George is the 6th-oldest town in South Africa, located at the base of the Outeniqua mountains. Although it’s the biggest centre and the main business hub on the Garden Route, it’s also the only major town that doesn’t lie on the coast.
However, although it lacks a beachfront atmosphere, its spectacular location at the base of the Outeniqua mountains has a definite appeal. Its highest peaks, Craddock (1 579m) and George Peak (1 337m), tower above the bustle below. The two closest beaches for swimming and general beach-based fun are at Victoria Bay (9km east), and Herold’s Bay (18km south-west).
The town is a bustling, vibey place with tree-lined avenues and pockets of preserved heritage amidst its more modern sprawl.
It has some excellent golfing opportunities on some of the finest courses South Africa has to offer - the best known of which is Fancourt.
It’s also centrally situated for people who like to stay in one place and don’t mind doing day trips to visit nearby attractions.
It has all the convenience that a small city offers, including plenty of shopping opportunities. The Garden Route Mall on the eastern outskirts is the largest shopping centre on the Garden Route.
Look out for
Golf - George is renowned as the ‘golfing Mecca” of the Southern Cape, and considered by some to be South Africa’s premier golfing destination. There are several golf courses in the vicinity. The highlight is the world-famous Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate, which has 3 courses: The Montagu, The Outeniqua, and The Links.
The Outeniqua Transport Museum - the only one of its kind in the country, it is housed in a cavernous shed alongside the railway bridge in Courtenay Street. Displays include locomotives, coaches and a replica of an old railway station - plus other vehicles and animal-drawn transport.
The Outeniqua Power Van – this is a small rail bus that trundles up the Outeniqua mountains along the old tracks, to the top of the historic Montagu Pass. There’s a guide on board who’ll fill you in on interesting things.
Hiking trails - there are a number of good trails, varying in length from rambles of a few hours to multi-day hikes. Many of the hikes are within the Outeniqua Nature Reserve.
Forest walks – to see the forests on foot head to the Groenkop Farleigh Indigenous Forest, which falls under SANParks. Here, you can do the Groeneweide Nature Walk, a network of 3 routes of 9km, 11km, and 13km in length, respectively. They are all relatively easy and make for a nice day outing. The forest is open to visitors from 06h00-18h00. For further information contact SANParks.
Mountain Passes – the Outeniqua Pass traverses the Outeniqua Mountains from the Little Karoo to the coastal plain. There are a few pull-off places with great views. The Montagu Pass is a scenic gravel road winding over the Outeniqua Mountains, initially starting much lower than the Outeniqua Pass. It climbs gradually until cresting the peaks and dropping down to the tiny hamlet of Herold on the other side.
The Seven Passes Road - this is a pleasant day drive (an alternative to the N2) on the old road between George and Knysna. Along its entire length, the road alternates between tar and gravel, and winds up and down 7 different passes - hence its name.
The George Museum – situated behind the library and housed in the Old Drostdy, built in 1811. The main emphasis is on the timber industry.
Beaches – near George Victoria Bay and Herold’s Bay are 2 tiny, picturesque coves flanked by a few houses and sheltered by headlands. They are both popular with sun worshippers. They offer good surf swimming and surfing, and have tidal pools for family fun.