Tsitsikamma, situated along the scenic Garden Route, is a playground of adventure activities. We visited this amazing part of the Eastern Cape three weeks ago on a family weekend away – smack bang in the middle of winter. It was cold but bearable and the stunning scenery certainly made up for it. Storms River village is about an 8 hour drive from Cape Town including some refuelling and farmstall rest stops. If you’re not used to such a long drive, it would probably be best to have an extra driver on board so you can relieve each other.
The list of things to do in Tsitsikamma is endless and the fact that it’s winter doesn’t mean you need to miss out on anything!
Things to do in Tsitsikamma during winter
You might already feel overwhelmed with all the Garden Route attractions but trust me; you’ll want to experience Tsitsikamma at least once. Admittedly, the weekend was almost too short to see all the places on our list but we made it happen! All attractions were open during our visit and below are a list of things to do in Tsitsikamma during winter as experienced by us. Be warned, you might want to pack your bags and go there immediately!
1) Stop at the Tsitsikamma Total Village
Otherwise known as the Petroport, this is not your average petrol station. The ‘village’ includes favourites such as Mugg & Bean and Steers but that’s not why you should make a stop here. If you take a walk through the Steers, you’ll find an entrance to the lookout point with the most amazing view of the Storms River Bridge (also known as the Paul Sauer Bridge). You can also have your takeaway on the deck overlooking part of the Tsitsikamma forest with the bridge in the background. Great way to start and end your journey so be sure to make both stops here!
2) Stay at Mountain Breeze Log Cabins
We stayed at these cute little log cabins situated just off the N2 on a working protea farm. Although it was a 4 sleeper cabin, they’re quite small and are best suited for two adults and two children unless you know each other very well and don’t mind bumping into one another!
What makes Mountain Breeze ideal accommodation though is that it’s situated within close proximity of most attractions such as the Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary. It’s so close you can even hear the wolves howl at night which freaked us out a bit to be honest! Right next to the wolf sanctuary is a bridge with a stairs leading down to a river running underneath it. Not ideal to jump into during winter but serene to view.
3) Stand under the giant Tsitsikamma Big Tree
The Big Tree in Tsitsikamma is an 800 year old Yellowwood that stands tall in the forest. Entrance to the tree is gained just off the N2, a mere 10 minute drive from Mountain Breeze. The 500m wooden boardwalk through the forest is leisurely and calming.
The area surrounding the grand old tree is a bit small though so you might be competing with other visitors for photo opportunities or you might be photo bombed! You can also view the fallen tree a few metres away and have a seat at the lookout point while taking in the forest sounds.
4) Fly through the forest at Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours
Zip lining through the Tsitsikamma forest was the initial reason for our visit. But the list of places to see obviously grew quite a bit! Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours operates from the Storms River Village and offers an exhilarating adventure activity of gliding from platform to platform surrounded by giant hundreds of year old Outeniqua Yellowwood trees. There are ten slides in total which vary in length and speed. If you’d like to know more about what to expect, you can view our video on my Facebook page.
We enjoyed learning about the forest, trees and area from our knowledgeable guide and were lucky enough to spot a few beautiful Knysna Loerie birds too! The tour took just over an hour to complete as we were only a group of three. Thereafter we enjoyed a light lunch which is included in the price. The sights and sounds of the forest was one of the highlights of our trip.
5) Travel back in time at Marilyn’s 60s Diner
Marilyn’s 60s Diner forms part of the Tsitsikamma Village Inn and was the most fun we’ve had at a restaurant! The diner is situated next to Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour in Darnell street and is a great spot for gourmet milkshakes (which I definitely had considering my milkshake addiction!), big burgers and delicious waffles. The 50s and 60s décor which includes a jukebox, dress-up station and 1961 Dodge Lancer in mint condition had us entertained for quite a while. Such great fun you might have to drag your family out of there!
6) Buy some curios to take home at the Storms River Arts & Crafts Centre
As small as it may be, there’s a lot to see in the Storms River village. Just across from the diner, recognisable by beautiful African artworks, you’ll find the Storms River Arts & Crafts Centre. This little shop is filled with a variety of African souvenirs such as beaded jewellery, paintings and ornaments. You’re bound to leave with at least one item from this vibrant shop.
7) Walk across the Storms River Suspension Bridge
The Tsitsikamma National Park forms part of the bigger Garden Route National Park and has an abundance of attractions and activities. The biggest attraction of the Tsitsikamma Park is probably the Storms River Suspension Bridge. I’ve been looking at photos of this wonder for months and refused to leave the area without having seen it with my own eyes!
Let me just start by warning you that the walk to the bridge is quite strenuous (probably because I’m a little unfit too) and involves a lot of stairs. I nearly gave up midway but was way too determined to see the bridge! When the first sight of the bridge starting peeking through the trees I practically started running towards it. It’s one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see. You can also walk across the bridge to a little beach on the one side and a lookout point on the other adjacent bridge. Breathe it all in and make sure you take lots of photos before you leave.
8) Jump off the Bloukrans Bridge
Hubby was brave (or crazy) enough to jump off the highest commercial bungee bridge in the world – 216m high to be exact. He swears he died for a few seconds after making the jump but says he would do it all over again for the breathtaking views of the sea and river.
If, like me, you’re not prepared to throw yourself off the highest bridge in Africa, you can book the ‘catwalk’ and accompany the person who is going to bungee for moral support. You could also have something to eat and drink at the Cliffhanger Bar and restaurant while watching the jumpers live on the big screen.
S0 what are you waiting for?
If we had more than a weekend I’m sure my list of things to do in Tsitsikamma during winter season would’ve been way longer. This only means that we’ll have to return to this amazing part of the Garden Route because there’s definitely a lot more we’d like to experience. The Tsitsikamma Park alone has so many activities for such a reasonable entrance fee that I firmly believe every South African should make an effort to visit it at least once. But that’s enough babbling from me, as I’m sure I’ve already added enough to your Garden Route to do list. So rally up the family, get out there and start exploring our amazing country!