Things To Do in Natures ValleySelf Drive the Garden Route
Where? This route includes Plettenberg Bay, Keurbooms River, Nature's Valley, Tsitsikamma National Park, Storms River
When? Best during daylight hours.
How much? Free
The essence of the Garden Route
Route: Plettenberg Bay, Keurbooms River, Nature's Valley, Tsitsikamma National Park, Storms River
Description: dense forests, precipitous gorges, gushing streams and mountains that verge on the sea
Length: 200 km
Time: in a day
Overnight: our favourite places to stay – Plett, Nature's Valley, Storms River.
Plettenberg Bay via Robberg to Nature's Valley
Leave Plettenberg Bay along Beacon Isle Drive, cross the Piesang River and take Piesang Valley Road off the circle. Shortly afterwards, turn left into Robberg Road. Roughly 3.5 km later, take a left at the fork (the suburb of Whale Rock Heights) and follow the road to the Robberg Peninsula.
Robberg, or Robbe Berg (seal mountain), takes its name from the thousands of seals that used this peninsula as their home. There are still seals here, and the peninsula is now a nature reserve, preserving the rich coastal vegetation and sea life.
You don't have to walk far from the car park for incredible views from both the southern and northern sides of the peninsula. On a clear day one can see across Plettenberg Bay to the distant Tsitsikamma Mountains. If you have the time, a couple of hikes are well worth doing.
Drive back the way you came to town, taking the left turn into Piesang Valley Road, passing the left turn to the Plettenberg Bay Country Club. Reach a t-junction with the N2, take a right. Look out for the excellent views of the Keurbooms River lagoon.
Cross the Bietou River, and shortly afterwards, the Keurbooms River as the N2 curves right – Keurbooms River Ferries operate from the far end of the river crossing . Slow and take the left at the far end of the Keurbooms River crossing into the Keurbooms River Nature Reserve. The reserve has a 45 minute hike that follows a track up-river.
Head back to the N2 that now sweeps inland with the Matjies River valley to your left. Cross the Buffels River and shortly afterwards, take a right onto the R102 which winds through the Garden Route National Park and indigenous forest on the Groot River Pass, alongside a tributary of the Groot River to the Groot River lagoon. At the base of the rather windy downhill stretch take a right for Nature's Valley.
A left, after about 1 km, brings you to a parking area and from here it is not far along the edge of the lagoon to the beach. Be aware that this is not a safe swimming beach, as currents near the river mouth are particularly strong.
Nature's Valley to Storms River Mouth
Back on the R102, continue in an north easterly direction along the R102 as it climbs steeply out of the valley. After crossing the Groot River, the road swing right presenting excellent views if you stop the car (there should be a place to stop on your left).
Route 102 now intersects with the N2 and heads up the Bloukrans Pass http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsgr/bloukrans-pass.htm, a narrow, twisting passage, with its fair share of 90 degree turns, through dense indigenous forest that crosses the border between the Western and Eastern Cape provinces and gives fantastic views of the Bloukrans Bridge (the N2 crosses the Bloukrans River via this bridge, from which the highest commercial bungi jump in the world operates).
Coming out of the Bloukrans Pass the R102 now heads past Coldstream (a sawmilling centre). About now the N2 and R102 begin to run in close parallel after which they meet at a t-junction. Take a left onto the N2, travelling for just short of 7 km before taking a right for Storms River Mouth and the Tsitsikamma National Park (if you miss this turn, find another just past the town of Storms River).
The road heads through plantations and into the National Park, before winding through indigenous coastal forest to the mouth of the Storms River. There is a wonderful walk you can do along a wooden boardwalk from the restaurant, through indigenous forest, to a suspension footbridge across the river mouth. It is an absolute must-do, and will take you about an hour and a half.
Storms River Mouth to Paul Sauer Bridge
Back on the N2, turn right and begin to look out for the sign to the 'Big Tree' on your right (if you reach Storms River Bridge then you've gone too far). Choose from two parking areas: one fairly close to the road, and another deeper in the forest. Do the Big Tree Trail. It won't take long (15 minutes or so).
Now for an exciting bit of the drive. Continue on the N2 for about 1 km and then look out for a gravel road signposted 'Picnic spot' (or similar). Don't stop here to picnic. Instead, continue until the road forks and take the left onto the original Storms River Pass road, built by Thomas Bain well over 100 years ago. The road winds down slowly to a bridge across Storms River. Next to this is a lovely picnic site.
Head back to the N2 (watch out for the fork at which you turned left, as it is disorientating on the return trip), take a right and head to the Paul Sauer Bridge, more commonly known as the Storms River Bridge – a concrete arch bridge over the Storms River on the N2. It is 120 metres high and spans 100 metres. A pedestrian walkway next to the bridge gives wonderful views out over the gorge.
Return to Plettenberg Bay via the N2, if you are in a hurry, otherwise retrace the route through the Bloukrans Pass, past Nature's Valley.