When heading down the Garden Route from Cape Town we’ve always just zipped straight past the town of George (I don’t think we’re the only ones!)
It’s never seemed like a spot to stop and stay a while… and I’m not sure why, because on a recent visit to the town we discovered that there’s SO much to do in this pretty city (yes, it’s a city, there is a cathedral, in fact there’s 2!)
George is the gateway to the Garden Route and most people would think that if you’re staying here you’re just passing through or using it as a base to explore the neighbouring towns. We decided to stay a few days and made it our mission to enjoy all that George had to offer (well, in a 50km radius!)
Prior to our visit I did some research and came up with a list of family-friendly things to do in George (& surrounds), unfortunately, our time in George was only 3 days so we didn’t get to everything on the list, I suppose that just means we’ll have to head back! Not a bad thing after all.
Top 10 things to do in George
Outeniqua Transport Museum
One of the most interesting museums in town is the Outeniqua Transport Museum Unfortunately our time table meant we didn’t have long here but we made the most of it and zoomed around checking out all the huge steam locomotives, the huge selection of vintage cars and other vehicles.
My kids loved “hopping aboard” various train carriages, including a coach from the Royal Train of 1947. A highlight of our visit on a Saturday morning was that the model train room was open (also open on Wednesdays) and my kids loved watching the tiny little trains make their way around the track.
Open in Summer (1 Sep – 30 Apr) from 8am to 5pm and in Winter (1 May – 31 Aug) on Mondays to Fridays from 8am – 4:30pm and Sat & Public Holidays from 8am to 2pm. Closed Sundays.
Located at 2 Mission Rd, George Central
Tel: +27 (0) 44 801 8289
Leaving from the Outeniqua Transport Museum is the Powervan, one of the most popular attractions in town. This is a unique eco experience that takes you up into the Outeniqua Mountains on one of the most scenic railway passes in the country.
Experience the forest and four passes, waterfalls and six tunnels, fynbos and proteas, bird and animal life and a panoramic picnic area. Departs on daily trips between 07:00 and 21:00. A minimum of 20 passengers are required and booking is essential. A picnic is included.
Tel: +27 (0) 44 801 8239
When researching things to do in the area, my husband, a wine lover, discovered there was a winery in the area (well, over the mountain, but within 50km!) There was no way he was going to miss out on a visit so we headed off over the beautiful Montagu pass to discover Herold Winery
Located well off the road, this was a little gem of a discovery… We arrived to discover the owner and winemaker himself setting up for the day and got chatting. A roaring fire, a tour of the private underground wine cellar and a spot of wine tasting made for a memorable morning, well worth the drive!
Tel: +27 (0) 72 833 8223
The Seven Passes Drive
One of the things to do in the George area that we still need to do is drive the Seven Passes from George to Knysna. We tried on this visit as I’d read about how beautiful the drive is and I was keen to get to the Map of Africa view point but unfortunately, we got so far and then came to a roadblock while roadworks were taking place on this road that connects George in the West with Knysna in the East.
The Seven Passes Road was built between 1867 and 1882 under the guidance of Thomas Bain (one of South Africa’s most famous roads engineers) This scenic old road used to be the Garden Route’s main highway – but today it’s just a quiet country lane that offers some of the most exhilarating driving in the country. Next time we’re in the Garden Route area we’re definitely planning to do this!
To find the start of the road in George head to Saasveld.
One of the premier surfing beaches in South Africa, a visit to Vic Bay is always a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the area.
Buy a soft serve ice cream and take a stroll along the pier or pack the buckets and spades for some sand castle building… and if you’re from a family of surfers be sure to pack the surfboards and wetsuits to take advantage of the swell!
Another beautiful beach in the George area that’s worth an afternoon is Wilderness. This expansive stretch of sand is just a 20 min drive from George and it feels like another world. We headed here late one afternoon when the kids had been in the car for too long (our failed attempt at the Seven Passes) and needed to stretch their legs. Which they did indeed…
Our visit saw vast swathes of storm clouds gathering in the sky and beautiful low light as the sun sank behind the mountains, but this would be equally wonderful for an early morning walk to watch the sunrise over the sea!
Valcor Dairy Farm
Valcor Dairy Farm is a modern-day dairy farm in a beautiful country setting. The Valcor Farm Experience provides for hands-on opportunities to observe a unique Outeniqualand farm. See, smell and touch the grass and clover plants that make up the cow’s feed then watch the entire milking process. Over 900 cows get milked on a modern carousel dairy twice a day resulting in 500,000 litres of milk monthly.
Dairy tours operate daily from 14:30 until 15:30 and bookings are advisable. Tickets cost R30 for Adults & R15 for Children
Tel: +27 (0) 82 331 8618
George Botanical Gardens
The Garden Route Botanical Gardens is a tranquil oasis in the heart of George. Offering geocaching adventures, mountain biking, hiking trails, and gentle garden walks, there’s something for everyone.
Relax in the garden overlooking the impressive Outeniqua Mountains, while the kids amuse themselves in the play park then grab a table at the Getafix Garden Café, a leisurely spot for a bite of breakfast or afternoon tea.
Entrance is R10 per person and kids under 12 are free.
Tel: +27 (0) 44 874 1558
Red Berry Farm & Maze
A firm favorite with families visiting the George area is the Red Berry Farm. There is a multitude of fun activities on offer at this strawberry farm including picking your own strawberries, taking a ride on a miniature train, cruising around in bubble balls, pedal go-karts, bumper cars, pony rides, and the biggest maze in the Southern Hemisphere.
There’s also a great restaurant, a playground area and plenty of space for the kids to run, plus there’s usually some form of live entertainment on offer on weekends too.
My kids love coming here and each time we try to do something different (as doing it ALL can add up as you pay for each activity separately!) On our most recent visit we enjoyed the maze as a family which kept us all stumped for over an hour but proved to be a lot of fun. And we couldn’t resist a trip to the strawberry fields for a stash of strawberries to take home… although they didn’t last longer than the walk to the car to be honest!
Open Monday – Saturday from 9am – 4pm. Please note they are closed on Sundays (as are many of the tourist attractions in the George area as we found out!)
Red Berry Farm is located on Geelhoutboom Road (off the R404), Blanco
Tel: +27 (0) 44 870 7123
One for the moms (after all these kid-friendly options you deserve it!) George is home to Wonki Ware, the gorgeous South African ceramic range and in York Street, you’ll find the Wonki Ware factory shop stocking all manner of dishes from large to small and back again and in a rainbow of colors.
Head to the back room for the real bargains, here you’ll find the seconds that are all slightly flawed, but still useable. I could have spent many more hours (& rands) browsing these shelves! I’ll most definitely be back on our next visit to George, in fact, I might even make a detour here next time we’re heading anywhere down the Garden Route!
Located at 42 York Street in George
Tel: +27 (0) 44 884 1883
And one more just in case you happen to be in town over a Saturday morning be sure to visit the Outeniqua Market for all manner of country fare to take home as a reminder of your visit to George and the Outenique area.