Here are the 30 best small towns to visit in South Africa
The small town of Bathurst might remind you of an old English 19th century village, and yes there is tea and scones available, but Bathurst is also possibility South Africa’s most eccentric town. Bustling with activity, passion, history and art, the town is a home to festivals, the oldest pub in South Africa and the biggest pineapple you will ever lay eyes on.
Things to do in Bathurst
- Have a drink in South Africa’s oldest licensed pub, Pig and Whistle Inn.
- Head to the weekly Bathurst Farmer’s Market for fresh produce on a Sunday.
- Climb inside the 16.5 metre man made pineapple and learn about the history of the pineapple industry.
- View local artists’ work at Engage Art Centre and The Workshop Art & Craft Gallery, visit the pottery studio of Richard Pullen and take a Tori Stowe creation home with you.
- Step back in time and go to the Bathurst Agricultural Museum and the Bradshaw’s Mill that was built in 1821.
Where to grab a bite in Bathurst:
Dine at Morley House Tea Garden, The Village Bistro, Pickwick’s Oven and The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn.
Steytlerville, known for rugby legend Danie Craven and poet A.G Visser, might give you the first impression that it is a sleepy town, but don’t be fooled. A lot more goes on than meets the eye. With the Cockscomb Peak towering in the back, and streets wide enough for ox wagons to turn around, the Karoo town turns theatrical every Saturday with a cabaret show attracting visitors from all over.
Things to do in Steytlerville
- Drive through the open-air gallery, the Valley of Flags, on Noorspoort Pass (from Kleinpoort’s side on the R329).
- Stop at the open-air museum with its old farming implements.
- See if you can spot your name on one of the Family Crests lined along in Steytlerville’s main street.
- Visit the Pegasus Early Motoring Museum highlighting important motoring moments in South Africa; there is also a charity shop on the premises, proceeds go towards the rehabilitation and release of animals.
- Don’t miss the Steytlerville Follies; it is a captivating cabaret dinner show with the famous Karoo diva, Dame Leyla Lamborghini and maestro Freddy Ferrari on the grand piano.
Where to grab a bite in Steytlerville:
Eat out at The Royal Hotel, Lizzy’s Khaya and The Verandah Coffee Shop.
Step into a world of fairy tales, mystical creatures and experience the magic and wonder of Hogsback. Legend has it that the Amathola Mountains were the inspiration behind J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and it is easy to understand why. Here you can get lost in indigenous forests, see waterfalls, relax in front of a fireplace and watch the mist rolling in, and maybe – if you’re lucky – spot the endangered Cape Parrot.
Things to do in Hogsback
- Walk the labyrinth at The Edge; the walk to the centre and out is 1.4 kilometres.
- Visit the Voice of the Earth Eco Shrine, an outdoor garden with paintings and sculptures by artist, Diana Graham.
- Head to the Crystal Corner for crystals from around the world; there is also a labyrinth and a gallery to visit.
- Go horse riding or mountain biking.
- Get the ultimate Instagram photo at the world-famous bath perched on a cliff.
- Hike one of the many trails – ranging from 1 hour to 8 hours – and if you want to test your endurance, sign up for the six-day Amathola Hiking Trail.
- Learn about Xhosa culture at Elundini Village.
Where to grab a bite in Hogsback:
Eat out at Butterfly’s Bistro, Happy Hogs Restaurant and the Village Pub and The Edge restaurant.
The Langkloof – the Fruit Route of South Africa – is a stretch of 160 km situated behind the Tsitsikamma Mountains and forms part of the world’s longest wine route, Route 62. In Joubertina, and the surrounding towns of Kareedouw, Krakeel, Louterwater and Misgund, you’ll find farm retreats with hands-on experiences and outdoor adventures. Joubertina’s next door neighbour, Twee Riviere, is also home to the campus of the South African Institute for Heritage Science where you will stumble upon The Belfry Kitchen; an inflation-free place with a homesteading food model, a rare find in modern-day society.
Things to do in Joubertina (and the rest of the Langkloof)
- Get off the tar and onto gravel to Kouga Wilderness where you can go on 4×4 trails, rock climbing, kloofing, hiking, fishing and swimming in natural crystal-clear pools.
- Head over the mountain and visit the Tsitsikamma region with all its hiking trails and adventure activities like bungy jumping and canopy tours.
- Be a farmer for the day and go fruit picking at Grootnek Guest Farm; they also offer horse riding, stargazing and more.
- Set a day aside and climb Formosa, the highest peak in the Tsitsikamma Mountains, and at 1675 m above sea level you will have views for days.
- Explore the farm stalls in the Langkloof.
- Play a round of golf in Joubertina.
Where to grab a bite in Joubertina:
East out at Belfry Kitchen and Joub’s Diner. Kareedouw is situated 44 km from Joubertina and there is Norma Jeans Diner, The Sweaty Dutchman and Twin & Co.
In the Eastern Cape Highlands, close to the border of Lesotho and against the backdrop of the Witteberg Mountains, is Lady Grey. The streets are lined with an artistic flair and old Victorian-style buildings, attracting city dwellers and charming them with friendly people, the ever-present peace and tranquillity of nature and a rich history that can be found in the fossil beds and rock art.
Things to do in Lady Grey
- Discover the art of Lady Grey through the various galleries and studios.
- Conquer the nearby Joubert’s Pass, the fourth highest mountain pass in South Africa. You can also drive more high altitude passes in the vicinity of Rhodes and Barkley East.
- Cool off in summer and have a picnic at Lady Grey Dam.
- Enjoy fly fishing in one of the best trout streams in South Africa.
- Get active and go horse riding, cycling and hiking at Lammergier Nature Reserve.
- Visit the Cape Vulture Sanctuary in the Karringmelkspruit gorge.
- Do a historical tour of the town and visit the church, museum, powder magazine and Anglo Boer War graves.
- Every Easter, the Lady Grey Arts Academy and Dutch Reformed Churched put on the Lady Grey Passion Play.
Where to grab a bite in Lady Grey:
Try Anny’s Café, The Grey Lady Coffee Shop, Plaaskombuis (out of town).
The well-known Owl House put Nieu Bethesda on the map for modern-day travellers, but beyond the art of Helen Martins there’s more. Nieu Bethesda, with its Karoo hospitality, dusty streets and down-to-earth atmosphere will tuck your heartstrings into a state of calm and before you know it you will forget about time, responsibilities and your digital devices.
Things to do in Nieu-Bethesda
- Visit the Owl House and the Helen Martins Museum.
- Shop for books at Dustcovers.
- Stroll through artists’ studios at Ware on Earth, a ceramic gallery, and see sculptor, Frans Boekooi, in action. Go to Bethesda Arts Centre which celebrates local art rooted in Khoisan culture and beliefs.
- Look up and watch the stars; the lack of light pollution makes it an excellent place for stargazing.
- Hunt for fossils in town in the riverbed or go on a fossil excursion at Ganora Guest Farm (where there is also a fossil museum and 7000-year-old bushman paintings).
- Go to the village market every first Saturday of the month.
- Plan your trip around the Pump-Palooza (pumpkin festival) or the Garlic Harvest Party.
- Climb the highest free-standing peak in the Eastern Cape, the challenging Compassberg.
Where to grab a bite in Nieu-Bethesda:
Eat at Ibis Lounge, Karoo Lamb, Auntie Evelyn se Plek, The Brewery and Two Goats Deli, The Village Inn and the Tower Café.
Bethulie is often described as the halfway point to everywhere but this sleepy cattle-and-sheep farming town with its peaceful atmosphere is well worth a little detour as well. Known for Patrick Mynhardt, the South African theatre icon of Boy from Bethulie, the town has also claimed fame in the recent years as being home to South Africa’s Book Hotel, or rather, according to the owner of the Royal Hotel of Bethulie: the hotel of stories.
Things to do in Bethulie
- Walk through the huge personal library of author and Royal Hotel Bethulie owner, Anthony Hocking. The Royal Hotel has more than 30 000 books (with 90 000 more stored at his house) and about 80 000 vinyls.
- Go on a storytelling tour that will take you to Anglo Boer War sites, including the concentration camp.
- Listen to the ghost stories as told by Anthony Hocking.
- Visit the Pellissier House Museum and also see where Patrick Mynhardt grew up.
- Watch the sunset as it dips into the Orange River from the Hennie Steyn Bridge, the longest road-rail bridge in South Africa.
- Head to the nearby Gariep Dam and get wet with its myriad of water sport opportunities and do a tour of the dam wall.
Where to grab a bite in Bethulie
Try Ou Kar Restaurant, Die Plaaskombuis and if you are staying over at the Royal Hotel dinner and breakfast can be organised.
At the foothills of the mighty Maluti mountains you will find the village of Rosendal, a place where you can go slow, mingle with the residents as if you’re long lost family, soak up the geological beauty of the mountains and find inspiration. In fact, the town is known for attracting and inspiring creatives, many a creative has found a home away from the rat race in Rosendal. The population is small, and if you stay over it won’t take too long before you meet every person and every dog in the community.
Things to do in Rosendal
- Visit Moolmanshoek for horse riding, hiking trails, game drives, mountain biking, 4×4 eco-trails and birdwatching.
- Go the end-of-month Saturday market, find home-made products such as bread, butter, soaps and pies, and fresh produce.
- Do the 8km Mosamane Hiking Trail and stand in awe of incredible sandstone rock formations and caves.
- Step outside with your camera around golden hour, the town is a playground for photographers.
- Shop for textile and glass products at Kaboedel Craft.
- Find collector items from railway paraphernalia to antique enamel pots at Turksvy Trading.
Where to grab a bite in Rosendal
Eat out at Yolla’s Restaurant & Bar and Benjamin’s.
When a town is situated inside a meteor-made crater – the largest meteorite impact site on earth – you can forget about the Eiffel Tower in France and say bonjour to the small town in the Free State that will charm the socks off your feet. Parys is lively and unique; it will get your heart racing with all the adventure activities and has a reputation for being a hub for arts and antiques.
Things to do in Parys
- Check out the quaint little shops of the Parys’ French quarter: Le Petit Paris Secret Passage.
- Visit the Vredefort Dome and go on a Dome Impact Tour to see the unique rock formations, fauna, flora and signs of human habitation from the Stone and Iron Age.
- For a challenging thrill, see Vredefort Dome and the Vaal River from the sky and go skydiving.
- Have a white-water rafting adventure on the rapids of the Vaal River (level 1 to 4).
- Go fly-fishing.
- If you want to hang on for dear life to a few ropes, the abseiling and ziplining adventures are calling your name.
- Visit the Dog and Fig Craft Brewery for demonstrations, pairings and beer tastings. Or taste one of the 52 different kinds of mampoer at the local distillery.
Where to grab a bite in Parys
Dine at Hoi Polloi, O’s Restaurant, Pont de Val Riverside Escape, Jimmy Jaggers, Plumtree Coffee & Art Gallery, Bella de Jour Café, Die Koffiekan and Liewer Koffi.
Philippolis, one of the oldest towns in South Africa, is a place rich in history. It was the home of the Griqua leader, Adam Kok and Sir Laurens Jan ver der Post and it is where Emily Hobhouse established a spinning and weaving school in 1905. Today, between the squeak of windmills, sheep farms, shady trees and historic buildings, it is easy to understand the allure for visitors and why Karel Schoeman called it the Stellenbosch of the Free State.
Things to do in Philippolis
- Get a taste of the area at Karoo Ale Craft Beer, and try Kapokbos, Karoobos and Gannabos Ale.
- Visit The Shop for trinkets, books, art and more.
- Get in touch with the history of Dr J Philip and the London Missionary Association, Adam Kok’s Griqua era and Emily Hobhouse at the Transgariep Museum.
- Visit the Laurens van der Post memorial garden.
- There are two dams bordering the district of Philippolis – Gariep Dam and Vanderkloof Dam – where you can fish, sail and go jetskiing.
- With more than 200 species, bird watching is always an idea.
- Just 5 km away there is Waterkloof, a ghost town.
Where to grab a bite in Philippolis
Dine out at Laurens van der Post Restaurant, Rooi Ooi and Philippolis Lodge.
The biggest diamond in the world hails from Cullinan and the town with its Victorian architecture, historical sights and oak-lined streets will stir up some nostalgia, as if you are walking through a 19th century novel. Cullinan is small, and you can easily explore the town on foot in no time, but don’t underestimate its size and its bite; there are plenty of adventure activities to keep the relaxation to a minimum.
Things to do in Cullinan
- Put on your miner’s hat at Cullinan Diamond Mine, do one of the tours and see the diamonds on display.
- Sniff out a few oldies, from a vinyl to dolls, and go antique shopping.
- Face your fear of heights at the Gorge Glide (ziplining) or abseil down a 55-metre cliff.
- Meet the big five at Dinokeng Game Reserve; there is a self-guided or guided game drive, a bush walk, picnic site, bird hide and you can go hot air ballooning.
- Stroll through Oak Avenue Boulevard for interesting shops and heritage buildings and sites.
- Climb aboard a steam train! Get on in Pretoria and enjoy the sights and sounds as you make your way towards Cullinan through Gezina, Villieria, Queenswood, Waltloo, Silverton, Denneboom and Mamelodi. Take note that the train is not always in service.
Where to grab a bite in Cullinan
Grab a bite at Harrie’s Pancakes, The Cockpit Brewhouse, The Lemon Tree Garden Restaurant, As Greek As it Gets and Whispering Oaks Garden Café.
When you wave the traffic and concrete landscape of Johannesburg adieu it is hard to believe that a small town like Magaliesburg is nearby. It lies in an area with natural bushveld and between the mountains, valleys, rivers and indigenous woodland, outdoor enthusiasts can find a quiet and peaceful escape.
Things to do in Magaliesburg
- Tick off a bucket list item as you go up in the sky with a hot air balloon.
- Stay up high and do the Magaliesburg Canopy Tour.
- Relax in nature at Mountain Sanctuary Park; there are mountain biking trails, hiking trails, crystal clear mountain rock pools for swimming, rock climbing and abseiling.
- Track down the story of human origin at the Sterkfontein Caves.
- Enjoy the open-air exhibition of freedom fighters who played a role in the dawn of South Africa’s democracy at the Maropeng Visitor Centre.
- Go quad biking, go-karting and horse riding at Saddle Creek and don’t forget to try archery as well.
- Visit the Van Gaalen Cheese Farm for a cheese tour.
Where to grab a bite in Magaliesburg
Eat at Hornbill Lodge and Legends Restaurant, Trading Post Coffee Shop and Deli and Black Horse Brewery and Restaurant.
Situated in Southern Drakensberg, the majestic splendour of the Underberg countryside will put you under a spell to always stay another night. Being home to the longest-running music festival, Splashy Fen that attracts crowds from all over, there’s also plenty to keep adventurers happy. It’s all about nature and outside is the place to be to enjoy the mountains, prolific bird life and wild flowers.
Things to do in Underberg
- Explore the farms along the Umzimkulu River by mountain bike, there is more than five trails, ranging in difficulty and length from 3 km to 32 km.
- Try your hand at fly fishing at Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve, the premier wild-trout fly fishing destination in Southern Africa. The reserve also has an abundance of birds, home to a few rare species.
- Visit the studio of Dutch-born artist, Rob Leenhouwers, a pastel, acrylic, ink and colour pencil artist.
- Appreciate the landscapes on sure-footed Basotho horses.
- Go on a guided rock art tour at the ancient sites of Garden Castle or Cobham.
- Tackle the Sani Pass, the famous pass between South Africa and the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.
- Go in April and attend Splashy Fen.
Where to grab a bite in Underberg
Eat out at Lemon Tree Bistro, The Olde Duck and Stone House Kitchen (Himeville).
Part of the 80 km Midlands Meander and known by all as the hub of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands, Nottingham Road’s ever popular charisma of hospitality, friendliness, good food and the jaw-dropping scenery has become a must-stop for visitors.
Things to do in Nottingham Road
- Take your clubs to the green of Gowrie Farm Estate, it was ranked the 4th best short course in the world outside the USA. There is also the Victoria Country Club, Bosch Hoek Golf Club and Champagne Sports Resort.
- Pick up a map at Gowrie Village and cycle along the quiet roads of the Kamberg, Loteni and Dargle valleys.
- Head to the family friendly Piggly Wiggly where there are unique stores like the Zulu Lulu Art House and activities to keep the kids (and adults) busy like mini golf, candle dipping, ceramic art, train rides and chocolate making. Shop some more at the Junction Village Centre.
- Stop by the Karkloof Farmers’ Market.
- Try the ales and lagers of one of South Africa’s most successful micro-breweries: Nottingham Road Brewery Company.
- Go to Howick Falls; it plummets 95 metres down below into a pool that the local Zulus believe is the place of the spirits of ancestors.
- Get crafty! Aladdin’s de Light offers a few creative experiences and workshops in stained glass, mosaic and there are therapeutic breakaway weekends.
- Have an adventure up high and do the Karkloof Canopy Tour in Howick.
Where to grab a bite in Nottingham Road
Eat at Linga Lapa, Blueberry Café, Bierfassl Pub and Restaurant, Café Bloom, Piggly Wiggly, The Midlands Kitchen and VdeV.
If the war history of South Africa and Zulu culture piques your interest, then base yourself in Dundee. It is a town with a proudly rich and varied past, culture, traditions and the gateway to the battlefields and other places such as Glencoe, Rorkes Drift, Isandlwana, Fugitives Drift, Blood River/Ncome and Maria Ratschitz.
Things to do in Dundee
- Visit the Talana Museum which is on the very site of the first battle that broke out during the Anglo Boer War.
- If you want to dive into the history of the 1899-1902 war get a tour guide and choose one of the many tours: tombstone tour, the siege and relief of Ladysmith tour, the “Acre of massacre” tour, Majuba Mountain, Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana battlefields, the Khaki tour and more.
- The annual Talana Live is a weekend of battle re-enactments and portrays the battle of Deville Wood; other activities during this weekend includes the Gun Run, Wagon Pull, a market and more.
- Go on a game drive at Ingudlane Game Lodge, just 5 km from town.
- If you are an avid birder head to Talana or Mpati Hill and Oaks Dam.
- Attend the Glencoe Arts Festival with music, food, performances, film screenings and more.
Where to grab a bite in Dundee
The Shed, Ingudlane Game Lodge Restaurant and The Oval Restaurant.
If you are after a misty mountain escape in Magoebaskloof but still want to experience a picturesque small town, let your inner-tranquillity-seeking compass point you in the direction of Haenertsberg. The small town has only one main street while a world of wonder and adventure is just around the corner.
Things to do in Haenertsburg
- Say cheese at the Wegraakbosch Organic Dairy where you can learn how to make cheese, milk a cow, fetch eggs and go on a guided walk through the indigenous forest.
- Put on your hiking boots and explore the area’s hiking trails like the Louis Changuion and Swartbos trails (there is also the overnight Magoebaskloof Hiking Trail).
- Get your craft beer game on at Zwakala Brewery, voted South Africa’s best light beer.
- Believe you can fly at the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour.
- Have a picnic at the Debengeni Falls.
- Pick your own blueberries at Blueberry Heights Farm.
- Go birding in the Woodbush Forest with some of South Africa best bird guides.
- Go fish! The waters of Haenertsburg and Magoebaskloof are well-known by fly-fishermen.
Where to grab a bite in Haenertsburg
Dine out at The Red Plate, Caffe Villa Trattoria, The Iron Crown Pub & Bistro and The Eatery on Rissik.
Head to the heart of the central Lowveld, to the bush and to some of South Africa’s most renowned natural wonders when you visit the town of Hoedspruit in the Valley of the Olifants. Hoedspruit has an abundance of wildlife, scenery, archaeology, mountains, rivers, cultural history and adventure activities.
Things to do in Hoedspruit
- Answer the call of adventure and go white-water rafting.
- Go on a Blyde Canyon water safari via a boat cruise, or tubing.
- See wildlife up close and personal and visit the nearby Kruger National Park or one of the many private game reserves.
- Experience sunrise from a hot air balloon.
- Have a personal boutique wine or craft gin tasting at The Venue.
- View the classic car and motorbike collection at 24 Degrees South; it is situated on the old silk farm and offers a spa, restaurants, a nature trail, gift shops and nursery.
- Feel the rhythm of Africa at Nyani Cultural Village with storytelling through tribal dances.
- Visit all the waterfalls and sites along the Panorama Route.
- Shop for food, fresh produce and crafts at the Hoedspruit Farmers Market, first Saturday of every month.
Where to grab a bite in Hoedspruit
Fig & Bean Café, Hat & Creek, Sleepers Railway Station Restaurant and Maroela Bar.
Chrissiesmeer is a small hamlet, filled to the brim with history and countryside atmosphere and with 270 freshwater lakes and pans within a 20 km distance, it is the centre of South Africa’s largest lake district.
Things to do in Chrissiesmeer
- Put on your Indiana Jones hat and search for interesting archaeological sites like Mpuluzi’s Footprint (Goliath’s Footprint), McCorkingdale’s Cave and South Africa’s only natural bridge.
- Canoe on the lake.
- Where permittable, go fishing for bass and carp in the deeper pans.
- There is a birding route of over 60 km for twitchers.
- Go to the Jan Randell’s Ranch Museum to see one of the largest collections of vintage tractors.
- Go frogging – and slow down for them while driving – it is a thing in Chrissiesmeer.
Where to grab a bite in Chrissiesmeer
Stop for a meal at Frog Coffee Shop, The Billiard Room and Lake Chrissie Lodge.
Often described as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts – and rightfully so – the picturesque town of Sabie is the ideal place to base yourself as you uncover the scenery and sights of Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route. Rock paintings suggests that the earliest inhabitants of the Sabie area were the San but the town developed due to the 1870s gold rush and also has one of the world’s largest man-made forests. There might not be gold anymore but it is a goldmine of activities.
Things to do in Sabie
- Chase waterfalls! The Sabie Waterfall Route takes you to eight waterfalls: Lone Creek Falls, Mac Mac Falls, Forest Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Horse Shoe Falls, Maria Shires Falls, Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls.
- Visit the Sabie Forestry Museum and get a glimpse into the timber and wood industry.
- Discover interesting rock formations that have formed over millions of years: Pinnacle Rock, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Echo Caves and Rock Bridge.
- Enjoy the spectacular views at God’s Window, Three Rondavels and Blyde River Canyon.
- Get the adrenalin going with Kestell Adventures; you can go caving by candle lights, do waterfall abseiling, tubing, kloofing and the more laid-back option: a forest cruise in a 4×4 to a secret waterfall.
Where to grab a bite in Sabie
Eat out at Woodsman Restaurant and Pub, The Wild Fig Tree Restaurant, The African Elephant Restaurant, Smokey Train Diner and Petena Pancakes.
It is not uncommon for Sutherland, the small Karoo town in the Northern Cape, to experience snowfall every month of the year. Extreme temperature is its middle name, as well as starlit skies and being home to the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, one of the biggest in the world.
Things to do in Sutherland
- Go to SALT and explore the universe.
- Visit the Sutherland Planetarium which is the only privately-owned Digital Planetarium in South Africa.
- Make your way to Roggecloof where the last active volcano in Southern Africa erupted 70 million years ago. Roggecloof is also home to fossils, history, wildlife and they’re involved in the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s cheetah metapopulation project.
- Visit the Tankwa Karoo, where the AfrikaBurn festival takes place every year.
- Step back into history and go to the Anglo Boer War cemetery and Louw Museum, a literary museum celebrating NP van Wyk Louw, WEG Louw and DC Esterhuyse.
- Make a detour to the oh-so-charming Matjiesfontein.
Where to grab a bite in Sutherland
Stop for a bite at Ou Meule, The Jupiter Guesthouse & Restaurant and The Whitehouse Inn.
A leisurely stroll of about an hour is all you need to explore the small town but don’t be shocked if the desire to stay longer knocks on your heart. Loxton is one of the few places where you can see the corbelled houses with its unique dome-shaped stone dwellings that were built in the early 1800s, and beyond the history it is also a popular filming location.
Things to do in Loxton
- Walk up the hill to see how the sun sets over the town.
- See the collection of military vehicles at the War Museum.
- View one of the corbelled houses.
- Do some stoep-sitting.
- Go the replica Dutch Castle and Windmill, 22 km out of town, that was built by a rancher.
- Head out a bit further to the MeerKAT Radio Telescope (visitors can only go during a public open day).
- If you are a classic car fanatic, visit the Loxton Lodge & Truck Museum.
Where to grab a bite in Loxton
Eat at Die Rooi Granaat and Loxton Lodge.
Named after Queen Victoria of England, this town is the gateway to the Diamond Way and a historic one at that if you look at all the restored Cape Cottages, Victorian architecture, stone-walled sheep kraals and camps, and the fact that fossil remains of the Bradysaurus, were found nearby. Victoria West, with its open spaces and Karoo hospitality, is also home to the last Art Deco cinema in South Africa.
Things to do in Victoria West
- Visit one of the guest farms in the area and go birding, hiking and cycling.
- Attend the annual Wildsfees where there is live entertainment, a beer garden, stalls and more.
- Catch a show at the Art Deco gem, the Apollo Threatre.
- Go to the Victoria West Museum to get more insight into the history of the Karoo through fossils and culture.
Where to grab a bite in Victoria West
Eat at Ka’Roux Restaurant, Merino Restaurant and Applous Café.
Home to beautiful architecture, a church with the highest pulpit in South Africa, donkey carts, that famous Karoo hospitality, an interesting museum and the title of being South Africa’s national Booktown, a visit to Richmond is one not to miss.
Things to do in Richmond
- Browse Richmond’s Modern Art Project South Africa (MAPSA).
- Get active on the walking and cycling trails.
- Visit The Riding Horse Museum of South Africa, one of two museums in the world dedicated to the saddle horse.
- Get reading, and shop for second-hand, rare and outdated books.
- Attend the annual Boekbedonnerd Literary Festival.
Where to grab a bite in Richmond
Dine at The Richmond Café, Vetmuis Plaaskombuis and Die Krip Restaurant.
For many South Africans the idea of a telephone exchange (remember Nommer, asseblief?) is a long forgotten – unheard of – concept, but in Groot Marico the town’s telephone exchange was only automated towards the end of 2000. In the valley of the Marico river, lies the hamlet of Groot Marico, a place where visitors are always welcomed (usually with a shot of locally-made mampoer, boiled straight from nature), a place close to nature, known by many because of the short stories of Herman Charles Bosman who said, “There is no other place I know that is so heavy with atmosphere, so strangely and darkly impregnated with that stuff of life that bears the authentic stamp of South Africa.”
Things to do in Groot Marico
- Visit the information for your first introduction to Groot Marico, you will get more than information, you will get stories.
- Take a plunge (or dive) in the Marico Oog, a 17-metre deep pool and the source of the Marico River.
- Shop at Many Hands, a sewing and knitting community project; they also have a permaculture group.
- Go to Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum and if you visit during October you can join in on the Bosman Weekend, where stories of the Marico and the writer H.C Bosman are celebrated.
- Visit the private Vaalkop 66 Sentraal-museum and browse through the old implements, magazines and more.
- As mampoer or peach brandy capital of the world you can’t leave this town without tasting some of the local spirits.
Where to grab a bite in Groot Marico
For a night out go to Wag-‘n-Biekie, #14 Downtown Marico, Marico Sunset Oasis and Marico Moon Café.
Potchefstroom, or Potch, is well-known for the annual arts festival, Aardklop and this North West town is mainly a bustling university town. But don’t fool yourself into thinking there’s nothing to do but to study; when the students are gone this slightly-bigger-small-town (almost city) turns quiet and offers visitors museums and opportunities to explore outdoor activities.
Things to do in Potchefstroom
- Walk under the oak trees and around the interesting shops and cafes at Die Bult.
- Visit the Botanical Garden.
- Go the museums; discover the story of South African towns at the Potchefstroom Museum, find out more about poet and writer, Totius, at the Totius House Museum and the President Pretorius Museum is a National Monument and explores the urban Boer culture.
- Get your binoculars out and go birding at OPM Prozesky Brid Sanctuary.
- You can go camping, yachting, canoeing, birding and game viewing at the Boskop Dam and Nature Reserve.
- Play a round of golf at Potchefstroom Country Club.
- Go ziplining at Koepel Mega Zip Adventures.
Where to grab a bite in Potchefstroom
Eat out at The Broken Pot, Beef Boys Grill, Multa Coffee, Die Akker Koffiehuis, Fine Things Potchefstroom and River Café.
Say hello to country living in the Swartland town of Riebeek Kasteel where the wheat lands, vineyards and olive groves are the main celebrities of the area. On the slopes of Kasteelberg you will find an abundance of creative energy oozing out of Riebeek Kasteel where many artists, writers and other creatives gather and find inspiration.
Things to do in Riebeek Kasteel
- Visit The Gallery which showcases a carefully selected range of artworks from local and out-of-town artists.
- Go the Olienhout Post Office Tree where, back in the day, the postmaster left the post and blew a horn to notify local farmers that it is mail time. For more history you can also visit the Jan Smuts and Riebeek Valley Museums.
- Taste the region’s wines at Allesverloren Wine Estate, Het Vlock Casteel, Meerhof Wines, Mullineux Wines, Kloovenberg Wine Estate and Riebeek Cellars.
- Cool off with a cold one at the family-owned micro-brewery, Flagship Brewery.
- You can’t leave without doing an olive tasting, go to the Olive Boutique and try the different oils and olives, or head out of town to Goedgedact.
- Hike and admire the views on the 2-3 hour Carl Thunberg Trail or the 2-3 hour Pieter Cruythoff Trail.
- Visit one of the two weekend markets, Riebeek Kasteel Village Market and Riebeek West Fresh Funky Market.
- Enjoy a guided nature drive at Bartholomeus Klip; besides seeing game you will also visit the Buffalo Breeding Project and the Quagga Breeding Programme while tracking the rare geometric tortoise.
Where to grab a bite in Riebeek Kasteel
For a night out, visit Shake & Bake, Pulpit Rock, The Valley Kitchen, Red Tin Roof, La Parrilla, Mama Cucina, Café Felix, De Stoep, Bartholomeus Klip and Old Dalby.
Darling. Just the name is already charming. The town, just over an hour from Cape Town, developed from an 18th century farming community into what it is today: a town known for its wildflowers, locally brewed cold craft beer, wine, art, festivals and South Africa’s most famous white woman, Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout.
Things to do in Darling
- Cool down at Darling Brew and see where this much-loved craft beer originates from.
- Go to Evita se Perron; satirist Pieter Dirk Uys turned the old station into an experience with an exhibition hall, garden displays and a theatre where you can catch Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout herself, in action.
- Keep your eyes to the ground as you search for flowers in the Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve.
- Taste the local favourite, Darling Sweet, and watch how they make the toffees.
- Walk through the 18th century at Darling Museum; there is also a Mystery Trail where you get a map and go on a treasure hunt solving riddles along the way.
- Tackle one of the mountain biking trails at Wolwefontein.
- Taste the exceptional wines from Ormonde Private Cellar.
- Go to !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre and learn more about the San culture and heritage.
Where to grab a bite in Darling
Dine out at The Marmalade Cat, Chicory Cheese Café, Evita se Perron and The Bistro 7.
For many travellers De Rust is often a quick leg stretch and lunch stop on the way to a destination, but when you stay over the town takes you by the hands and invites you into its heart of community. It is a place where recipes get passed on from generation to generation, where the dry Karoo land nurture olives into award-winning oil, where time is forgotten and where any plans of departure get lost around a table with strangers sharing stories, food and new-formed friendships.
Things to do in De Rust
- Go off-road and explore the Swartberg Pass (extend your exploration into Die Hel/Gamkaskloof).
- Visit the waterfalls situated at Meiringspoort and also, the impressive Rust en Vrede Waterfall on the Oude Muragie Road.
- Go olive tasting at De Rustica Olive Estate.
- Shop for all things cute and quirky, from local artists, at Klapperbos Farm Stall and there’s a gift shop for men, Gestewel & Gespoor.
- Visit the workshop and gift shop of poet Freda Schoeman at Mooi Karoo (situated on the R341 towards Willowmore).
- Explore the veld on horseback with 2Doorn Equine; there are trails lasting anything from 2 hours to 10 hours.
- Talk with the locals, listen to their stories and see where you end up for coffee or dinner.
Where to grab a bite in De Rust
Eat out at Village Trading Post, Doornkraal Padstal, Tante Maria se Kuierstal (last Saturday of the month on the Le Roux’s farm), Ray’s Coffee Shop, Rooi Donkie Restaurant and Herrie se Plek.
Almost every visitor to Greyton will admit that within a few hours of visiting they’re already window shopping at estate agents and dreaming of life in this laid-back town where donkeys roam around the streets. The town is extremely popular with adventure-seekers, vegans and vegetarians; self-sustainability is key here, home-grown organic goodies are swapped and sold, and spiritual retreats happen throughout the year. With a tagline reading ‘Pure country, Greyton, no additives’ it also forms part of a worldwide movement bringing communities together to find local solutions to global challenges such as climate change.
Things to do in Greyton
- Go to the weekly Saturday market between 10:00 and 14:00.
- There are a variety of hiking trails in Greyton Nature Reserve including one that will take you all the way to McGregor.
- Go wine-tasting at Swallow Hill Vineyard and Winery, Andy Mitchell Wines, and Lisamore Wine Estate.
- Explore the town on bicycle and browse through all the antique and boutique stores; don’t miss out on Von Geusau Chocolate and the bespoke candles at Greyton’s Candle Shop.
- Give back and visit the Greyton Farm Animal Sanctuary.
- Visit the oldest Moravian mission village in Africa in Genadendal.
Where to grab a bite in Greyton
Excellent dining at Pure Café, Abbey Rose Restaurant, Fiore Coffee Shop, Rupert’s Bistro, Old Potters Inn and Brewhouse and Heart & Soul Vegetarian (only open on Fridays and Saturdays for lunch).
If you drive on the N2 Albertinia might not look like place worth exploring, but behind its first impression of industrial make-up hides a town with a heart a gold. Known for its abundance of Aloe Ferox (with two aloe factories) and being the principle source of yellow and red ochre, the town also boasts a Guinness World Record and a champion tree that is claimed to bring solace and clarity.
Things to do in Albertinia
- Visit Tuinplaas and browse through the toy car collection of nearly 10 000 pieces, see the Guinness World Record for the largest jersey knitted (in the colours of the South African flag) and stroll through R.O.A.R (Royal Ostrich Ancestral Republic) to see a comical portrayal of the plight of ostriches.
- Find solitude under the Whispering Tree (wild fig) of Voёlroepersfontein; it is a champion tree and one of the ten thickest trees in South Africa.
- Go wine tasting at the nearby Jakkalsvlei Wine Farm.
- Sign up for a tour in an aloe factory and get a glimpse of all the aloe-related products.
- Visit Gourikwa Nature Reserve.
- Do a game drive at Garden Route Game Lodge.
Where to grab a bite in Albertinia
For a good meal, visit Die Pienk Stoep, Albertinia Hotel, Serengetis Restaurant (Garden Route Game Lodge), Tuinplaas and Giant Aloe Café.