SA Inside guide to an epic Garden Route break this Festive Season

Selene Brophy
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It's just over a month until the end of 2016! In our house the summer holiday excitement is palpable as the school holidays are less than three weeks away.

Traveller24 has been building up to our bumper Festive Season guide - wherever you're headed in SA - it's the in-destination fun-finder you won't want to leave home without - subscribe to our newsletter for more here.

This week we’re showcasing the magical Garden Route

South Africa is blessed with a staggeringly gorgeous coastline, but just before the Western and Eastern Cape meld into each other you'll find a rare string of pearls that make up this Mermaid's purse coastal loveliness, whether you're heading in from the Western Cape through the Little Karoo or happen to be trekking down through the Free State - it's the coastal summer break you've been waiting for.

SEE: Clarens: A brewery with a town around it

And this Festive Season there are more than enough events and activities to keep you in the holiday spirit - save this Must-do list of summer events along the Garden Route. before checking out all the essentials you need to plan an Epic break along this Summer Holiday hotspot

Where to stay: Boiler Room Chic: A unique Garden Route stay

Read the full review here. Not for you? See more Accommodation options here.

The Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa on Thesen Island is the perfect base to explore Knysna, its history and its nearby attractions on the Garden Route. Want to know where to base yourself? A rather unique stay would be to check out the Garden Route boiler-room chic at the Turbine Boutique Hotel & Spa.

Established by the Thesen family from Norway as a power station initially, it used wood chips to generate the electricity that powered Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, and which was part of the Eskom power grid for many years - the hotel was

But environmental concerns about the felling of the indigenous forest finally put an end to the mill in the 1980s and saw the industrial site turned into a glamorous, internationally acclaimed marina development.

What to do: Garden Route Adventure fun  

It really is far and few between that you find visitors to South Africa not including a Garden Route road trip  into their round-tour of the country. Yes, the Garden Route has pretty much become synonymous with SA must-dos such as the Big Five and Table Mountain.

For locals too, this has become the go-to long weekend escape. From its secret beaches to the pull of Keurbooms,  to having spectacular nature reserve experiences in the likes of Robberg or the Tsitsikamma and not forgetting the iconic Otter Trail,  the highest Bungee Jump in the world or the majestic Outeniqua Mountains -  it all really depends on how much time you have to explore. 

SEE: #KarooSecrets: SA insider guide to the best of the Karoo

Drive The Outeniqua Pass

The Outeniqua Pass connects the coastal town of George with Oudtshoorn and the Little Karoo. It was first built in 1951 to provide an alternative to the Montagu Pass and has been widened and modernized several times since then according to Mountain Passes South Africa. This pass has played host to the snowy winter wonders of late and under those conditions this pass can be dangerous, especially due to the volume of commercial traffic that it carries.

See more suggestions of things to do here: Garden Route Adventure: 17 ways to have the most fun

Spot the elusive elephants of the Knysna Forests along its new historical route

The Knysna Forest is but one of the special places you'll find along the garden route. Here, despite dense human populations and agriculture, elusive creatures of the bush still populate the woods.  The five elephants believed to live in the forest today are but an echo of the elephant herds that used to roam the forest.  In 1876, there were an estimated 400 elephants walking the Knysna forest, the Garden Route National Park says. 

SEE: SA Insider: The Complete guide to the Cape Route 62

The GRNP team, along with the Knysna Historical Society and other stakeholders have launched a historical route in one of SA’s largest individual forests.  By using this self-drive route, visitors to the Garden Route can drive to 10 marked historically significant locations in the Knysna forest. The route comes with a map of the 10 areas dubbed "rooted in time". 

WATCH: Elusive Knysna elephant captured on camera

Where to Eat: Unique eats, Magical markets and beach-bar fun

And like all good holidays, food takes pride of place.

You'll soon discover that the Garden Route has some truly unique foodie spots to check out after a hard day at the beach.

Have you ever been to De Vette Mossel?  It's the perfect marriage between the Garden Route and the West Coast! You'll enjoy cuisine and ambiance prepared in true West Coast style in this Groot Brak must-visit. Food is prepared on open fires in front of you, and you will probably leave with a few new 'Mossel' friends. 

There are also beach bars aplenty to unwind at. From De Dekke, Groot Brak, Seeplaas Beach Bar, Tergniet  to  PiliPili Beach Bar, Sedgefield - you'll find something to suit your tastes - Here are 12 Beach bars, sundowner spots and local dives to get you started.

The freshly-foraged goodness of the Garden Route farmers has undoubtedly become a huge drawcard.

If you've not yet experienced it, Geogrge's Outeniqua Farmer's Market or the Harkerville Saturday Market on the N2, between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are just two of the must-do Garden Route markets - check them out here.

But there's no escaping the coastal appeal of the Garden Route, home to some of SA's most beautiful and often lesser-known beaches. Pack a picnic and get your sun tan on at the likes of Witsand,  Hartenbos, Noetsie, Dune or Robberg and Nature’s Valley - all rate tops for their blue flag status.  Get the low down here with this complete Garden Route Summer Beach Guide.

SEE: 9 Secret beaches along the Garden Route

Want to share your holiday experiences with us? Email or sign-up for our newsletter herefor all the latest holiday must-visit spots and the ultimate SA insider weekend planner.

What to read next on Traveller24:

Garden Route secrets: 15 adventures to uncover

Sedgefield: Why you need a Garden Route stay on the vlei

Spring road-tripping: Family fun along the Garden Route