The Garden Route: South Africa’s Coastal Playground
The Garden Route has it all – beautiful beaches, mountains and unique fauna and flora. Local and overseas visitors return time and again, many of them choosing to stay permanently in this part of paradise.
Since the Voyages of Discovery in the fifteenth century the outstanding beauty of the Garden Route has been acknowledged. Bahai da Alogoas (Bay of Lagoons), Bahai Formosa (Beautiful Bay) – names that still accurately describe this wonder-fully diverse area between the mountains and the sea.
The Garden Route stretches from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to Storms River Village on the border of the Eastern Cape, and is bound by the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. This region is home to Afro-montane forest, 8500 plant species (many endemic to the area), almost 300 different kinds of birds (the endangered Brenton Blue Butterfly found only in a 2 hectare area near Knysna), the elusive Knysna elephant, artefacts left by Middle Stone Age man and so much more.
The awe-inspiring scenery, pristine beaches and renowned golf courses make this a popular holiday destination for both South Africans and overseas visitors. The climate is mild with temperatures averaging 27 degrees in summer and 10 degrees in winter. In fact the only place in the world with a milder climate is Hawaii.
“The economic downturn in 2008 affected property prices in the area but the market is recovering with great investment opportunities to be found by discerning buyers. Overseas interest has dropped due to financial constraints but is still a strong part of the market. Retirement villages and lifestyle estates are in demand in all price ranges and in this pristine environment a view is paramount” says Dawn Schmoor, Licence Partner of Engel & Völkers Plettenberg Bay and resident agent in Knysna.
Dawn also says that the property market along the coast is most active in the secure lifestyle estates. Visitors international and domestic are keen to invest in Plettenberg Bay which has always shown excellent returns on investment whether for personal use or buy to rent. Brackenridge Private Residential Estate and Whalerock are presently popular with buyers. The golf estates in the area, particularly at Goose Valley and Turtle Creek are also popular. There is a growing trend of purchasing older homes with spectacular views in order to demolish or remodel into more modern style.
Plettenberg Bay, famous for its pansy shells is a sunny laid- back seaside town, rich in history. It has been inhabited since the Middle Stone Age with artifacts having been found at Nelsons Bay Cave and other spots along this coast. Shell middens left by Khoi hunter gatherers are also to be found as well as rock paintings. The Portuguese voyagers left limestone Padroas along the Cape coastline and in 1630 the survivors of the shipwreck of the Sao Goncales left a Padroa which is now in a Cape Town museum. Joachim van Plettenberg, Governor at the Cape, renamed Bahia Formosa Plettenberg Bay in 1778.
Knysna is a bustling and vibrant lagoonside town, home of the Pick & Pay Oyster Festival, and the slow town Sedgefield boasts the spectacular Myoli Beach and three vleis, a haven for fisherman. Knysna started as two small villages Melville and Newhaven on the eastern side of the lagoon, they were amalgamated in 1882 and named Knysna. Timber from the indigenous forest was its major export and was shipped from Knysna harbour through the treacherous heads. Knysna is famous for its forests which are inhabited by the elusive Knysna elephants.
“The property trends in Knysna are similar with many buyers looking for retirement investments. Simola and Pezula golf courses are world class and many keen golfers from Europe spend their summers in Knysna returning to Europe as the wet winter sets in. This makes “lock up and go” properties in secure gated communities such as Thesen Island and Knysna Quays very attractive specially as these properties can generate rental income” Dawn continues.
Sedgefield has a much shorter history; it was only established as a town in 1929 and has the distinction of being South Africa’s first Cittaslow or slow town. Embracing the slow pace of seaside village life, Sedgefield has attracted an artistic community and is home to the Wild Oats and Scarab Village craft markets.
The Sedgefield property market is more of a local market catering to holiday makers. It is considered one of the top five coastal holiday destinations due to its accessibility and location in the Garden Route. Rental properties show good returns in season.
George, situated approx 35 minutes drive from Sedgefield, is the administrative and commercial hub of the Garden Route. George is situated beneath the magnificent Outeniqua mountain range, and surrounded by a remarkable blend of rivers, rich farmlands, forests and wild flowers. Its’ stunning scenery is a major attribute of the town. The town of George was established in about 1810 as a woodcutter’s outpost which supplied timber to the Cape Colony. Nowadays, you can still relive this flourishing timber industry at the George Museum housed in the old Drosdy, and visit the timber route which also takes in interesting furniture shops like Touw Meubels, Woodcraft and De Steyl.
George also forms the main link between the Garden Route and other major metropols due to its airport with flights from Airlink, Kulula and SA Express operating regular commercial flights. There are direct flights from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo International Airport).
The property market in George also took a downfall during the recession, but has slowly stabilised. The town offers a very diverse range of residential options from retirement villages, townhouses and large family homes to upmarket golf estates.
“Prices are mainly influenced by its location. 2 bedroom townhouses sell for between R500 000 and R800 000 and family homes start from
R600 000 and could go up to R8 million. George is a favourite destination for those wishing to invest in a property now for their retirement as the town is very peaceful, safe and has a fantastic atmosphere” concluded Elmari Stander, resident agent of Engel & Völkers George.
The Garden Route is sure to be a destination of choice offering the best of both forest and sea. No matter what your price range, whether you are looking for a flat or a farm, you will be sure to find a property to suit your needs.