While the Garden Route is on many a South African travel bucket list, often the small town of Wilderness gets passed over. Travellers whizz through the town on to the luxury hotels of Knysna, the parties in Plettenberg Bay, or the surf sports of Jefferies, or perhaps they don’t even make it that far, lured in by the historical atmosphere of Mossel Bay or the award-winning golf courses in George.
Indeed, the Garden Route has many attractions just waiting to be explored, but here are just a few reasons why you need to set aside some time on your next adventure down the coast to wander a while in Wilderness.
Outdoor things to do in Wilderness
Kilometres of kayaking and stand up paddle boarding
If you want to keep fit while enjoying the magical water ways of the Wilderness, then rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board and the options are endless. Snake your way up the Touws River which starts at the beach in Wilderness and runs all the way through the Wilderness National Park to end at the Half Collared Kingfisher Trail waterfall. It’s a marathon kayak but well worth doing for the day, so start early and pack a picnic or plan a pit stop at one of the Fairy Knowe hotel along the way.
For those looking for a shorter adventure hop in the water at the Kaaimans River Parking and venture out in all directions to see the waterfall, discover a different view of the iconic bridge or take in a different perspective of the Map of Africa.
Visit the Map of Africa
Speaking about the Map of Africa, be sure to visit this spectacular viewpoint just outside of Wilderness to see how the river magically cuts up the surrounding landscape into the shape of Africa. Make a day of a visit here and go the long route to discover some more spectacular scenery and great view points on the dirt Seven Passes Route.
Stay in a treehouse
For those who want to linger longer, the newly opened Treedom Villas and Vardos offers a unique place to spend the night. The long-time dream of husband and wife team, Debbie and Marc, Treedom’s Treehouse Villa offers a quirky escape in this area where choosing the right accommodation from the multitude on offer can be a tricky task.
Set outside of town, surrounded by indigenous forest, the villa sets you up in the trees with everything you could need to be comfortable including wood burning fireplace and fully equipped kitchen, but with the luxury trappings of a hotel to boot. Enjoy evenings in the sauna, or relaxing on the hand-crafted swing bed, before venturing out to the garden to pick some veggies for dinner. Debbie also welcomes guests with a platter of locally sourced goodies including eggs from her own chickens and farm fresh yoghurt, cheese and bread, so you can enjoy some of the amazing produce from the area.
A taste sensation at Wild Oats
If you love the smattering of local delights supplied at Treedom, be sure to head down to the Wild Oats Farmers Market in the neighbouring town of Sedgefield every Saturday for more! Here you can stock up on hand-made cheeses, farm reared beef and a range of freshly picked veggies.
A range of super yummy hot meals and tasty cakes and bakes are also on offer as are some locally crafted décor and clothing items. On your way back to Wilderness be sure to stop in at Timberlake Village where you will find a coffee roastery that serves up some of the best cappuccinos in the Garden Route along with some of the biggest slices of cake I’ve ever seen!
Take a walk in the wilderness
No visit to the Garden Route would be complete without an amble in the magnificent yellow wood and indigenous forests this area is famous for. The Wilderness National Park has a number of trails to please every level of fitness with a couple of bird hides sprinkled along the way for those twitchers in the group.
Even if you are not a bird aficionado be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the striking flash of red and blue that signals a magnificent Knysna Lourie might just be nearby. For those who aren’t that fit, like me, the Brownhooded Kingfisher Trail is a good place to start. This easy there and back ramble runs alongside the river bed to a small waterfall and allows you to experience some of the beauty of the area without breaking your back.
More adventures on the water
Before you leave, you will want to spend some more time on the water in the Wilderness. While the beach here offers miles upon miles to explore, you can also enjoy an adventure on the lake.
Learn to sail or hop onto a speedboat with the likes of Marc and Debbie and spend the day exploring the lake at Swartvlei where you may be lucky to enjoy a riverside braai while the fish eagles soar above you. There’s nothing that says Africa quite like the call of those mighty birds!