Nestled in the Outeniqua Mountains only 10 km away from Wilderness is the beautiful town of George. Unlike the other coastal villages strewed along the Garden Route, George is a mini-metropolis with an abundance of hotels, an airport, a mall, and a booming industrial area.
As you enter George you are welcomed by farm stalls, animal parks, and their well-stocked mall and shopping outlets. The main road, with the mountain as its backdrop, works its way from the industrial area, to the city center and heads out towards the mountains. A variety of halaal food options can be found and masjids are also easy to come by.
While on holiday, chain hotels are the better option because you know that a certain standard needs to be maintained, refunds are easily accessible, especially during covid and there aren't any unwanted surprises. A wonderful option in George is the King George Protea Hotel which falls under the Marriott Hotel Group-a worldwide hotel chain. Like all Marriott hotels, this hotel was nothing short of spectacular. The hotel keeping with the cape colonial theme commonly found on the Garden Route offers a range of sleeping options. Most of the rooms are scattered across the premises and are ground floor rooms leading out to either patch of well-kept lawn or the pool area.
In the main building, the room options include suites which are spacious apartments with a lounge area, and the hotel's attention to details such as the multi-code adaptors, a mini-fridge, and a generous stock of toiletries gives the stay a real home away from home feel. The rooms are serviced daily but only after 1 pm; however, the room was so immaculately cleaned every day and this type of service consistency is something very rare as many hotels tend to waiver after check-in. The breakfast could be improved as the variety offered is very minimal and there isn't much for kids either. The hotel though was halaal conscious and meals were prepared at the back on a separate pan to avoid cross-contamination.
While there isn't much to do in the hotel itself George and its surroundings are well worth the visit. The hotel is very secluded in a suburban area so although you can be guaranteed serenity you will have to drive out to sightsee or even just to grab a bite to eat.
About 67 km away from George, through the Outeniqua Pass - a mountain drive approximately 13km long and 581m high- is the quaint little town of Oudtshoorn. The highlight of this town is the Cango Caves which is about another 30 km away. The actual town is the oldest tourist attraction in South Africa and has preserved much of its original heritage. Described as one of the natural wonders of the world, the cave offers two equally exciting tours: the Heritage and the Adventure Tour. Both at a rarely minimal amount the Heritage Tour is best suited for the entire family as it allows you to weave at a moderate pace through the caves whereas the Adventure Tour is for an older more athletic crowd. Unfortunately due to covid, tours do not accommodate that many visitors anymore so booking is essential. During peak season you can be easily be turned away due to these crowd restrictions. Another must-see in Oudtshoorn is the ostrich farms. These farms though, due to animal rights have lost a few of their charms, for example, a few years ago you were allowed to ride the ostriches or races were held but now the physical contact with the animals only allows you to feed them and stand on their eggs. The curio shops where you can purchase ostrich eggs and feathers as well as the information provided is still quite fascinating
Image Credits: Wikipedia
In the town of George, you will also find the Outeniqua Transport museum which is filled with South African transport memorabilia. The museum doesn't allow you to engage with any of the displays so it's not very interactive but an interesting attraction is a train, which was specially built to escort the royal family on their royal trip around South Africa. Another wonderful attraction is the Power Van whose tickets can be purchased from the museum. This rustic train ride passes through the Garden Route Mountain Reserve and live commentary is offered throughout the trip detailing the numerous vegetation in the vicinity. The trip is about 2 and a half hours long passing through miniature train tunnels and stopping for a picnic lunch which allows you to further take in the beautiful mountain scenery.
The Red Berry Farm is a strawberry picking farm open to the public for fruit picking. Unlike the usual fruit picking farms, this farm has completely monopolized the strawberry market and has taken the mundane and ordinary to the absolutely sublime. Apart from picking strawberries at a very reasonable price, there is also a Cafe offering a buffet of strawberry treats from chocolate-dipped strawberries to strawberry cupcakes to even strawberry drinks. There is also a charming farm stall selling fresh strawberries, strawberry lip balm, and many more strawberry-inspired goodies. The little ones can also be kept entertained for hours with the variety of kiddie activities available.
The beaches in George are a treat and although Herold's Beach is a much sought-after beach due to its exclusivity, Victoria Bay is a far more family-friendly beach hidden in the luscious coves of George. The water is relatively warm, an old fashion ice cream truck can be found serving different flavors of soft serve and even a viewpoint and mini pier are just some of the options to be enjoyed at this beach.
Not far from George is Mossel Bay which many believe to be the end of the Garden Route. Apart from the usual beach activities, a must in see and must-do in Mossel Bay is the ocean zipline. This zipline is said to be the longest across an open ocean line and children as young as ten even petite in size can enjoy zipping through the air while being hosed down by the ocean's waves especially when the wind picks up and its high tide. The beach life is very much alive in Mossel Bay and because of the wind and waves, it's a surfer's paradise. An interesting feature is a tidal pool. The pool unlike other pools is actually quite rough and is located directly beneath the zipline. So apart from the scenery above, you have to be a very strong swimmer to keep afloat but rest assured there are lifeguards on duty. Halaal food is not easy to come by but there is a beautiful beachside mosque - the Mossel Bay Jumah Mosque - however again due to covid it's only open during salaah times. The town though is quite big so shops and entertainment can be found in abundance.
The Garden Route is an inexpensive natural wonder that should be traveled along if ever in the country.