Are you planning a South Africa Garden Route itinerary? Check out our favorite things to do in Plettenberg Bay plus other Garden Route highlights that you don’t want to miss.
South Africa is an amazing but exhausting country. Our first six weeks in the country were filled with highs like tasting some of the world’s best wine in Stellenbosch and lows that had us filing two separate police reports in Cape Town.
Plus, we found the driving stressful since Daryl is the only 2foodtripper who can drive a manual car on the left side of Africa’s two-lane, occasionally pothole-ridden roads that seemed eternally under construction. (Okay, Mindi didn’t find the driving so stressful since she took on the navigation and web surfing roles during our South Africa road trip.)
As much as we were tempted to stop in every town along the Garden Route, we needed a break from the constant driving as well as the go-go lifestyle we had adopted. With three safaris in our near future, we needed to slow down and recharge our depleted batteries. We wanted to stop and smell the roses somewhere relaxed but with restaurants and beaches.
Why Plettenberg Bay Beach
After a lot of research, we narrowed our choice to Plettenberg Bay, a resort town known as Plett on the southwestern coast of South Africa and a popular spot on the Garden Route. This popularity translates to a lot of restaurants, bars and shops that cater to both locals and visitors as well as a variety of nearby attractions.
We liked having so many dining options, though we mostly liked chilling at our apartment with our friend Heidi who joined us for our Garden Route holiday. As much as we enjoy each other’s company, it was a true treat to have such a lovely companion join us for our daily walks on the beach not to mention an additional partner in wine. Spending quality time with a friend from home warmed our hearts and inspired our souls.
What to Do in Plettenberg Bay
Ironically, the Garden Route is a coastal route despite having a name that implies more of a vegetative terrain, and Plettenberg Bay is a coastal town on this route. Not that we’re complaining about staying around the corner from the Indian Ocean! Despite the frigid temperature of the water, we still had fun chasing waves and squishing our feet in the sand.
Walk on the Beach
Walking on the beach was our favorite thing to do in Plettenberg Bay South Africa. We know that this activity may sound boring to adventure travelers, but how can beaches be boring when the scenery is this beautiful?
Popular Plettenberg Bay beaches include Central Beach, the Wedge Beach, Robberg Beach, Lookout Beach and Keurbooms Beach – wide beaches with large sandy swaths that extend for miles and miles. Locals and tourists take full advantage of these beaches for swimming, surfing, fishing and strolling.
Lookout Beach was our favorite beach for long walks at all times of the day during our visit to Plettenberg Bay. Easily accessible from Main Street, we usually walked the twisty trail to this beach before ambling on its sandy shore. We especially loved visiting this beach in the late afternoon when the sky would slowly change from blue to purple with bursts of pink added to the mix.
As a bonus, The Lookout Deck is situated right on the beach, providing an ideal spot for an evening sundowner with a front-row view of the sunset. This bar features a full menu of food and drinks, though we just drank craft beer and South African wine here.
Drive to Lookout Beach if you plan to be there after dark. The walk back to town can be a bit treacherous without light.
Shop at the Harkerville Saturday Market
We enjoyed shopping and eating at the Harkerville Saturday Market so much on our first Saturday in Plettenberg Bay that we did it again the following Saturday.
Less flashy and more rustic than the Saturday markets we frequented in Cape Town, the Harkerville Market has dozens of vendors selling all types of handcrafted art, jewelry and clothing, making it the perfect spot to buy gifts for friends at home when traveling on the Garden Route.
Beyond the colorful crafts section, the Harkerville Saturday Market also has a separate area with live entertainment and a varied selection of food to eat on the spot or to take home for later. Prepared food choices abound from meat grilled on the braai to the Indian curries we ate smothered over generous mounds of rice.
Can’t-miss stalls sell freshly made cheese, free range chickens and the biggest selection of biltong we saw in all of South Africa. Seriously, the biltong options include beef as well as ostrich, kudu, springbok and wildebeest – and they tasted GOOD.
Stop at Thyme and Again all days of the week if you can’t make the Saturday market. More than a typical roadside farm stall, Thyme and Again sells freshly baked goods and cafe fare.
South Africa is a country rich in many resources, with wine being at the top of the list. The bottles produced in the Cape Winelands are world-famous, but Plettenberg Bay has its own wine region known as the Plett Winelands. A half dozen wineries offer tastings of their still and sparkling wines including the upscale Kay and Monty Vineyards where we enjoyed an outdoor wine tasting.
Don’t expect the same world-class quality in the Plett Winelands as you will find in the Cape Winelands. However, the tasting experience is still a fun activity and well worth your time.
Additional Plettenberg Bay Attractions
Plettenberg Bay has plenty of options for visitors looking to do more than relax on the beach, eat good food and drink white wine. Many of these activities are in The Crags, a short drive from Plett. Here are some of the area’s top activities:
Where to Eat in Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Bay has a wide selection of restaurants and eateries that cater to the throngs of tourists as well as to locals. We skipped the beach town’s many pizzerias and instead ate fish and other local dishes.
Our favorite Plettenberg restaurant was Le Fournil de Plett, a bakery with a wide selection of freshly baked bread and croissants as well as full breakfast and lunch menus.
We stopped by Le Fournil de Plett several times during the week for meals, bread and bags of Truth Coffee. We liked everything about this French cafe except for one thing – the bees.
Whenever we approached the bread counter, swarms of worker bees would be buzzing around the baked goods. Apparently, South African insects have good taste in food.
We also enjoyed eating at The Fat Fish, a Plettenberg Bay restaurant with a view of Central Beach and great seafood options. Skipping kingklip, we instead ate fruits of the sea like Asian calamari and wild oysters.
We don’t understand why kingklip is so popular in South Africa, but that just means more oysters for us.
Beyond sit-down restaurants, Plettenberg has many casual eateries serving savory pies and fish and chips. Prices are reasonable for a tourist town for international travelers due to the favorable exchange rates for the South African Rand.
Other Recommended Stops Along the Garden Route
Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, a drive along the Garden Route will surely be a highlight of your South Africa vacation. As you traverse the 200-kilometer stretch of scenic highway, we recommend that you stop at the following cities for food breaks and epic views.
Knysna is an oasis on the Garden Route thanks to Knysna Lagoon as well as the city’s wide selection of hotels, restaurants and activities both on and off the water. We adored spending time gazing at sunsets and slurping oysters in Knysna.
Wilderness is a popular spot for surfers who flock to the coastal Garden Route town for its epic waves and mild climate. As for us, we made a special trip to Wilderness to eat oysters and drink wine at Oysters R Us.
We think we got the better end of the bargain since we got to eat some of the area’s best oysters and sip on Chenin Blanc in an open-air shack. Plus, we felt plenty adventurous as we slurped our oysters six different ways including Vietnamese, Japanese, French and three South African styles.
Look out for the massive piles of oyster shells in the parking lot. Then again, you won’t be able to miss them.
Famous for its laid-back atmosphere and surfing scene, Jeffreys Bay is a great spot to chill out with modern-day hippies on the Garden Route. For adventure travelers who want to try surfing in South Africa, a stop in Jeffreys Bay is a must.
Either way, take some time to slow down here and enjoy water sports during the day and seafood and beer at night. The area near the beach is filled with cute cafes serving fish and chips, calamari and, of course, kingklip.
Technically, East London is not on the Garden Route. However, we hit the surfer-friendly beach town as our last stop on our Garden Route drive, so we feel justified to include it in this roundup.
East London is another popular surfing destination and a great place to chill with a board.
After crashing at a comfortable apartment in East London, we ate a hardy outdoor breakfast at the Beach Break. Our food was served South African style with plenty of protein.
We especially loved our bear decorated cappuccinos best of all. Ironically, South Africa has a plethora of animals (including penguins!) but no bears.
Transportation and Logistics
Have we convinced you to include Plettenberg Bay on your South Africa road trip? Read on for key logistical information:
Getting to Plettenberg Bay
The drive from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay is approximately six hours, making the beach town a desirable stop on the Garden Route. We recommend that tourists rent a car to travel on the Garden Route since there additional towns worthy of a visit, whether for an hour or a day.
Other options include traveling by bus or a plane. The nearest airport is in George, about an hour drive from Plettenberg Bay.
When to Visit Plettenberg Bay
Though Plettenberg Bay is a popular destination during December and January, the resort town is quieter during the other months of the year. We suggest a visit in the relatively quiet months of February and March when the African summer days are still long and warm.
That being said, the Plettenberg Bay weather is mild throughout the year. Any time would be a good time to visit depending on your travel plans.
Plan Your Plettenberg Bay Trip
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: August 12, 2017