It’s been QUITE a while since my last post, when I was belabouring the ‘Where are we going for the holidays?’ question, but after an incredible week away up the Garden Route, I’ve just got to share my favourite family experiences! From first horserides, to strawberry picking and epic beach hikes, we really did it all (with a 3 year old and baby in tow!). Here’s the low-down:
Favourite Coffee Spot:
Our favourite coffee shop by far was Hoekwil Country Cafe, which was also the FIRST spot we stopped at (by a friend’s recommendation) and we weren’t disappointed. Simply take the Hoekwil turn off left after Wilderness and head up the hill to the tiny hamlet of Hoekwill. The cafe serves the best cheesecake on the Garden Route – try the blueberry – and the coffee was super. We are coffee snobs so having the first coffee since we arrived being amazing was a super great start to the holiday. Kid-friendly with a pretty lawned garden, swings and a see saw. We didn’t do any further exploring but it looked like you could do a lovely country stroll and feed a horse or two along the way.
Favourite All-in-One Stop
Our favourite on-the-N2 stop was Timberlake, an organic farm and eco village between Wilderness and Sedgefield. Everything from an awesome kids area with giant slippy slide AND foofy slide, wine store, coffee bean shop, fairy escape, art shop and Acrobranch – an active, treetop adventure experience involving platforms, ziplines and ropes – nearby. I heard that the restaurant, Zucchini, serves some amazing organic cuisine too! A worthwhile break to walk around if kids need to stretch their legs.
Favourite Overall Family Experience
Without a doubt, this was by far the Red Berry Farm just outside George. A working strawberry farm, it is totally geared for families. Enjoy pony rides, a mini train for little ones and older kids will enjoy the pedal cars, bubble ball on the lake, bumper cars and the hedge maze. The maze is the biggest in the southern hemisphere, can you believe it! The maze consists of seven strawberry stations, a 25m underground tunnel and a look-out point to be found within 10,000m of pathways. The hedges are grown from over 30,000 Syzygium Paniculatum plants.
We also spent time playing on the great jungle gym, eating fresh strawberry jam with oversized scones and toddler had a fresh strawberry milkshake (utterly delicious!). We then headed out into the farm on the back of a golf cart where dad and toddler picked two bowls of fresh pink strawberries. Yummy!
Favourite Wildlife Experience
Our top wildlife experience was Jukani, a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to providing spacious and restful living for rescued big cats and other predators. Previously based in Mossel Bay, the sanctuary is now just beyond Keurboomstrand and forms part of a tripartite wildlife experience with Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. We enjoyed a guided tour of an hour and a half with a great local wildlife guide called X.
There are a number of animals that you aren’t likely to see anywhere else: Bengal and Siberian tigers, white lions, honey bagers, black leopard and jaguars. There are also wild dog, a couple of serval cats, mountain lion or puma, caracal and spotted hyena. All the animals have been rescued from private ownership, hunting farms and zoos and now live in very big and spacious enclosures with no human interaction and are free to ignore people or hide away if they choose. A great educational, ethical and interesting experience for anyone with a passion for wildlife.
Next door was the Plett Puzzle Park which we didn’t do as kids were a bit young, but apparently a great highlight for families with older kids wanting a bit of an educational and fun experience. We enjoyed hanging out in the cafe area with a play gym, trampoline, mini maze and mini four wheeler which our three year old managed to drive! Impressed mom.
Favourite Outdoors Experiences
Our other favourite activities were the free kind 😊 we did two great hikes, one from the Carmel chapel down through the forest, along the railway track and all the way to Victoria Bay where we enjoyed a delicious chocolate ice-cream from Vikkis on the Beach, walked to Land’s End and watched the surfers tackling the swell. We got a lift back up the hill with a very kind Irish mom who even had a baby seat for us!
Our second hike was from the beach parking lot at Swartvlei Caravan Park which is just after the 9 hole golf course on the way to Sedgefield off the N2. We hiked along the beach which we had all to ourselves, all the way to the Sedgefield lagoon and back, about 5-6 kms in total. A wonderful way to enjoy some family time out in nature. Baby napped in the carrier and toddler managed to walk most of the way with dad doing some shoulder carrying too.
Where Did We Stay?
We stayed at Carmel Guest Farm in Victoria Bay, a Christian holiday resort that offers a really relaxed, farmy experience. Full breakfasts in the dining hall, tractor rides in the morning, rec room for the kids, the odd vervet monkey causing havoc, increeeeeeddible views of Vic bay and plenty of wonderful quiet spaces to relax and unwind.
Other notable spots included great little coffee spots in Riviersonderend called Die Ou Meul (best pies ever) and in Wilderness called the Green Shed Coffee Roastery, which was filled with eclectic decor and freshly ground coffee beans. We also wandered around the George Mall which has everything you may need for a rainy day, visited the Knysna Mall and the festival fields as the Knysna Oyster festival was on and our toddler had a ball for R10, jumping around on a variety of jumping castles. We tended to avoid the centre of town just because we were escaping the city in any case…
Why the Garden Route?
We chose the Garden Route because it was far enough away from Cape Town that really felt like we were getting a holiday, but close enough that long drives weren’t an issue with two small children. It was really special experiencing this well loved part of our own holiday memories but through the eyes of a child and enjoying great family activities and experiences. Most nights we were in bed by 8.30 or 9 and woke to a gorgeous sunrise coming up over Victoria Bay. Being in nature was a bonus, and really spoke to my tired mom brain and revitalised my spirit enough to return to work as refreshed as a mom can be!