The 15 Very Best Things To Do in South Africa

By on May 20, 2019 in Africa, SOUTH AFRICA with 2 Comments

The 15 Very Best Things To Do in South Africa

The alluring appeal of South Africa just never gets old.

Rich in cultural history, ethnic diversity and with some incredible landscapes to boot, the beauty of this country just can’t fail to inspire.

As such, it’s often a place where many people either begin or end their African adventure, but all too often don’t give enough time to explore in its own right.

Because this country is HUGE and from cosmopolitan Cape Town to the aptly-named Wild Coast and the rich safari lands of the bush in between, there’s so much to do here I wonder if you really can ever have enough time to fit it all in!

But if you do want to give it a good shot, I highly advise taking 3 weeks to really explore this country and to get your head, and eyes, around these 15 best things to do in South Africa.


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#1 Safari in Kruger National Park

Coming in at number 1, Kruger National Park is most often the top place travellers think of when their minds turn to South Africa – and rightly so!

This huge national park is one of the best, cheapest and most famous places to safari in Africa and no trip to the country it stands in would be complete without a visit there.

READ MORE: How to Enjoy a Kruger Safari on a Budget

 

LOOKING FOR A BUDGET TOUR OR SELF-DRIVE TRIP IN SOUTH AFRICA?

If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in South Africa with guides you can trust, or a self-drive trip organised by a great company, then email me at steph@bigworldsmallpockets.com and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!

 

#2 Hike the Wild Coast

Often overlooked, but honestly perhaps my favourite part of this country, visiting the epic Wild Coast is most definitely one of the best things to do in South Africa.

Waves of rolling green hills, edged by beautiful ocean and beaches on one side and traditional villages on the other, this is an endearing part of a nation that captures hearts and minds alike.

And hiking through the Wild Coast is probably the best way to explore this rural and oft-forgotten about beautiful part, so strap on your boots and get out there!

 

#3 Road Trip the Cape of Good Hope

South Africa, Cape Town, Chapman's Drive

Well I couldn’t get far in this list of the best things to do in South Africa and not mention Cape Town right?!

But rather than launching in with the top spots of this fabulous city itself, I’m going to tease you a bit more and talk about one of the amazing things that lies on its outskirts!

The Cape of Good Hope makes a great day trip from Cape Town and is one thing you should certainly make the effort for, with its beautiful landscapes, great wildlife and charming towns.

Hire a car or take a tour down through the winelands of Constantia on the way, then slowly meander your way to the end point of the country where you can hike to watch the oceans meet.

On your way back to the mother city, don’t miss the picturesque road trip along Chapman’s Drive.

 

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#4 Visit Apartheid Museum

Learning about South Africa’s history is an essential part of the any trip to this country as far as I’m concerned, not least because it still informs how this land operates, both officially and unofficially.

A trip to Robben Island from Cape Town is definitely worth a half day of your itinerary, but more valuable in my opinion, is a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, which is why I’m putting it on my list of the best things to do in South Africa.

Allow a good few hours to explore this huge museum and a good few hours to take it all in afterwards too!

DISCOVER MORE: The 4 Best Johannesburg Hostels

 

#5 Enjoy a Wine Tour

South Africa, Cape Town, Constantia

If you weren’t in the know, South Africa is a food lover’s paradise and to compliment all that amazing grub, they may just a have a vineyard or too as well!

If you’ve got some days in Cape Town spare, then I’d highly recommend exploring the winelands around this city as one of the best things to do in South Africa.

Most people head to the town of Stellenbosch – either to enjoy some wine tasting as part of a day tour, or as a self-drive excursion – but the quieter spot of Franschhoek is equally charming and a little less crowded.

LEARN MORE: The 18 Best Things to Do in Cape Town on a Budget

 

#6 Try a Soweto Tour

South Africa, Cape Town, Jackets

If you want to see the real diversity of South Africa away from the glitz of the big cities here, and you enjoy a bit of cultural insight too, then taking a Soweto tour is a great one for your list of the best things to do in South Africa.

Operating from Joburg, this is an interesting day trip, sure to open your mind and introduce you to more of South Africa’s complex history and present situation.

 

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR SOUTH AFRUCA

I would never think of travelling to South Africa without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used during my time in the country and throughout the continent.

I love their great coverage of outdoor activities – crucial for travel in a country like South Africa – as well as their excellent customer service and ability to claim online, which is very handy if you’re travelling in remote places for a long time.

 

#7 Make Penguin Friends in Simons Town

South Africa, Cape Town, Penguins

Spotting some of the epic wildlife in South Africa is one thing you have to do in this country and, with a safari already out of the way care of Kruger, it’s time to say hello to some of the creatures that inhabit that waters around this land too.

Enter Simon’s Town, a cute little hamlet just outside of Cape Town, which you can visit both on a day trip or an overnight adventure.

Either way, just make sure you get to see the cute African Penguins at Boulder’s Beach – both via the boardwalk and down on the sand!

 

#8 Escape the Crowds at the Cederberg Reserve 

One of the locals’ favourite weekend escapes, the Cederberg Reserve just out of Cape Town is one of the less-visited, but no-less-worthy entries on this list of the best things to do in South Africa.

A great place to hike, camp and enjoy the stunning nature, this is the perfect retreat away from the busy city to really take in the glorious landscapes you can find here.

 

#9 Scale Table Mountain

South Africa, Cape Town, Table Mountain Summit

This list is getting a bit Cape Town heavy I know, and I promise I’ll move on soon, but honestly who can look past scaling Table Mountain as one of the best things in South Africa?

The icon of a nation, this towering beauty lies in the heart of Cape Town and getting to the top to take in the view is something you’ll certainly feel compelled to do from the moment you arrive.

If you’re feeling more sedate, take the cable car to the top, otherwise, set aside the best part of a day to hike this giant… you won’t regret it!

Other top hiking spots within Cape Town include Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, which you should also experience too if you have the time.

LEARN MORE: The 5 Best Cape Town Hostels

 

6 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR SOUTH AFRICA

#1 Swimwear and Sarong One World Sarongs are always my go to and a must when you hit this beautiful beaches of South Africa.

#2 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The South Africa Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful when it comes to more travel tips, maps and recommended places to eat and drink.

#3 Insect Repellent and Anti-Malarials – I recommend a 30% DEET repellent for South Africa and anti-malarials if you’re travelling to Kruger and around – although please always consult the advice of a medical professional before any travels to this part of the world.

#4 South African Power Adapter – They have their own unique adapter in this country (only otherwise used in Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and Botswana) so come prepared with a South Africa adapter at the ready.

#5 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, and have used it to capture the beauty of this country and beyond.

#6 Good Sandals – You’ll live in sandals in most of South Africa and I would never travel anywhere now without my trusty pair of Birkenstocks!

 

#10 Camp in the Drakensberg

So I said I’d move on and I am!

From one hiking spot to another, it’s time to whizz across the country, leaving the Western Cape far behind you, and head to the Drakensberg Mountains, near the city of Durban.

Ideal for hiking, camping, hunting waterfalls and snapping your camera like a mad person, a multi-day adventure into the Drakensberg, a range that reaches up to 3400m above sea level, comes highly recommended as one of the best things to do in South Africa.

 

#11 Drive the Panorama Route

South Africa, Panorama Route, Three Rondavels

And back to where we began, if you are over in the east of the country and visiting Kruger in particular, then you simply cannot miss a road trip through the spellbinding Panorama Route.

I still think this is one of South Africa’s best kept secrets and was blown away when I went there – not least because I knew nothing about it and how stunning it was.

Top picks along this scenic drive include God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondavels – cameras at the ready!

 

#12 Spot Whales and Dolphins

Heading back to the wildlife side of things, I urge you not to stop at safari animals and penguins in South Africa, because there’s more…

Yes numerous whale and dolphin species also ply this country’s waters and spotting them is absolutely on the best things to do in South Africa.

Official boat-watching tours run out of Hermanus during the season (June to November) but I’ve seen tons of these amazing animals outside these months both along Cape Town’s and the Wild Coast’s shores.

 

MY BUDGET ACCOMMODATION PICKS IN SOUTH AFRICA

Cape Town: Atlantic Point Backpackers 

Johannesburg: Once in Joburg

Wild Coast: Buccaneers, Cintsa

Durban: Backpackers on the Beach

South Africa, Cape Town, Me in Observatory

 

#13 Snap Bo Kaap

Cape Town, CBD, Bo Kaap

And with your camera well and truly out, there’s a million spots I could pick in Cape Town as the most photogenic (and the most Instagram-friendly… but we won’t go there right?!)

Instead, I’ll just say the colourful houses of the Bo Kaap suburb, very near Cape Town’s CBD, take the biscuit for me, especially on a sunny day!

 

#14 Cook Up a Storm in Durban

And while Cape Town also delivers an epic foodie punch (you have to try my favourite Kloof Street House FYI), the authentic and multi-cultural influenced cuisine of Durban is a must stop and try spot on your South Africa itinerary too.

Blending Indian influences with European, Malay and African twists, a Bunny Chow is the signature dish here – way more delicious than it sounds!

 

#15 Hit the Beach

South Africa, Cape Town, Clifton Beach

And finally, as an enduring beach girl at heart, hitting the sand in South Africa is pretty much where I always begin and end my time here… and with good reason – namely that there’s a lot of stunning stretches of the stuff to choose from!

From Camps Bay and the Clifton Beaches in Cape Town to the deserted sands of the Wild Coast and the surfers dream in between, there’s everything to play for here people, so get out there!

 

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And there you have it, my list of the 15 best things to do in South Africa.

Can you tell how much I love this country?

Do you love it too?

Tell me why (and where your fav bits are) in the comments box below…

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Chris Woollett says:

    Transkei is also a great state to visit. This is a true taste of Africa. This is the state Nelson Mandela was born in.
    Also loved the Stellenbosch botanical gardens at the foot of Table Mountain. It’s possible to walk up Table Mountain from here… (good to note that the cable car back down brings you to the other side of the mountain so in effect miles from your car (if you have one)

    • Steph says:

      Yes the Eastern Cape is fab Chris – my fav actually, closely followed by the Western Cape / Cape Town of course! That’s the best walking route for Table Mountian, you are right – you get to see the most that way… best of both sides and views, as well as hike and cablecar experience. You can then always take a cheap Uber back to your car. The rideshare app is the best for this city and sooo reasonably priced!

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