Visit some of South Africa’s lesser-known local destinations for a holiday that rivals any big-ticket overseas trip.
Overseas holidays are amazing experiences, but there’s nothing quite like being a tourist in your own country. We’re lucky that South Africa has such a diverse collection of landscapes and culture, because you could explore for months on end and still have barely scratched the surface. With that in mind, here are some lekker local destinations you’ll want to check out in 2018.
The Champagne Valley, Drakensberg
Image courtesy of @rachael_tena via Instagram
The Drakensberg is a hiker’s paradise, but it’s also perfect for just chilling with a glass of wine by the fire and watching the world go by. From most of the accommodation options you get views of some or all of Cathkin Peak, Champagne Castle and Monks Cowl. Only about four hours from Joburg and 2.5 from Durban so makes a great weekend getaway for Gautengers and Durbanites alike. It’s beautiful all year round but if you want something truly spectacular, go in the middle of winter and pray for snow. Even if you don’t get it, the frost that covers the grass at the foothills of the mountains and the way the lakes sometimes ice over is magical enough – plus the weather is great for afternoon walks and hikes. If you get bored (unlikely) you can visit Winterton and the surrounding areas for artisanal chocolate and locally made arts and crafts, see a wonderful birds of prey display or watch a performance from the world-renowned Drakensberg Boys Choir.
The Northern Cape
Image courtesy of @darren.baxter via Instagram
Often overlooked in favour of its Western and Eastern counterparts, the vast Northern Cape has a surprising amount to offer the unassuming visitor. Mars-like landscapes and dramatic falls await you in the Augrabies National Park, or be awed by the red dunes and Kalahari lions of the Kgaglagadi Transfrontier Park. There’s plenty of wine to finish off a long day’s exploring. In fact, the wine regions along the Orange River are responsible for 12% of the country’s total wine production. Match it with some cheese, crackers and a preserve from one of the many local padstals to be found on the empty roads of the Northern Cape. Swim in deserted rock pools in Riemvasmaak, visit the crystal clear waters of The Eye of Kuruman and have sundowners overlooking the Orange River at night. After you’ve rafted down it, that is.
Mkambati Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape
Image courtesy of @leonebeukes via Instagram
Between Port Edward and Port St Johns lies a coastal nature reserve just under 8000 hectares. The perfect breakaway to escape the business of everyday life, Mkambati offers nature-lovers plenty to get excited about. Aside from the grasslands and plentiful fauns and flora, it’s also home to impressive waterfalls, rock pools and rivers. The easiest of these falls to reach is Mkambati Falls in the middle of the reserve, which flows directly into the ocean. Within walking distance from there is the enormous Horseshoe falls and the Strandloper falls. The best part? You can swim in the rock pools and drink directly from the water. It’s crystal clear and uncontaminated. On your way back, look out for humpback whales in the deep blue ocean waters, or spot the wide variety of buck and birds that live within the reserve. There are no campsites, but there are options for cottages as well as the main lodge.
Pringle Bay, Western Cape
Image courtesy of @kazuristory via Instagram
Just an hour and a half outside Cape Town, Pringle Bay is the perfect spot for a typical small-town SA experience on the coast. The appeal of a place like this is spending the weekend drinking your coffee with views of the sea, walking along the sand, fishing from the rocks, surfing, and indulging in fresh crayfish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The river mouth is warm and safe, making it the perfect spot for the little ones to swim in. There are plenty of little restaurants, lodges and guesthouses so you won’t struggle to find a place to stay or eat.
Image courtesy of @chazzie_b_ via Instagram
Can’t go all the way to Lake Kariba? Lake Jozini is just as good, and you don’t even have to leave the country. It’s within easy reach from both Durban and Joburg and can be found nestled at the foot of the Lebombo mountains near the Swaziland border. A popular tiger-fishing destination, Lake Jozini borders with Pongola Nature Reserve and Game Reserve. The best way to experience the laidback vibe of Lake Jozini is on a houseboat where you can drink in the expansive blue waters and spot game from the comfort of your Jacuzzi, gin and tonic in hand. Elephants, hippos and buffalos are aplenty, and you can often get to almost touching distance without the animals getting spooked. Remember that it can be very hot over summer so if humidity isn’t your thing, aim to go from April to October.