4 Places That Prove South Africa Should Be On Your Bucket List
Beautiful beaches, stylish hideaways, and rich history are just the start.
Beautiful beaches, rugged mountains, animal safaris, stylish hideaways, cities rich with history, art to inspire and a unique culinary scene: South Africa ticks all the boxes. No matter what you’re interested in, how long you can stay, or how much cash you have to play with, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
While some of its cities are well-known and loved the world over, others have reputations for being “transfer cities”. But with fresh, cultural precincts and hip hotels popping up in places like Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa is more than deserving of a place on your 2019 bucket list.
#1 Eat your fill in Cape Town
Regularly drawing comparisons to Sydney, the coastal city of Cape Town operates with a steady buzz; the vibe is 100 per cent hip, and there’s always something new to discover.
Before you head out of town to nearby wine country (more on that in a sec), indulge in the local culinary scene, which has been heavily influenced by the city’s multicultural population. Head to the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood – where buildings are painted in bright, bold colours – and dine on springbok (or, for the less daring, chicken) at Marco’s African Place, or visit one of acclaimed chef Luke Dale Roberts’ venues – The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club or The Shortmarket Club – which will fill up your belly and your iPhone storage.
It goes without saying that hiking Table Mountain is a must-do, and the energy expenditure is in perfect contrast to the hours you’ll spend lazing on the sand at Camp’s Bay beach. Though there’s no shortage of stylish spots to stay in this city, The Silo Hotel and The Bay Hotel are beautiful inside and out.
#2 Hit the DF in Durban
Dubbed the most liveable city in South Africa, Durban is best known for the Golden Mile – a 6.5km strip of beach which draws the active and, er, less so, alike. Durban is especially great for surfers looking to enjoy the swell; this stretch of beach is protected by shark nets (unlike many of the country’s other beaches).
The locals love to party, too, so you’ll find no shortage of clubs and bars where the dance floor calls your name – save Lucky Shaker, The Chairman and Origin to Google Maps when you’re planning your stay.
During daylight hours, treat yourself to local specialties like bunny chow (which is actually just curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread), and pick up a few quirky souvenirs at Victoria Street Market. Call it a night at the just-like-home boutique hotel The Concierge; a collection of modern bungalows which form a quiet oasis just a few streets back from the beach.
#3 Make time for art in Johannesburg
Previously, you’d never have found Johannesburg in a round-up of places to visit – it was once considered among the most dangerous cities on earth. But with a stabilised economy, Johannesburg is bouncing back.
The jewel in its crown is the Maboneng neighbourhood; located on the eastern side of the CBD, it is a haven for hipsters, young families and adventurous travellers alike. The main attraction is the Arts on Main building, where you’ll find a collection of boutiques, cafes and galleries to explore.
If you’re in town on a Sunday, head there to indulge in local delicacies at Market on Main, the city’s popular food and design market. The market echoes the wider reasons one might plan an overnighter in Maboneng – the local food and art scenes are well-and-truly on the up.
Join a walking tour and you’ll hit the most snap-worthy spots in the neighbourhood, and get a history lesson to boot. Afterward, head to Living Room for lunch. This eco-friendly rooftop restaurant and bar offers inspired views of the city among a leafy, green oasis.
Stay at the recently opened Hallmark House, a super chic 46-room hotel housed in an old diamond factory.
#4 Indulge in the Cape Winelands
This one’s technically a region, but it’s worth a visit because, well, wine! In these parts, there are more luxurious hotels than you can throw a grape at (Leeu Estates, Lanzerac, Delaire Graff Estate, to name a few), so finding time in your schedule for an overnighter is recommended.
The charming town of Stellenbosch is lovely to wander around; use it as a base and go hiking in the surrounding nature reserves if you’re keen to experience the region’s more rugged side.
In Franschhoek, the expertly-styled Babylonstoren is a farm and winery set amongst the bucolic landscape; visit the spa, sample the vino, stay overnight or just book a table at the prestigious on-site restaurant, Babel. If your waistline can bear it, stop in at De Meye’s The Table restaurant later for some legit farm-to-table action.
When touring the wineries, plan ahead and book a shuttle service to get you from vineyard A to vineyard B, and beyond.
(Lead image: Joshua Earle)