I'm a hardcore planner, so when we decided to visit South Africa, I spent not hours, not days, but weeks researching and planning our South Africa itinerary. Below you can find the exact South Africa itinerary we followed, including all the things we did in Cape Town, our Garden Route itinerary, where we stayed along the way, and the restaurants we stuffed our faces at.
- The start of our South Africa trip
- Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 & Day 4: Cape Town
- Day 5: From Cape Town to Hermanus
- Day 6: Hermanus Cliff Walk
- Day 7: Road tripping to Oudtshoorn
- Day 8: Hike the Robberg Nature Reserve at Plettenberg Bay
- Day 9, Day 10, Day 11: Shamwari Game Reserve
- Day 11: Shamwari, Jeffrey's Bay, Tsitsikamma National Park and Kurland Estate
- Day 12: Keurboomstrand and Kurland Estate
- Day 13: Knysna
- Day 14: Knysna surroundings
- Day 15: from Knysna to Cape Town
- Getting to Cape Town South Africa
- Getting around: our rental car
- Thoughts on our South Africa itinerary
- Don't forget travel insurance
- Stay connected while visiting South Africa
- Pin for later
The start of our South Africa trip
We arrived in Cape Town, South Africa late at night and took an Uber to an Airbnb apartment. Our first few days of our 15 days in South Africa would be spent in Cape Town.
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 & Day 4: Cape Town
I've written extensively about our four days in Cape Town here so make sure to check that out. Below is just a very brief summary of the things we did and the places we went to.
- We visited the V&A Waterfront and shopped at its mall. We had lunch and dinner here a couple of times and also visited the aquarium that's located at the V&A.
- We wandered around the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood in the center of Cape Town.
- We visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of Cape Town.
- We went on a Mini Cape Peninsula/ Cape Point Tour on the Cape Town hop-on/hop-off bus and got some great views from the top deck.
- We went on a whale watching boat trip from Simon's Town.
- We took the cable car up Table Mountain. Read about visiting Table Mountain here.
- We went on an excursion to Robben Island (the prison Nelson Mandela spent 18 years). Check out our review of the Robben Island experience here.
If you're short on time and want to see the Cape Town highlights combine the hop-on, hop-off bus with the Table Mountain cable car. Check out this full-day Cape Town tour.
Where to stay in Cape Town
If you're looking for more options, these apartments look great too:
- This well located one-bedroom Airbnb in Sea Point is walking distance to Brokenbath Beach.
- If you're looking for a bigger place in Cape Town check out this two-bedroom apartment with amazing balcony and views in Green Point. It is also very well located, within walking distance to the V&A.
And if you want to spend one night closer to Cape Point to see the sights over there, this is a great Airbnb with ocean views over on that side.
Cost of our itinerary in Cape Town
The total cost of our Cape Town itinerary (including meals and accomodation) $1155.61 or €982.76 for two people for four days in Cape Town. This doesn't include the rental car we picked up on the day we drove the Cape Peninsula as we also used it on the rest of our trip.
You can read more about our rental car and what it cost at the bottom of the post.
Day 5: From Cape Town to Hermanus
We left Cape Town on day 5; next on our South Africa road trip itinerary was Hermanus, also known as the whale watching town in the Western Cape. We'd spend two nights there, but not before making a few stops along the way.
Our first stop on the road trip itinerary was Gordon's Bay, a coastal town practically opposite from Simon's Town should you cross False Bay by boat. We'd already done that when we went whale watching, so this time we kept our feet on the shore (and the rest of our bodies too, obviously).
You can park your car at the total Western End of Beach Road, as we did, and then walk past the Yacht Club, over the hill along the road to get to the coastal path. It's a small walkway between some trees and green that leads to main part of Gordon's Bay.
You can just walk to the end of the beach and back or stop and rest for a bit, though I recommend going on if you want to do all the things we did that day.
Stony Point Penguin Reserve
The shortest route from Cape Town to Gordon's Bay and then to Hermanus is via Highway 2, but the much more scenic route leaves the 2 in Gordon's Bay and goes down the R44 toward Betty's Bay. You'll get some amazing coastal views before you reach Stony Point.
Stony Point is another area where you can find a bunch of penguins. I wanted to come here because several people on travel forums and they remarked that they preferred this place to Boulders Beach as it's much less crowded and the entrance fee is lower.
But was it really a better spot? Read all about that in my Boulders Beach vs Betty's Bay comparison post.
Next, we drove on to another coastal town known for whale sightings: Kleinmond.
Like so many coastal towns in the South African Western Cape, Kleinmond is small. I doubt there's much to see, but if you head to Harbour Road, you'll find all the lunch options you need. I'd picked out Bistro 14 after checking reviews on Google Maps and it was a great choice, if I may say so.
To get to the Bistro, you walk through a little gateway that leads to a lovely courtyard where you can sit outside, or you can also cross the courtyard and eat it. As the weather was lovely, we opted to do the former.
I had a salad, Boyfriend chose a sandwich and we each had a drink as well. The food was delicious and just what we needed. Enough to recharge our batteries but not so much that we needed a nap after.
If you decide to put a stop at Kleinmond on your South Africa itinerary as well, don't head straight for your car after. Walk down Harbour Road first to get to the little beach below.
It's really small, but if you look to your left, you'll see a little wooden pathway. This too is super short (takes about 5 minutes) and leads up the cliff next to the beach, from where you can get to a viewpoint.
This is the time to note something else we frequently spotted on our South Africa trip: locals drive their car as close to the beach as possible and then just sit in the trunk. Because, why not.
We didn't see this happen everywhere, but enough times to notice. Maybe that's also because it's something I only saw in South Africa.
From Kleinmond we drove to our Hermanus accommodation, the One Marine Drive boutique hotel. We spent two nights there.
The hotel is located across the street from the Cliff Path, a 12 km-long trail along that stretches from New Harbour to Grotto Beach and overlooks Hermanus Bay. It's also a safe 10-minute walk from the center of Hermanus, where there are plenty of restaurants.
The One Marine Drive is a bed and breakfast which also has a bar where you can get drinks 24/7. They also make a mean carrot cake. Cake, tea, and coffee are freely available 24/7 and can be enjoyed at the bar, by the pool or in your room.
There are rooms with a sea view and a balcony and then there are pool rooms which have direct access to, indeed, the pool. We had one of those and this is what it looked like:
Want to stay at the One Marine drive as well? Check prices and availability here.
As it was late afternoon when we arrived in Hermanus, we simply unpacked a bit before heading out for dinner. But not before we caught the last bit of the sunset from the Cliff Path across the road first.
Dinner at La Pentola
For dinner, we went to La Pentola. It's also located on Marine Drive and was about a 10-minute walk (Hermanus is a small town) from the hotel. The restaurant is located on the first floor and while it doesn't have a balcony, it does offer views of the ocean to those sitting by the window.
The menu offers world kitchen, mixing some typical South African foods like ostrich steak with pasta and fish dishes. The service here was excellent and we both enjoyed our dinner.
As we weren't that hungry, we only had a main course so I can't comment on the starters or dessert, though the spoon of sorbet we got with the bill was a lovely treat to end our meal with.
Costs of the day
- Stony Point Penguin Reserve: R20 ($1.47/€1.25) for two
- Lunch: $18.50/€15.75 for two
- Dinner: $36.40/€31 for two
- One night at One Marine Drive: prices start at around R2450 ($180/€153)/night for two – We received a complimentary stay
- Total cost of the day: $236/€201
Day 6: Hermanus Cliff Walk
The Hermanus Cliff Walk is one of the things to do in Hermanus and a highlight on any South Africa itinerary. Luckily, it was still low season while we were there and so we only saw a few other people on the path.
The Cliff Walk stretches from New Harbour to Grotto Beach, encompassing a total of 12 km. There are tons of entrance points to the walk just about anywhere on the route.
As our hotel was located a bit away from the beginning at New Harbour, we decided to start our walk there, head to have lunch, and then decide if we were still feeling chipper enough to walk back. If not, we could always take a tuk-tuk.
Yes, apparently tuk-tuks are a thing in Hermanus.
It's a pretty easy walk without a lot of ascending and descending. There's little shade though, so be prepared for that if you do it on a sunny day.
Once you're out of the center of Hermanus, the track runs along the water and through a nature reserve, so there are no food or drink stops either. We'd packed plenty of water and a few snacks, as we knew we'd eat at the end of the walk.
The path is nice as-is, but the best time of the year to do it is during whale season, from June to November. That's when you can spot whales right from the shore and because the Cliff Path is a bit higher up, it offers great views of the Ocean.
At Grotto's Beach, the path ends by a parking lot where you can also find Dutchies, a quaint little tavern with great views. We enjoyed a lovely fresh lunch on the terrace and even spotted a whale while we were eating!
As it wasn't that late yet and we were still feeling quite good, we decided to make our way back to the hotel. I think the entire walk took us about 6-7 hours, including a long lunch and an ice cream break back at the center of Hermanus.
If you would rather go on a boat tour to see the whales whilst in Hermanus, check this one out.
Dinner at Burgundy
At night, we walked the ten minutes from One Marine Drive to the center of Hermanus to eat at Burgundy. I'd already spotted the big terrace of this restaurant – and the delicious smells coming from it – the night before, so I'd wanted to try it out.
Boyfriend ordered an ostrich steak while I opted for a fish dish. Service was friendly and Boyfriend loved his steak but I'm not a big fan of how they prepare fish in South Africa. I've ordered fish a couple of times when we were there and they seem to grill it longer than we do, making it more crusty and dry instead.
It's personal taste, because other than that the food was good.
Costs of the day 6 itinerary
- Lunch: $35.71/€30.42 for two
- Ice cream: around $9-10/€7-8 cash for two
- Dinner: $33.47/€28.51 for two
- One night at One Marine Drive: prices start at around R2450 ($180/€153)/night for two – We received a complimentary stay and paid an extra $15.25/€12.99 for drinks
- Total cost of the day: $273.43/€232.42
Day 7: Road tripping to Oudtshoorn
Next up on the South Africa road trip itinerary was Oudtshoorn. It is a pretty popular destination for people traveling to the Western Cape, mostly because of its many ostrich farms and the Cango Caves, a big network of caves you can visit.
We weren't really interested in those things though. What we were interested in, was the route to Oudtshoorn.
During my research, I kept reading how beautiful that route was and so I figured that as we were doing a loop road trip as part of our itinerary anyway, we might as well include that route into our loop.
It starts on the N2, going through rather open landscapes that make way for mountains and spectacular views as you go through the Tradouwpas.
Don't drive too fast. There are plenty of spots along the road where you can pull over to admire the scenery and take a few photos.
There are a few smaller towns along this route where you can stop for a snack, a meal, or a toilet break. Most shops and cafes lie alongside the road, so you don't even have to go in search of them.
Lunch in Barrydale
A popular spot to take a break is Barrydale. I don't know if that's the case, but I think that might have something to do with the popularity of Diesel & Cream, a roadside American style diner where you can get burgers and milkshakes.
Its vintage interior does well on social media and so I too came across it when researching our trip. But we didn't stop there.
Sure, it looked Instagrammable, but I don't like burgers and I prefer something a bit more nutritious than a milkshake for lunch. So instead, we left the main road and drove just a few minutes to the edge of town, where I knew The Blue Cow would be awaiting us.
The Blue Cow is one of those true hidden gems and so I've briefly thought about not sharing it. But hey, I said I was going to give you our entire South Africa itinerary, so here it is.
When you arrive at The Blue Cow, you're met by a dusty parking lot and what looks like a simple wooden chalet.
If you need to go to the toilet first, don't enter but go right of the building, where you'll find the Moo Loo. Don't worry, these are proper toilets. They're just separated from the “main building” in two small wooden shacks.
The cafe itself consists of a small shop selling local products, the counter, the kitchen, and a small seating area.
The best part is outside.
When you step outside, you get onto a large balcony that stretches out over a pond that seems to have popped out of a painting. It's full of big fish and everyone who visits the cafe – this is my favorite bit – gets two slices of bread to feed the fish.
It was so much fun to do and incredible to see how everyone turned into a kid again when they did this. The menu contains snacks, salads, and desserts. Oh, and this beautiful cheese platter Boyfriend ordered.
The food was good and so was the service, albeit a little slow. We didn't mind though. Would you, with this view?
Another popular spot in Barrydale, on many a South Africa itinerary, is Ronnie's Sex Shop. Don't worry, it's not what it says it is. The story goes that Ronnie wanted to turn an old building into a farm stall selling fresh produce and so he started by painting “Ronnie's Shop” on it. His friends added the “Sex” to spice the place up a bit.
Although he was disgruntled at first, Ronnie kept patching the place up and his friends kept popping by to have drinks together. One night, one of them suggested Ronnie just turn the place into a pub instead.
So now Ronnie's Sex Shop is a meeting place for locals and travelers alike, where you can cuddle with a new lover, throw a party, have a braai (bbq), and even spend the night if you've had one too many.
I've read it has the weirdest interior decoration ever, with all kinds of things hanging from the walls and the ceiling. I didn't go and check because well, we'd just had lunch and wanted to continue our journey.
The place seemed packed, though, so maybe you can order a drink there when you follow this itinerary and let me know how it was?
We arrived in Oudtshoorn in the early evening and had planned to visit a waterfall nearby. Due to heavy traffic and roadworks, though, we realized we'd never get there and back before sunset and so we opted to just check in at our Oudtshoorn hotel, the 88 Baron van Reede guesthouse, instead.
There we were welcomed by the two lovely owners who showed us our room and invited us for a drink while they told us all about the area. It turned out they're avid travelers as well and so we exchanged stories over a beer (Boyfriend) and some tea (me).
Our room really was lovely and I'm sorry we only got to spend one night in it. Have a look:
Want to stay at the 88 Baron van Reed as well? Check prices and availability here.
The guesthouse is located nearby a bunch of restaurants and we went to Bello Cibo, just a two-minute walk from the hotel. It's an Italian place run by a South African, but the foods didn't taste any less good because of that.
It's a rather small restaurant, though, so it can get a bit noisy in there.
Costs of the day
- Lunch: paid in cash (see bottom of post)
- Dinner: $22.67/€19.31 for two
- One night at 88 Baron van Reede guesthouse: $85.54/€72.85 for two, including a drink
- Total cost of the day: $108.21/€92.16 for two
Day 8: Hike the Robberg Nature Reserve at Plettenberg Bay
The next morning, we had a choice to make. We'd either stick around Oudtshoorn a little longer and visit something there, or we'd head straight to Plettenberg Bay to hike at Robberg.
We both agreed we were more interested in doing the latter and our Robberg hike ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.
The Robberg Reserve located on the Robberg Peninsula, located in the south of Plettenberg Bay. It's not a reserve you can drive around in. You leave your car in the parking lot and then follow the Robberg trail.
The full Robberg walk, also known as the Point Circuit, goes entirely around the Peninsula. It's a total of 9.2 kms long and although it's estimated to take you around 4 hours, I reckon you can easily spend a day hiking it.
That's because we took a shorter route, the 5.5. km Witsand Circuit. This route follows the exact same path as the Point Circuit, but it cuts through the middle of the peninsula at Witsand beach and allows you to return a bit sooner.
We choose this route because it was already afternoon when we arrived at the reserve and we didn't want to have to rush before closing time.
The estimated time for this circuit is two hours, but I think we spent about three walking it. That's because there's just so much to see along the way.
There's a seal colony close to one of the first viewing points, there are weird crickets that love to pose for photos and we even saw a group of dolphins jumping through the water. Oh, and another whale!
Witsand Beach is the most gorgeous place to stop and sit for a bit and when we were there, there were only a few other people. It was so peaceful and the spot is simply gorgeous.
The part on your way back from Witsand was the only part we found a bit strenuous. You have to climb (not really climb, but you know) over some rocks and it's the only time that the path isn't as clearly marked. It's not too dangerous and you'll be able to do it if you're in normal shape, but it's a spot to be careful.
It's also the spot where the force of nature is best visible, with the waves crashing into the cliffs just below you. Watch out for slippery rocks!
Once you've managed that short but somewhat difficult bit, you'll reach the first viewing point again and from there it's a breeze.
There's one other loop, the Gap Circuit, and this one is only 2.1 km long. I'd only recommend it if you're really short on time, though, because all the good sights lie behind it. It already returns at the first viewing point you'll come across.
This Circuit is also part of the larger Robberg hiking trail. All three circuits follow the same path, the Gap and Witsand Circuit just cut through the middle before reaching the most southern point of the peninsula, while the Point Circuit goes all the way around.
Robberg Nature Reserve
Entrance fee: R40 ($2.86/€2.44) for adults, R20 ($1.43/€1.22) for kids.
- May – September: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- October – April: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Our Plettenberg Bay hotel
That night, we stayed at the Anlin Beach House just a short drive from the reserve. The Anlin Beach House is located in a residential neighborhood, just a 2-minute walk from the beach in Plettenberg. There's private parking on-site.
Our room ended up being a proper studio with a kitchen, lounge area, and our own terrace. Because we'd been eating out so much, we decided to go to the supermarket and eat in that night, making use of the kitchen.
This is what our room looked like:
There's no communal room at Anlin so breakfast is served on the terrace of your room or inside if it's too cold. We just checked the boxes for everything we wanted when we checked in and got a lovely breakfast platter in the morning.
Want to stay at the Anlin Beach House too? Check here for prices and availability.
Costs of the day 8 itinerary
- Quick sandwich at Hola Cafe in the center of Plett: paid in cash (see bottom post)
- Robberg Nature Reserve: 2X R40 or approx. $6/€5 for two
- Dinner from the grocery store: $9/€7.66 for two
- One night at Anlin Beach House: prices start around $105/€89/night for two – We received a complimentary stay
- Total cost of the day: $120/€101.66
Day 9, Day 10, Day 11: Shamwari Game Reserve
Going all the way to the famous Kruger National Park isn't really doable in a 2-week itinerary driving from Cape Town unless you fly to Johannesburg. So, the next morning we drove to the furthest point so far on the itinerary to check off another bucket list experience of mine: a South Africa safari.
We'd spend the next couple of days at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve, going on many a game drive, bush walks getting flabbergasted by nature as we searched for the big 5. This incredible experience deserves its own post, so you can read our Shamwari Game Reserve review here.
Costs of Day 9 – Day 11
- Two night full pension at the Shamwari Long Lee Manor lodge, all activities included + some drinks: 2 x R5434 ($389/€331)/night (winter price) + some drinks at $21.73/€18.5 = approx. €700 for two – We received a complimentary stay
- Total cost for two days: $822/€700 for two
Day 11: Shamwari, Jeffrey's Bay, Tsitsikamma National Park and Kurland Estate
After having checked out at Shamwari, we drove back in the direction of Cape Town. We still had a few days left on our trip during which we'd visit some places we hadn't seen on our way East.
The first one was Jeffreys Bay.
Jeffreys Bay is a coastal town popular with surfers and that shows. I'd planned for us to stop there for lunch and the spot I'd picked – J-Bay Bru – was located on a road full of surf shops.
It was a big place consisting of an inner seating area, a sports bar type of area, and a terrace. It also had a little takeaway coffee bar.
Boyfriend ordered a pizza while I went for a wrap. We sat on the terrace on the side of the building as we watched people walk by. The service was friendly and pretty fast. The food was fresh and good too.
As Boyfriend loves surf brands such as Rip Curl and Billabong, we went to check out some shops afterward. Da Gama Road, the street we were at, is also separated by just one row of buildings from the sea
so we quickly had a look there too before driving onward to Tsitsikamma National Park.
Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma is a big National Park located on the boundary of the Western and the Eastern Cape. It's mostly known for its many hiking trails, the Storms River, and the Bloukrans Bridge which offers the highest commercial bungee jumping in the world.
It was already afternoon when we got there and so we only saw a small part of the park as we chose to do the Storms River Hike to Storms River Mouth, where the river meets the ocean. It's one of the most popular things to do in Tsitsikamma National Park as the hike doesn't just lead to the river mouth, but also to some suspension bridges crossing it.
It's also possible to descend the river from the Storms River Village through the Storms River Valley by kayak if that's more your thing. If you do that, you'll drop off your kayak at the same spot where hikers reach the river mouth.
The Storms River Mouth Hike starts at the parking lot of the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp. It's a short (2 km) and easy hike along a boardwalk but you will have to go up and down some stairs.
At the end of the hike, you'll reach the river mouth, the suspension bridges and a small pebble beach. Those who're still feeling energetic can continue up to a viewing point. Watch out though: this is a strenuous hike and the path isn't always open.
Tsitsikamma National Park opening hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Tsitsikamma Park entrance fee: R196 ($14/€12) for adults, R98 ($7/€6) for kids.
After our little walk, we drove on to spend a relaxed evening at the Kurland Hotel, about a 40-minute drive further west. This is what our room there looked like:
Costs of the day 11 itinerary
- Food at J-Bay Bru: $16.14/€13.75 for two
- Tsitsikamma National park: 2 x R196 or approx. $29/€25 for two.
- Dinner at Kurland Hotel: we received a complimentary dinner. I didn't check the prices
- One night including breakfast at Kurland Estate in an Elegant Suite: prices start at R4550/night for two or approx. $335/€285 – We received a complimentary stay
- Total cost of the day: $380.14/€323.75 for two
Day 12: Keurboomstrand and Kurland Estate
On day 12, our plan had been to go for a spin around the Kurland Estate on the hotel's quad bikes. Unfortunately, they were all in for repairs and so we had to change our plans.
We drove to Keurboomstrand where we wanted to do a walk along the shore that would take us to a natural arch, but again it wasn't meant to be. There's been a heavy storm recently and more than a meter of sand covered it.
We had no idea until we found ourselves stuck in from of a high cliff where there should have been an easy way over it. A local saw the puzzled look on our faces as we didn't know where we'd gone wrong – we were only a few minutes into the walk after all – and told us what happened.
The storm had been so fierce that it had taken a whole lot of sand with it, leaving it much lower than it used to be.
After she'd told us, we suddenly saw how the stairs coming down from the beach houses didn't reach into the sand any more but instead hovered above it a bit. We noticed the chunks of sand that seemed to have been ripped out of the dunes.
So what would we do?
I don't mind changing my plans when I'm traveling by myself, but when I'm traveling with someone and I did the planning, I always feel responsible for providing the fun. So when things don't work out, I get a bit stressed as I worry that the other party might be bummed.
Luckily, Keurboomstrand was much longer than the walk we wanted to do and so we opted for the side of the beach that was still wide open and flat. It might not have been an explorative walk, but instead, we got a nice morning walk along the coast and we got to see whales again.
We didn't have our binoculars with us that morning (it really wasn't our day) but could clearly spot the black backs coming out of the water and I managed to snap a few fins from afar with my camera.
Some people stopped to watch as well, while others continued their braai (South African bbq) on the parking lot.
Yes, barbecue on the parking lot. We saw lots of places in South Africa where you could just barbecue in public spaces.
A relaxed afternoon at Kurland
We didn't have any barbecue material with us, so we headed back to Kurland for some food by the pool. Not too bad either.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in, enjoying a bit of downtime before we headed back out for some dinner.
Ristorante Enrico had been recommended to us by two people and as we'd already spotted it on our morning walk and it looked nice, we decided to give it a go.
Ristorante Enrico is an Italian restaurant located right by Keurboomstrand, with a large deck on which you can eat at picnic tables. As long as it's light, you get a great view of the ocean from there and people who've left reviews even reported having seen whales from the terrace.
As it was already getting dark when we arrived – and a bit chilly- we decided to sit inside. Boyfriend ordered mussels and shrimp with bread, I chose a seafood pasta.
Service was friendly fast and smart: when Boyfriend ordered an ice cream for dessert, the waiter added a second spoon for me :D
Costs of the day
- We received a complimentary lunch. I didn't check the prices
- Dinner: $43.19/€36.8 for two
- One night including breakfast at Kurland Estate in an Elegant Suite: prices start at R4550/night for two or approx. $335/€285 + $13.99/€11.92 for drinks – We received a complimentary stay
- Total cost of the day: $392.18/€333.72
Day 13: Knysna
On our 13th day in South Africa, it was time to head to our final proper destination of the trip: Knysna.
I wanted to visit Knysna because I'd read such good things about the Knysna lagoon and the nature surrounding the town, but I have to admit we were both a bit disappointed.
Now, Knysna and surroundings were nice – don't get me wrong – but I think we'd had so many truly amazing days that it took a bit more to wow us than it might have at the beginning of our trip.
Anyways. The first thing we did in Knysna was check into our airbnb apartment.
Some apartment trouble
We'd booked an airbnb apartment on Thesen Island, which is one of the more exclusive parts of Knysna. That wasn't why we booked there though. We just booked there because the apartment had everything we definitely wanted:
- a central location
- parking space
And of course some secondary things such as a bed and a shower ;-)
It seemed our streak of bad luck wasn't over yet, because when we got to the apartment, neither the television nor the WiFi or the hot water were working. It took a bit of going back and forth as the owners were on holiday and had left an agency in charge, but they were super apologetic and helpful so that the next morning, everything was working again.
Things like this can happen and what matters more to me than what's broken, is how the situation is dealt with.
After having dropped off our stuff at the apartment, we decided to stay in Knysna for the rest of the day and headed to Knysna Heads, a neighborhood located on top of a high cliff, overlooking the spot where the lagoon enters the ocean.
It's a viewpoint with a small walking path and also offers great views of the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, Featherbed was struck by one of the many fires that blew through the region in winter and all we saw were ashes where there once was a green forest.
There is parking space close to the viewpoint and when we were there, there was no parking guy. It looked like a super safe neighborhood, though so I wouldn't worry about leaving my car there for the 15-30 minutes you have a look around.
Downtown Knysna and Knysna Waterfront
From Knysna Heads we drown downtown to do some groceries. As we had an apartment again, we decided to eat in that night and buy some drinks and breakfast for the morning.
Once we'd dropped those off, we went for lunch at Cafe Dubois on Gray Street, a cozy bistro where they offer snacks, salads, sweets and sandwiches.
From there, it was just a short walk to the Knysna Waterfront. It's a pretty, but clearly touristy spot, and the only time during our whole trip where we saw a man chase away a young boy he clearly suspected of being a pickpocketer.
I wouldn't visit Knysna just to visit the Waterfront. We were there and it was on our way back to Thesen Island anyway.
We had a bit of a walk around Thesen Island as well, but much of the rest of our day was dedicated to getting the things at the apartment working – and having cocktails at Tapas & Oysters on Thesen Island because hey, we needed a place with WiFi ;-)
What's fun about Tapas & Oysters and a bunch of other restaurants on Thesen Island is that they look out on Knysna Bay so that you can watch the boats go in and out of the harbor.
Costs of the day
- Groceries: $16.84/€14.35
- Lunch: $20.16/€17.18 for two
- Coffee: $3.50/€2.98 for two
- Drinks: $10.11/€8.61 for two
- One night at our airbnb: $43.13/€36.75
- Total cost of the day: $93.74/€79.87
Day 14: Knysna surroundings
While I'd made a proper day-to-day itinerary for our trip, I have to admit I dropped the ball a bit with Knysna, which lead to us being a bit indecisive about what we'd do our last day there.
We ended up exploring the larger Knysna area but not in the most structured way.
In the morning, we drove to Buffels Bay for a walk. On the other end of the bay lies Brenton Beach and we'd actually finish our day there. Initially, we wanted to walk from Buffels Bay to Brenton and back but Boyfriend wasn't feeling it that morning and even though the walk had been his idea, he wanted to go back before we were even halfway.
Now I do have to say that the beach wasn't that spectacular. If you do plan a walk there as part of your itinerary, I recommend doing it the other way around: start in Brenton-on-Sea and walk to Buffels Bay so you can have a snack at the restaurant there before turning back. There are parking lots at both places.
We went back to Knysna for lunch and a coffee at the cute African Bean, located right on the N2. You can park in the surrounding streets but mind you: there's often a one-hour limit.
Reenergized we drove on to Noetzie Castles, a bit of a secluded bit of coast to the east of Knysna. When you get there, you park your car at the top and then follow a small path and some stairs down to the sea. It's a short walk.
The beach was absolutely lovely, with high cliffs surrounding us and some impressive mansions or “castles” overlooking the ocean. As it still wasn't that late when we left, we wanted to go for a hike at the Diepwalle Forest. That failed because of me, though.
You see, as we'd be flying home the next day, we'd spent all of our cash and as we'd been able to pay with card in all parks we'd visited so far, I was certain we'd be able to pay with card at Diepwalle as well.
Yeah, we didn't.
So we drove about half an hour, of which 12 km on a crappy gravel road, to get there and then not get in because we didn't have any cash on us. That's what bad preparation and not planning the last day of the itinerary does to ya!
We were a bit bummed that day but now that I write it all down, I realize there are quite a few things to do in Knysna and surroundings and we did manage to see quite a bit. Some things get better in hindsight, don't they? :-)
Costs of the day 14 itinerary
- Groceries: $1.63/€1.39
- Lunch: $13.01/€11.08 for two
- Dinner: $47.49/€40.46 for two
- One night at our airbnb: $43.14/€36.75
- Total cost of the day: $105.27/€89.68
Day 15: from Knysna to Cape Town
On our final day in South Africa, we had to drive 474 km from Knysna to Cape Town Airport to catch our flight there. It would take us about five hours without any stops, but I did have some stops planned for us!
It would have been a shame to spend our last day in the country just driving, no?
We first stopped at Wilderness Beach as we'd heard and read that it's pretty. Well, it is pretty, but there's not much to do at a beach when the weather isn't that great and it was a rather grey morning, so we went for a little stroll and then drove on to…
We stopped there as I'd seen the name pop up a lot when researching the itinerary and it's a bigger town, but unfortunately not that impressive. We'd asked our GPS to guide us to the harbor but the harbor at Mossel Bay is an industrial harbor that you can't actually visit.
There were a few cafes around, but as we weren't really hungry yet, we drove on until we reached…
Swellendam is a pretty cute little town and we stopped there for lunch at Monkens. We enjoyed a yummy toast while chatting about our trip with the owner a bit. The service was friendly and fast, I can definitely recommend this place.
It was during lunch that I discovered the Bontebok National Park, a park located right next to the center of Swellendam. With still some time left before we needed to start our final trek to Cape Town, we decided to go and check it out.
Bontebok National Park
I'd read that there were some hiking trails at Bontebok National Park but what I didn't know is that you can also drive a circular route through the park to do some animal spotting.
We saw quite a few of the bontebok (a kind of antelope) the park is named after, as well as zebra and a few red hartebeest. But the drive wasn't nearly as impressive as the game drives we'd done at Shamwari Game Reserve. I think that place really spoiled us and will put many self-drives to come in the shade.
When we finished our drive, we didn't leave yet but instead decide to go for one last hike. We chose the Acacia Trail as it's only 1.6 km long. It's a fun walk in the bush but we didn't really see anything spectacular. I was happy I got to stretch my legs a bit before we got back in the car and drove the final 200 km to Cape Town, though.
Once there, we dropped of our rental car and indulged in a final way-cheaper-than-in-Belgium meal before flying back home.
Costs of the day
- Lunch: $7.66/€6.53 for two
- Bontebok National Park: $15.35/€13.05
- Dinner: $38.42/€32.73 for two
- Total cost of the day: $61.43/€52.31
Getting to Cape Town South Africa
We booked our flights to Cape Town and back several months in advance and paid €628,77 ($740.95)/person for a round trip plus €40 ($47.14)/person to reserve our seats for the long flight there and back.
I used Skyscanner to search for the best combination of flight time and price, which is how I decide to book tickets with KLM.
We ended up taking a short flight from Brussels Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol to then get on a direct flight which took us to Cape Town in 11 hours and 20 minutes. We took the same route back.
Because our flight from Brussels to Amsterdam was at a ridiculously early hour, we booked a taxi to take us to the airport using Kiwitaxi, an online platform that allows you to book taxis all over the world.
It's pretty handy as you get a text message confirming your pickup the day before as well as when you're taxi's there.
- Kiwitaxi: $86.86/€74 – We were offered a ride to try out the service
- Flights: $1,569.85/€1,337.54 for two
- Uber Cape Town Airport to Cape Town center: $14.47/€12.33
- Total cost to get to Cape Town and back: $1,671.18/€1,423.87 for two
Getting around: our rental car
We booked our rental car in advance with Sunny Cars. You can read all about our experience with them here
- Sunny Cars Compact rental car with Express Service package: available for $235-$469/€200-€400
- Gas: $136.58/€116.36
- Parking: a few rands for the parking guys
- Toll at Storms River: 2 x $15.21/€12.96
- Total rental car costs: $402-$636/€342.28 – €542.25 without tips for parking and gas station attendees
Total cost of our South Africa Itinerary
The total cost of this trip is around $5868.39/€5,000 + $165.84/€141.30 we spent in cash, mostly on tips and small coffee breaks. This amount does not include a bit of shopping we did.
We definitely didn't travel as cheap as we could on this trip. We stayed at some higher-end places and often had a starter and/or dessert with dinner. You could reduce the total cost by staying at Airbnb's everywhere, though I highly recommend splurging on a stay at Shamwari as it offers such an amazing experience.
We also ate out all the time, except for two evenings, as South Africa has so many great restaurants! But, you could definitely lower your food cost as well if you booked Airbnb apartments with kitchens so that you could cook every evening.
On the other side of the scale, there are plenty of options to splurge in South Africa as well.
For tips on tipping in South Africa, check out my tipping guide.
Thoughts on our South Africa itinerary
I'm really happy with how our South Africa trip turned out, and not just because I planned it :D We had a good balance of seeing a lot and still being able to chill a bit over the two weeks. The only thing I'd do differently if I'd do it again would be to plan the final part of our trip a bit better.
I also wouldn't stay at Kurland again, if I'm honest. We were invited there and said yes because it seemed like a cool place, but it added a stop to our program that we otherwise probably would have made elsewhere and it wasn't that great that it was worth spending two days there.
I can't tell you if September is the best time of year to go to South Africa, but it sure ain't a bad time. We went then because it was in the middle of whale season and we saw plenty of whales.
I also liked that it was the low season as we definitely saw other tourists around, but nowhere was it really crowded.
If you'd ask me when to go to South Africa, I'd probably recommend the end of September/beginning of October instead of the beginning of September as we did experience a few days with rather chilly weather.
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan your trip to South Africa, something can always go wrong that's beyond your control. Your luggage might never arrive, you may get sick or someone might steal your camera. In all of these cases, good travel insurance has you covered.
I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately too.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out World Nomads. They cover a wide range of activities for people from 140 countries.
Stay connected while visiting South Africa
Want to stay connected so you can share photos, call loved ones over WiFi and easily use apps like Google Maps while you're in South Africa? Then check out Skyroam mobile WiFi.
They offer both day passes and monthly subscriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I've been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I'll go over my phone's data plan.
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