South Africa is a treasure trove of unique natural beauty and intriguing destinations waiting to be explored, even if it seems like it’s right in our own backyard! Stepping out of our routines and discovering new places within our borders is an experience that every South African should embark on. If you’re looking for somewhere different to explore, here are some hidden gem destinations in South Africa that are sure to leave you spellbound.
Located in the Southern Western Cape, De Hoop Nature Reserve is a must-visit for nature lovers. This protected Cape Nature reserve boasts over 30km of pristine coastline, home to a diverse selection of marine life and bird species. Head out on a guided nature safari, hike through fynbos-covered hills, or even stargaze in the reserve’s International Dark Sky Reserve. The best time to visit is September to November when migrating whales pass through the bay. The reserve is a 3-hour drive from Cape Town and offers accommodation options ranging from camping to luxury suites.
Situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park and the quaint town of Clarens. The park is named after its golden sandstone cliffs that shimmer in the sunlight, and guests can explore the park on horseback, foot or mountain bike. Nearby Clarens, known as the ‘Jewel of the Eastern Free State,’ is an artist’s paradise filled with quaint coffee shops, galleries and craft shops. The park and town are a 4-hour drive from Johannesburg, making a visit an ideal long weekend adventure.
Departing from Durban, the MSC cruise to Mozambique is a unique opportunity to explore the tropical paradise of neighbouring Mozambique. The seven-day cruise takes visitors on a journey to Maputo, the Portuguese Island and Pomene, where visitors can indulge in water sports, enjoy local cuisine, and visit artisan markets. The cruise offers world-class activities including shows, casinos, fine dining and swimming pools, making this the ideal experience for families and couples looking to relax, enjoy an all-inclusive environment but also take in the natural beauty of Southern Mozambique.
Howick Falls, located in KwaZulu-Natal, is a breathtaking 95-metre waterfall that tumbles into the Umgeni River. The area is steeped in history and folklore, making it an intriguing destination for those interested in Zulu culture. Visitors can also explore the nearby Midmar Dam, a popular spot for water sports and picnics. Howick Falls is located a 1.5-hour drive from Durban, an is an ideal weekend adventure for the family to enjoy together.
Paternoster is a charming fishing village located on the West Coast of South Africa. The village boasts picturesque whitewashed fisherman’s cottages, seafood restaurants, and a long stretch of pristine beach. Visitors can indulge in fresh seafood caught by local fishermen, take leisurely walks along the beach, or explore nearby caves. The little town is also close to other well known West Coast spots, like Langebaan, which is famous for its kitesurfing and tidal lagoon, as well as the West Coast National Park, a wonderful reserve to visit in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. Paternoster is a 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town.
The Tankwa Karoo is a vast semi-desert region in the Northern Cape, home to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. The park is a haven for those seeking solitude and unique landscapes. Visitors can explore the park on foot or 4×4, spot black eagles and rare tortoises, and stargaze under the clear night skies. The park is a 5-hour drive from Cape Town, making it a true adventure. Consider combining a trip to the Tankwa with other Karoo destinations, such as Sutherland, a world-renowned astronomical centre in South Africa, home to the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).
South Africa is filled with unique and fascinating destinations, from the beautiful De Hoop Nature Reserve to the sparkling cliffs of the Golden Gate. Exploring these hidden gems is a fantastic opportunity to uncover the richness of our country and discover the beauty of its landscapes and the depth of its cultures.
Whether it’s admiring the pristine beaches of Paternoster, sailing northbound to Mozambique aboard an MSC cruise ship, or stargazing under the vast night skies at the Tankwa Karoo, each destination offers something unique and unforgettable. So why not start planning your next adventure and experience the diversity that South Africa has to offer?
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