19 secret spots in South Africa – places you’ve probably never been
There is a danger in thinking that every little bolthole and haven has been discovered in South Africa.
Whilst travel magazines, blogs and websites undoubtedly make our lives as travellers a lot easier with their vivid accounts of places and spaces, the vastness of South Africa means that there will always be uncharted areas…
19 secret spots in South Africa…
Lady Grey, Eastern Cape
In the heart of the Witteberg Mountains on the edge of the border with the Free State, this weekend hideaway is perfect for snow in winter, or the Easter Passion play that takes to the town’s streets. Quirky, historical and beautiful.
Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape
Set in the Bankberg Mountains this nature reserve is home to the mountain zebra – found only in South Africa. Once almost on its way to extinction, there are now over 700 of them. Also see buffalo, black rhino, lion and cheetah.
Bathurst, Eastern Cape
Best known for its giant, glow-in-the-dark pineapple (pineapple farming is big here) and The Pig ‘n Whistle Hotel – considered the oldest licensed pub in the country – Bathurst is, as its name suggests, a quintessentially British and historical village.
Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape
When in full flood the noise of the Orange River as it flows over the falls in the reserve is gushing torrent that is nothing short of a roar. The original Khoi word ‘Aukoerebis’ or ‘place of noise’ has stuck; the reserve a place of arid beauty.
Riemvasmaak, Northern Cape
Riemvasmaak is a rural village in the bowels of the Karoo, 56 km north of Kakamas, where rocks, dry riverbeds and sand are the landscape’s signature. The local community now welcomes visitors to camp out at their hot springs.
Calvinia, Northern Cape
Set in the back room of the Namaqualand, this Hantam Karoo town with its giant postbox is not only privy to a bevy of daisies come the flower season, but its museum, restaurants and timeless accommodation in Calvinia makes it a worthwhile stopover.
Vanderkloof Dam, Northern Cape
The country’s second largest dam hides out 130 km downstream from the Gariep Dam, stretches 100 km in length when full, and is not only a great watersports venue but is also beautiful. Find the Rolfontein Nature Reserve on the northwestern shore, take along a fishing rod, or attend the Waterfees in September.
Wuppertal Cederberg village, Western Cape
If you’re a biker, take the old Post Route to Wuppertal along dirt roads where the term ‘wide open space’ gains new dimension. The town of Wuppertal has been a Moravian mission station since 1865. Don’t leave without a pair of leather hiking boots…
Grootwinterhoek Wilderness Area, Western Cape
120 km north of Cape Town find this rugged and wild landscape that is a wilderness in the true sense of the word – hikers can camp wild and walk where they like. There are also nine hiking trails and overnight accommodation for those who don’t want to rough it, but still hanker after the beauty.
Sandy Bay, Cape Town
Cape Town’s nudist beach lies next to Llandudno, but is inaccessible unless you walk the 20 minutes from the car park, or head out over rocks from the south.
Elim, Western Cape
Another little Moravian mission town that dates back to 1824, Elim offers town tours with a stop at the historic watermill. Renowned for its thatched roofs, white washed houses and wine route, you owe it to yourself to visit.
Sani Pass, Drakensberg
The pass that links KwaZulu-Natal to Lesotho is still one of the most rugged and thrilling drives in the country. One of the highest passes in the world, the 25 km gravel stretch from the Sani Pass Hotel to the border climbs over 1000 metres with no fewer than 14 hairpin bends. Prepare to spend more than a couple of hours on the drive.
Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Ndumo is where the Great Usuthu and Pongola rivers meet, right on the border with Mozambique. Find crocodiles, hippos and a magnificent selection of birds (430 species) in this small and relatively unknown nature reserve.
Ladybrand, Free State
A typical platteland town, Ladybrand’s homes and buildings are predominantly made from sandstone quarried from the surrounding hills. Today it lies in the heart of the sunflower and wheat belt, a charming town more commonly known as the ‘capital’ of Lesotho – so many of its residents commute daily from here.
Find Doornkloof, home to Jan Smuts for over 40 years, and now a museum in the quiet, leafy village that is now virtually a suburb of Centurion, such is the urban creep. But Irene remains a hamlet; a generous space in which to unwind.
Wonderboom Nature Reserve, Pretoria
This nature reserve rests on the northern limits of Pretoria Accommodation. At its heart is a 5.5 metre trunk that is all that remains of the original wild fig that began growing here over 1 000 years ago. This particular Wonderboom is made up of around 13 individual trunks that spread out over about 1.5 hectares.
Botshabelo mission station, Mpumalanga
What used to be a thriving mission station just north-west of Middelburg, is today a living museum of what daily life in a mission station was like. Next door is the open air museum that preserves the Ndebele culture, famous for the bright colours woven and painted into all that they do.
Belhaven, Barberton, Mpumalanga
Now a museum, this stately homestead remains as it would have been at the time of the Barberton gold rush, during which Belhaven was owned by a wealthy Edwardian family. Take a guided tour through the house and enjoy the cool of the typical shaded veranda, where the floor boards, posts and fretwork are made from Baltic pine.
Wolkberg Wilderness Area, Limpopo
High mountain peaks, wide valleys, deep ravines, indigenous tropical rainforests, grasslands, rivers and waterfalls – a primeval landscape that is mostly untouched by the modern world. Its sensitivity is protected and only limited groups of hikers may enter on the fringes.