is a protected coastal reserve on the Garden Route well known for its lush forests, incredible coastline, and the Otter trail. It’s also known for the Storms River mouth, Bloukrans Bungy jump, animal parks and many other things. I had no idea about this place until I spoke to a few people along the way, and I actually came here a few months ago to jump off a bridge but didn’t know of the name. I wish we had more time as I would have liked to stay in this area. Hiking lovers rejoice, as there are endless trails here.
Tsitsikama Canopy Tour
After leaving Jeffrey’s Bay, the drive into the Tsitsikama region is just a half hour and we had a few hours to kill before sunset and ultimately reaching Plettenberg Bay. We heard about this canopy tour and I felt it would have been a good activity to mix it up with all the beaches and driving we had been doing. Also, Erica would be jumping Bloukrans the next day this would be the perfect adrenaline warm up. At 500r a person, this canopy tour had 8 ziplines in total with the longest being 211 meters! Depending on how many people are in the group, it takes 30-90 min.
When we went, it was just the two of us but as soon as we left, a group of 30+ rolled through. Ziplining is fun I must say but after bungy jumping off Bloukrans, it just doesn’t get my heart rate up as much as I’d like it to. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to take in some of the scenery of the area especially given our time schedule.
Birds of Eden
After our zipline tour, it was only 3:30 and we weren’t ready to settle down for the night yet, so we decided to go check out the Birds of Eden park that was recommended to us by the owners of our accommodations at the Addo Elephant Park. This place is actually the world’s largest free-flight bird sanctuary with some 300 species of birds, including the blue crane, South Africa’s national bird only found in SA. Check that off the list!
For 160R, you get to walk around this park on your own. No tour guide is necessary as there’s a path laid out and it’s pretty simple where you are to walk to. You can spend as long as you want here however. Birds can get very close to you so if you have a fear of birds, this place is certainly not for you. Be sure to find the blue crane as it is a HUGE bird and you can walk up right next to it.
Day 2-5: Plettenberg Bay
At long last, we reach Plettenberg Bay after a full day’s of activity and check into our hotel around 6pm. Plettenberg, also known as Plett, is one of the main towns along the Garden Route, home to about 30k people. During the holiday season though, I wouldn’t be surprised if this place sees a 50% spike in its population as it is such a popular place for tourists and even more so, South Africans. Living in Joburg, I hear little Afrikaans spoken in public but everyone here speaks it.
Where we stayed
As this place is a tourist hotspot, there’s an abundance of hotels, bread and breakfasts, hostels, and houses for rent. The December holiday season will see prices almost double and vacancy dwindle so you MUST book early to stay here. For about 2100R a night, we booked a room at the Milkwood Manor in town, and RIGHT on the beach. When April hits, this place is 1300R a night.
This place was awesome, had a top rated restaurant in the hotel, and was walking distance to another restaurant that was on the beach. A full breakfast was served daily and everyone was so helpful here. The views were of the lagoon and as soon as you walked out, there was the beautiful beach of Plettenberg.
What we ate
Just like everywhere else we went along the Garden Route, there is no shortage of delicious food in Plett. Every night, we had amazing seafood or steak and it just never gets old. Be sure to make reservations at all the top restaurants, especially if you’re staying around Christmas time as there are a lot of people vacationing here and all want to eat out as well. There are so many amazing looking restaurants on TripAdvisor but we only had so much time.
A seafood restaurant with a supposed Asian fusion twist, this restaurant was located in our hotel and I made a booking months ago for the night of Dec 23rd. The restaurant is situated right on the beach and we came down here just as the sun set which was breathtaking. Once the sun goes down, this place got very packed but not to the degree that would warrant making a reservation.
There were plenty of empty tables as most restaurants in South Africa have a large space and even though they were “fully booked”, I wonder if they would actually turn down someone that walked in without a booking. This would be the case at many restaurants on our trip which always left us baffled. I got the Cape Malay Lamb curry which was fantastic. Erica got the grilled linefish which one can never go wrong with and all in all it was a good meal. We had wine at pretty much every dinner as it is so cheap in SA (30-40r a glass), and they actually give real pours unlike the three sips they give in NYC. Dinner would usually come out to 500-600R for the two of us after starters, mains, and wine.
Located on the main strip of shops and restaurants within Plett. By main strip, I mean maybe 1km or so. This place looked really cool inside and there was plenty of outdoor seating. We came here for lunch after we went swimming with seals and each got a pizza. South Africa is not really known for its pizza but being the experienced New Yorker I am, I actually thought these pizzas were pretty damn good. Throw in some wine, a sunny day, and cheap prices, you can’t go wrong with having lunch here.
The Fat Fish
Another highly recommended and rated restaurant, this place is located near the main beach with all the tourist attractions offices like swimming with seals, diving, dolphin/whale watching tours etc. This place was “full” on Christmas Eve dinner but we went during lunch to ask them about dinner and they told us just come a little later and the outdoor seating is first come first serve. People tend to eat earlier here and we are used to eating later so it works out perfectly. By 8pm, there was plenty of seating outdoors and we sat down immediately. We ordered an array of seafood tapas and more seafood, this place is called the Fat Fish after all, and plenty of wine and drinks.
The Lookout Deck
Christmas Day lunch is a big thing in Plett and I made the amateur move of not booking anything for this lunch and everything was already full. We decided to forego Christmas lunch by hanging out at the beach, and instead go for dinner at probably the only place that is open for Christmas Dinner in Plett. We called ahead and they said they do not take bookings, first come first serve, and the kitchen closes at 9pm. We arrived around 7, waited about 20 minutes as we wanted an outdoor table to take in the views, as this place is literally right on the beach. This place was a circus as it seems like the whole town came for dinner.
The food is amazing here and we made it three nights of seafood in a row, which nobody should have a problem with. We decided to treat ourselves to massive amounts of seafood as it was Christmas dinner and ended up getting prawns, tuna, mussels, and calamari. The food here is amazing and I wouldn’t have minded just eating this for every meal we had while in Plett.
Other restaurants that are highly recommended – Emily Moon – Nguni – The Med – Zinzi
What to do in Plettenberg Bay
There are plenty of activities for everyone here. We tried to fit in as much as we could with the limited time that we had.
Swimming with Seals
I was originally searching for Whale viewing tours but learned that December was off season and instead, they had dolphin tours. Having already seen a bunch of them in Zanzibar, this didn’t interest me and I somehow stumbled across this swimming with seals excursion. I love doing strange but adventurous things, and this fit the bill. I can’t say swimming with seals was ever on my list of things to do but it’s offered here so why not? For 500r a person, you can go swimming with seals for about 1 hour, with the whole excursion taking about 2 hours.
There is a large seal colony of a few thousand living close by near the Robberg Park (which we would hike later that day), so that is where we would go. I was very scared of sharks coming here but the seals are near shallow water and that’s where we would primarily swim so sharks would not come this far inland.
The water is very cold however, at around 13-18 degrees but they provide wetsuits so it’s fine. It was very random swimming with these guys but an awesome experience. The seals get very close to you and the young ones especially are very curious. They bit at my fins numerous times and would mimic me if I did a frontflip in the water. For some reason, I thought seals were small, cuddly little creatures but we saw a few bull seals and these guys can get up to 300kg! All in all, worth the money and a great experience!
Hiking Robberg Park
The Robberg, Afrikaans for Seal Mountain, is home to one of the most popular and most scenic hiking trail in the country. Stretching about 10km into the ocean. I’m not sure how to describe this place other than a mountain island extending out into the ocean but it makes for a damn good hiking trail. We decided to do this in the afternoon after swimming with seals. There is an entrance fee of 40r a person as well .
There is a choice of three circular routes of increasing distance and difficulty.
1. Walk to The Gap and back to the car park, round about 2km.
2. Walk to The Witsand sand dune and down to The Island and back round about 4km.
3. The round trip via The Point is 11km and takes four hours or more.
We wanted to do the whole thing since we’d probably only be here once but the weather was taking a turn for the worse and it looked like it would be storming. There aren’t many trees to take cover on this hike so if it did storm, we would be drenched. We ended up just walking the short route, to the beach which has water crashing into its shores from both sides. It was a very easy but fun hike and we wish we could have done more.
Video of the Robberg:
Bloukrans Bungy Jump – Round 2
Once again, I’ve returned to this hellhole on Earth (actually it’s a very beautiful place) where I threw myself 220m off a bridge just a few months back. This time, I convinced my girlfriend to jump off the bridge and I even bought her tickets as a birthday present.
Again, this is the highest bungy bridge in the world at 216m (710ft) and is a must do along the garden route! The bridge can’t be missed because you must drive over it to get to Plettenberg Bay. For 790R, it is a small price to pay for one of the best bungy jumps in the world. I would have loved to jump again but I didn’t want to pay the price.
Erica was terrified all leading up to the jump and kept trying to talk her way out of doing it. The secret is to just have a few drinks before hand and don’t think about it. I made Erica take a few shots beforehand and she jumped off the thing without even thinking about it making me look like a complete woman with what I did when I jumped. During this time of year however, the place gets packed and it’s necessary to call ahead of time to make a booking. While I went to the bridge with four other people to jump, she went in a group of 30 and everyone was encouraging each other to jump, something I did not have.
Erica’s Jump Video
Natures Valley – A beautiful secluded beach
Yet again, another beautiful beach outside the main city. This seemed to be a recurring theme in that there was always a much prettier and more isolated beach right next to the main town. Sardinia Bay in PE, Paradise Beach in Jeffrey’s Bay, and Natures Valley next to Plettenberg. This place was beautiful. Mountains with lush forests dotted the horizon and waves crashed into miles of white sand beach.
We came here right before bungy jumping before the inevitable. There were hardly any people here. I decided to take a dip in the water here and it is very cold. On a hot day however, it is very refreshing. This is also likely the last area you can “comfortably” swim in as we continued our drive towards Cape Town.
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