The ultimate guide to your next New Zealand South Island road trip!


I love New Zealand. Full stop. And I don’t know why it took me so long until I finally travelled this awesome country! I only spend two and a half weeks road tripping though New Zealand’s south island, but experienced so much, seen so much, and have done so much, I still can’t believe it.

It won’t be an easy task to write down my best tips and recommendations for your next New Zealand south island road trip without repeating the words awesome, great, incredible, stunning, fantastic and impressive too much, but I’ll give it a try. Here are my best tips and recommendations for your next road trip to New Zealand’s south island!

Update: We have finally published our guidebook with many coupon codes to save hundreds of dollars on experiences and camper vans in New Zealand – get it now for a special price!

 

Off the Path’s ultimate guide to your next New Zealand south island road trip!

Where to start: Christchurch

A good idea is to start in Christchurch as this is where most international airlines fly to. Christchurch is pretty centrally located on the eastern side of the south island and you can easily start your road trip from here. Bear I mind that Christchurch was hit by a severe earth quake a few years ago which destroyed most of the inner city’s buildings.

You can still see and feel the impact of that massive earthquake as a lot of buildings are lying in ruins such as Christchurch’s famous cathedral or there are simply huge gaps. To be honest, I was really shocked by this as I didn’t expect Christchurch to be that destroyed. I had a chat with a few people from Christchurch and what I really love is that they are all very enthusiastic and optimistic about the city’s future!

Roadtrip New Zealand South Island

Food and coffee in Christchurch

Though Christchurch seems to be almost dead at first sight, there’s still something going on and the city has started to live again. There are a few cool cafés, bars and restaurants and you just need to have a look and will surely find a nice place!

To make life a bit easier for you, here are my best recommendations of where to eat and have coffee in Christchurch if you are planning to stay there for a few days at the beginning or end of your trip, like we did:

C1 Espresso

This coffee place is located right in Christchurch’s city center and even though it seems like nothing is going on there as most buildings around it are destroyed, it is a really, really cool place! If the weather is good, people sit outside, soak up the sun and enjoy their coffees and food.

Inside you’ll find a lot of seating, yet it still feels very cozy and welcoming. The interior is quite hipster and if you look up you’ll see tubes running along the walls. And you’ll never guess what they are for: if you order fries they will come straight from the kitchen to your table travelling through these tubes. So cool!

The menu has a large selection of breakfast and pastries and the coffee is really delicious! They also provide free internet and we’ve stayed there the whole day as the atmosphere is so cool. A tall flat white costs 5,- NZD.

Pedro’s House of Lamb

If you come to New Zealand you’ll have to eat lamb! No excuse. A good place to get a really delicious shank of lamb is Pedro’s House of Lamb. Unfortunately, the restaurant was completely destroyed in the earthquake, but the owners managed to reopen a small food truck where they are now preparing the lamb for take away.

The lamb is super delicious, the meat very tender and the seasoning just perfect. A whole shank with potatoes and gravy costs 40,- NZD and is more than enough to fill two hungry people.

Burgerfuel

I think by now you kind of know how much I love burgers! And in every city we are I try to visit at least one burger place. In Christchurch this was Burgerfuel, a chain which I already knew from my short visit in Dubai last year.

The interior looks pretty old school and fancy, and they have a large choice of burgers. One of their signature burgers comes with mango and beetroot and you can also order milkshakes to your meal. The burgers are really yummy and so are the fries!

Accommodation in Christchurch

Despite the bad impact of the earthquake, Christchurch has a lot of accommodation to offer. There are especially a lot of motels in Christchurch, but the city is also home to a few really nice boutique hotels.

Hotel Montreal

One of them is Hotel Montreal which we stayed in for two nights. The hotel has a good location close to the Hagley Park and about 10 minutes walking from the city center. The rooms are really spacious, come with a super comfy bed, a modern bath room, a cosy seating area as well as a small kitchen corner and dining table.

The whole interior design of the hotel has an Argentinian touch and uses elements of Polo. The hotel also has a really fancy bar, a gym and a nice seating area outside the bar. You can find more information about the Hotel Montreal at here!

Hotel Montreal Christchurch

The best car rental

One of the most important things when planning your road trip through New Zealand’s south island is choosing a good camper van. There are several car rental companies as well as car types to choose from and it always depends on what you wish to do, how comfy you like it to be and how much you are actually able to spend.

Britz Campervans

We got in contact with several car rentals and already knew what to consider when choosing a camper van as we spent six weeks road tripping in Australia before coming to New Zealand.

This time we wanted to have a little bit more comfort and more space and chose to rent a van from Britz Campervans . We’ve heard really great stuff about Britz, their cars and services before and can only recommend them!

We chose their Trailblazer camper van and were really happy with it. It has the perfect size, is not too big and definitely not too small, has a kitchen with two stove tops, a sink, a fridge and a microwave, and all the kitchen equipment you need to cook a proper meal! There’s also a shower and toilet and therefore the van is fully self contained and you are able to camp on one of the many campgrounds provided in the national parks.

The seating area in the back can be changed into a comfy and quite big bed with more than enough space for two people. In general there’s really a lot of storage space and the car even comes with an air-condition which can also be used for heating.

>> Check out which brands offer the best prices for a camper in Christchurch!

new zealand south island road trip

Britz Campervans New Zealand

The best route for your road trip on New Zealand’s south island

New Zealand’s south island has so much to offer, see and do, that it’s quite difficult to decide where to go, where to stay and where to even spent a little longer. Our trip lastet for two and a half weeks and we’ve decided to skip the most southern part of the island and to do a tour through the inland, all the way to the west coast, then up north and all the way back to Christchurch on the island’s east coast.

This way we’ve seen quite a lot of the island’s diverse landscapes and had enough time to fully experience its stunning beauty! 100 % Pure New Zealand’s website has some great recommendations and road trip itineraries where you can get a good idea of what to do and see, and how much time you need to plan for the distances. Just check them out here!

First distance: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

We started our trip from Christchurch driving west towards Lake Tekapo on the scenic inland route. This route is about 280 km long and you should plan at least 4 hours for driving as you will definitely stop several times to enjoy the incredible views and take pictures! One stop to mention is the stunning Rakaia Gorge which leaves you speechless. Though this might be difficult to follow, always try not to get caught too much by the views because you are risking serious accidents and car crash – no kidding!

What to do in Lake Tekapo

Once you arrive in Lake Tekapo it is a good idea to just jump out of your car and visit the lake straight away. It’s a stunning scenery and especially great to see once the sun is setting. There are a few camping sites to stay over night and it’s a good idea to do so.

The next morning you can choose for one of the many walking tracks around Lake Tekapo, but I would recommend you to either walk or drive up Mt. John. From up there you will have incredible views on Lake Tekapo and its small city, nearby Lake Alexandrina and on the massive Mount Cook – just stunning!

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

Second distance: Lake Tekapo to Wanaka

From Lake Tekapo we’ve continued to Wanaka, passing Lake Pukaki and the Lindis Pass. Again, this route will leave you speechless and you will want to stop almost every other minute to take pictures! This route is about 220 km long and you should plan about 3 hours for it.

Just before entering the city Omarama, about half of the route, you have the opportunity to leave the highway, drive a bit land inwards and see the amazing Omarama Clay Cliffs. They are on private land and you need to drive through two separate gates which you need to open and close yourself.

What to do in Wanaka

We arrived in Wanaka in the late afternoons and stayed for three nights in total as there is so much to do and see! The town has a small yet very vibrant and cosy centre and is beautifully located just at Lake Wanaka, offering amazing views on the lake and the surrounding mountains.

You can take a stroll at the lakefront and visit the famous Wanaka Tree, take a short hike up to Mt. Iron and enjoy the breathtaking views on the town and its incredible surroundings, or go on several hiking trips around Lake Wanaka. Wanaka is also the starting point to explore near by Mt. Aspiring and the National Park.

Mt. Iron Wanaka

Wanaka Tree

Deep canyoning in Wanaka

Another thing I really recommend you to do is to go deep canyoning! I went on a trip with Deep Canyoning and and did the Leaping Burn Max, which was so much fun and so much adventure! We met early in the morning already and drove to a canyon near Wanaka and were back in the afternoons.

This is the perfekt trip for adventure seekers like me as it starts with a 10 meters jump into the waters, continues with a lot of climbing and up sailing up to 60 meters and ends with a 14 meters jump into a pool! So much fun and so much thrill! You should do it!

Tip: You can also also watch my video to get an idea of the trip. Though it is in German I am sure you’ll get a pretty good impression of how much fun it is!

Deep canyoning Wanaka

Roadtrip Neuseeland Südinsel

Third distance: Wanaka to Queenstown

From Wanaka it’s about an hour drive to Queenstown and you should opt for the route where you’ll pass the Cardrona Valley and the beautiful Crown Range, which is New Zealand’s highest main road. At the end you will have an amazing view on Queenstown and the Remarkables.

There’s also another way to get from Wanaka to Queenstown passing Cromwell. This rout takes about 1.5 hours and is also quite beautiful to drive.

What to do in Queenstown

Queenstown is a truly beautiful city! I even believe that there is no other city that offers such great views no matter where you stand. The city is located at Lake Wakatipu and just in front of the incredible Remarkables. The city centre is really cosy and there are a lot of shops, cafés, bars and restaurants.

However, this city is also quite touristy and you’ll especially see a lot of Asians as well as shops targeting Asian customers. You’ll find all operators of activities and adventurous stuff in the city centre whereas most of them are located on Shotover Street.

Food and drinks

Joe’s Garage

Joe’s Garage offers great coffee and a good breakfast and lunch menu. The place has a pretty laid-back atmosphere and can get very crowded in the mornings. The porridge tastes yummy and so does the burger for lunch!

Old Man Rock

This is a really cosy café with a warm and home-like atmosphere right in the city centre of Queenstown. It is just a tiny place, but offers a very comfy seating corner just in front of a real fire place! The muffins are super big and their hot chocolate is very good as well.

Fergburger

If you follow me and my travels a bit longer already, you know that I LOVE burgers and whenever I visit a new city I hunt for the best burger place around. And Queenstown can be very proud to have Fergburger as their burgers are amazing and super delicious!

They all come with a super yummy aioli and tomato relish, and also the fries are very good. Fergburger is very popular among both locals and tourists so at most of the times you’ll find a rather long queue in front of the small restaurant. Even if you have to wait, it is more than worth it and a visit to Queenstown is no actual visit if you haven’t been to Fergburger!

Flame Bar and Grill

Next to burgers I love steaks and spare ribs and there’s a damn good address for this in Queenstown as well: Flame Bar and Grill! This is not the cheapest place to go but the prices are absolutely fine for the quality of food and the side of dishes you get.

The stakes are really tasty, but even better are the spare ribs. The marinade of the ribs is super delicious and the meat is incredible tender. I even think that these ribs are the most delicious I have ever had!

Accommodation

Cherish Bed and Breakfast!

We’ve stayed at a really nice and cosy bed and breakfast place called Cherish Bed and Breakfast. Rose and her husband really make you feel at home and are super friendly hosts. When we arrived they greeted us with a glas of wine and told us what to do and see in Queenstown. The rooms and the living room offer amazing views on the Remarkebles and the lake.

The B&B is about 15 minutes walking from the city center and located in a quiet residential area. In the morning you will be offered with a hearty breakfast and there’s also free wifi. A really nice place to stay and relax in Queenstown!

Amour B&B Queenstown

Things to do in and around Queenstown

Queenstown is THE adventure capital of the world and there’s really plenty to do in and around Queenstown! It’s kind of unbelievable and makes Queenstown one of the best cities for me. And to safe you some time of searching and decision making of what to do, here are my favourite adventurous things to do in Queenstown:

Skydive with NZONE Skydive

WOW! Full stop. I seriously don’t know why I waited 26 years until doing this. Jumping out of a plane is the best experience I have made so far in my life. No kidding! When we jumped it was a perfect autumn day with no clouds at the sky and sunny 20 degrees. Since it snowed a few days earlier the mountains were covered in snow and I couldn’t wait to get to the NZONE Skydive drop zone!

I must admit that I was a bit scared but the minute we were in the plane and having this incredible view over Queenstown already I got all excited. And then we jumped! OMG, you can’t believe how amazing this is! If you do the 15.000 feet jump, and you should, then you have a free fall of 60 seconds over Queenstown and the Remarkables and another 5 minutes of paragliding. It’s just amazing! And afterwards you will walk around with a huge smile on your face, because you are so unbelievable happy!

Tip: Have a look at my video form the day we’ve jumped and you’ll see how much we’ve smiled!

NZONE Skydive

Skydive Queenstown

Quad biking with Nomad Safaris!

Another really adventurous thing to do is to go on a quad bike tour with Nomad Safaris! They take you out to Queenstown Hill to a privately owned land. Before actually doing the quad tour they tests your skills to make sure you are safe. And then the fun begins!

The area is really fun to drive as you have muddy ways, puddles and even large rocky path to drive through. It can get quite speedy as well and you have to look out for the many sheep you’ll pass. Next to this incredible thrill driving a quad you will get some amazing views on this tour! They also stop for some coffee, tea and cookies on the way. This quad tour also is a must do when you are in Queenstown!

Quad biking Queenstown

Take a trip to Glenorchy

If you like to explore Queenstown’s surroundings in a more relaxed way, you should take a trip to Glenorchy. The drive to Glenorchy is breathtaking as it goes all along the Lake Wakatipu. It takes about 45 minutes but you should plan a few stops to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful mountains. Once in Glenorchy make sure to head to the peer and have a look at the colour of the lake – it’s amazing! There are also plenty of walking trails lasting from a few hours up to several days.

Glenorchy Queenstown

Visit the Milford Sounds!

The Milford Sounds are actually fjords at the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. The nature and the scenery in the Milford Sounds is incredible and you should definitely take your time and explore this almost magical place! We drove all the way from Queenstown to Milford Sounds which takes about 4 hours.

However, I recommend you to take your time for this trip as there are so many great places to stop, take pictures, go hiking and even to camp legally in the wild. You might even want to take a few days for your trip to the Milford Sounds as there is plenty to see and do! The rain forrest is just magical, the mountains and waterfalls stunning and the colour of the rivers amazing.

Milford Sounds New Zealand

Milford Sounds New Zealand

Once you are in Milford you can take a cruise to discover this amazing part of the fjord lands. We did a tour with Southern Discoveries and had really fun times! You can also stop at their Discovery Center and do a kayak tour to be even closer to nature!

Southern Discoveries Milford Sounds

Milford Sounds New Zealand

Fourth distance: Queenstown to Haast

On this tour you will pass the Crown Range and Wanaka again as well as the beautiful Haast Pass . Though it’s less than a 300 km drive you should really take your time as you will pass some stunning scenery again! We drove this in one go but you can also take a few days for this if you are into hiking and want to have all the time to fully explore everything. Approximately one hour after passing Wanaka you will find a sign for the Blue Pools. As the name suggests, these are amazingly blue-coloured pools and you should definitely stop here!

Shortly after Haast towards the direction to Jackson Bay you’ll pass the small village Hannahs Clearing where you can do a jet boat safari on the Waitoto river with Waiatoto River Safari. This is a really fun trip to do as you’ll speed up the river, walk through the rainforest and also learn a lot about this area and it’s incredible nature!

Waiatoto River Safari

Waitoto River New Zealand

Fifth distance: Haast to Franz Josef

This again is a pretty epic drive along the south island’s west coast, offering fantastic views! The route is about 150 km but you should plan a bit more time for it as some parts are quite curvy and you need to drive carefully. We stayed for one night in Franz Joseph and visited the Franz Joseph Glacier the next morning.

From the parking place to the Glacier itself it takes about 30 minutes of walking. Alternatively, you can also take a helicopter which is the only way to really get on the glacier and hike it. If you are looking for a good place to have dinner in Franz Josef, make sure to visit the Monsoon Bar and Restaurant – they have a fireplace, the atmosphere is cosy and the lamb shanks fantastic!

Franz Josef Glacier

Sixth distance: Franz Josef to Punakaiki

Just another pretty drive to go where you will pass beautiful valleys, mountains, the ocean and a view small tons. Make sure to stop in either Hokitika or Greymouth and go grocery shopping at one of the big supermarkets! The drive takes about 3 hours and once you are in Punakaiki there’s plenty to see!

Punakaiki is famous for its Pancake Rocks, which are quite funny looking stone formations right at the beach. You can also go for a short walk on the Truman Track which passes another amazing stone formation looking like a huge wave breaking just in front of you. Also a good idea is to walk the Pororari River Track which follows the Pororari River upstream and passes rainforests and great valleys.

Horse riding with Punakaiki Horse Treks!

If you are tired of walking and want to be a bit more adventurous I recommend you to explore the beautiful nature of Punakaiki on a horse back! Punakaiki Horse Treks offers amazing horse riding trips through the country side where you will go through rivers and feel even closer to nature.

The trip takes 3 hours and includes a relaxing stop at a quite romantic hut where you will get some coffee, tea and cookies while the horse are grazing freely around you. There’s also time for some more speedy distances in trot or canter and you will have heaps of fun! The trip finishes along the beach of the southern end of the Pancake Rocks – simply amazing!

The horses are very calm and easy to ride, the guides super friendly and the owners really take good care of the horses. The perfect experience to explore the surroundings of Punakaiki!

Punakaiki Horse Trecks

Punakaiki New Zealand

Seventh distance: Punakaiki to Nelson

This is one of the longest drives but again a very beautiful one! You’ll pass impressive mountains and beautiful valleys as you also enter the wine region. The route takes about 3.5 hours and you can easily do it in one go. Nelson is one of the oldest city in New Zealand and the gateway to both the stunning Abel Tasman National Park, Golden Bay, the Marlborough wine region and the Marlborough Sounds.

Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park is approximately 70 km north-west of Nelson and known for its many beautiful beaches, blue waters, jungle like forrest and cute fur seals. The park is not accessible via car and you either have to walk or take a water taxi to get to one of the many beaches and accommodations. T

he boats leave from Motueka several times a day and you can choose between a few operators, all selling their tickets on spot. You should plan at least half a day to spend in the park, however, many people also choose to stay several days and overnight.

There are several drop off points and tracks you can walk and we chose to be dropped off at Torrent Bay and then walk all the way north to Medlands Bay. This walk lasts approximately two hours, offering great views and also passing a swing bridge. At the end you’ll arrive at a tiny but really pretty beach – the perfekt hike!

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Bay

Golden Bay is famous for its stunning beaches and about 2 hours north-west of the Nelson, passing the Abel Tasman National Park. Major attractions include the endless Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach with its amazing rock formations.

You can access the areas by driving to Collingwood and going on a hiking adventure, or by using an operated bus tour taking you all the way from Nelson to Farewell Spit. Plan a whole day for visiting the Golden Bay area!

Eight distance: Nelson to Marlborough Sounds

This is a pretty curvy drive as well and the Marlborough Sounds are about 100 km east of Nelson. As the name suggests it consists of many sounds, islands and peninsulas and is perfekt for water sports, hiking and climbing. Cute fur seals are living in the sounds and if you’re lucky you can spot dolphins and even orcas!

The town Picton is located in Marlborough Sounds and this is where all the ferries to New Zealand’s northern island depart. So if you are planning to visit the north island, this is where you can catch the ferry to Wellington!

Sea kayaking with Sea Kayak Adventures

One thing I definitely remained you doing is a sea kayaking trip with Sea Kayak Adventures! This is a small, family-owned operator offering really great, personal kayak trips trough the Marlborough Sounds. We did a tour with one of the owners, Nat, and she was so much fun to go kayaking with. She makes you feel really safe in the kayaks and she knows really a lot about the area. I seldom experience such customised and friendly service, and I am still impressed by this great trip!

We started early in the mornings and met at their base in Anakiwa, and after a short introduction we went into the waters with our kayaks. The trip lasted about 4 hours and was pretty relaxed – e even met some really cute fur seals which were swimming just next to or kayaks!

Sea Kayak Adventures Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds

Ninth distance: Marlborough Sounds to Kaikoura

The next route takes you all the way from Picton through the beautiful wine area of Marlborough to Kaikoura at the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. The distance is 160 km and it takes about two hours to drive. Only half an hour from Picton you will pass the city Blenheim, which has many cute cafés, restaurants, shops and a large supermarket as well.

After passing Blenheim you are driving towards the coastline and continue driving right next to it, offering great views. Kaikoura is a small city on the Kaikoura peninsula and having the Seaward Kaikoura mountains just behind it – a stunning scenery!

The sea in front of Kaikoura is pretty special as it is home to a huge underwater canyon, which is one of only a few world wide that is located so close to the mainland. Because of these circumstances Kaikoura is known for its great sea life with whales, dolphins and large sea birds being regularly spotted in Kaikoura around the year.

Swimming with dolphins

One thing you should definitely NOT miss is swimming with wild dolphins! Yes, you’ve read it correctly, you can go swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura! There is only one company offerings this exciting adventure, namely Encounter Kaikoura. Make sure to book your very own Dolphin Encounter with them, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!

We took a morning tour and left the peninsula on a small boat to go looking for dolphins. Once we’ve spotted a group of dusky dolphins we took on our snorkelling gear and jumped in the water. And then it was just pure happiness and fun! You have to make strange noises, go diving and all sorts of things to make the dolphins interested in you and they really are!

They are so curious and come to you, start swimming around you, beneath you and come really really close! It’s such an incredible experience, that I don’t even know how to describe it. There’s just one thing I can say: DO IT!

Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura

Dusky Dolphins Kaikoura

Watching great sperm whales!

Another great way to encounter sea life is to go on a whale watching trip. Because of its deep canyon just in front of the peninsula, Kaikoura is the place to spot whales anytime of the year. We went on a trip with Whale Watch Kaikoura and they have a 95% guarantee to spot whales.

And on our trip we even managed to spot three whales in total, three gigantic sperm whales! And the best was, two of them were swimming right next to each other which doesn’t happen very often! It was really great seeing these big animals and we’ve also learned a lot about whales and especially sperm whales on the trip. The stuff was great fun, too!

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Tenth and last distance: Kaikoura to Christchurch

Unfortunately, every great trip has come to an end, and so does this great New Zealand trip on its south island. The very last distance takes you from Kaikoura to Christchurch, which is about 180 km long and takes about 2,5 hours of driving. You’ll pass some really pretty valleys on that drives and should also make sure to stop at some point for a visit to the beach.

Christchurch is probably where you will return your camper van, like we also said goodbye to ours and gave it back to Britz. If you don’t want to leave New Zealand yet, just take a flight from Christchurch to Auckland and visit the country’s north island!

Have you been to New Zealand’s south island as well? What are you favourite spots and activities no adventurer should miss? Share them in the comments below!

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand you should take our guide with you.

It includes:

– 109 Pages full of information about New Zealand’s South and North Island
– Things to do for individual travellers
– Every penny we spent broken down into different categories
– Discounts for camper vans, activities and more worth over 300 NZD
– 6 different Route recommendations for the North and South Island
– and much more…

 

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Road trip Scotland: What you can experience on a tour of Scotland!


I think I have never been to one single place as often as to Scotland. This Northern part of Great Britain simply has so much to offer! Surreal landscapes like the Isle of Skye, cool cities like Edinburgh, crazy traditions like the Loony Dook and a nice pub on every other corner. Scotland is amazing and perfect for a road trip – a tour of Scotland means pure adventure!

 

Adventure road trip!

scotland roadtrip enamel mug

Check out this amazing Scotland Enamel Mug for your road trip or at home

Road trip Scotland: what you can experience on a tour of Scotland!

The land of the Scots – perfect for a little road trip!

When you think of a road trip you probably think of countries like Canada, New Zealand or Australia. All pretty great countries but pretty far away too. But there also is a little region in the North of Europe that is just as suitable for a road trip: Scotland!

Scotland is not far away and has two bigger airports, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. Thanks to airlines like EasyJet or Ryanair you can fly from Germany to Scotland and back for under 30,00 € and will be there in around 2 hours.

Once you are there renting a car is really simple, rates are 8,00 € a day on average. And the best part: camping out in the wild is still permitted in Scotland! So just bring a tent and find yourself a secluded place where you can sleep out in the open. Alternatively you can rent a little mobile home and drive from campsite to campsite. There are plenty of places where you can stay with your campervan on your tour of Scotland.

Or you take a little more time and drive your own car to Scotland. There is for example a daily ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle which is right on the Scottish border and a three hour drive from Edinburgh. The fares for the crossing start at 179,00 € for two people plus vehicle. If you don’t mind the long drive then you can also drive the 50 km Eurotunnel connecting France and England, you then cross England until you finally get to Scotland.

Beware: Traffic in all of Great Britain is left-sided which is especially bewildering if you are traveling in your own car where you sit on the wrong side.

The best part of a road trip through Scotland however is that you can experience so much in so little time! You can easily do an entire tour of Scotland in a week. If you have more time on your hands then you can do a trip to the Isle of Skye or all the way up North to Thurso.

Edinburgh: starting point of your tour of Scotland

The best place to start your road trip through Scotland from is Edinburgh, because there are direct flights into Edinburgh from eight German airports. You also have a larger selection of car rental companies and thus it is easier to get a better price. You can pick up your car right at the airport and immediately start the tour or you head into the city first, spend two days there and then start out on the road trip. Whichever way, you should definitely plan some time for this cool city!

Enjoy the best view from Arthur’s Seat

When you are in Edinburgh you should absolutely hike up Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is a small mountain of volcanic origin and only 20 minutes away from the city center. Best to come early in the morning when it is not too full yet, or early evening and watch the sun set behind the city. You can either hike up to Arthur’s Seat’s peak which takes around 30 minutes or leaving Edinburgh you head left up the Salisbury Crags. This place is less run over and the view is just as good!

road trip scotland

Explore Edinburgh on foot

When walking through the city you normally will pass all the cool places on your own. Stroll through the student neighborhood and stop by Bobby’s. If you stroke his nose you are sure to return to Edinburgh! Then you can walk through Greyfriars Kirkyard and to the Grassmarket.

You should of course have a look at Edinburgh’s landmark: Edinburgh Castle. Carlton Hill from where you have a cool view of the city and the castle is also worth the ascent. And from the Princess Street gardens you have a great view of the castle from below.

If you enjoy being up and outside then you can go for a several hour walk along the Bach Water of Leith. From the Dean Gardens you can make your way to the sea in Leith. You will pass by nice residential neighborhoods and can also stop by the botanical garden.

Time for coffee and tea!

In Scotland too you will not get past the typical British tea time! Casa Angelina, a small vintage cafe on London Street, has the best scones and goodies. And if you like coffee as much as I do then you have to go to Brew Lab! This super cool cafe lies in the heart of the student neighborhood and makes what is in my opinion one of the best flat whites in the world! This place gets pretty crowded, especially on weekends, but if you find a seat, then you get to sit on big leather sofas.

Places to stay in Edinburgh:

Motel One* | very central | opposite train station | everything is in walking distance | modern but basic rooms | our preferred choice when in town

Radisson Blue* | very central | down the road from the castle | nice bar | lovely and lively area with many pubs and restaurants nearby

Glasgow: Scotland’s underestimated city!

Depending on what route you want to drive Glasgow could also be a good starting point for the trip. There are direct flights to Glasgow from Berlin and Düsseldorf for example. The city has a very different character from Edinburgh, a very own charm.

It used to be a city for workers and you will find mostly old industrial areas with warehouses and huge manufacturing plants. These are slowly being turned into really cool restaurants, bars and cafes and create an amazing atmosphere. Compared to Edinburgh, which will feel more like a quaint little sleepy town Glasgow feels almost cosmopolitan and pretty lively.

This is because of university and the many students that live in Glasgow. Most visitors only come for a few hours or a day, so you will meet mostly locals in the restaurants and bars. Do give Glasgow a chance, don’t just pass this cool city up on your road trip through Scotland!

road trip scotland

Favorite places in Glasgow

Glasgow’s student neighborhood which is situated West of the city center is super cool. You immediately feel like you entered a Harry Potter movie here, the university buildings actually served as inspiration to Joanne K. Rowling. Every Sunday there is a cool market in Ashton Lane close to the main building and from Kelvingrove Park which is right around the corner you have a stunning view of the entire city!

The best coffee and delicious cake are only a few minutes walking away at Café Artisan Roast on Gibson Street. The best area for going out at night is around Merchant City in the East of the city center. It gets pretty busy especially on weekends when Weegiies (Glasgow people) meet up for dinner and a few drinks in a cool atmosphere. Bar Home for instance is super chilled and serves great burgers!

Places to stay in Glasgow:

CitizenM* | great value for money | very central | futuristic rooms and service | our preferred choice when in town

The three best routes for your tour of Scotland

There are several cool routes that work well for a round trip. Which one you choose depends on how much time you have and what you want to experience. If you have less than a week but definitely want to go to the Highlands and visit famous Loch Ness then the best way to drive is through Glencoe and back through Cairngorms National Park. You want to travel mostly along the Scottish coast and see some of the cities in the region? Then skip the real Highlands and drive through Inverness and Aberdeen! And if you are in for a proper adventure and have at least 12 days then you should definitely head to the Isle of Skye and further North to Thurso!

schottland rundreise route 1

Tour of Scotland route 1: Highlands adventure

  • Stops: Edinburgh, Stirling, Glencoe, Inverness, Aviemore, Killiecrankie, Edinburgh
  • Highlights: Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Cairngorms National Park
  • Possible add-ons: Hike to Ben Nevis’s peak, Isle of Sky
  • Total length: 580 km
  • Time: minimum 4 days

The first route takes you from Edinburgh via Stirling and Glencoe up to Inverness and back to Edinburgh through Cairngorms National Park. The cool thing about this route is that you see pretty much all of Scotland’s highlights! Starting with Glen Coe valley with its amazing scenery to Great Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis to the famous Loch Ness lake. Cairngorms National Park is great for hiking and provides so many great views! This route is 580 kilometers long.

Segment 1: Edinburgh – Stirling – Glencoe

You will need around one hour from Edinburgh to Stirling by car. In Stirling you can make a short stop and look at the old fortress. It is located on a little hill and thanks to its strategic position played an important role in Scotland’s history. Just after Stirling you can make another stop at Doune Castle, after that the Highlands and your actual road trip adventure begins! The drive to Glencoe is around two hours but better to plan a little more time to be able to relax from time to time and take in the wonderful landscape.

All in all you will be traveling around 200 kilometers and if you leave in the morning you still have the entire afternoon to explore Glen Coe and maybe go for a little hike. You can for instance hike to the Lost Valley. The path is pretty rocky but the views and the surrounding landscape are unbelievable! In the evening you can really get comfortable at Glencoe House*, an old, beautiful castle-like house with nice rooms and a fireplace. If you are looking for an unusual accommodation then River Beds Lodges* is right for you!

Suggestion: If you have a few more days then you can drive to the Isle of Skye in only 3,5 hours from Glencoe or Mandally on the A87. Stunning landscapes, old fortresses and some great hiking trails await you – more on that later!

road trip scotland

Segment 2: Glencoe – Loch Ness – Inverness

The next morning you can drive on to Loch Ness passing Ben Nevis, Great Britain’s highest mountain. Urquhart Castle, an old ruin or the truly beautiful Aldourie Castle are worth a visit. But the best thing to do here is a boat tour either in a regular boat or for the more adventurous in a speedboat! In the afternoon you then continue to Inverness which takes around 30 minutes.

Inverness is a nice little city and with 50.000 inhabitants it is the largest town in Northern Scotland. In summer you can take a boat out to the North Sea from here and with a little luck will find dolphins! The best place to stay here are the modern Highland Apartments* right in the city on the Ness river. The castle of Inverness is only a few minutes walking distance from here.

Suggestion: If you enjoy hiking then you can stay another night in Glencoe and hike Ben Nevis the next day. The most popular hiking trails are the so-called Tourist Route and Mountain Track. You hike around 17 kilometers and climb up to 1.344 meters. The visitor centre at Glen Nevis is the starting point for the hike, plan around 8 hours time to complete it.

Segment 3: Inverness – Aviemore – Cairngorms National Park

From Inverness you head out in the morning again and 45 minutes later reach Aviemore. From here you can set out on various hikes and bike tours in Cairngorms National Park. Find out which tour is the best for you at VisitScotland Information Centre! After a day out and in Great Britain’s largest and youngest national park you can unwind at The Old Minister’s House*.

Segment 4: Aviemore – Killiecrankie – Edinburgh

From Aviemore you continue to Killiecrankie. You will need a little more than an hour. When you arrive in Killiecrankie an amazing adventure awaits you: a bungee jump from the bridge spanning the Killiecrankie Pass! I jumped twice, forwards once and backwards once which is even more intense! Then you can drive back to Edinburgh in around two hours. You either stay a little in this cute city or you check out Glasgow and fly home from there.

schottland rundreise route 2

Tour of Scotland route 2: coastline and history

  • Stops: Edinburgh, Braemar, Inverness, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Dundee, Perth, Stirling, Glasgow
  • Highlights: Cairngorms National Park, coastline, fortresses and castles of Scotland
  • Total length: 770 km
  • Time: at least 1 week

The second route also takes you through Cairngorms National Park to Inverness and then back to Glasgow along Scotland’s entire East coast! You will be passing several cities, castles and historical places and get to learn more about Scotland’s history. Plan at least a week for this route to have enough time for each town. You will be traveling a total of 770 kilometers.

Segment 1: Edinburgh – Braemar

The first segment is the trip from Edinburgh to Braemar which takes around 2,5 hours. Similar to Aviemore on the other side several hiking and biking trails into the Cairngorms National Park start off here. Depending on when you arrive you can go for a little hike in the afternoon or you allocate the next morning for that, because the segment for the next day is pretty short. Again, you can get all the information you need to decide which tour is best for you at the VisitScotland Visitor Centre.

Segment 2: Braemar – Inverness

Braemar to Inverness is around two hours by car. The city has a lot to offer culturally, it lies right on the Ness river and on the sea at the same time. By the way, Macbeth used to reign at the castle of Inverness! For a rush of adrenaline you can go rock climbing on the cliffs of Loch Duntelchaig a little South of Inverness. And if you do decide to make a trip out to the Highlands then this is still possible from here.

Segment 3: Inverness – Elgin – Fraserburgh

From Inverness you continue to Elgin which is about an hour away. The ruins of the Elgin Cathedral really are worth a stop, Brodie Castle is pretty cool too. From Elgin you continue some one and a half hours along the coast to Fraserburgh. Definitely stop at Pennan. This little town lies right on the sea underneath a cliff and looks incredibly cool!

Fraserburgh is a small sleepy harbor town with a really nice beach. You can go for a walk along the shore heading towards Inverallochy and back through the backlands or gallop in the sand. You should also have a look at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Scotland’s first light house is at home here! And for sleeping try The Saltoun Inn*, cozy yet modern.

 

Photo von MarkB

Photo from MarkB

Segment 4: Fraserburgh – Peterhead – Aberdeen

You will need around 30 minutes from Fraserburgh to Peterhead. Driving along the coast you keep passing beautiful beaches and should plan a little more time for stops on the way. With a little luck you might even encounter dolphins and whales depending on the season! Even killer whales have been sighted at St Combs and Rattray!

Peterhead itself is known for fishing and is one of the busiest and most efficient fishing ports in Europe. Here you can get delicious fresh fish at the daily fish market. South of the city you have Slains Castle that was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Definitely stop here, the castle ruins by Cruden Bay are pretty cool!

From there it is another 45 minutes to Aberdeen where there is a lot to see. You can for example walk to the so-called Castle Gate where you have Aberdeens Market Cross or you visit Marischal College and the King’s College Chapel of Aberdeen’s university.

A little under an hour away from Aberdeen you come to Craigievar Castle which also is worth a visit! This pink tower castle looks very different from other fortresses and castles in Scotland and is surrounded by a beautiful park.

A good place to sleep is the Chester Hotel*, if you prefer to have an entire apartment then I can recommend the Marischal Apartments* which are very pretty and bright.

Segment 5: Aberdeen – Stonehaven – Dundee – Perth

From Aberdeen you continue to Stonehaven and Dundee and on to Perth. Shortly after Stonehaven you should definitely stop by Dunnottar Castle, these castle ruins are situated nicely on a protruding cliff right on the seaside. From there you need another 1,5 hours along the coast to Dundee. Dundee is the fourth largest city in Scotland, stop by The Dundee Law and enjoy the stunning view.

Dundee to Perth is another 40 minutes. In Perth you can have a look at the Scone Palace or Scone Abbey. All kings and queens of Scotland were crowned here on the ‘Stone of Destiny’. Drummond Castle, some 45 minutes outside of Perth is also cool. A good place to stay in Perth is The Townhouse* for example.

Segment 6: Perth – Stirling – Glasgow

The last segment takes you from Perth to Stirling first, which is a 45 minute drive. You can make a short stop at Stirling Castle, another 40 minutes later you arrive in Glasgow. Take at least two days time for Glasgow, explore the cool student neighborhood around the university. If you have a little more time you can also make a trip out to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. We did a little bicycle tour around the lake once and had a lot of fun doing that!

An especially cool place to spend the night in Glasgow is CitizenM*!

schottland rundreise route 3

Tour of Scotland route 3: Northern adventure

  • Stops: Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Skye, Ullapool, Thurso, Inverness, Elgin, Ballater, Perth, Edinburgh
  • Highlights: Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Isle of Sky, Sandwood Bay, Cairngorms National Park
  • Total length: 1300 km
  • Time: minimum 12 days

If you have a lot of time and want to see the real Scotland then this third route is the one for you! It takes you from Edinburgh via Glasgow, Loch Lomond and Glencoe to Skye. From there you continue along the West coast via Ullapool all the way up North to Thurso and back via Inverness, Elgin and Ballater to Edinburgh. You should plan two weeks for this trip, 12 days minimum to really have enough time for every stop. The entire route is 1300 km!

Segment 1: (Edinburgh) – Glasgow – Glencoe

It is best you drive from Edinburgh right to Glasgow and start your tour in Scotland’s largest and Great Britain’s third largest city. The drive from Edinburgh to Glasgow is around 1,5 hours, you can also fly directly into Glasgow and pick up your rental car there. From Glasgow you can drive to Glencoe via Loch Lomond in around 2,5 hours. If you like to hike you can take an extra day and drive into Trossachs National Park.

Segment 2: Glencoe – Isle of Skye

At Glencoe the Glen Coe Valley and Ben Nevis await you. From Glencoe you continue to Skye. You can drive either via Glenfinnan and Armadale or via Invergarry and Kyle of Lochalsh. The former is a four hour drive, the latter will take around three and a half hours. Definitely take a few days time for the isle of Skye, you should have at least two days for the adventures that await you here! A hike on Quiraing is especially nice and will blow you away with the stunning views! A really nice place to spend the night on Skye is at Colbost at the Hillstone Lodge*, Springburn Cottage* and Grants House by Carbost are also good.

Suggestion: These are the best hikes on Skye!

Photo von paulvandenberg

Photo from paulvandenberg

Segment 3: Isle of Skye – Ullapool

From Skye you need around three hours and fifteen minutes via Achnasheen to Ullapool. But take a little more time than that for this segment because you find yourself in the midst of the Highlands and will be having amazing views all over! Half an hour before Ullapool you have the Stac Pollaidh mountain where a hike with the most beautiful views in Scotland awaits you! Best to drive to the parking lot by the little street to Achiltibuie and start your adventure. The hike up Stac Pollaidh takes two to four hours on average. You can stay overnight in Ullapool at Làrach an t-Seann Talla*.

Segment 4: Ullapool – Thurso

From Ullapool you keep to the coast until you reach Scotland’s and thus obviously Great Britain’s northernmost city Thurso. This is a three and a half hour drive but you should plan for a stop: after around one and a half hours you reach Blairmore where you can park your car and depart on a four to five hour hike to Sandwood Bay – the beach here is considered one of the most beautiful in Great Britain! Blairmore to Thurso is another two and a half hours.

20 minutes from Thurso you have the Castle of Mey with its beautiful gardens. When driving out there you can also make a short stop at the bay of Castletown. And if you have always wanted to spend the night in a castle then you can do so at Ackergill Tower Castle* which is around thirty minutes along the coast from the Castle of Mey or thirty minutes from Thurso!

Segment 4: Thurso – Inverness

From Thurso it is two hours and twenty minutes on the A9 to Inverness and all along the way you keep passing beautiful beaches like Bora Beach. With a little luck you can see dolphins, minke whales and even seals here! Dunrobin Castle is also worth a stop, which looks like it comes from a fairy tale and is surrounded by a nice park!

Segment 5: Inverness – Ballater

From Inverness to Ballater via Carrbridge is a two hour drive. Again you should take a little time here to go for a hike or bicycle tour in Cairngorms National Park. By the way, there is a super cool place to stay in Baltimore: the Auld Kirk*. Here you sleep blissfully in a remodeled church! If you prefer things more cozy and normal you can drive to Aboyne which is 15 minutes away and stay in either Struan Hall* or Lys-Na-Greyne*.

Segment 6: Ballater – Perth – Edinburgh

The last leg of the trip takes you back to Edinburgh via Perth. If you don’t stop at all you will need a little under three hours for the drive. In Edinburgh you can hand over your rental car again and should give yourself at least two days time for the city – it is among my favorite cities in Europe! Nice places to stay are for instance Apartment Old Edinburgh* in the student neighborhood or in this apartment* close to the Grassmarket or this* one.

Your next adventure already awaits you on your round trip to Scotland!

Scotland is one of my absolute favorite places in Europe and really has a lot to offer! Not just the landscape blows me away time and time again, the Scots themselves are great people! And the best part: it is super fast and easy to get to Scotland from Germany and yet you feel like you have entered another world. In my opinion Scotland can really keep up with other impressive countries like New Zealand or Iceland and thus is the perfect country for a short road trip. Find the best route for yourself and set off to Scotland for a round trip!

Are you also planning a road trip? We’ll show you some:

    • South Africa Garden Route road trip!
    • North Australia road trip!
    • South-Western Australia road trip!
    • New Zealand South Island road trip!
    • Adventure road trip South Tyrol!
    • Road trip trough France!

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South Africa Garden Route: the best stops and adventures for your next road trip!


Is there nothing better for you than to explore a country with a car? Then you definitely have to put this tour onto the list of your next road trips: the Garden Route in South Africa! Wonderful scenery, delicious food, good wine, super nice people and lots of adventures await you! And the best part: South Africa is not really expensive and you can spontaneously plan your route on site depending on what you want to experience the next day – this is pure freedom and adventure!

We spent a little more than a week on the Garden Route and in this post we share our best tips so you will know where to stop and which adventures not to miss out on!

South Africa Garden Route

The best stops and adventures for your next road trip!

Start: Cape Town

You have two options for starting your South Africa Garden Route road trip: either from Cape Town or Port Elizabeth. Most international airlines fly into Johannesburg and then connect to the other larger cities. We started in Cape Town because we had already been living in this amazing city for a few months, part of this time we had been taking care of three cats as house sitters. I would also recommend starting in Cape Town because then you can finish your road trip with a safari and really have a highlight at the end!

Cape Town and surroundings

There is so much to do and to discover in Cape Town that you should take at least four days time for this city. From great hikes with stunning views to beautiful wineries to really cool markets – every single day Cape Town offers a new adventure!

Cool neighborhoods

Downtown Cape Town is not really big and you don’t need to plan more than two hours for that. You can start your outing at Company’s Gardens, pass the government buildings, head down to the pedestrian walkway and cross Greenmarket Square (beware: everything here is very touristy!). You can go on to the Bo-Kaap neighborhood with its little colorful houses. From here you can walk to the De Waterkant neighborhood and have a delicious flat white in one of Cape Town’s best cafes: at Origin Coffee!

Gardens is a nice residential neighborhood. Here on Kloof Street you also find some cool cafes and restaurants as well as a couple of nice shops. The trendy Woodstock neighborhood simply is coolness. Rosetta Roastery at the Woodstock Exchange serves Cape Town’s best coffee and every Saturday Old Biscuit Mill hosts the Neighbourgoods Market. Here you can sample your way from one stall to the next and chill to live music – definitely worth a visit if you are in Cape Town on a Saturday!

Then there is Camps Bay, Cape Town’s high end neighborhood right by a beautiful bay. Here you feel almost like you are in Hollywood and on the weekends and when the weather is good it gets pretty crowded! Still we always liked coming here for the sunset, we sat down on one of the cliffs and watched the surfers. You also have a great view of the back side of Table Mountain and its 12 apostles!

Bocap Cape Town - South Africa Garden Route

Hikes with wonderful views

If the weather is good then hike up to Table Mountain early in the morning and take the cable car back down in the afternoon. The best hike is the route through Platteklig Gorge which starts a few hundred meters from the lower cable car station. Plan around two hours for the ascent and bring along enough water! Once you arrive at the top you can continue hiking through the national park and could for example head to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain, and hike back to the upper cable car station through Echo Valley.

You will also have amazing views hiking up Lion’s Head. This trail is especially nice when the sun rises, it is amazing to watch Cape Town slowly come alive. Best you drive out towards Camps Bay on Kloof Nek Road and leave your car in the parking area at the foot of the mountain. The ascent is at times very steep and a little more difficult than the hike up Table Mountain but at the top you have a superb view of the city, Camps Bay and Table Mountain! Plan around two hours to go up and down and pack warm clothes, early in the mornings it is still pretty cold up there!

Wine, wine, wine!

If you enjoy drinking wine then you must visit Cape Town’s wine region! Most wineries are located around the nice little town of Stellenbosch and almost all of them offer wine tastings and have good restaurants. I can especially recommend the Dornier Wine Estate, here you can have great food with a very nice view, and Lanzerac Wine Estate which simply is laid-back goodness. Vorgelegen Estate by Sommerset West is also great, it has a super nice garden and you can sit down in the vinyards with a picnic basket!

Cape of Good Hope

Here too you have two options: you either make this an excursion from Cape Town or you visit the Cape of Good Hope as part of your road trip along South Africa’s Garden Route. We did the day trip which gave us a bit more time. This way we also were able to see more of the country because we then took a different route on the actual road trip.

To get to the Cape of Good Hope you drive along the coast via Camps Bay. Shortly after Hout Bay (by the way, here you can go swimming with seals) you reach Chapman’s Peak Drive, a really cool part of the road which time and again offers wonderful views! To be able to drive this road you need to pay 40 ZAR, around 2,30 € per car per direction. Definitely stop at Noordhoek Beach – this super wide beach with hardly any people will amaze you!

Then you can drive on past Kommetjie and Misty Cliffs to the entrance of the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve. Admissions here are 110 ZAR per person, around 6,40 €. Once in the park you should follow the signs to Cape Point and the lighthouse. Here you can park the car and go for a really nice little hike to the Cape of Good Hope. It’s an easy trail and with a little luck you will meet baboons and kudus. You can also go down to Diaz Beach and have a look at the steep cliffs of the Cape from below. When you reach the Cape of Good Hope you then have stunning views! The hike itself takes 1,5 hours back and forth. If you also want to go down to the beach you should plan a little more time.

On the way back you can drive via Simon’s Town and make a short stop at the penguins. Instead of running over to Boulder Visitor Center and marvelling at the penguin colony with the masses you can park your car to the right of Boulders Beach and watch the penguins from here. Exit the main street M4 to the right onto Bellevue Road. If you like you can also walk along the beach on the wooden walkway, you can go all the way to the visitor center and back and here too you have a chance of encountering penguins.

Then you either drive along the coast again and once again enjoy the beautiful views or you take the route via Muizenberg and can catch a glimpse of the huge False Bay – no matter which one you chose the views are great! You should plan an entire day for this trip to the Cape of Good Hope so you have time for everything and don’t have to rush yourself!

Cape of Good Hope - South Africa Garden Route

Segment 1: Cape Town – L’Agulhas

Off you go! We picked L’Agulhas as our first stop on our road trip along the Garden Route. It is around 220 kilometers from Cape Town to L’Agulhas driving inland past Somerset West, Caledon and Bredasdorp. You will need a little more than three hours for this part of the route. Alternatively you can also drive via Camps Bay again taking Chapman’s Peak Drive and then continue along the coast. But this will take a lot longer and you have to plan around 6 hours without stops for the 310 kilometers.

So we decided not to go along the coast but rather drive through Somerset West, to turn towards Hermanus at Bot River and then continue along the coast past Gansbaai and through Agulhas national park. This route is around 250 kilometers and takes around 3,5 hours. But of course only if you don’t stop!

Stop at Hermanus

A cool stop on the route is Hermanus where you can stop for a good lunch. I can recommend the Pear Tree Bistro. And Yves’s Pudding and Pie next door serves some of the best cheesecake there is, almost as good as at Five Elephant in Berlin!

Also go for a little walk along the beautiful beach of Hermanus and with a little luck you can even see whales and dolphins! Best to drive away from the town at the roundabout on R43 onto 10th Street, park your car at Voëlklip Beach and then walk through the bushes to the larger beach and back – a very nice walk and a great way to get a bit of activity in between all the driving!

Hermanus Südafrika Garden Route

Diving with white sharks in Gansbaai

Shortly after Hermanus you pass Gansbaai. You can also make a stop here to either do a boat tour and watch whales and whit sharks or to go diving with them! Gansbaai is known for its large population of white sharks which regularly come by here.

One operator I can really recommend is Marine Dynamics. Yes, they too attract the sharks with a mixture of fish oil and fish heads but they do record every shark encounter and the behaviour of the animals. Because their main trade is studying the animals and their patterns of movement through the great oceans. There is always a marine biologist with you on the boat so you learn a lot about the white shark.

As soon as the first shark is sighted the cage is submerged into the water and the first group of people climbs into the cage. For about 10 to 30 minutes you get to go into the water whenever a shark passes. An amazing experience! You wear a neoprene suit to keep warm as well as goggles and a snorkel. We were submerged into the water twice for relatively long periods of time because we right away passed three white sharks, one of them was huge and it was the first time our biologist had seen it.

She explained the different hunting strategies of the sharks to us which vary depending on their sizes. While the two smaller sharks circled the boat and counted on their speed the larger shark used more tactics and then all of a sudden came darting up from the deep, just to quickly disappear again. Unbelievable seeing that!

Depending on the weather there are boat and diving tours several times a day and cost 1750,- ZAR per person which is around 100 €. You find all information and some interesting white shark facts on the marine Dynamics’ website.

Diving White Sharks - South Africa Garden Route

Hiking in L’Agulhas

From Gansbaai it is another two hours along the coast to get to L’Agulhas. You can take the R43 via Pearly Beach and Die Dam. After a short stretch on the R317 (towards Die Dam) you turn right onto the R43 and shortly after that you can either keep to the left and stay on this road towards Bredasdorp or you keep going straight through the L’Agulhas national park before you reach the R319 shortly before L’Agulhas.

I really recommend this route, you will probably come past some wild ostriches like we did and it is of course more adventurous than the regular route on the paved fast road!

If you take as much time as we did and stop at all the places we mentioned then you will arrive at L’Agulhas in the evening. For sleeping chose one of the B&Bs. The next morning you can go for a little hike through L’Agulhas national park, the Southernmost point in South Africa! There are several trails you can chose from but the nicest one is Rasperpunt hiking trail, a round trip of some 5,5 kilometers. It starts at an old shipwreck some 3 kilometer behind the L’Agulhas lighthouse.

Here you fist walk along the coast and if the tide is low you can even walk right on the beaches and you return crossing a small dune in the backland. Plan around two hours for this hike before you get back into the car and tackle the second segment of the road trip!

Segment 2: L’Agulhas – Wilderness

From L’Agulhas you head to Wilderness via Bredasdorp and Swellendam along the N2 past Mossel Bay. The first part of this segment is some 330 kilometers long and you should plan around 3,5 hours for it. The ride can get a bit boring because all you see is agricultural fields, lonely farms and herds of sheep – not really nice!

But shortly after Mossel Bay the landscape changes, it becomes greener and more interesting! To your left there are high mountains and the landscape almost resembles the Alps or some high plateaus. After driving through George you finally reach Wilderness. here too you can get a room in a B&B like Mont Fleur. Lou, the owner, is super nice!

Wilderness is a small but very cute town with a couple of good restaurants. You can stroll around town a bit after your arrival and take a walk on the beautiful beach. If you are hungry for fish and seafood then right on the beach you can enjoy seafood and a view at Salinas Beach Restaurant for example.

Cape Aguhlas National Park - South Africa Garden Route

Kayaking and hiking at Wilderness national park

The next day you should definitely take the time for a kayaking tour and hike through Wilderness national park! Rent a Kayak at Eden Adventure and paddle 45 minutes upstream along the Touwsrivier until you reach a little sand bank on the righthand shore where you can put down the kayak. From there you hike along the Giant Kingfisher Trails to a waterfall, two waterfalls that is.

For this hike across hills and through thick jungle and always along the river you will also need around 45 minutes. Once you arrive at the waterfalls you can throw yourself into the pool at the foot of the waterfalls to cool off! It’s great! Then you make your way back on foot and with the kayak. Plan four hours for the entire adventure and bring enough water and mosquito spray or you will be butchered on the hike!

wilderness south africa garden route

Segment 3: Wilderness – Plettenberg Bay

You can cover the third segment of your road trip along the Garden Route on the same day, it takes you past Knysna to Plettenberg Bay, a total of around 80 kilometers. Stop shortly after Knysna Heads two gigantic sandstone cliffs that mark the entrance to Knysna harbor and offer you amazing views of the Indian Ocean and the entire laguna! With the stop at Knysny Heads you should plan 1,5 to 2 hours to get from Wilderness to Plettenberg.

Alternative Route: the Seven Passes Road

Alternatively you can also travel through the backland along the beautiful Seven Passes Road. You will have to take the Hoogte Road North and after crossing the Touwsrivier turn left onto Hoekwil Road (or you get onto Hoekwil Road from the N2 after Wilderness), you pass Karatara and continue towards Rheenendal on the Rheenendal Road until you get back onto the N2 shortly before Knysna!

This route is Off The Path: you cross high plateaus, pass herds of cattle and feel a little bit like you’re in the Alps. And you keep having stunning views along the way! This route some 110 kilometers long and you should plan around 2 hours for it. Not all of it is paved, so you should not drive this one after heavy rainfall.

Trips around Plettenberg Bay

There is a lot to do around Plettenberg Bay! We got ourselves a cool house through AirBnB for 4 nights and I advise you to spend at least 2 days here. This quaint town has several beautiful beaches and in the distance you can see the stunning mountain silhouette of Tsitsikamma national park. There also is a little town square with a few shops and some nice restaurants like the Fat Fish where you get really good seafood!

Swimming with seals

If you didn’t get around to it at Hout Bay by Cape Town then here at Plettenberg Bay you have another opportunity to go swimming with cute seals. One of the largest seal colonies in South Africa lives on the peninsula of the Robberg Nature Reserves which is located just before Plettenberg Bay. Depending on the weather Off Shore Adventures offers tours to the colony several times a day. In a tiny speedboat you come up close to the seals and then equipped with a wetsuit, goggles and snorkel you get into the water. Since these cuties are super curious they will probably swim very close to you and you will have a lot of fun!

This seal adventure lasts around 1,5 hours and costs 550 ZAR, around 32 €, per person.

Adventures at Tsitsikamma national park

The Tsitsikamma national park is some 60 kilometers or an hour’s drive from Plettenberg Bay. There are several hikes you can do hear and all of them offer wonderful views! Don’t miss out on the short hike to Storms River Mouth and crossing the famous Suspension Bridge. After that keep going until you reach the lookout point on the plateau. Again you have a stunning view of the mountains, the canyon and the ocean!

If you want to hike further you can do the Blue Duiker Trail. You first follow Lourie Trail deep into the jungle and then walk back to the lookout point along the coast. On this trail too you have lots of great views and pass a few really old huge trees and a little waterfall. The trail is 3,7 kilometers long and you should plan around two hours for it.

Alternatively you can do a several-hour kayak tour where you get to paddle under the suspension bridge and on to the Storms River canyon. In the canyon you pass breathtaking cliffs and caves until you switch from the kayak to a type of small raft with which you continue to go upstream. At the end of the canyon another rush of adrenaline awaits you: here you can jump from a protruding cliff!

This kayak adventure takes between two and three hours and costs around 450 ZAR per person (around 26 €}. Best to book online in advance, however you can only book three days before the tour.

tsitsikama national park south africa garden route

The Otter Trail: for adventurous hikers

And if you are a real fan of hiking and have enough time you can hike the famous Otter Trail! This hike is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world and is around 42 kilometers long. It starts at the Storms River Mouth Camp and leads along the coast toward Plettenberg Bay until it reaches Nature’s Valley. You will need around five days for this hike which only goes one-way. But for this hike you have to register in time and obtain a permit because only two groups with a maximum of six people each are allowed on the Otter Trail per day. This hike promises pure adventure!

Highest bungee jump in the world!

On the way to Tsitsikamma national park you come by Bloukrans Bridge where another insane thrill awaits you: the highest commercial bungee jump in the world! The bridge is 216 meters high and getting simply getting to the place you jump from is breathtaking because you walk over a metal grille through which you can look down.

I actually jumped twice because I loved it so much! First time I did a normal jump, the second time I jumped with an inrun – it’s phenomenal! The Face Adrenaline staff is super nice and makes a party of every jump: everyone laughs, they play loud music and the atmosphere simply is great.

The first jump off the bridge comes in at 890 ZAR or 850 if you book online, this is around 50 €. The second jump then only costs 450 ZAR, around 26 €. This is super cheap in comparison, similarly high bungee jumps in New Zealand or Switzerland for example often cost three to four times as much!

Bungee Jumping South Africa

Hiking at Robberg nature reserve

Vor Plettenberg Bay befindet sich eine Halbinsel, das Robberg Nature Reserve. Hier kannst du ebenfalls richtig coole Wanderungen machen, insgesamt stehen dir drei verschiedene Routen zur Verfügung, jeweils von unterschiedlicher Länge und Schwierigkeitsgrad. Die kürzeste und einfachste Wanderung ist der Gap Circuit von 2,1 Kilometern, der dich wie der Name es bereits verrät bis zu einer Art Spalte bringt und rund 30 Minuten dauert. Die nächste Strecke ist bereits 5,5 Kilometer lang, dauert mindestens zwei Stunden und bringt dich bis zur Düne der Insel, der Witsand, und zu einem richtig schönen Strand samt Insel. Die dritte, längste und auch schwierigste Wanderungen führt dich bis zur Spitze der Halbinsel und zu einer großen Robbenkolonie. Sie trägt dementsprechend den Namen Point Circuit, ist 9,2 Kilometer lang und dauert mindestens vier Stunden.

Wir sind die mittlere Strecke, also den Witsand Circuit gewandert und es war einfach nur geil! Es war ein wenig diesig und nebelig an dem Tag, was einerseits schade war, da wir das Meer und die Berge des Tsitsikamma-Nationalparks in der Ferne nicht sehen konnten. Anderseits mussten wir so dafür nicht in der prallen Sonne laufen und die ganze Stimmung auf der Halbinsel war super mystisch. Bei dieser Wanderung läufst du die ganze Zeit entlang der steilen Küste, bis es kurz nach der Spalte (The Gap) ziemlich steil über natürliche Steinstufen nach oben geht.

Danach läufst du weiter durch dichte Buschlandschaft bis der Boden unter deinen Füßen immer sandiger wird und du dir Düne, die Witsand erreichst. Hier kannst du dich entscheiden, entweder weiter bis zur Spitze zu gehen oder auf der anderen Seite der Halbinsel zurückzugehen. Wenn du dich wie wir für Letzteres entscheidest kommst du direkt zum wunderschönen Stand der Halbinsel, von dem aus du bei Ebbe eine kleine Insel (The Island) erreichst. Der Rückweg geht wieder entlang steiler Küstenabschnitte und dauert durch den fehlenden Aufstieg nicht so lange wie der Hinweg.

Die Wanderung lohnt sich wirklich und mit ein wenig Glück kannst du hier zur richtigen Jahreszeit sogar Orcas beobachten, die die hier lebenden Robben jagen. Nimm aber auf jeden Fall genügend Wasser mit und ziehe dir ordentliche Wanderschuhe an, denn ein Großteil der Strecke besteht nicht aus wirklichen Wegen, sondern einfach nur aus Felsen und Steinen! Um in das Naturschutzgebiet reinzukommen, musst du am Eingang der Robberg Nature Reserve 40 ZAR (2,30 €) pro Person zahlen und bekommst eine Karte mit den drei Strecken eingezeichnet.

The second to last segment takes you some 160 kilometers from Plettenberg Bay to Jeffreys Bay, South Africa’s surf Mecca. You will need around and hour and 40 minutes and again get to see an entirely different landscape: it grows drier and less green. Jeffreys Bay is a small sleepy town with several surf shops and a few bars and restaurants. The super long sand beach which stretches away from the East of the city is great.

robberg island - south africa garden route

Surfing and riding alongside wild dolphins!

Unless you really enjoy surfing you don’t need to spend more than a day in Jeffreys Bay, because there really is not much to see. But if you love it too then this place is great and with a little luck you will even encounter dolphins when surfing! There are several shops you can borrow a board and wetsuit from and then go get yourself into the water.

If you, like Line, love horseback riding then here you have a wonderful scenery for excursions on horseback because then long wide beach offers a great galloping track. Line went riding for two hours and even got to ride alongside dolphins on the beach – amazing! She organised her ride through Fatherfoot Horses and even though the trail is really nice and her horse was good for riding she does not really recommend this stable.

The horses are not rode very gently and you don’t sit in a real saddle but a plastic construction that is not comfortable for you or your horse’s back. And one of the two guides had earbuds in his ear and was listening to music during the entire ride and also smoked one cigarette after another – not cool!

There is another stable that also offers riding excursions: the Papiesfontein farm, some 10 kilometers East of Jeffreys Bay. Unfortunately we cannot say if the horses are rode any better there, if they have decent saddles or if the guides really interact with their houses while out riding. Both charge between 350 and 400 ZAR (20-23 €) per person depending on the season.

Segment 5: Jeffreys Bay – Port Elizabeth

The fifth and last part with destination Port Elizabeth is around 85 kilometers long and takes less than an hour. With over 700000 inhabitants Port Elizabeth is one of the largest cities in South Africa and a major port city. You will probably get rid of your rental car right at the airport and can get onto a plane to any of the bigger cities in South Africa, or fly home via Johannesburg.

Sleeping in Port Elizabeth

If you want to spend a few more days in town or your plane only leaves the next day you can get a room at the Radisson Blu hotel right on the beach. We spent two nights there and could really relax after all the driving and the rush of new impressions. The room are bright, big and super modern. And most of the rooms also offer a view of the ocean! Right after checking in we saw a group of dolphins passing from our room – amazing!

The hotel’s restaurant is also very good and whatever time of the day there is something great. For breakfast you really get everything you need for a good start to the day. Standard double rooms start at 75 € a night and if you book early, you even get it for 60 € a night!

Safaris and pure adventure await you!

Port Elizabeth itself does not have that much to offer but with a little luck you can go surfing next to dolphins or watch them while stand up paddling. The city also is the perfect starting point for several-day safaris at the nearby Addo Elephant national park. The South entrance of the park (Matyholweni Gate) is only 35 kilometers, around 20 minutes on the N2, away from the city center. And the main entrance too is only around 60 kilometers North of Port Elizabeth, you can get there in around 45 minutes via R335.

Shamwari Game Reserve Explorer Camp

If you also love adventures you definitely should do a walking safari at Shamwari Game Reserve – this is the perfect ending to your road trip along South Africa’s Garden Route! Like the name says on this type of safari you are on foot most of the time and this way have a very different interaction with the animals than you would if you were sitting in a jeep.

This walking safari is part of the Explorer Camp which takes place Friday through Sunday during high season. You arrive Friday afternoon and following a good lunch and short tour of the camp you already head out for your first hike through the African bush! Right on our first day we already encountered wild elephants which was an amazing experience!

The next day we got to walk alongside wild giraffes, saw lions and even a leopard and rhinos. There is nothing like the feeling of walking through the wilderness and knowing that all it takes is the wind turning for the bull elephant to smell you and start charging at you!

In the evenings you then sit by the campfire with a bottle of wine and good food and then fall asleep in your tent with lots of unforgettable images in your head and the roaring of lions roaming the area. Pure adventure and one of my most exciting experiences yet!

The three days at the Explorer Camp with all the safaris, food and beverages come in at around 680,- € per person in a double tent and this experience is worth every cent of that! If you want to know exactly what awaits you with a walking safari you can read my post on this three day adventure in the African bush.

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South Africa Garden Route – a real adventure road trip!

A road trip along South Africa’s Garden Route should definitely be on your list of upcoming adventures! Cape Town alone is already worth the travel and has so much to offer that you can easily fill an entire week here: hiking up Table Mountain or Lion’s Head, great wine at one of the many wineries around Stellenbosch or a good coffee and cool market in the hip Woodstock neighborhood. And then there is the breathtaking Chapman’s Peak Drive, probably one of the most beautiful streets in the world which you can drive several times without it getting boring!

The best route option for your road trip along the Garden Route takes you through South Africa’s southernmost point, L’Agulhas, through quaint Wilderness on to Plettenberg Bay where several great adventures await you: from exciting kayaking tours and beautiful hikes through the Tsitsikamma national park and Robberg Nature Reserve to one of the hightest bungee jumps in the world! And a little later you can go swimming next to wild dolphins at the surf haven of Jeffeys Bay or gallop on the endless beach East of the city!

And at the end of the Garden Route comes the highlight: a walking safari and three days at the Shamwari Game Reserve’s Explorer Camp where you get to walk through the African Bush on foot, next to wild elephants and giraffes, and in the evenings blissfully fall asleep in your tent with lots of unforgettable impressions and the roaring of passing lions. South Africa Garden Route – this road trip is pure adventure!

Which road trips head your personal list?

Posted on Off-The-Path



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