When Lesley and I recently decided to take the kids on their first holiday along the Garden Route, we underestimated a few things. First was how excruciatingly long the drive to Victoria Bay is with three kids, which is where we were spending most of our weekend away; and second was how excruciatingly short a weekend away really was! What were we thinking?
We left late Friday morning and the drive was pretty awesome for the most part. The kids always enjoy driving through the Huguenot tunnel just before Worcester, and driving through beautiful valleys such as Robertson and Swellendam (where we’ve been with the kids before when we visited the faerie sanctuary there) made the drive a total joy.
It’s where the N2 began to stretch out its long, endless, though beautiful, road before us, that the kids started asking the dreaded four-word question – are we there yet? Underestimating how long the almost five-hour drive would be (if you include the stops in between), also meant we didn’t prepare them well enough other than telling them it was going to be a very long drive. But in the end, it was nothing a few yummy snacks, the best views, and tabtales couldn’t fix.
We arrived in George just after three in the afternoon. We got a few more snacks, drinks and braai meat from the local mall and continued further on to our holiday destination, which we only then discovered lies up a steep hill – something else we didn’t expect. This holiday was turning out to be full of surprises.
The road to Ballots Bay Nature Reserve took us across a railway and descended quite steeply to the river. We then crossed over 2 small bridges before ascending very steeply up the side of the hill to the security gate controlling access to the Private Nature Reserve. It wasn’t too bad with our little Honda, and we’ve seen SUV’s making it up and down there with ease, but I certainly won’t risk it up there with a trailer.
When I say it’s a hidden gem, I really mean it’s HIDDEN! There’s no doubt if you’re looking for a break away from it all that this is the ideal location.
The kids LOVED every minute, and when we got to our mountain lodge, none of us could believe our eyes! We were right on top of the Victoria Bay hills surrounded by nothing but forest and ocean. We had our own private beach at Ballots, but the kids preferred going out to Victoria Bay instead where they could be around other people. I didn’t complain, because Victoria Bay easily ranks among my top favourite beaches.
The Saturday morning, excitement was high and everyone was up early because it was the day we were all going to see REAL elephants for the first time! We drove up to The Knysna Elephant Park from George (another hour away) and had a blast walking among, feeding and touching the elephants. It was also interesting to hear about the humble beginnings of the KEP from our guide, and how far it’s come to build such a loving home for these gentle giants. The tour was both fun and educational, and definitely an experience of a lifetime.
The Sunday Morning after breakfast, we were ready (not ready) to take the long road home, but not before spending the beautiful, sunny morning at Victoria Bay beach for the last time. We were still in the heart of Winter, but it felt like a perfect Summer’s day. It was barely ten in the morning and the beach was full of people swimming and surfing and tanning. It wasn’t easy to leave, and much less easy to make the kids leave.
On our way home, we stopped at Mossel Bay for lunch and found the most picture perfect spot on the decks of Delfino’s. We had the best time eating and relaxing, while the kids played in the beach park and the tidal pool. Like in Victoria Bay, there were also lots of beachgoers soaking up the sun in Mossel Bay. Everyone we’ve spoken to told us what a crazy Winter it’s been on the Garden Route, and that this was the most perfect Summer’s weekend they’ve had throughout. We were very lucky it seems, and grateful too.
Our weekend may have been way too short, but at least we’ve found the perfect spots for when we visit the Garden route on our next family vacay.