2020 has been a crazy ride to say the least, and it’s been an interesting time for me, sitting still for such a long period of time. For the last 5 years I have been on-the-go, always. Jumping on planes locally and internationally, always planning the next trip and constantly dreaming about the next destination. Well in 2020 everything got put on hold because I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere for the next while, however it didn’t stop me from dreaming! With international travel still being banned but local travel opening up, I wanted to share with you my list of my favourite local spots. South Africa is SUCH a beautiful country and there is so much to see and explore right on our door step. As much as I love travelling internationally, I am super excited to start travelling in the country again, because trust me, there are amazing and budget-friendly things that you could do, without the need of a passport!
Cape Town, Western Cape
No surprise here, but this is my favorite spot in the whole country (and Steve’s too!), which is the reason why we chose to get married in the Western Cape. There are many things that I love about Cape Town, and you can read my post about where to stay in Cape Town over here and fun things to do in Cape Town over here. I love this town because of the ocean, the beautiful wine lands that surround it, the world-class restaurants, the amazing sunsets and the amount of stuff there is to do(honestly I never get bored in CT!). My favorite spot in the city is between Llandudno and Sea Point, and I can’t wait to visit this city again post lockdown (the moment we can travel in the country, Steve and I are packing our bags and heading to Cape Town!).
Stellenbosch, Western Cape
We are actually getting married (eventually) in Stellenbosch and not in Cape Town per se, and it’s all because of the gorgeous nature in Stellenbosch(PS here is my post on wedding venues in Cape Town). The wine lands all around this town hold some of the best wine farms in the country, and our wedding venue is one of them. My favorite thing to do in Stellenbosch is to visit the wine farms, and Tokara and Spier are a few of my favorites (there are over 150 wine farms in Stellenbosch) and especially in the summer time, when you can have a gorgeous picnic at Spier.
Knysna, Western Cape
Knysna is one of the Garden Route’s best known travel destinations and deserves its own moment in the spotlight when travelling through the area. Located in the Western Cape Province, Knysna is a buzzing vibrant town throughout the year. Knysna’s indigenous forests, fynbos, lakes, rivers and mountains, combined with a temperate climate, makes this area an absolute must to visit in South Africa! I wrote about this magical little spot last year, and you can check out everything that there is to do in Knysna over here. The whole of the Garden Route is gorgeous, and when my family and I drove through it in 2017 it was such a lovely experience. If you are doing the Garden Route, make sure to also check out George, Wilderness, Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, Eastern Cape
I visited this Heaven on Earth back in 2018 and it was probably my favorite lodge that I have ever stayed at. At the foot of the towering Warmwaterberg Mountains in the Little Karoo lies the unique safari destination of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve (so it’s about a 3 hour drive from Cape Town).Sanbona has a huge diversity of indigenous flora and fauna and rare examples of San rock art, some dating back more than 3, 500 years. In the reserve you can really relax and unwind, do a unique boat safari and of course, a thrilling game drive (there is the Big 5 in the reserve).
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve has 4 different accommodations on site, and I stayed at the Dwyka Tented Lodge, which is the most luxurious camping experience that you can ever get. It’s an all-inclusive experience with delicious food, 2 game drives a day (with a hot tea flask and a water bottle on the 6am drive) and it is truly a magical experience in the middle of the bush! It is rather pricey, so I would suggest doing this for a special occasion like a honeymoon or a birthday- you won’t regret it!
Anywhere in the Kruger National Park
While Sanbona is a really nice and luxury experience, nothing compares to the Kruger National Park. I have been multiple times to different sides of the Kruger and it’s always an amazing time. There are a total of 11 gates to enter the park, scattered across almost 20 thousand square kilometers (which by the way is the same size as the whole of Israel and Wales!). Animals belong in the wild, and that’s exactly how it is at the Kruger, which is what I love about it the most. There are numerous accommodation options in the park ranging from campaign grounds to luxury houses, and honestly no experience ever compares to visiting this magnificent park. PS I’ve been to the park over 10 times but have only ever managed to see a leopard once, it’s so rare and so special!
Bela Bela, Limpopo
Bela-Bela is a town in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Deriving its name from the hot springs around which the town was built, it was called Warmbaths, until 2002. Because it’s only about a two hour drive from Johannesburg, it’s the perfect little mini-break if you stay around Gauteng. Besides the actual Warmbaths at the Forever Resorts (which are very nice and they have plenty of health benefits), there are lots of lovely game farms in and around the area. We’ve stayed at Mabalingwe before which was great, and I can really recommend it. Last year I went to the Monate Game Lodge for a work conference with my dad, and it’s an awesome spot for weddings and celebrations as well as just game viewing in general. It’s so quick to get to Bela Bela, and yet it feels like you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg.
Franschhoek, Western Cape
Franschhoek is a town in South Africa’s Western Cape with centuries-old vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture. Trails wind through flowers and wildlife at Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve to views over Franschhoek Valley. I visited this charming little town properly last year when Steve and I went shopping around for our wedding venue. We drove into Franschhoek from the top of the mountains and the view that opened up on the town, was simply magical. We stayed at the beautiful Le Franschhoek Boutique Hotel, and we had the best time exploring the town and the different wineries. There is so much to do in Franschhoek, starting with the wine farms, but not just that, Franschhoek has the famous wine tram in it, which takes you around the wine farms so you don’t have to drink and drive! You can do a full day cheese and olive tasting at the Franschhoek vineyards, you can go horse-riding, visit the Huguenot museum or just spend some time inside the cute little town and visit its many cafes and restaurants. Escaping to Franschhoek is like a whole adventure of its own!
Along the coast of KwaZulu Natal
This was my parents’ favorite place when I was growing up, and we went to Balitto for every holiday throughout my teenage years. There is a lot to do in this province that is known for its beaches, mountains and savannah populated by big game. The safari destination Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, in the northeast, is home to black and white rhinos, lions and giraffes. The North Coast is my personal favorite because of many teenage memories and now adult memories too, coming from Balitto and Umhlanga, the 2 lovely beach towns (although calling them a town seem small, these are rather large populated cities!). Down the coast you will find Saint Lucia, which has some of the most beautiful nature reserves I’ve ever seen. I also love the South Coast, mainly Ramsgate and Port Edward, and in general the KwaZulu Natal coast makes for one amazing holiday.
These are some of my favorite local spots, but I am looking forward to exploring South Africa more! I still really want to go to Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast, visit the Transkei in the Eastern Cape, and explore more of Hermanus in the Western Cape.