It is early morning day five of our motorcycle adventure and we are racing almost in complete solitude past the still sleeping idyllic seaside towns scattered along the N2. The sting of the refreshing (but brisk) morning air pangs the few areas of skin left exposed on our bodies as we anxiously wait for the sun to creep up over the Outeniqua mountain range and thaw our bodies. At this moment I am convinced of exactly two things: (1) South Africa’s Garden Route and contrasting Little Karoo have seduced me in ways I never would have imagined, and (2) there is a best way to experience this sumptuous stretch of coastline and that is atop a high powered motorcycle.
After renting a badass BMW F800GS from Cape Bike Travel, we set out on our own Garden Route self-drive motorcycle tour combining this coastal paradise with a trip to its inland Klein Karoo counterpart on Route 62. We loved our experience speeding along in freedom and style as we explored South Africa’s most scenic roadways and would highly recommend a motorcycle adventure to others considering this self-drive.
South Africa’s Garden Route
The Garden Route may not feel much like the “real Africa” people venture to this continent’s southernmost regions to experience. Prior to our visit, for me South Africa always conjured up images of vast plains dotted with acacia trees, big game and tribal villages. We were soon to learn there is so much more beauty to South Africa than its safaris.
These 200-kilometers of arterial highway wind past a stunning natural playground of indigenous temperate forests, rocky coves and glorious sandy beaches. Capitalizing on the number of tourists who venture here to enjoy these natural splendors, adventure activities now abound for those who are seeking a little more thrill and excitement, from scuba diving to surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, bungee jumping, canoeing, rafting, biking, hiking, flying, hang-gliding, paragliding, ballooning and parachuting.
Looking for inspiration? Check out our ultimate Self-Drive Guide to the Garden Route.
Why a Motorcycle Tour of the Garden Route?
Hearing all of this, imagine how excited Adam and I were to set off on our own adventure along the Garden Route. After exploring the typical transportation options for our road trip down the coast from Cape Town – private car hire, organized tour or Baz Bus – we were itching for something a little different. We wanted freedom to set our own schedule and move about as we pleased. We wanted to be able to connect more with our natural surrounds. And, as always, we wanted an adventure.
So Adam had the brilliant idea of hiring a BMW F800 GS motorcycle for our five-day road trip. With interesting attractions at every turn off, a motorcycle self-drive turned out to be a very liberating and rewarding way to explore this part of South Africa. Here’s why we think the Garden Route makes the perfect self-drive motorcycle adventure:
WIDE OPEN ROADS
With such easy roads and great scenery, the Garden Route is a popular self-drive destination. But what makes the Garden Route perfect for motorcyclists is their smooth and winding nature. For those comfortable on bikes this is a fun and easy ride set against an exceptional backdrop. And you’ll be in good company, especially on the weekends, when other local motorists are out enjoying the open road.
FREEDOM TO EXPLORE
Part of what makes the Garden Route so compelling for a motorcycle adventure is the ability to get off the main road and explore. Being this mobile allows you to get lost a little and wander down the unpaved dirt paths where cars don’t dare.
CLOSENESS TO NATURE
Undeniably you’ll feel closer to nature when you remove the glass barrier between you and the blowing breeze (and bugs!).
A multi-day motorcycle ride adds a level of adventure you likely won’t experience in a rental car or on a bus tour. Driving a motorcycle takes a lot more mental energy and focus but results in you being more engaged in your surroundings. You are also exposed to the elements in ways you wouldn’t be in a car. Not to mention a sore bum for us back-seaters after sitting in the same position for hours of riding.
Is A Garden Route Motorcycle Self-Drive Right For You?
A motorcycle tour may not be right for everyone. We found that it required a lot more mental energy and extra time for pit stops to stretch our legs after an hour or two on the road.
Cost is also a consideration. A multi-day motorcycle hire will more than likely run you more than a regular sedan car rental from Cape Town.
Also consider whether it makes sense in your itinerary to return to Cape Town or continue your journey along the coast to Port Elizabeth and on to Durban or Johannesburg. You may need the ability to return your motorcycle hire or car rental in a different city.
Having said all of this, if you are in for an adventure and a different and more liberating way to see an undeniably beautiful part of South Africa, hiring a motorcycle is the way to go.
Our Motorcycle Self-Drive Garden Route Experience
As Adam revved up the engine of our BMW GS800 and we peeled out onto the busy Buitengracht Street, I couldn’t help but hum to myself:
Get your motor runnin’. Head out on the highway. Looking for adventure. In whatever comes our way.
Steppenwolf’s all-time classic “Born to be Wild” was the perfect soundtrack for the next five days of motorcycle self-drive adventure around South Africa’s Little Karoo and Garden Route. For Adam multi-day motorcycle road trips were just another part of his rebellious youth. As for me, this would be my first long motorcycle excursion albeit as a lazy backseat passenger. But I like to think I had the smartest seat in the house – all the fun of a ride without any of the work!
First up was a drive through the Western Cape wine-lands. With views reminiscent more of the Alps than Africa, the Cape Wine-lands feel like they belong in a separate country altogether. For hours we drove through valleys of orchard after flowering orchard. By nightfall we had made our way to the ostrich feather capital after a mandatory pitstop at Ronnie’s Sex Shop for sundowner beers.
From here we drove from the inland Klein Karoo over the Outenquia Pass to the Garden Route. Along the way we learned why Oudtshoorn was the ostrich feather capital of the world on an ostrich farm tour, encountered the gentle giants of Knysna Elephant Park, delved deeper into Africa’s stunning Cango Caves, trekked in solitude to Robberg Nature Reserve’s deserted sandy coves, and felt the rush of the world’s highest bridge bungee jump.
By day four, we were making the long journey back along the N2 towards Cape Town. Sore bums and one short rain shower aside, we arrived back to Cape Town happily exhausted from our adventure.
If You Go: Motorcycle Self Drive Garden Route and Little Karoo
What: Only a six-hour drive from Cape Town and you’ll wonder whether you are still in South Africa. This circular loop is a perfect multi-day motorcycle cruise around the Western Cape’s coastal playground and inland Little Karoo.
Where: The Garden Route on highway N2 stretches between South Africa’s coastal town’s of Wilderness and Port Elizabeth in the Western Cape. It’s inland counterpart Route 62 winds through the Little Karoo directly to the north of the Garden Route separated by the Outenquia mountain range. Combine a drive through the two for a perfect circular route from Cape Town. See a map of our route on our Self-Drive Guide to the Garden Route.
When: The Garden Route’s all-year-round temperate climate is perfect for riding and playing in its great outdoors. Temperatures are highest during the summer months (November to April), although bear in mind that this stretch of coastline gets very busy over the Christmas school holidays. Rain can be experienced along the Garden Route at any time of year so be prepared with either protective wear, or more likely, to stop and wait it out.
How: Cape Bike Travel rents a variety of brands of motorcycles for single-day and multi-day trips around Western Cape. Be sure to bring your motorcycle license and inquire about renting top boxes and paneer to carry your overnight gear on longer trips.
Our multi-day motorcycle tour of the Garden Route and Little Karoo were supported by Cape Bike Travel (+27 (0)21 424 5013, [email protected], www.capebiketravel.com). Reach out to Jorg to help you plan your upcoming motorcycle tours in South Africa. As with everything on Bold Travel, our opinions remain our own!