4 Must do Coastal Day Walks in the Garden Route

The Garden Route is synonymous with outdoor activities, in particular nature walks and hiking. While most guests to the region automatically plan for a forest hike in one of the famed Outeniqua, Knysna or Titstikamma Forests, few first time visitors realize that there are some amazing coastal trails to explore.

MGD Otter Trail Day 1 (3)
The waterfall along the first day of the Otter Trail

Stretching along the coastal plain south of the formidable Outeniqua and Titsikamma mountain ranges and lapped by the waves of the Indian Ocean, these coastal walks open onto a vista of unspoilt coastline extending along a east west axis from Mossel Bay to Storms River. Here are 4 must do coastal walks in the Garden Route.

St Blaise Trail :

Stretching between Mossel Bay and Dana Bay, the St Blaise Trail offers a 9km or 13km unidirectional cliff top walk along a contour line overlooking a rocky coastline interspersed with a few sandy bays.

Watching Dolphin in a bay along the St Blaise Trail
Watching Dolphins in a bay along the St Blaise Trail

Starting from either side, it is easiest to begin at the St Blaise Point cave below the Lighthouse and walk westwards towards Dana Bay. From the parking lot, as you climb the stairs to the contour path, look out for the foraging Rock Hyrax’s on the vegetation flanking the pathway.

For the first kilometer there are various other access points to the trail from the suburbs. The meandering pathway has various offshoots that take you to well placed view points of the rust covered cliff faces being pounded by the ocean swells. From this vantage point it is worthwhile to frequently scan the ocean for Cape Fur Seals and Dolphins and in the winter months, whales.

The coastline contains a number of cave systems which unfortunately are either inaccessible or difficult to reach with the well known Pinnacle Point Cave and it’s respective treasure trove of early hominid research.

For both the 9km and 13km options, the trail traverses the Pinnacle Point Golf Course which requires hikers to sign in at a security hut at the 6km mark and state their intentions of either finishing at the club house or continuing through to exit towards Dana.

Finishing at the club house has the added advantage of refreshments while waiting for a taxi to collect you and return you to the start. Finishing in Dana bay, there are two options, depending on the tide, namely at the beach parking lot or on Malva Rd.

Logistics :

  • Eastern Trailhead : GPS : -34.186079°, 22.157423°
  • Western Trailhead : GPS : -34.203053°, 22.056097° OR -34.205369°, 22.048896°
  • Gradient : Slight
  • Difficulty : Medium
  • Distance : 9km or 13km
  • Trail Type : Coastal contour line
  • Trail Format : Uni-directional
  • Highlights : Remote, possible marine mammal sightings.
  • Tidal planning : Only if planning to start or finish at the Dana Bay beach parking area.
  • Vegetation : Coastal fynbos with patches of thicket
  • Surface water : None suitable for drinking, carry own supply
  • Cost : Free
  • Return Service : 24/7 Taxi – 082 932 5809, between R100.00 and R150.00 per trip, max 5 guests
  • Guiding : Walk can be self guided or guided. For guiding contact Mark at Garden Route Trail

Galjoen Trail :

A remote beach walk, the Galjoen Trail is a 16km beach walk routing from Myoli Beach in Sedgefield to Wildside at Baffalo Bay. Passing through the Goukamma Nature Reserve, the walk is a combination of sand and rocky shelves with spectacular rock pools at low tide.

Starting from Myoli Beach and setting off eastwards, you pass the impressive fossil dune cliffs to Platbank before entering the Goukamma Nature Reserve. After Platbank, the fossil dunes become a series of headlands with sand bays between them formed by two series of fossil dunes overlapping each other at an angle.

Galjoen Trail Rock Pools

After Oysterbeds look out for a series of fossil footprints formed approximately 12,000 years ago. There are sets of a feline and of extinct antelope footprints as well as numerous Strandlooper middens.

The final 5km opens up with sandy beaches to the Goukamma River mouth, which when open is an easy crossing before reaching the parking area at Wildside.

Logistics :

  • Eastern Trailhead : GPS : -34.083220°, 22.958467°
  • Western Trailhead : GPS : -34.037294°, 22.812050°
  • Gradient : Flat
  • Difficulty : Medium
  • Distance : 16km
  • Trail Type : Beach Walk
  • Trail Format : Uni-directional
  • Highlights : Fossil dune cliffs, rock pools, sandy bays, fossil footprints, coastal birding.
  • Tidal planning : Crucial to plan to walk at low tide.
  • Vegetation : Coastal fynbos with patches of thicket
  • Surface water : None suitable for drinking, carry own supply
  • Cost : Free
  • Return Service : None, need to plan to drop one vehicle off for return journey
  • Guiding : Walk can be self guided or guided. For guiding contact Mark at Garden Route Trail

Robberg Trail :

Located in the Robberg Nature Reserve west of Plettenberg Bay, the trail offers two primary options, namely either a 7.5km or 4km loop.

Starting at the parking area, the trails traditionally follow a clockwise loop around the peninsula. Setting out from the parking area, the initial section of the trail follows a contour path over eon conglomerate to the ‘Gap’, a break in the imposing cliff line that dominates the northern side of the peninsula.

Descending to the rocky section at the Point on the 7.5km loop.

After the ‘Gap’, the trail climbs a long series of stairs to the top of the cliff where it then follows a path to the ‘Witsand’ dune. About 500m before the Witsand dune, depending on which way the wind is blowing you will smell the Cape Fur Seal colony long before you see it. There are a number of unprotected view points looking down the cliffs to the extended seal colony.

At the Witsand Dune, the trails split with the shorter loop turning south down the dune to the Tombola beach while the 7.5km loop crosses the dune and continues to the Point.

At the Point the path descends to the rocky terrace along the shoreline along an indistinct path to the south western shore of the peninsula before ascending to an undulating path which passes the Fountain Shack overnight hut to reach the Tombola.

Both routes meet up here and continue to the Gap, however, for the adventurous with time to spare it is well worth the effort to take a slight detour onto the rocky island which is a breeding site for Kelp Gulls. In December the antics of the immature gulls learning to fly is a wonderful experience.

The section from the Tombola to the Gap is rocky and has a short section which can become challenging at high with big seas so be alert.

At the Gap, the path turn left up a steep rocky climb to reach the cliff top and the final 500m to the parking area.

There are two caves along the walk which sadly are off limits to the public due to research programs, however, near the reserve entrance there is a steep track down to Nelsons Cave, which is open to the public, which contains some impressive Strandlooper Middens and a very informative explanation of early Hominid existence in the region which is well worth the visit.

When you plan to do this walk, pack a picnic for the end – there is a spectacular viewing deck with picnic sites overlooking the ocean which make for a fine ending to the hike.

Logistics :

  • Park Entrance : GPS :-34.099781°, 23.373303°
  • Trailhead : GPS : -34.100531°, 23.377413°
  • Gradient : Undulating with steep rocky sections.
  • Difficulty : Medium to hard
  • Distance : 4.5km and 7.5km
  • Trail Type : Cliff top, rocky slope and sandy beach
  • Trail Format : Loop
  • Highlights : Geology, Rock Kestrel soaring along cliffs, Cape Fur Seal Colony, dazzling rock pools, Tombola, dolphins sightings, Great White sightings (if you are lucky), whale sightings in season.
  • Tidal planning : Be careful at high tide at the point and approaching the Gap.
  • Vegetation : Coastal fynbos with patches of thicket, extended Brunsvigia sp area before Fountain Shack in bloom in March.
  • Surface water : None suitable for drinking, carry own supply. Emergency supply at Fountain Shack
  • Cost : R40.00/person, Wildcard Free
  • Return Service : None required
  • Guiding : Walk can be self guided or guided. For guiding contact Mark at Garden Route Trail

Otter Trail Water Fall Walk:

Part of the first day of the Otter Trail at Storms River, the Waterfall Trail is a glimpse at the iconic 5 day coastal hike in the Tistikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.

Despite it being a mere 2.4km from the parking area to the waterfall, it is a short technical hike and should be walked in good shoes with a good grip. A walking stick is advisable for extra balance.

MGD Otter Trail Day 1 (1)
The rocky shoreline along the Otter trail to the Waterfall

The route is a combination of bouldering, short sections of ladders, rocky paths and forest sections which make this a remarkable walk for adventurous hikers seeking dramatic landscapes of rocky coastline.

For social media bragging rights, the waterfall offers the opportunity to swim in a fresh water rock pool before climbing down 3m to swim in a marine rock pool..

If the total distance of 4.8km is too short, you can start off on the Blue Duiker Trail which starts closer to the Info center, ascends 80m to a contour path parallel to the shoreline before descending to join the trail to the waterfall giving a total loop of 9.5km.

Logistics :

  • Park Entrance : GPS : 23.868819°-34.010946°,
  • Trailhead : GPS : -34.021095°, 23.880047°
  • Gradient : Undulating with steep rocky sections.
  • Difficulty : Medium to hard
  • Distance : 4.8km
  • Trail Type : Rocky trail
  • Trail Format : Out and back
  • Highlights : Geology, dolphins sightings, whale sightings in season, dramatic coastline.
  • Tidal planning : At section, be careful at high tide .
  • Vegetation : Coastal thicket and Afromontane Forest.
  • Surface water : Available at the waterfall, please note that the water is dark brown due to tannins and is drinkable, but may not be suitable for sensitive stomachs. Emergency supply at Fountain Shack
  • Cost : R49.00/person for SA national, R196.00/person for international visitors, Wildcard Free
  • Return Service : None required
  • Guiding : Walk can be self guided or guided. For guiding contact Mark at Garden Route Trail

Why not plan a five day coastal trail in the Garden Route?

The Garden Route Coastal Trail is a guided five day slackpacking coastal trail between Wilderness and Brenton on Sea which traverses two nature reserves and includes two canoe stages making it the perfect way to explore this region of South Africa.

Prefer a Fynbos hike?

The Cape Floral Kingdom, referred to as Fynbos, is the smallest and most diverse floral kingdom in the world. The Garden Route offers a variety of mountain Fynbos, dune Fynbos and coastal Fynbos hikes for the days that you need a break from the beach.


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