Winding its way up 200km of South Africa’s east coast, hugging the Indian Ocean between Mossel Bay and Storms River, the Garden Route is an area of exceptional natural beauty, warm, welcoming people and intriguing cultural history.
It is also known for its year-round temperate climate – long, hot summers are cooled by ocean breezes before slipping into mild winters filled with abundant sunshine.
Autumn is the crossover point as the fierce heat of the summer months begins to wane but days remain bright and clear. It’s the perfect weather for enjoying the great outdoors, whether hiking the trails along the Robberg Peninsula, exploring the Tsitsikamma National Park or getting an up-close look at the local marine wildlife on a boat cruise, there is plenty to fill your days. As a hot holiday destination, the town of Plettenberg Bay also tends to be quieter once the summer season draws to a close, giving visitors more space to enjoy Plett’s myriad indoor and outdoor attractions.
Here are our hot tips for the five best autumn activities in and around Plettenberg Bay:
1. Enjoy the beach
There’s no denying it – the beaches in Plett can get seriously crowded during the summer holidays. It’s one of the reasons we have a sparkling private swimming pool at The Old Rectory for the exclusive use of our guests! But if you’re looking to dip your toes in the sand, soak up some sunshine and enjoying a refreshing swim (the average water temperature in April and May is 20ºC/68ºF), there is no better time of year to while away a beautiful warm afternoon.
2. Stretch your legs
There is no shortage of beautiful hiking trails along the beaches, mountains and forests surrounding Plettenberg Bay. The jewel in the crown is Robberg Nature Reserve, with three trails of varying distances and breathtaking views of the ocean and its wildlife. Further afield but no less spectacular, visitors can also enjoy meandering trails in the Tsitsikamma National Park and Harkerville Forest, walks among the yellowwood trees in Nature’s Valley or looking for leories in the indigenous coastal forest of the Storms River Mouth Trails. Looking for more of a challenge? Take on the Kranshoek Coastal Walk or the famous Otter Trail.
3. Take a cruise
Guided boat cruises with ethically-minded, licensed operators are by far the best way to see Plett’s incredible marine wildlife up close. These 2-3 hour excursions allow visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe these incredible animals in their natural habitat and to learn more about the importance of their conservation. Although autumn is the tail-end of the migratory season for humpback and southern right whales, it is not unheard of to see these species in the bay well into March and April. Resident species such as Bryde’s whales, orcas, bottlenose dolphins and Cape fur seals can be seen year-round.
4. Visit the Plett Wine Route
Recognised as South Africa’s smallest (and newest) “Wine of Origin” region, the Plett Wine Route is an up-and-coming oenophile hotspot. Home to just 18 wine farms – including our sister property, Kay and Monty Vineyards – the area is best suited to cooler-climate varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, for which it has quickly become widely respected. In fact, Kay and Monty’s own SAV 2020 and The Chick SMG Red Blend 2021 recently earned four stars in the Platter’s Wine Guide 2023, while our Champu 2017 got 4.5 stars! Visitors can try these wines and others in our on-site tasting room and enjoy a leisurely lunch on the deck of the converted orchid greenhouse, overlooking the dam.
5. Go on an adventure
As the home of one of the world’s highest bungee jumps, the Garden Route has long been a bucket list destination for adrenaline junkies. However, for those of us who are inclined towards less life-threatening activities, there are numerous options besides flinging ourselves off Bloukrans Bridge! These include a zipline canopy tour, kayaking, river tubing and bridge walking in the Tsitsikamma National Park, paragliding over Wilderness Beach, observing rescued lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and other carnivores at Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, canyoning in The Crags or cantering through the Kurland Park Horse Trails – the opportunities to get your blood pumping are endless!