You know when somebody asks you if you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? Well I don’t have one specific answer because I want to go everywhere but the Garden Route would be in my top five every time. It may sound biased seen as I am South African, but hey, the heart wants what it wants! And right in the middle of the Garden route, a few minutes drive outside of Plettenberg Bay, you will find Robberg Nature Reserve – one of the most beautiful places in South Africa. I’ve been visiting the Garden Route with my family since I was a kid. But I only visited Robberg for the first time a few weeks back when I finally did the Robberg Hike. The Garden Route is an incredible place for all kinds of outdoors activities. The most popular being the world class hiking trails, of which the Robberg hiking trail is the most iconic.
On our most recent trip to Knysna over the festive season, we took a drive out to Plettenberg Bay and did the Robberg Hike – which I can happily say took my breath away! Robberg Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site and National monument and it’s not hard to see why. The views are incredible, the hike is challenging yet very doable, and the scenery is almost surreal!
The Robberg Hike is rated as one of the top things to do in the Garden Route area. Expect to climb up and down the rocky coastline, wander past a colony of seals, run down sand dunes, and be sure to make time to take in the amazing views. But the best part of the hike is the ever changing scenery.
I’ve put together this guide of everything you need to know about the Robberg hike.
Everything to know about the Robberg hike
The hike is a circular trail along the Robberg Peninsula, consisting of three different routes of increasing distance and difficulty. The longest and most difficult is 11 km long and will take between 4 to 5 hours. Each of the trails has the same starting point and track along the Northern side of the peninsula. These are the three trail options:
- The Gap: This one is about 2 km long and will take you to “the gap” and back to the car park.
- Witsand sand dune: Around 5.5 km long, you can walk to the Witsand sand dune and down to “The Island” and back.
- The point: The longest trail is the round trip which will take you to “The point” and back (Not recommended for young children).
Unfortunately we had a very late start on the day that we decided to do the Robberg Hike. We only began our trek at 3pm. It’s recommended that you don’t do the long trail to “the point” if you aren’t at the island by 2pm. Since we started the hike so late we opted for the Witsand sand dune trail and it didn’t disappoint.
Side note: I’ve done the Lion’s Head hiking trail in Cape Town and while these two trails are very different in many ways, you should easily manage the Robberg hike if you’ve done Lion’s Head.
I consider myself to be fairly fit having been active my whole life. But I’m not hiking fit – I’m more gym fit! The good news is that while the hike is hard, it’s really not that hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no walk in the park but it’s very doable. Expect plenty of steep inclines and declines, as well as having to manoeuvre your way up and down rocky terrain. But you will also have times where you can stroll along the sandy pathway.
While it’s recommended to wear running or hiking shoes, this was somewhat of a hazard for me. A lot of the hike is on beach sand resulting in shoes full of sand – very irritating! Aside from that, I found walking on soft sand in my Adidas gym shoes rather challenging. In all honesty I would rather have hiked in my slip slops. By the time we hit the sand dunes my shoes came off. I only put them back on again when absolutely necessary.
My shoe issues aside, the hike was a breeze. At the start of the trail are well walked paths which make the walk relatively easy. The toughest part is probably coming back. Already tired and so close to the finish line, climbing up a steep staircase of rocks may be challenging.
This is truly the most beautiful hike that I’ve ever done. You just don’t find views like this anywhere else. Almost every fifteen minutes the views and terrain change making the Robberg Hike one of the most exciting. Throw in an almost secluded beach and whale watching – if you’re lucky – and you’ve got yourself an experience you will never forget.
But if like us you aren’t lucky enough to see whales, you can take solace in knowing that you are 99% sure to come across the seals. In fact, you will probably hear them or smell them before you can see them. About 50 meters below the cliffs – on the Northern side of the peninsula – along well marked trails, is a pod of at least 40 resident seals. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos but they are there 🙂
What to pack
Whether you do the round trip or one of the shorter trails, you are probably going to want water. There are no taps or water fountains inside the reserve so be sure to pack in a bottle or two to quench your thirst along the way. You might also want to pack in a few snacks to keep your energy levels up – especially if you doing the longer trail.
Also, we didn’t realise before we did the Robberg hike but you can pack a picnic basket and some beach towels and spend the whole day in the reserve. While the water is rough and not recommended for swimming, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches and so quiet since it’s not easily accessible.
Lastly, keep in mind how unpredictable the weather in the area is. You may want to pack in a jacket of sorts – even if it’s just a light one – since it can get very chilly.
The Robberg hike is a must do if you are ever in the Garden Route area. Here are the last few need-to-know details before you set foot on one of the Western Cape’s finest hiking trails.
- Permits/costs: Entrance to the Robberg Nature Reserve is R40 for adults and R20 for children. You can pay at the entrance gate on arrival.
- Features: Coastal escarpments, fynbos, dolphins, whales, geological highlights, seal colony, dassies, duiker, and bushbuck
- Gate times: November to April: 7am to 8pm and May to October 8am to 6pm
- Contact details: For Robberg enquiries you can call 044 533 2125/85
One of the best ways to explore the scenic beauty of the Plettenberg Bay area is by hiking the beaches, national parks, and trails. The Garden Route is one of the most naturally beautiful areas in the world to me. The outdoor life here is incredible. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or just interested in taking a leisurely walk along the coast, there are plenty of places to wander in the area.