Summer has to be one of the best seasons to get out there and explore – it’s as if there’s something in the air that just makes you want to discover new and exciting things. Everyone loves a holiday by the sea filled with beach-hopping bliss or a safari adventure that’s all about spotting incredible wildlife, but there really is so much more to travelling during the summertime, especially in as diverse a place as South Africa. So go ahead and take a look at our informative guide below of things to do in addition to the usual outings in the country’s most popular summer holiday areas, and get ready to take your summertime wanderings to new heights.
Oh the ever-iconic Mother City: brimming with a colourful and beautiful selection of sights and attractions, all of which come together in a fantastic kaleidoscope which helps to make it the vibrant and diverse city it is, and one that is beloved by so many. From Table Mountain to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Boulders Penguin Colony, Cape Point and of course its spectacular array of beaches, it really is a very special destination. But there are also many other interesting and a little “off the beaten track” things to try while you’re visiting, such as:
Ride horses on the beach: Noordhoek Beach is a stunning 8km stretch of sand that lends itself to amazing long walks and runs, not to mention horse-riding experiences of note. Imhoff Equestrian Centre offers daily horse rides along the beach which is the perfect way to take in the natural beauty of the surrounds. The best part is that you will be paired with a horse suited to your riding ability, so whether you’re a novice or a seasoned professional, you’ll be able to enjoy this unique experience. Starting at Imhoff Farm, you’ll then make your way through the wetland until you reach the beach to take in the sprawling vistas and breathe in that fresh sea air.
Sightsee by bike: Daytrippers offers a range of cycle tours throughout the city and surrounds, and with experienced guides leading the way, you’ll have the opportunity to experience everything from a different perspective: from the comfort of your saddle. Explore as far as Hermanus, and if you’d like to combine hiking and biking, there’s even a Table Mountain Hike & Bike experience – really great for those who are especially active. Never before has sightseeing and simultaneously burning those calories been this fun!
Combine yoga and SUPing: Exercising outdoors is something Capetonians know how to do really well. If you’re a dedicated yogi and are up for challenging yourself in a new way, why not try your hand at combining yoga with SUPing (that’s “stand up paddle-surfing” for those who don’t know)? SUPYoga hosts group sessions in the Camps Bay tidal pool between December and March where the zen levels get taken up a notch with the hypnotic sounds of lapping water and beautiful ocean views. Plus, you get the added benefit of cooling off every time you lose your balance.
Prefer just regular SUPing? Ocean Riders can show you how.
All aboard a steam train to Ceres: Enjoy the natural beauty of the picturesque Witzenberg and Michell’s Passes the old-school way: from the comfort of a spacious (and restored) lounge car on an original steam train. Sip on a drink and nibble on snacks as the lush scenery whizzes by, all while the monotonous sound of the wheels on the tracks lulls you into what can only be described as that “relaxed holiday mode”. This is especially great for the whole family to enjoy – the kids will love it.
Also try: The Elgin route is another exciting option. It takes you to the Elgin Railway Market with its vibrant atmosphere and array of food stalls that sell everything from fresh fruit and veg, to mouth-watering burgers, Sicilian delicacies, fresh confections and much more. You then hop back on the train and head back to Cape Town. This is a truly unique and fun day outing for both the young and old.
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A short 25-minute drive from Cape Town, the famed West Coast offers character-filled fishing villages along with endless natural beauty. It’s a popular and easy escape for locals but also an equally firm favourite amongst visitors too – probably because it’s so much more than just incredible springtime flora:
Head into nature: Home to the site of the 1806 Battle of Blaauwberg, the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve is all about the views. Not only will it be a visual feast of the incredible stretch of coastline and fynbos slopes, but it also happens to be one of the few places in the world where you can see not one, but two World Heritage Sites from the same spot: cue iconic Table Mountain and historically important Robben Island. Apart from its rich biodiversity, there are also several beaches waiting to be discovered, with Haakgat being a popular spot for both surfers and kite-surfers.
Travel back into time: The West Coast Fossil Park offers a cultural fix in the form of fascinating early Pliocene fossils that are still being excavated to this day. Guided tours provide interesting insights into life millions of years ago as well as the events that led to the extinction of the animals that existed way back when. There are also fantastic mountain and hiking trails if you’re keen to mix history with a little outdoor exercise.
Keeping it cool by the tidal pool: Silwerstroomstrand is one of the Cape’s Blue Flag beaches and is as isolated as it is beautiful.Safe swimming is made possible by a small rocky point that provides protection from the swell, but if you’re after a calmer experience without all the waves, the tidal pool is simply perfection. Bring a picnic with and make a day of it – it’s guaranteed to be a beach day to remember.
Feast in Darling, darling: Known for its amazing flora and techni-colour homes, Darling is one of the West Coast’s best known gems. It also happens to be an up and coming gourmet food destination with an impressive selection of amazing dining options. If you’re looking for a memorable foodie experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is somewhere we definitely recommend visiting.
- The freshly squeezed juices and single origin coffee at Chicory Cheese Café
- Evita se Perron’s traditional South African fare
- The craft charcuterie at The Flying Pig
- The designer chicken pies made fresh at The Marmalade Cat (they also do a pizza night every Friday – yum!)
The KwaZulu-Natal stretch of coastline is truly a traveller’s playground, not only during the summer months, but all year round really thanks to its tropical climate. It’s no secret that it has some pretty dazzling beaches dotted between coastal town after delightful coastal town, but there are plenty of other attractions along this gorgeous strip:
Get your golf on: It’s no wonder that the South Coast of KZN is often referred to as “The Golf Coast”, since it boasts a number of stellar courses appealing to both amateur and professional players alike. Avid golfers can easily combine their coastal getaway with a few rounds of their favourite game. Southbroom Golf Club is always a winner and whilst it’s a short course, it still provides an ample challenge. There’s something really special about playing alongside the indigenous vegetation of the Frederika Nature Reserve and the sparkling Indian Ocean – where else in the world can you get this?
See Durban from new heights: Moses Mabhida Stadium’s thrilling SkyCar takes you a whopping 106m up to a viewing deck that delivers uninterrupted, 360° views of the cityscape. The single cabin runs up steel tracks along the northern arch of the stadium and after just two short minutes, you’ll reach the top and be able to drink in those endless ocean views and soak up the energy of the bustling city below.
Tip: Kids under 6 go free so no reason not to take the littlies.
A safari with a twist: Horse safaris are slowly becoming a popular alternative to your usual safari expedition, providing a unique way to experience South Africa’s plethora of wildlife. The country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, is a great place to explore via horseback, with Bhangazi Horse Safaris being a reputable provider we’d happily recommend. They offer both a game and a beach ride, but if you’d like, you can combine the two and get the best of both. You’ll ride to the St Lucia estuary, all the while on the lookout for crocodiles and hippos, or you’ll canter through the nature reserve where you’ll get up close and personal with different herds, including zebra and impala. Hluhluwe Horse Safaris is another great option.
Up, up and away in a hot-air balloon: Few experiences are as electrifying as a hot-air balloon ride and if you’re going to be visiting the Drakensberg region, this can be a total treat and a memorable way to explore the area from above. You’ll be given an entirely new perspective which will enable you to see things in a whole new way, so much so that you’ll want to float around up there forever.
The Cape Winelands is a treasured part of South Africa and is known for being one of the leading wine producers in the world. Whilst there’s no shortage of vino to sample here, there are a few other ideas we’d like to share with you about how you can spend your time amongst the vines:
Immerse yourself in the history of Stellenbosch: The best way to get to know a new place is undoubtedly on foot, particularly if you enjoy learning about the history of a place. If this is something that appeals to you, you’ll love the historical walking tour of South Africa’s second oldest town, Stellenbosch. The three hour guided tour takes you through the streets of “Our Town of Oaks” as you explore the cultural, historical and architectural features of this wonderful place.
Art with a kick: Farm Sanctuary SA in lovely Franschhoek is not only a safe haven for rescued and abandoned animals, but it’s also home to the one and only Pigcasso – the world’s only painting pig! Start off by perusing her masterpieces at the Oink Gallery before introducing yourself to the other animals. We promise this will be an experience to remember. Farm Sanctuary SA is the only officially registered sanctuary on the African continent for rescued farm animals and aims to shed light on the plight of these special creatures.
Good to know: Tours take place only on Saturdays and Sundays, with Pigcasso only being available to meet during the Sunday session. Visits during the week are by appointment only.
Say hi to Gerry the Giraffe: Get to know some of Africa’s marvellous wildlife when you visit the Giraffe House in Paarl. The star of the show is of course Gerry, and together with his friends, he forms the educational programmes aimed at educating those who come through the gates about wildlife and conservation. On the weekends there are even creepy crawly interactive encounters that give you a chance to examine some interesting little guys. Without a doubt, a trip here is lots of fun for the whole family.
Remember: It’s an open-air facility so don’t forget your hats and sunscreen. There is also a refreshment kiosk or you can bring your own water.
Splash out on a guided walk: If you’re looking to combine the natural beauty and allure of a wine estate with a good old fashioned walkabout, then Waterfkloof Wines in Somerset West will tick all the boxes. They offer two hour, twice daily guided walks (one in the morning and one in the later afternoon) during which you’re led along a full circuit of the estate, followed by a two-course delicious meal. Being a World Wildlife Federation Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion, Waterkloof is sure to delight beyond all your expectations, especially if you’re a foodie and wine lover who just also happens to take a keen interest in the intricate art of bio-dynamic farming.
Apart from chasing the Big Five on safari, if you’re visiting the Kruger National Park this summer there are a host of other exciting activities to do in the areas surrounding the park – here’s a handful for you to choose from, depending on the kind of experiences you’d like to have:
Roam with gentle giants: Elephant Whispers is situated right on the banks of the Sabie River in the Sandford Conservancy in Hazyview and offers you the chance to interact with the world’s largest and most majestic mammal: the elephant. You’ll be able to touch and feed these gentle creatures, all while learning about their nature and history. And if you’re brave enough, you can even take a ride on one of your new friends. This will be a humbling experience of note and well worth taking the time to have.
Cave explorations: Formed over two hundred million years ago the Sudwala Caves in Nelspruit not only provided shelter in prehistoric times, but it was also the site of many a battle that took place during the power struggle for the Swazi throne. Your underground adventure will take you deep into the caves as you marvel at the Precambrian dolomite rock formations and try and imagine what it was like when these caves were first discovered. There is also the option of a slightly longer and more challenging tour that will see you slithering through narrow tunnels and really getting down and dirty – this isn’t for the faint-hearted though so choose the regular one if you’re not fond of tight spaces.
Tip: Booking is essential and if you suffer from claustrophobia, we suggest giving this one a miss.
Feeling brew-dy: If you’re a lover of craft beers then a visit to the Sabie Brewery is a must. You’ll learn how the beer is made as you’re taken through the creation process from start to finish, and there’s no better ending than getting to sample all six of the mighty fine brews produced here. All that walking around is bound to work up an appetite so luckily you can tuck into a tasty meal at the on-site restaurant before heading out.
Indulge in a spot of pampering: Rejuvenate your body and mind at the magical Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa where you can choose from an array of soothing treatments from head to toe. The Rose Spa is a tranquil slice of heaven boasting open-plan pavilions perfectly positioned alongside the river through which a constant sweet rose scent wafts. This is the ideal place to take a break from your summertime exploring and unwind in a gorgeous setting.
Suggested Kruger itineraries:
We firmly believe that no South African summer activity list would be complete without featuring the glorious Garden Route. It’s all about beaches, beaches and more beaches along this route, but there are so many other things to experience too:
Meander along the Outeniqua Pass: Connecting the coastal town of George with Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, this famous pass is just as wondrous during the summer months as it is in the snowy winter. Built as an alternative to the Montagu Pass, the windy road is perfect for when you’re keen to take a long drive and appreciate some beautiful scenery, but remember to stay alert and drive carefully.
Go where the Bontebok are: Bontebok National Park (the smallest of the 21 parks in SA) is home to roughly 200 Bontebok who in fact owe their current existence to the park’s creation. Undoubtedly one of the best kept secrets of the Garden Route, this peaceful space will undoubtedly become a favourite for nature lovers with its long hiking routes, walking trails through the aloes, array of game to spot and plentiful fishing in the Breede River which flows through it.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the lush Tsitsikamma Forest: The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is hands down the best way to truly appreciate the beauty of this stretch of indigenous rainforest. Traversing from one platform to the next (carefully located in giant Outeniqua Yellowwoods) along steel cables that are suspended 30m above the ground, you’ll whizz through the lush greenery and hopefully eye out the amazing bird life from your vantage point in the sky. Fun and fast-paced, professional guides ensure your safety as you zoom through the trees.
Keep your eyes peeled: If you’re lucky enough, you may even spot the famed Knysna Loerie or the more elusive Narina Trogon.
Sweet berries and winding mazes: For some outdoor fun for everyone, Redberry Farm in George is where you can pick your own strawberries and then make your way (hopefully!) through the largest permanent hedge maze in the southern hemisphere. There are lots of other activities to enjoy as well, including pony rides and bumper boats, and when a pick-me-up is needed, you can pop to the Red Shed Coffee & Berry Bar for a snack or refreshment.
Also, our Highlights of South Africa Escorted Tour is perfect if you’re looking to get a broad taste of most of the special places throughout the country – click here to take a look.
This is far from a complete list of things to do in the main summer hotspots dotted around our beautiful country but we think it will get you off to a flying start. If you’re anything like us and you’re dedicated to getting the most out of the places you explore, you’ll be doing plenty more research before embarking on your trip this summer season. Here’s to endless fun in the sun for one and all!
Get in touch today with our friendly and knowledgeable travel consultants who can customise an exceptional South African itinerary just for you. They will also answer any questions you may have and provide you with only the very best recommendations of where to go, where to stay and what to do.
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