Over the Christmas holidays, forty thousand residents from Johannesburg's wealthy northern suburbs decamp to PLETTENBERG BAY (usually called Plett), 33km east of Knysna, the flashiest of the Garden Route's seaside towns. It's wise to give it a miss during peak season, with prices doubling and accommodation impossible to find. Yet, during low season, the banal urban development on the surrounding hills somehow doesn't seem so bad because the bay views really are stupendous. Further afield, the deep-blue Tsitsikamma Mountains drop sharply to the inlet and its large estuary, providing a constant vista to the town and its suburbs. The bay generously curves over several kilometres of white sands separated from the mountains by forest, which makes this a green and temperate location with rainfall throughout the year.
Southernrightwhales appear every winter, and are a seriously underrated attraction, while dolphins can be seen throughout the year, hunting or riding the surf, often in substantial numbers. Swimming is safe, and though the waters are never tropically warm they reach a comfortable temperature between November and April. River and rock fishing are rewarding all year long. One of the Garden Route's best short hikes covers a circuit round the Robberg Peninsula – a great tongue of headland that contains the western edge of the bay.