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Posted on: Thursday, 9 December 2010

Local is lekker – 5 great and relatively unknown destinations at home

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More and more South Africans are ‘staying home’ for the holidays. They’re venturing overseas far less than previously for various reasons – they’re feeling the pinch of the Rand, they’re cutting back on carbon emissions, or they’re discovering that actually home has some gorgeous places to which to escape, without the overwhelming stress of a long haul flight.

Come December though, one wants to avoid the bunfight syndrome of seaside resorts that become somewhat inundated. With a little imagination there are a myriad other places one can be for Christmas, and even if the idea of a coastal holiday is top of the list, there are spaces along the coast that remain low key and a pleasure (read on) …

We’ve put together a list of a few towns and places to which we wouldn’t mind escaping for a week (or two):

Haenertsburg, Magoebaskloof Mountains



There are those who will argue that the little village of Haenertsburg in the Magoebaskloof Mountains is the most beautiful part of the Limpopo. Whilst a trip up here in December is undoubtedly hot, Haenertsburg lies on the misty escarpment that forms the northern-most stretches of the Drakensberg with incredible landscapes that include a fair amount of mist and rainfall.

The lush, woodedness of the surrounds and the access to hiking make it a wonderworld. The grasslands around the town are some of the most threatened in Limpopo with an amazing diversity of plants and animals, and access to bird life.

The village is tiny – there are roughly 500 people who live here, three churches, an active conservation group, and a number of restaurants and pubs. The people are friendly, and there are a number of places to stay. In short, you are very welcome.

What to enjoy whilst here:

  • Hiking in the Magoebaskloof
  • Wolkberg Wilderness Area
  • Debengeni Waterfall
  • Cheerio Gardens
  • Pekoe View Tea Garden
  • Stanford Lake
  • Wegraakbosch farm and dairy – organic cheeses

Some useful links for Haenertsburg: Haenertsburg Attractions & Info, Things to Do in Haenertsburg and find Accommodation in Haenertsburg.

Hogsback, Eastern Cape



Reaching Hogsback, far in the upper reaches of the Amatola Mountains, is well worth the effort it takes to get here. Whilst it is fairly close to Port Elizabeth, driving here from other parts of the country is something of a haul. But on passing through the little main road of the whimsical village you can understand the attraction.

Named after the the three ridges that dominate the landscape in the shape of the bristles on a hog’s back, the village is a paradise of rambling roses, indigenous forest, waterfalls, incredible walks and a quiet that is almost reverent. The gardens of Hogsback are a major attraction and understandably, as everything here grows like topsy – something to do with the year-round mists and rain (even in December you will need a few winter woolies).

It’s the refuge of artists, poets, musicians and photographers and village life is active and friendly. There is plenty to do and plenty of time to mull over ‘life, the universe and everything’.

What to enjoy whilst here:

Some useful links for Hogsback: Hogsback Attractions, Things to Do in Hogsback and find Accommodation in Hogsback.

Great Brak, Western Cape

Great Brak

Great Brak

Also known as Groot Brak, this little village lies on the Groot Brak River, just a little further along the coast from the Klein Brak River mouth and roughly halfway between Mossel Bay and George. Great Brak is one of the quieter spaces along the coast, despite its being on the Garden Route, and its position on the river and at a lagoon mouth with unspoilt beaches make it a beachside idyll.

The ‘brak’ refers to the brackish water evident in both brak rivers. The bigger of the two (Groot Brak in other words) divides into two channels towards the mouth, leaving a little island between them, linked by a single lane bridge to the mainland. On the island are little timber holiday cottages too.

You’ll need to carefully select your ‘spot’ across the festive season, as it can get a little busy and the village does now include rather audacious and modern homes that can spoil the summer charm. But forewarned is forearmed and the beauty of the unspoilt environment will soon undo any resistance to unwind.

What to enjoy whilst here:

  • paddling, canoeing, body boarding and swimming
  • scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, fishing
  • hiking
  • bird watching
  • tranquil picnic spots
  • reading and time out

Some useful links for Great Brak: Great Brak Attractions & Info and find Accommodation in Great Brak.

Hondeklipbaai, Northern Cape



Way up in the northern reaches of the West Coast in the Northern Cape, Hondeklipbaai is a quaint and little fishing village with very friendly inhabitants, which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that they don’t get many visitors. There’s a little harbour here that has been used to ship copper ore, house diamond diving boats and today is home to crayfishing boats. A sign for the local art gallery, Cierenberg, stands – a whitewashed board – hand painted to let people know its open, and the local fish and chips shop rests right alongside the beach.

Just south of here lies the wreck of the Aristea, a fishing vessel that didn’t quite make it back to its home in Scotland in 1945. The town is still, uneventful, not terrifically inhabitated but just enough to provide local entertainment, and perfect for unwinding away from the madding crowds.

What to enjoy whilst here:

  • seasonal wild flowers
  • crayfishing
  • gorgeously scenic drives
  • space, and a lot of it

Prince Albert, Karoo

Prince Albert

Prince Albert

One of the most gorgeous little Karoo towns, Prince Albert lies just around the corner from the start of the impressive Swartberg Pass (although they’re still doing major repairs to the pass after rains washed much of it away earlier this year).

Whilst the Karoo brings to mind wide open spaces and arid, scrubland desert, you would be right only in the former part of this imagined picture, for Prince Albert has access to a fair amount of water if the prolific gardens are anything to go by, and the water flowing alongside the road in furrows runs off the mountains that surround the town.

Prince Albert is filled with beautifully preserved architecture and 13 national monuments. It also has a number of guest houses, restaurants and little shops as the town’s popularity has increased over the last few years. Nonetheless, it will not fail to provide the feeling of getting away from it all, and the space, the beauty and the people combine to make it time well spent in unwinding amidst the mountains. The local Saturday market provides vegetables, jams and the like, whilst week days are spent lazing – there is no better way to enjoy a holiday.

What to enjoy whilst here:

Some useful links for Prince Albert: Prince Albert Attractions, Things to Do in Prince Albert and find Accommodation in Prince Albert.

What’s your favourite ‘local-is-lekker best kept secret’?

Useful Links:
South Africa Accommodation
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Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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