14 Top-Rated Things to Do in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
Author Meagan Drillinger visited Plettenberg Bay during her tour around South Africa in November 2022.
Plettenberg Bay, or "Plett" to the locals, is a stunning beach town that sits along South Africa's Garden Route. The Garden Route is a scenic drive that runs for hundreds of kilometers along the southwestern coast of the country. Plett is one of its crown jewels.
It's difficult to not be completely enchanted by Plettenberg Bay. Upon arrival, you'll be treated to a charming, hilly seaside town with white sandy beaches, shimmering turquoise water, rolling green mountains, and things to do for all kinds of travelers.
During low season, Plett is about as sleepy as they come, but when the summer months and holidays roll around, the town comes alive with tourists and activity. No matter the time of year, the atmosphere is always friendly, and the vibe is always laid-back.
Learn more about the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in Plettenberg Bay.
1. Explore the Robberg Nature Reserve
You can't come to Plettenberg Bay and not visit the Robberg Nature Reserve. A World Heritage Site (and rightly so), Robberg Nature Preserve is a national monument of South Africa thanks to its geological history, wildlife, and gorgeous views.
Robberg Nature Reserve sits on a peninsula just outside Plettenberg Bay and is a popular spot for hiking, thanks to the different trails that web throughout the park. The trails vary in difficulty, but each has its own unique beauty and vistas.
As far as natural history goes, the peninsula is known for its prehistoric rocks and Stone Age artifacts. In fact, rocks here date back more than 120 million years. Evidence of inhabitants from the Stone Age has been found in some of the caves around the Robberg peninsula, as well.
2. Visit the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Center
You can get your safari fix when visiting Plettenberg Bay by stopping by the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre. One of the top attractions along the Garden Route, Tenikwa is home to a wide variety of birds, mammals, and marine life. It's more than just a home, actually. Tenikwa is also a wildlife rehabilitation center that treats up to 400 animals every year.
Visitors can take a guided sightseeing tour of the facility to learn about the conservation efforts being carried out. One of the most popular tours is the Wild Cat Experience, which teaches guests about the indigenous wild cats of South Africa, from cheetahs and lions to caracals and leopards.
You can even spend the night at Tenikwa, surrounded by the gorgeous Garden Route scenery. Tenikwa has a variety of accommodation styles, from cabins to suites and a homestead nature lodge.
Address: The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, 6602, South Africa
3. Swim at Lookout Beach
Stretching out like an arm between the Keurbooms River and the Indian Ocean, Lookout Beach is one of the most popular spots in Plettenberg Bay, and one of the most beautiful. The expansive stretch of white sand unfolds for what seems like forever, with spectacular views of the mountains in every direction.
Lookout Beach sits at the bottom of a winding hill, a quick drive from downtown. You'll find plenty of restaurants near the beach where you can sit back for a refreshing drink or something to eat. The beach is also a wonderful place to see humpback whales right from the shore. You may also be able to see dolphins.
Surfers love to visit this Blue Flag beach because of its exposed beach break. It's a fun place to visit for families, as well. Essentially everyone can find something they love about Lookout Beach.
4. See Wildlife at Knysna Elephant Park
It's easy to get your wildlife fix when visiting Plettenberg Bay. All you have to do is head about 10 minutes outside town towards Knysna to the Knysna Elephant Park. This incredible experience brings visitors up close and personal with these gentle giants, who roam freely around the park.
The Knysna Elephant Park is the first place in South Africa to take in and care for orphaned elephants. Since the 1990s, the park has helped to raise more than 40 elephants.
The park features a bunch of experiences that bring visitors right up alongside the elephants. Guests are taken to the fields where they can feed and walk alongside the elephant herd. Visitors can even opt for an elephant sleepover at the Extraordinary Elephant Lodge on the property. The lodge overlooks the boma, where the elephants sleep at night, giving guests a unique way to have an animal encounter.
Address: Just off the N2 between Knysna and, Plettenberg Bay, 6600, South Africa
5. Snorkel at The Wreck Beach
South of Plettenberg Bay, just before you reach Robberg Nature Reserve, you will come to The Wreck Beach. The long stretch of coastline is popular among surfers for its sheltered beach break. But the real draw to the beach is its diving, particularly because of the beach's namesake, The Wreck.
The Wreck is the skeleton of the Athina vessel, which sank in the 1960s just off the coast. Today the sunken ship has become a popular spot for snorkelers and divers to explore the flora and fauna that have since created a habitat out of the bones of the ship.
Exploring sunken treasures aside, The Wreck Beach (also called Robberg Beach) is quite beautiful, thanks to the stark white stretch of sand, teal water, and carpet of green forest that stretches out to the sets of mountains in the distance.
6. Shop at Old Nick Village
If you're looking for the perfect souvenir from your Garden Route trip, head to Old Nick Village. This buzzing shopping location is designed like a picturesque village of beautiful homes surrounded by lush gardens. The original village dates back to the 19th century, and shoppers have been coming here ever since.
The modern-day village has a mix of vendors selling everything from handmade art and pottery to artisan bread, textiles, plants, and clothing. If you visit on a Wednesday, be sure to check out the Mid Week Market, which is essentially a farmers market selling meat, dairy, produce, and other ethically farmed items.
A popular spot in the village is the Mungo Mill, where you can watch textiles being woven and learn the ins and outs of the weaving process. The village even has spots to pamper yourself with manicures, pedicures, and massages.
7. Discover Sanctuary Beach
Shrub-covered dunes roll gently down to a wide stretch of powdery sand. Sheltered by rocky peninsulas, Sanctuary Beach has all the elements to transform your vibe to "zen." It's quiet, safe for swimming, and easy on the eyes.
The beach is at one end of the famous Beachyhead Drive, right before you reach The Wreck Beach and the Robberg Nature Reserve. A wooden boardwalk will take you down to the beach, where you can sprawl out on a towel or sit on one of the many benches to enjoy the views.
Parking is available at this beach, too, but get there early in the summer months before the lot fills up.
8. Drive Beachyhead Drive
Speaking of Beachyhead Drive, discover one of the most scenic coastal roadways along the Garden Route. Along the coast of Plettenberg Bay, Beachyhead Drive is a gorgeous oceanfront road lined with luxury villas that overlook spectacular sea views. It's affectionately known as "millionaire's drive," if that gives you any sense of the experience.
Beachyhead Drive is across the Piesang River from downtown just before you hit the Robberg Nature Reserve. Along the drive are many footpaths that lead directly down to the beaches.
9. See the View at Whale Tail Lookout Point
Plettenberg Bay is not short on views, and you can drink in the best of them from the Whale Tail Lookout Point. This clifftop perch is recognizable by the blue whale tail that sticks up from the viewing platform.
The scenic overlook has views out over Lookout Beach and out to sea and is one of the top places to visit in Plett for spotting whales (of course!).
10. Visit St. Peter's Anglican Church
The charming oasis of St. Peter's Anglican Church sits atop a hillside overlooking Plettenberg Bay. The historic stone church dates back to 1878 and was built for the first bishop of the Church of England in the Cape of Good Hope region.
The lovely building is surrounded by beautiful gardens, stone archways, and fountains. Inside, the church is modest and subdued, save for a beautifully colorful floor that runs down the aisle between the pews. It's easy to see why this is one of the top spots in Plettenberg Bay for weddings, given its gorgeous views over the water and beautiful design.
Address: 24 Church Street, Plettenberg Bay, 6600, South Africa
11. Frolic on Central Beach
With a broad stretch of sand, restaurants, and boat tours, it's no wonder this is the most popular beach in Plettenberg Bay. It's widely regarded as the best beach for families, too, as it has lifeguards year-round and is the safest beach in town.
All along the shoreline are tour companies and fishing charters that will take visitors out for sport fishing or to try to catch a glimpse of the many whales that swim offshore.
You can rent paddle boats to cruise up the Piesang River or test your skills in a pickup game of beach volleyball. One thing is for certain, you will never be bored on Central Beach.
Just down the sand is Hobie Beach, which is popular for Hobie cat rentals and jet skiing. Bodyboarding is one of the top activities here because the stretch is home to The Wedge, which is one of the best bodyboarding breaks in the country.
12. Drive the Garden Route
South Africa's southwestern coast has one of the world's most beautiful drives — the Garden Route. The 300-kilometer road trip runs between the towns of Mossel Bay and Storms River, passing through none other than Plettenberg Bay.
Plett makes a great home base from which to explore some of the top sites along the Garden Route. Take the 30-minute journey west to visit the village of Knysna, or continue northeast to drive through the wild mountains and forests of Tsitsikamma National Park.
Plettenberg Bay is almost as far east as you can go before you cross into Eastern Cape province.
13. Say Hello to the Birds of Eden
Wildlife flourishes along the Garden Route, particularly in Plettenberg Bay. While in town, be sure to take a trip out to the Birds of Eden, a free-flight bird sanctuary. The facility features a dome that spans two hectares over a forested gorge. Inside, more than 3,500 birds swoop down and around, making for a kaleidoscope of color.
The birds are a mixture from around the planet, as well as African birds. Birds that arrive at the sanctuary go through rehabilitation before they are set free into the aviary and can fly around at ease. Most tours of the aviary are self-guided, though guests can request guides ahead of time if they prefer.
Birds are not the only species that are part of the Birds of Eden conservation family. The group has other sanctuaries, such as a primate sanctuary and an apex cat sanctuary. Both are just outside of Plettenberg Bay.
14. Take the Kids to Plett Puzzle Park
For those traveling with the entire family, the Plett Puzzle Park is the perfect place to do an activity together. The two main attractions here are the life-size 3D Maze, as well as the Forest Puzzle Walk, both of which are suitable for people of all ages.
The 3D Maze is the first of its kind in South Africa. It's a 40 x 40-meter timber maze with snaking passages and crisscrossing bridges that try to mess you up as you look for the four corners of the structure.
The Forest Puzzle Walk is a pathway that spans 350 meters through the forest and fynbos. Along the way, you'll have to solve timed puzzle challenges in order to work your way out of the forest.
Address: The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, 6602, South Africa