South Africa is a country capable of capturing your heart with something as simple as a glorious sunset and a glass of wine. It’s filled with magic, rhythm, spectacular scenery, glorious weather, friendly people and African mayhem! All of this makes for an alluring and incredibly beautiful destination.
We’ve put together a list of places that is often overlooked but that you can definitely put on your list of places to visit on your next cross-country roadtrip!
Mpumalanga and Drakensberg
Reason to visit: incredible landscapes and hikes through nature
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Shrouded in natural beauty and mystery, the Drakensberg is one of the most majestic landscapes in South Africa. Its legendary hiking trails curve around dramatic rocky gorges, through grasslands, and into river valleys creating a haven for any nature lover.
Must visit: Royal Natal National Park, Cathedral Peak, and Champagne Castle.
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Further north you will find Mpumalanga, an area of incredible natural landscapes and glorious waterfalls.
Here you will find the third largest canyon in the world, the Blyde River Canyon. You can take a moment to gaze over it from God’s Window or go in search of waterfalls such as Horseshoe Falls, Lone Creek Falls, Berlin Falls, and Mac Mac Falls, a 65 metre high natural monument.
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Reason to visit: vibrance, design, art, nightlife and culinary wonders
Follow the bright lights all along the N1 and you will find yourself in Joburg, the city of gold.
South Africa’s economic powerhouse is also known as the rebel city amongst South Africans, but Joburg is slowly starting to shed this reputation and establishing itself as the cultural capital.
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Trendy neighbourhoods and creative hubs like the Maboneng Precinct, are actually at the centre of this cultural revolution.
Outside markets, rooftop gardens, coffee shops, trendy cocktail bars, fashion boutiques, and live music venues pulse with urban sophistication and cosmopolitan energy that’s difficult to fight and not possible to overlook.
Do not miss: First Thursdays, the Arts Alive Festival, street art walking tours and cycling tours through the buzzing streets of Soweto.
Kruger National Park
Reason to go: truly African safari experience
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The Kruger National Park is famous worldwide and for very good reason. Here you can have up close encounters with the big 5, in their natural habitat, and experience the raw, untamed spirit of Africa.
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Spend the nights in a luxurious bungalow or perhaps beside a crackling campfire while nature is alive around you. Awake to a breakfast overlooking the African bush as an elephant ambles by and giraffes peer curiously over treetops. A self drive or perhaps guided safari will take you deep into one of the largest game reserves in Africa and provide you with an opportunity to identify majestic wildlife like lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo’s, and cats in the wild.
A trip through the Kruger National Park is an definite must and a memory that will remain with you for years to come.
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Reason to visit: friendly locals and fascinating attractions
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Port Elizabeth is basically Cape Town without all the tourists (although Capetonians might disagree!). It’s has a penguin colony, it has vibey cocktail bars (Parliament Street hums with energy and live music when the sun goes down!), it has sandy white beaches excellent for surfing and the water is so hot that you can actually swim!
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Other places not to miss: PE Opera House, the Volkswagen AutoPavilion; the Old Railway Museum; the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum; Haunted Historical Walks; brewery tours; and Addo Elephant Park.
Go for: adventure activities
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The Garden Route is an absolute dream for the adventure seeker. You can literally choose from just about any adrenalin fuelled activity that you wish – canopy tours, bungy jumping, tubing, name it. This stretch of our coastline will give you all of this and looks pretty amazing too!
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Go tandem skydiving in Mossel Bay.
Bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge.
Spend your afternoon stand up paddle boarding on the lagoon in Sedgefield, and use your evenings to get to know travellers and locals at one of the party hostels.
Explore the Tsitsikamma Forest on a Segway or perhaps soar through the trees on a zip line.
Kayak beside dolphins and go paragliding in Plettenberg Bay.
Reason to visit: laidback coastal relaxation
After all that excitement, you will probably long for a bit of relaxation and an easygoing atmosphere. Then head off to the Wild Coast (called that only because of the wild ocean – nothing more).
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Spend lazy days exploring the bohemian streets of Coffee Bay, gaze at dramatic waterfalls that plunge off the edge of Africa directly into the ocean, or hunt for secret beaches hidden along glorious hiking trails.
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Beaches not to miss: Third Beach and Pebble Beach in Port St. Johns, Cintsa Beach in Chintsa, and Mdumbi Beach in Coffee Bay (voted the very best beach in Southern Africa).
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Go for: delicious food, wine and tasty brews
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Nestling between vineyards, orchards and dairy farms you will discover the unassuming town of Robertson, a place where great wine and great food are actually a way of life. It’s a place where indulgence is actually celebrated and encouraged!
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Create your own bottle of wine at Excelsior Wine Estate or spend your afternoon pairing wine, cheese and chocolate at well known wineries like Springfield Estate, Van Loveren Family Cellar or the Rooiberg Wine Cellars.
Robertson is also home to an excellent choice of award winning restaurants as well popular festivals like Wacky Wine Festival, Hands-on-Harvest Festival, and the Slow Food & Wine Festival.
Jeffreys Bay or perhaps Elands Bay
Go for: surfing
Probably the 2 best surf spots in South Africa.
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Elands Bay (on the West Coast) attracts surfers throughout the season due to its consistent waves, while Jeffreys Bay (also called JBay) is among the 5 top surfing destinations in the world thanks to its perfect waves.
Well-known surf spots in Jeffreys Bay include: Supertubes, Kitchen Windows, Albatross, Points, Tubes, and boneyards, the former site of the Billabong Pro.
Go for: holiday atmosphere, family getaways, and oysters
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Knysna has it all, perfect for families, romantic enough for 2 and also brimming with adventure. It’s a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike because of the sunny holiday atmosphere, excellent restaurants and charm.
You can stay in a houseboat on the lagoon, shuck on oysters at the Knysna Oyster Festival (a favourite on the South Africa events calendar), or perhaps loosen up with friends and family around a good old South African braai.
Go for: rock, hiking, and camping art
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The Cederberg Wilderness is a firm favourite amongst nature lovers. The stunning rock formations of its, ancient rock art, peaceful silence, and the wide open skies produce a sublime backdrop for hiking holidays and camping under the stars.
Go for: dreamy beaches, great weather and spicy food
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Home to the Golden Mile – a stretch of gorgeous coastline, the pride of KZN. Durban is also the birthplace of the bunny chow and many other spicy delights!
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Spend your days lazing on the beach or search for giant pineapples. Also make sure to get to know the locals and to enjoy the trademark Indian dishes of Durban.
Beaches not to miss: Umhlanga Rocks Beach, North Beach, Cape Vidal Beach, Zimbali Beach, Ansteys Beach, Amanzimtoti, Umdloti Beach and Willard Beach in Ballito.
Head further up the coast to St. Lucia and kayak with hippos or even watch turtles lay eggs. For the scuba diving enthusiasts, Protea Banks, Aliwal Shoal, and Sodwana Bay provide several of the very best scuba diving spots in South Africa.