The strip of coastline known as the Garden Route lies halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. It's where South Africa's modern, eurocentric, history started, but also shows modern humankind's emergence here 165,000 years ago. In search of a spice route to the east, Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Diaz was blown to the south of the African continent and his first landfall was on February 3, 1488 at today's Munro Bay at Mossel Bay. He named it Aguada De Sao Bras (the Watering Place of St Blaize since landfall was on the saint's day).
After replenishing water suplies from a spring that still exists, Dias sailed eastwards as far as the Great Fish River where his crew refused to go further. It was only on his way back that he discovered the Cape of Good Hope and it was to be another nine years before another explorer, Vaco da Gama, first set foot in Table Bay in 1497.
The boundaries of the Garden Route have never been set and many towns would like to be included because it is such a popular destination. It's generally regarded as starting at Mossel Bay and ending at Storms River, the Western Cape's eastern boundary. There is agreement though that its northern boundary is the range of Cape folded mountains that runs along the warm Indian Ocean coastline - the Outeniqua and Tzitzikamma Mountains.
It includes the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Some include Witsand, Stillbaai and Albertinia to the south. Is Oudtshoorn part of the the Garden Route? Not really; it is the 'capital' of the Klein Karoo and located in a semi-arid valley. But the allure and proximity of other attractions, like Route 62 and the Klein Karoo, make this an area with plenty to do.
What really sets the Garden Route apart is spectacular scenery: mountains close to a shoreline with bay after bay, and beach after beach; coastal plains dotted with lakes and towering indigenous forests. And new developments and golfing estates around George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay make this the playground for global travellers.