The Seven Passes, Western Cape
Did you know?
Rainfall in the Seven Passes region can reach 2 540mm in a single year.
A delightful detour off the N2 coastal highway on the Garden Route is known as the Seven Passes route between George and Knysna. It's a scenic route which passes guest farms, tiny wooden settlements and whisks visitors through the dramatic Phantom Pass, named for a butterfly and not a ghost.
The Seven Passes route is a 75km trip that takes you past seven gorges cut deep by rivers flowing to the sea. Legendary engineer Thomas Bain designed the road in 1883, but it was a sweaty business for the great road engineer.
Not only did he and his crew have to battle through dense bush, he was also constantly at loggerheads with his brother-in-law, Adam de Smidt, who shared the contract. Their differences of opinion concerning the Seven Passes were so severe that after the job they were no longer on speaking terms.
In the end Bain came up trumps and produced a very user-friendly dirt road with his gang of convicts who, amazingly for those times, were actually paid salaries.
Today, you'll drive past tiny villages such as Rheenendal and Karatara, the scene of a brief gold rush in 1975.
The seven rivers for which the gorges are named are: the Swart, Hoogekraal, Homtini, Karatara, Silver, Kaaimans and Touw. You'll traverse single-lane bridges, forestry settlements, picnic at a place called Big Tree and slowly unwind as you absorb the relaxing woodland atmosphere.
One of the main attractions along this route is Millwood, one of the early gold-rush towns in the Outeniqua Mountains, which is also home to another mountain pass. In its heyday it had bars, banks, hotels and a police station. Today, there's a guesthouse, a small museum and a disused mine that's open to the public.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)44 382 5510
How to get here
There is an airport in George. From there, hire a car and meander along the Seven Passes route.
Around the area
Towards Storms River Village is the highest bungee jump in the world, as well as spectacular bridge jumps. If you'd like to get in touch with trees, try a canopy tour with Stormsriver Adventures.
Tours to do
There are many hiking trails of varying lengths that take you through the Knysna forest.
Your own car is the best option though many tour operators do operate via the Seven Passes route.
What to pack
Considering the high annual rainfall, a raincoat will always come in handy.
Where to stay
Knysna and George have many delightful guesthouses, hotels and B&Bs.
What to eat
Knysna is the oyster capital of South Africa so do indulge in a couple of these briny molluscs.
Don't miss the Knysna Oyster Festival held annually in July.