Pentravel
Pentravel

How to make the most of your long weekends in 2024 

05 December 2023

One of the best things about living in South Africa is our abundance of public holidays. We might not make the top ten globally — that honour falls to Cambodia, with up to 30 public holidays per year! — but we have a healthy 12, and when we can, it’s great to take them and make them last even longer. 

Yes, this year, we’re helping you get ahead of the game in 2024 and giving you a comprehensive list of when the public holidays are next year and — most importantly! — when it’s easy to make them into a long weekend getaway. We’ll even throw in a couple of ideas for where to go, depending on the time of year. Let’s get into it! 

South Africa’s Public Holidays in 2024 

In 2024, all but four of our public holidays will make long weekends, and all but two are on Tuesday or Thursday, allowing you to take an extra long weekend with just one extra day’s leave. This is excellent news for us long-weekend local travellers, as it leaves us plenty of time to explore our beautiful country without having to take loads of leave from work.  

In the list below, the dates that are in bold are on a Friday or a Monday, and the ones in italics are on a Tuesday or Thursday. We’ve included Wednesday, December 25th as a long weekend, as it will run into the Christmas long weekend. That leaves us with just two public holidays that can’t be made easily into long weekends, one on a Saturday (boo) and another a mid-week day off, on a Wednesday. 

  • January 1, Monday: New Year’s Day 
  • March 21, Thursday: Human Rights Day 
  • March 29, Friday: Good Friday  
  • April 1, Monday: Family Day  
  • April 27, Saturday: Freedom Day 
  • May 1, Wednesday: Workers’ Day 
  • June 16, Sunday: Youth Day  
  • June 17, Monday: Youth Day (observed) 
  • August 9, Friday: National Women’s Day 
  • September 24, Tuesday: Heritage Day 
  • December 16, Monday: Day of Reconciliation 
  • December 25, Wednesday: Christmas Day  
  • December 26, Thursday: Day of Goodwill 

How do I plan a long weekend? 

When it comes to making the most of those precious long weekends, strategic planning is key. Whether you’re yearning for a relaxing escape or an adventure-packed getaway, a well-thought-out plan can turn your dream long weekend into reality.  

  • Choose your destination wisely: Consider your interests and the type of experience you desire. Are you looking for a tranquil retreat in nature, a cultural exploration, or an adrenaline-fuelled adventure? Your destination sets the tone for your entire trip. 
  • Set a budget: Knowing how much you’re willing to spend will help you make informed decisions on accommodation, activities, and dining options. Long weekends are all about maximising your time and enjoyment, so allocating your budget wisely is crucial. 
  • Remember the logistics: Check the availability of accommodation and transport options. It’s essential to book these in advance, especially during busy travel periods. Research the local attractions and activities to make the most of your time. 
  • Create an itinerary: Plan out your days with a mix of must-see attractions and some downtime to truly unwind. Make reservations for any restaurants or tours you don’t want to miss. 
  • Pack smart and light: Don’t forget essentials like your ID, travel documents, and any special gear you might need. A well-organised packing list ensures you’re prepared for any situation. 
  • Embrace spontaneity: Sometimes the most memorable experiences happen when you deviate from your plan. Allow some room for unexpected adventures and go with the flow. 

Where can I go for a weekend away in South Africa? 

The real question ought to be where can’t you go? South Africa has an absolute abundance of incredible long weekend getaways, so it’s up to you to choose where to go.  

Western Cape 

The Western Cape is temperate throughout the year, but depending on what you want to do while there, you might want to choose your visit time carefully. 

  • Summer (December to February): This is the peak tourist season, with warm and sunny, but often windy, weather. It’s an excellent time for beach lovers, water sports, and outdoor adventures. Coastal towns, like Cape Town, Hermanus, and Knysna, come alive during this period. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn offers pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds compared to summer. It’s a great time for hiking, exploring vineyards, and enjoying the wine regions.  
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is the prime season for whale watching along the coast, particularly in Hermanus. The Cape Winelands become even cosier, with roaring fires in the tasting rooms — a splendid time to sample the incredible locally grown and made red wines. 
  • Spring (September to November): The Western Cape bursts into colour during spring with wildflower displays in the West Coast National Park. It’s also a great time for hiking, as the landscape is lush and green after the winter rains. 

Once you’re in the Western Cape, there’s so much to keep you entertained 

  • Explore Cape Town: Visit iconic landmarks such as Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the V&A Waterfront. Stroll along the picturesque streets of the Bo-Kaap and enjoy the local cuisine. 
  • Wine Tasting: The Western Cape is famous for its wine regions, including Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Take wine tours and sample some of the finest South African wines. 
  • Garden Route: This scenic coastal route offers breathtaking landscapes, adventure activities, and charming towns like Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. 
  • Wildlife Safari: Head to game reserves like Sanbona, Aquila, and Gondwana for a chance to see the Big Five and other wildlife. 
  • Beaches: The Western Cape boasts beautiful beaches. Camps Bay, Clifton, and Noordhoek in Cape Town are popular choices. 
  • Hiking and Nature Reserves: Enjoy the stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems in nature reserves like the Cederberg Mountains, Tsitsikamma National Park, and Bontebok National Park. 
  • Museums and Markets: Learn about South Africa’s history and diverse cultures through museums and local experiences, and visit the many markets dotted throughout the towns and cities. 

Eastern Cape 

The Eastern Cape is diverse, largely rural, with far wilder landscapes than the tamer Western Cape. There’s loads to do, so take a look at when you can enjoy which activities there. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer offers warm and sunny, and yes, sometimes windy, weather, making it ideal for enjoying the beautiful beaches along the Eastern Cape coast. Popular beach destinations include Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay, and Coffee Bay. You can also explore Addo Elephant National Park, home to the Big Five. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn brings comfortable temperatures and is a great time to explore the cultural heritage of the region. Visit the historic town of Grahamstown and immerse yourself in its arts and culture scene.  
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is prime time for whale watching in places like Port St. Johns. It’s also a fantastic season for safaris in private game reserves like Kwandwe and Amakhala. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring brings a burst of wildflowers to areas like the Baviaanskloof Wilderness, creating a colourful landscape. It’s also an excellent time for hiking, birdwatching, and exploring the mountainous terrain. 

When in the Eastern Cape, it’s time to take advantage of its incredible natural beauty and many outdoor activities. 

  • Wildlife Safaris: The Eastern Cape offers some of the best safari experiences in South Africa. Besides Addo Elephant National Park, you can visit one of its many private game reserves for a more exclusive safari adventure. 
  • Beach Activities: Enjoy swimming, surfing, and beachcombing along the pristine beaches. Jeffrey’s Bay is renowned for its surfing opportunities. 
  • Hiking and Nature Exploration: Explore the diverse landscapes of the Eastern Cape through hiking trails in various national parks and reserves. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the wild and rugged landscapes of the Wild Coast. 
  • Whale Watching: Witness the majestic Southern Right and Humpback whales along the coastline during the winter months. 
  • Adventure Sports: If you’re an adventure enthusiast, try activities like bungee jumping from Bloukrans Bridge, quad biking, and zip-lining. 
  • Outdoor Photography: The Eastern Cape’s landscapes, wildlife, and vibrant cultures offer fantastic opportunities for photography. 

Northern Cape 

Between the Western Cape and Namibia lies the Northern Cape. A far more arid region than other parts of South Africa, the Northern Cape is a uniquely beautiful region well worth exploring. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer brings warmer temperatures, making it a great time for river-based activities like canoeing and rafting on the Orange River. The Augrabies Falls National Park is particularly captivating during this season. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn brings pleasant temperatures and the start of the wildflower season in the Namaqualand region. It’s an ideal time for exploring the unique and colourful wildflower displays. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is known for its clear skies, making it a perfect time for stargazing in the Northern Cape. The town of Sutherland is home to the South African Astronomical Observatory. Winter is also a great season for wildlife viewing in parks like the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, known for its stunning desert landscapes and diverse wildlife. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring sees the peak of the wildflower season in Namaqualand and other parts of the Northern Cape. The landscapes come alive with vibrant floral displays. It’s also an excellent time for outdoor activities, including hiking and nature exploration. 

Thanks to its clear skies and unusual topography, the Northern Cape is full of interesting things for visitors to do. 

  • Stargazing: The Northern Cape is renowned for its pristine night skies. Visit the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, or simply lay back and stargaze in designated dark sky areas. 
  • Wildlife Safaris: The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a top destination for wildlife enthusiasts, offering a chance to spot lions, cheetahs, and other desert-adapted species. 
  • Wildflower Viewing: Namaqualand’s wildflower displays are a highlight. Visit Namaqualand National Park or Goegap Nature Reserve during the flowering season. 
  • Outdoor Adventures: Enjoy activities like hiking, 4×4 trails, and birdwatching in the unique landscapes of the Northern Cape. 
  • Orange River Adventures: Take a canoe or rafting trip down the Orange River, where you can experience the stunning scenery and tranquillity of the region. 
  • Historical Sites: Explore the historical sites and small towns, each with its own unique charm and history. 
  • Cultural Experiences: Interact with the local communities and learn about the Nama culture and their traditional way of life. 

North West Province 

Up on the border of South Africa and Botswana, the North West Province is a wonderland of bush breaks, nature reserves, and wild beauty. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer brings lush greenery to the region, making it a visually appealing time to visit. You can enjoy activities like river cruises along the Hartbeespoort Dam and water sports. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn provides comfortable temperatures for outdoor activities. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a popular destination for wildlife viewing, and this season offers excellent opportunities to spot animals. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is the dry season, making it an ideal time for safaris and game drives in reserves like Madikwe Game Reserve and Pilanesberg. The animals tend to congregate around water sources, providing great viewing opportunities. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring is the season when wildflowers bloom in parks like the Mafikeng Game Reserve. It’s also a great time for outdoor adventures like hiking and birdwatching. 

Just a short drive from nearby Gauteng, the North West has loads of great spots for day trips and long weekend getaways for adventurous Joburgers. 

  • Safari Adventures: The North West Province is home to various game reserves and parks where you can go on safaris to spot the Big Five and other wildlife. 
  • Hiking and Outdoor Activities: Explore the Magaliesberg Mountains and enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and outdoor adventures in the beautiful natural landscapes. 
  • Hartbeespoort Dam: Enjoy a visit to Hartbeespoort Dam, where you can take a boat cruise, visit the zoo, and explore the quaint town of Hartbeespoort. 
  • Sun City Resort: Experience entertainment, water parks, and a world-class golf course at Sun City Resort. 
  • Madikwe Game Reserve: This reserve is known for its wildlife and offers a luxurious safari experience. It’s a great place to spot the Big Five. 
  • Pilanesberg Game Reserve: A popular destination for safaris, Pilanesberg offers a diverse range of wildlife and beautiful landscapes. 

Gauteng 

Gauteng, the smallest province in South Africa, is known for its urban attractions and cultural experiences. Sometimes called the “largest man-made forest in the world”, Johannesburg is lined with trees making it a beautiful city to explore. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer is warm and vibrant, making it perfect for outdoor festivals, live music events, and street markets. Zoo Lake in Johannesburg becomes a popular spot for picnics and outdoor entertainment. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn offers pleasant temperatures, making it an ideal time for exploring cultural attractions and historical sites in Gauteng. You can visit museums, art galleries, and vibrant neighbourhoods like the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is a great time for day trips to nearby game reserves like the Lion and Safari Park or the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. The dry season enhances wildlife viewing, and you can also enjoy the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring brings wildflower displays in areas like the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. It’s also a lovely season for outdoor activities like hiking and picnics in parks and gardens. If you head to Johannesburg or Pretoria in spring, you should experience the purpling of the cities as their thousands of jacarandas come into bloom. 

Although it’s the smallest province, Gauteng — home to the cosmopolitan city of Johannesburg — does not lack for things to do. 

  • Cultural Attractions: Explore museums, historical sites, and cultural attractions like the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill, and the Cradle of Humankind. 
  • Outdoor Activities: Gauteng offers numerous green spaces for outdoor activities, including picnics, hiking, and birdwatching. Places like the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden are perfect for these activities. 
  • Wildlife Experiences: While not a wildlife-rich province, you can still enjoy wildlife encounters at nearby game reserves like the Lion and Safari Park or the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. 
  • Shopping and Dining: Discover vibrant neighbourhoods like Maboneng Precinct and Melville for shopping, dining, and experiencing the local art and culture scene. 
  • Festivals and Events: Check the local calendar for outdoor festivals, live music events, and markets, especially during summer. 
  • Adventure Activities: Engage in adventure activities like hot-air ballooning and zip-lining in the nearby Magaliesberg Mountains. 

Free State 

Wide and open, the Free State is big sky country. Home to many farms, small towns, and even mountains, the Free State is a bit of a sleeper hit when it comes to places to visit in South Africa. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer is the warmest season in the Free State. It’s a time for outdoor festivals, including music events and agricultural shows. The Vaal Dam is a popular destination for water sports and boating during this season. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn provides pleasant temperatures for outdoor adventures. It’s an excellent time for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring the natural beauty of the region. Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a top destination during this season. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is known for its cold, dry climate, making it the ideal time for snow activities in the eastern part of the Free State, particularly in the town of Clarens and surrounding areas. You can go skiing and snowboarding at the Afriski Mountain Resort in the Maluti Mountains. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring is when the landscape comes alive with colourful wildflower displays in places like the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. It’s a great time for hiking and taking in the natural beauty of the region. 

Another short drive from Gauteng, the Free State is a wonderful option for big city dwellers from Johannesburg and Pretoria to go for long weekends 

  • Golden Gate Highlands National Park: Explore this stunning park, known for its golden-hued sandstone cliffs, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing. 
  • Clarens: This arty town offers galleries, shops, and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s a great place for shopping, dining, and exploring. 
  • Afriski Mountain Resort: In winter, you can enjoy snow activities like skiing and snowboarding in the Maluti Mountains. 
  • Outdoor Adventures: The Free State is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Try hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching, and horseback riding. 
  • Vaal Dam: Enjoy water sports, fishing, and boating on the Vaal Dam, one of South Africa’s largest dams. 

KwaZulu Natal 

Home to Zulu country, Durban, and the most humid climate in South Africa, KwaZulu Natal has many exciting places to explore for South Africans looking for a new adventure. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer is ideal for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts. The coastal cities of Durban and Umhlanga offer warm and sunny, and often humid, weather. It’s also a great time for snorkelling, scuba diving, and exploring coral reefs. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn offers pleasant temperatures and is a great time for wildlife safaris. Game reserves like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park are ideal for spotting the Big Five. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is the dry season, and it’s the best time for whale watching along the coastline. The town of St. Lucia is known for excellent whale-watching opportunities during this season. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring brings wildflower displays in various areas, including the Drakensberg Mountains. It’s also a great time for beach activities, as the weather starts to warm up. 

No matter the season, and whatever your preferences, you’re sure to find something fun to do in KZN. 

  • Beach Activities: KwaZulu-Natal has beautiful beaches along its coastline. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and beachside dining in places like Durban and Umhlanga. 
  • Wildlife Safaris: Explore the numerous game reserves and national parks for wildlife encounters. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is famous for its rhino conservation efforts. 
  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park: Visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site to experience diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, savannahs, and coastal dunes. It’s exceptional for wildlife and birdwatching. 
  • Drakensberg Mountains: Explore the stunning landscapes of the Drakensberg, go hiking, and witness the wildflower displays in spring. 
  • Cultural Experiences: Interact with the Zulu communities and learn about their culture and traditions. You can visit cultural villages and attend traditional events. 
  • Adventure Sports: Try activities like white-water rafting, zip-lining, and mountain biking in the scenic landscapes. 
  • Durban: The city of Durban offers a mix of cultural attractions, shopping, and dining experiences. Visit the Victoria Street Market and enjoy Durban’s Indian cuisine. 

Mpumalanga 

Worth a visit from every South Africa, Mpumalanga is home as it is to so many incredible natural wonders, including the iconic Kruger National Park. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer is the wet season, with lush greenery and excellent birdwatching opportunities. While the weather can be hot and humid, it’s a great time for bird enthusiasts. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn offers pleasant temperatures for outdoor activities. It’s an excellent time for wildlife safaris in iconic game reserves like Kruger National Park, as the vegetation is not too dense, making it easier to spot animals. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is the dry season, making it an ideal time for wildlife viewing. Animals tend to congregate around water sources, and the lack of dense foliage enhances visibility in game reserves. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring brings wildflower displays in some parts of Mpumalanga, such as Kaapschehoop. It’s also an exquisite time for hiking and exploring the diverse landscapes. 

Home to some of South Africa’s best national parks, and some of the most beautiful natural formations, there’s no shortage of wonder to be experienced in Mpumalanga. 

  • Kruger National Park: Go on wildlife safaris and encounter the Big Five, as well as numerous other species, in this renowned game reserve. 
  • Panorama Route: Explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Panorama Route, which includes attractions like Blyde River Canyon and God’s Window. 
  • Hiking and Outdoor Adventures: Hike in the Drakensberg Mountains, explore Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and take part in activities like white-water rafting and mountain biking. 
  • Wildflower Viewing: During spring, enjoy the wildflower displays in places like Kaapschehoop, which offer a unique and colourful experience. 
  • Sudwala Caves: Explore the Sudwala Caves, known for their impressive rock formations and underground wonders. 
  • Birdwatching: Mpumalanga is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with an abundance of bird species, including the elusive ground hornbill and various raptors. 

Limpopo 

The northernmost province of South Africa, bordering both Botswana and Mozambique, Limpopo is also full of wonderful national parks and a relatively easy drive from the Lanseria Airport in Gauteng. 

  • Summer (December to February): Summer is the wet season, with lush greenery and excellent birdwatching opportunities. Similarly to Mpumalanga, while the weather can be hot and humid, it’s still a great time for bird enthusiasts. 
  • Autumn (March to May): Autumn provides pleasant temperatures and is a stunning time for wildlife safaris. Game reserves like Kruger National Park and private reserves in the Greater Kruger area offer great wildlife viewing opportunities. 
  • Winter (June to August): Winter is the dry season, making it an ideal time for wildlife watching in game reserves. Animals congregate around water sources, providing unique safari experiences. 
  • Spring (September to November): Spring brings wildflower displays in some parts of Limpopo, such as Nwanedi Provincial Park. It’s also a great time for outdoor activities like hiking and exploring the diverse landscapes. 

The weather in Limpopo is temperate year-round, although it gets quite hot in summer and a bit chilly at night in the winter. There are, however, loads of things to do on long weekends in the region. 

  • Kruger National Park: Go on safari adventures in this world-famous park, known for its abundant wildlife, including the Big Five. 
  • Greater Kruger Reserves: Explore private game reserves in the Greater Kruger area, offering exclusive safari experiences. 
  • Wildflower Viewing: During spring, enjoy the wildflower displays in places like Nwanedi Provincial Park. 
  • Limpopo River Adventures: Try water activities like river cruises, canoeing, and fishing on the Limpopo River. 
  • Cultural Experiences: Visit local communities, learn about traditional practices, and experience the heritage of the Venda, Tsonga, and Pedi people. 
  • Adventure Sports: Engage in adventure activities like white-water rafting, hiking, and hot-air ballooning over scenic landscapes. 
  • Mapungubwe National Park: Explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its cultural and historical significance, as well as its stunning landscapes. 

Get Out and Explore South Africa in 2024 

There’s no better time to explore the wonders in our own backyard. With no less than five long weekends, and two that are easily made into extra long weekends, take the time now to map out your adventures for the year. And if you’re looking for some incredible travel specials and adventurous getaways, get in touch with one of our experienced travel advisors. No matter where you are in our beautiful country, there are places to explore. We can’t wait to see you get out there and enjoy your well-deserved long weekend getaways

Voted No.1
in travel

Thank you for being part of our journey... and choosing us to be part of yours.

PenTravel voted no1