Food and Wine

Autumn harvest: getting your grape on

Autumn marks the start of the wine harvest in South Africa and an opportunity for you to get both your hands and feet dirty. Whether you choose to meander by yourself, or experience complete immersion in the process, be prepared for a whole lot of fun.

It’s always a difficult task to single out specific regions or estates to visit, especially when you’re talking about a country with a winemaking history dating back to 1659 and 18 official wine routes.

There are 18 official wine routes in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are 18 official wine routes in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

The vines are literally planted across the Western Cape as far as the Hemel-en-Aarde valley in the Southern Cape, Bamboes Bay on the West Cape coast, Hartswater in the Northern Cape and Rietrivier in the south western Free State. Unofficially, South Africa’s northernmost vineyards are in Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria in Gauteng!

And then, of course, there are the magnificent range of varietals and copious numbers of awards and medals one should take into account.

The Manor House at Vergelege estate in Somerset West. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

The Manor House at Vergelege estate in Somerset West. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

Thanks to a climate that’s quite similar to the Mediterranean, the Western Cape is extremely fertile with perfect wine (and farming) land. Here are a few estates that stand out for us across the region that you could pop in to on your own: Vergelegen (Somerset West), Meerlust and Tokara (Stellenbosch), Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia (Constantia, Cape Town), Hamilton Russell Vineyards (Hermanus), Thelema Mountain Vineyards, La Petite Ferme and Haute Cabrière (Franschhoek), KWV Cellars (Paarl), Nabygelegen (Wellington) and Cederberg (Clanwilliam).

Stunning views from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus. Photo  credit: www.nobleroute.com

Stunning views from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus. Photo credit: www.nobleroute.com

You might want to consider joining a fantastic winemaker interaction tour instead though. Think ‘up close and personal’ with the makers of their favourite tipples rather than big group tours that can sometimes feel a little impersonal. Check out Adamastor and Bacchus tours or Vineyard Ventures, the oldest and most established wine tour company in the Cape.

 

Join an interactive tour and find out about the wines directly from the grower or vineyard owner. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Join an interactive tour and find out about the wines directly from the grower or vineyard owner. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

If you’re more of a compassionate wine tourist however, consider a tour with Wine Desk where you’ll be introduced to The Pebbles Project, a charity supporting children living in the winelands, as well as experience traditional tasting sessions at three wine farms.

And finally, if you’re a wine ‘newbie’ and are feeling a little daunted at the prospect of the whole vineyard experience, we have something for you too. Thanks to www.wines.co.za, you can skill up by watching a few videos on the basics, like ‘What is wine?’, ‘Varieties & Cultivars’, ‘How wine is made’, ‘Types of wine’ and ‘How to taste wine’. No doubt, you’ll feel much more comfortable with the wine lingo by the time you visit.

Wines from the Western Cape are some of the best in the world. The vineyards are pretty special too! Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

Wines from the Western Cape are some of the best in the world. The vineyards are pretty special too! Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

A common Stellenbosch sight that's difficult to tire from. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

A common Stellenbosch sight that’s difficult to tire of. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

 

Autumn harvest: getting your grape on

Autumn marks the start of the wine harvest in South Africa and an opportunity for you to get both your hands and feet dirty. Whether you choose to meander by yourself, or experience complete immersion in the process, be prepared for a whole lot of fun.

It’s always a difficult task to single out specific regions or estates to visit, especially when you’re talking about a country with a winemaking history dating back to 1659 and 18 official wine routes.

There are 18 official wine routes in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are 18 official wine routes in South Africa. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

The vines are literally planted across the Western Cape as far as the Hemel-en-Aarde valley in the Southern Cape, Bamboes Bay on the West Cape coast, Hartswater in the Northern Cape and Rietrivier in the south western Free State. Unofficially, South Africa’s northernmost vineyards are in Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria in Gauteng!

And then, of course, there are the magnificent range of varietals and copious numbers of awards and medals one should take into account.

The Manor House at Vergelege estate in Somerset West. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

The Manor House at Vergelege estate in Somerset West. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

Thanks to a climate that’s quite similar to the Mediterranean, the Western Cape is extremely fertile with perfect wine (and farming) land. Here are a few estates that stand out for us across the region that you could pop in to on your own: Vergelegen (Somerset West), Meerlust and Tokara (Stellenbosch), Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia (Constantia, Cape Town), Hamilton Russell Vineyards (Hermanus), Thelema Mountain Vineyards, La Petite Ferme and Haute Cabrière (Franschhoek), KWV Cellars (Paarl), Nabygelegen (Wellington) and Cederberg (Clanwilliam).

Stunning views from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus. Photo  credit: www.nobleroute.com

Stunning views from Hamilton Russell Vineyards in Hermanus. Photo credit: www.nobleroute.com

You might want to consider joining a fantastic winemaker interaction tour instead though. Think ‘up close and personal’ with the makers of their favourite tipples rather than big group tours that can sometimes feel a little impersonal. Check out Adamastor and Bacchus tours or Vineyard Ventures, the oldest and most established wine tour company in the Cape.

 

Join an interactive tour and find out about the wines directly from the grower or vineyard owner. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Join an interactive tour and find out about the wines directly from the grower or vineyard owner. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

If you’re more of a compassionate wine tourist however, consider a tour with Wine Desk where you’ll be introduced to The Pebbles Project, a charity supporting children living in the winelands, as well as experience traditional tasting sessions at three wine farms.

And finally, if you’re a wine ‘newbie’ and are feeling a little daunted at the prospect of the whole vineyard experience, we have something for you too. Thanks to www.wines.co.za, you can skill up by watching a few videos on the basics, like ‘What is wine?’, ‘Varieties & Cultivars’, ‘How wine is made’, ‘Types of wine’ and ‘How to taste wine’. No doubt, you’ll feel much more comfortable with the wine lingo by the time you visit.

Wines from the Western Cape are some of the best in the world. The vineyards are pretty special too! Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

Wines from the Western Cape are some of the best in the world. The vineyards are pretty special too! Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

A common Stellenbosch sight that's difficult to tire from. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

A common Stellenbosch sight that’s difficult to tire of. Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

 

Autumn flavours of South Africa

South Africa is known for a wonderfully rich and varied food which reflects the country’s diverse heritage.

Visit Cape Town, for example, and you will find menus laden with cuisine that show a Malay influence dating back to the early days when the Dutch East India Company set up rest stops on the coastline for the supply ships en route to Malaysia. Dishes like smoorsnoek (snoek cooked over a fire or simmered with tomatoes and onion), bobotie (meatloaf with onion, sultanas, almonds, bay leaves and spices, topped with egg custard) and denningvleis (slow-cooked leg of lamb with vinegar, spices and chilli).

Bobootie_1

Visit Durban and you’ll discover the cuisine is a unique blend of South African and Indian flavours directly linked to another time in the country’s colourful history: the 1860s when many labourers from South India worked on the sugar plantations.

For a quintessentially South African Indian dish, try a bunny chow! Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

For a quintessentially South African Indian dish, try a bunny chow! Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

The freshest way to eat yourself around South Africa however, is to eat seasonally.

Autumn is fruit season. Visit anytime from now until June and, not only will you be able to take advantage of the fading sunshine and warmth (often the best weather of the entire year!), but you’ll get to taste some exceptional seasonal fare.

Elgin_Valley_De_Rust__960_472_80auto_s_c1_center_bottom

Visit the Elgin Valley near Grabouw (about an hour outside of Cape Town) to taste some of the freshest apples available in the country. Around 60% of South Africa’s crop is harvested here. Other Autumn picks are avocados, dates, gooseberries, figs, granadillas (passion fruit), grapes, pears, plums and prickly pears, and as we head into Winter: grapefruit, lemons, Satsuma oranges, bananas, pomegranates, clementines, cranberries, kiwifruit and tangerines.

IMG_0988_620_400_80auto_s_c1__

Speaking of “picks”, despite the turn in temperature, there are still lots of exciting foodie things to do, including berry picking. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are ripe for it this time of year. You may even be in luck and find some juicy nectarines, peaches and grapes to harvest too. We recommend calling ahead of time however to make sure the farms are open and there is still fruit to be picked.

You can find some of the world's best cheeses a the Annual Cheese Festival. Photo credit: www.thesouthafrican.com

You can find some of the world’s best cheeses a the Annual Cheese Festival. Photo credit: www.thesouthafrican.com

Other fun activities during Autumn are the popular food festivals (check out the Cheese Festival, the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival and the Cape Town Good Food & Wine Show), or literally picking up some of that choice produce and heading out for a picnic. If you’re in the Cape, locals will tell you how lovely it is to have a break from the boisterous ‘Sou’easter’, and you can soak up the rays while being mesmerised by the colourful leaves that are starting to turn from green to fiery reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

Visit one of South Africa's many organic markets and meet the producers. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Visit one of South Africa’s many organic markets and meet the producers. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Or, if you’re a provenance fundi, why not go to one of the local organic farmers markets and chat to the producers first-hand? You could even load up on produce to try your hand at a typical seasonal recipe like Siba Mtongana’s Ginger and Rooibos Infused Berry Sorbet.

If simply enjoying the finished product is more your style, take your pick of one (or all) of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants as awarded at last year’s Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards:

  1. The Test Kitchen (Woodstock, Cape Town)
  2. Five Hundred (Sandton, Johannesburg)
  3. The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français (Franschhoek, Western Cape)
  4. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient (Elandsfontein, Pretoria)
  5. Jordan Restaurant (Stellenbosch)
  6. Overture (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
  7. Rust en Vrede (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
  8. DW Eleven-13 (Dunkeld West, Johannesburg)
  9. The Restaurant at Newton Johnson (Hemel en Aarde Valley)
  10. Terroir (Stellenbosch)

No doubt they’ll make you feel all warm and toasty as winter approaches.

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Autumn flavours of South Africa

South Africa is known for a wonderfully rich and varied food which reflects the country’s diverse heritage.

Visit Cape Town, for example, and you will find menus laden with cuisine that show a Malay influence dating back to the early days when the Dutch East India Company set up rest stops on the coastline for the supply ships en route to Malaysia. Dishes like smoorsnoek (snoek cooked over a fire or simmered with tomatoes and onion), bobotie (meatloaf with onion, sultanas, almonds, bay leaves and spices, topped with egg custard) and denningvleis (slow-cooked leg of lamb with vinegar, spices and chilli).

Bobootie_1

Visit Durban and you’ll discover the cuisine is a unique blend of South African and Indian flavours directly linked to another time in the country’s colourful history: the 1860s when many labourers from South India worked on the sugar plantations.

For a quintessentially South African Indian dish, try a bunny chow! Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

For a quintessentially South African Indian dish, try a bunny chow! Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

The freshest way to eat yourself around South Africa however, is to eat seasonally.

Autumn is fruit season. Visit anytime from now until June and, not only will you be able to take advantage of the fading sunshine and warmth (often the best weather of the entire year!), but you’ll get to taste some exceptional seasonal fare.

Elgin_Valley_De_Rust__960_472_80auto_s_c1_center_bottom

Visit the Elgin Valley near Grabouw (about an hour outside of Cape Town) to taste some of the freshest apples available in the country. Around 60% of South Africa’s crop is harvested here. Other Autumn picks are avocados, dates, gooseberries, figs, granadillas (passion fruit), grapes, pears, plums and prickly pears, and as we head into Winter: grapefruit, lemons, Satsuma oranges, bananas, pomegranates, clementines, cranberries, kiwifruit and tangerines.

IMG_0988_620_400_80auto_s_c1__

Speaking of “picks”, despite the turn in temperature, there are still lots of exciting foodie things to do, including berry picking. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are ripe for it this time of year. You may even be in luck and find some juicy nectarines, peaches and grapes to harvest too. We recommend calling ahead of time however to make sure the farms are open and there is still fruit to be picked.

You can find some of the world's best cheeses a the Annual Cheese Festival. Photo credit: www.thesouthafrican.com

You can find some of the world’s best cheeses a the Annual Cheese Festival. Photo credit: www.thesouthafrican.com

Other fun activities during Autumn are the popular food festivals (check out the Cheese Festival, the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival and the Cape Town Good Food & Wine Show), or literally picking up some of that choice produce and heading out for a picnic. If you’re in the Cape, locals will tell you how lovely it is to have a break from the boisterous ‘Sou’easter’, and you can soak up the rays while being mesmerised by the colourful leaves that are starting to turn from green to fiery reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

Visit one of South Africa's many organic markets and meet the producers. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Visit one of South Africa’s many organic markets and meet the producers. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Or, if you’re a provenance fundi, why not go to one of the local organic farmers markets and chat to the producers first-hand? You could even load up on produce to try your hand at a typical seasonal recipe like Siba Mtongana’s Ginger and Rooibos Infused Berry Sorbet.

If simply enjoying the finished product is more your style, take your pick of one (or all) of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants as awarded at last year’s Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards:

  1. The Test Kitchen (Woodstock, Cape Town)
  2. Five Hundred (Sandton, Johannesburg)
  3. The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français (Franschhoek, Western Cape)
  4. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient (Elandsfontein, Pretoria)
  5. Jordan Restaurant (Stellenbosch)
  6. Overture (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
  7. Rust en Vrede (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
  8. DW Eleven-13 (Dunkeld West, Johannesburg)
  9. The Restaurant at Newton Johnson (Hemel en Aarde Valley)
  10. Terroir (Stellenbosch)

No doubt they’ll make you feel all warm and toasty as winter approaches.

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Knysna – sheer magnificence!

If you travel 73km from the George Airport along South Africa’s Garden Route, you’ll find Knysna, one of the Western Cape’s most popular coastal attractions. Historically known for its gold mining and wild elephants roaming the forest in the 1800s, it continues to be an area of extreme beauty and versatility today. Arguably, the most famous of its landmarks are the Knysna Heads, two awesome cliff faces that seem to be guarding the mouth of the Knsyna Lagoon.

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are many attractions that centre around the Lagoon including the bustling waterfront precinct where you can sit and watch the drawbridge rise to allow the yachts to moor as you nosh on a delectable meal with matched wines at 34 South. You can also opt to stay on the lagoon in a houseboat which can be equally romantic and adventurous and, either way, create a holiday to remember! And a particularly fun pastime at Knysna Lagoon known mainly to the locals, is to go wading knee-deep in the water at the changing of the tide to look for pansy shells. They’re such a warm bunch, just ask them where to go and what to do and they’ll share their secrets.

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Knysna is also filled with outdoorsy things to do if you’re the adventurous type. Think bungee jumping, abseiling, quad biking, paragliding, scuba diving, power boating, kloofing (also known as canyoning), mountain biking, canoeing and hiking. There are heaps of non-adventurous outdoorsy things to do too like checking out the castles on Noetzi Beach. This is one of the reasons why Knysna is such popular destination: you can live it up, go wild or just chill. It’s a sublime mix of adventure and relaxation.

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

One thing you can definitely expect however, is to indulge in all things foodie. You can’t go past the annual Oyster Festival in July that attracts thousands of people from all over the country as well as overseas. There are other more low-key places to visit like Mitchell’s Brewery where you can sample their natural craft beers and cider, or the quirky and quaint Spookasem Tea Gardens in Rheenendal where you can sip on a cup of traditional roobios tea.

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

The wonderful thing is that, as rich as Knysna is in things to do and see, your accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank. Yes, you can book in to one of the Milkwood Collection of Resorts, but you can also choose to stay at wonderful guesthouses like Be My Guest, or a backpackers like Knysna Backpackers in a magnificent heritage house. All of them show you a slightly different side of this bustling town.

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

And if you’re someone who likes giving back to the community, join Experience Knysna! through Love Knysna Projects and help unite kids from all local communities through field trips promoting social unity and a sense of belonging.

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

So, if you’re after a stunning holiday destination that offers you a whole range of things to do, or not to do (as the case may be), put Knysna at the top of your list. Join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page for more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday.

Knysna – sheer magnificence!

If you travel 73km from the George Airport along South Africa’s Garden Route, you’ll find Knysna, one of the Western Cape’s most popular coastal attractions. Historically known for its gold mining and wild elephants roaming the forest in the 1800s, it continues to be an area of extreme beauty and versatility today. Arguably, the most famous of its landmarks are the Knysna Heads, two awesome cliff faces that seem to be guarding the mouth of the Knsyna Lagoon.

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

Majestic Knysna Heads. Photo credit: www.southafrica.net

There are many attractions that centre around the Lagoon including the bustling waterfront precinct where you can sit and watch the drawbridge rise to allow the yachts to moor as you nosh on a delectable meal with matched wines at 34 South. You can also opt to stay on the lagoon in a houseboat which can be equally romantic and adventurous and, either way, create a holiday to remember! And a particularly fun pastime at Knysna Lagoon known mainly to the locals, is to go wading knee-deep in the water at the changing of the tide to look for pansy shells. They’re such a warm bunch, just ask them where to go and what to do and they’ll share their secrets.

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Sunset over Knysna waterfront. Photo credit: www.nightjartravel.com

Knysna is also filled with outdoorsy things to do if you’re the adventurous type. Think bungee jumping, abseiling, quad biking, paragliding, scuba diving, power boating, kloofing (also known as canyoning), mountain biking, canoeing and hiking. There are heaps of non-adventurous outdoorsy things to do too like checking out the castles on Noetzi Beach. This is one of the reasons why Knysna is such popular destination: you can live it up, go wild or just chill. It’s a sublime mix of adventure and relaxation.

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

Take a heart-thumping ride in the Knysna RIB! Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

One thing you can definitely expect however, is to indulge in all things foodie. You can’t go past the annual Oyster Festival in July that attracts thousands of people from all over the country as well as overseas. There are other more low-key places to visit like Mitchell’s Brewery where you can sample their natural craft beers and cider, or the quirky and quaint Spookasem Tea Gardens in Rheenendal where you can sip on a cup of traditional roobios tea.

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

Sample some of the freshest oysters at the annual Oyster Festival in Knysna. Photo credit: www.oysterfestival.co.za

The wonderful thing is that, as rich as Knysna is in things to do and see, your accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank. Yes, you can book in to one of the Milkwood Collection of Resorts, but you can also choose to stay at wonderful guesthouses like Be My Guest, or a backpackers like Knysna Backpackers in a magnificent heritage house. All of them show you a slightly different side of this bustling town.

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

Knysna Backpackers for those on a budget. Photo credit: www.knysnabackpackers.co.za

And if you’re someone who likes giving back to the community, join Experience Knysna! through Love Knysna Projects and help unite kids from all local communities through field trips promoting social unity and a sense of belonging.

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

Knysna boasts some of the oldest forests in the world. Photo credit: www.theapricity.com

So, if you’re after a stunning holiday destination that offers you a whole range of things to do, or not to do (as the case may be), put Knysna at the top of your list. Join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page for more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday.

Getting quirky: bizarre festivals in South Africa

Did you know that South Africa is home to some of the world’s strangest and most irreverent festivals? It’s true. Where else would you find a festival dedicated to the odd combination of prawns and horse-racing? Or another where you can take part in a race where the rules are that you must wear shoes but you can’t wear clothes?

Spread throughout the year and the country, if unusual get-togethers are your thing, no matter when you visit, you’ll have an absolute ball in versatile South Africa!

Here are some of our favourite festival picks.

Cape Town Prawn Festival

This is the one with the horse-racing. Taking place at the Kenilworth Racecourse in February, you can mix sea and land by tucking into a bucket of prawns while watching the gee-gees gallop down the green. You can also watch the Cape Carnival minstrels perform (which is great if you missed seeing them on New Year’s Day). This is a is very popular festival, and best of all? Entry is free!

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival.

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival. Photo credit: www.food-blog.co.za

A couple of other foodie festivals to take note of are the Calvinia Meat Festival and the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. While they might sound quite mainstream and tame, they both have elements that are beyond the norm.

The Calvinia Meat Festival

A visit to the Calvinia Meat Festival (also known as the Hantam Vleisfees) in the Upper Karoo will challenge your tastebuds as well as your sense of adventure. Now in its 25th year, it’s a proud celebration of its local lamb. You can’t go and not try a “smiley” (a roasted sheep’s head, so called because, during the cooking process the lips of the sheep retract to reveal its teeth in a somewhat gruesome smile), skaapstertjies (docked lamb’s tails), kailings (crispy crumbs of fat) and peertjies (testicles). We did warn you it’d be different.

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore's appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore’s appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Ficksburg Cherry Festival
Known as the Cherry Capital of the World (and the sole producer of South Africa’s glacé cherries), this Free State festival has been around since 1968. It’s the oldest crop festival in South Africa and is one of the country’s major tourist attractions. One of the things that makes it stand out so much (other than the magnificent fruit), is the cherry pip spitting contest. You’ll have to try it. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in although it can get quite competitive.

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

If challenging your body strength sounds tempting, you should check out the following festival for sure.

The Lumberjack Festival

Aptly named The Lumber Games, the Lumberjack Festival gives wannabe axe-swingers the opportunity to flex their muscles and maybe even rip through their plaid shirts in the process! It’s not all about chopping trees down though, axe throwing and log hurling are popular competition sports and visitors can also take part in a session on olive tree planting. And if you’re worried about the environmental impact of these manly lumberjack activities, rest assured all’s okay as the wood that’s used is from invasive alien species that are cleared as part of land regeneration programs.

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

One of the quirkiest of South African festivals in a creative sense has to be Afrika Burn which is based on the US phenomenon, Burning Man. It attracts thousands of participants who take months planning their outrageous costumes (worn as a form of radical self-expression), and wander the desert landscape of the Tankwa Karoo marvelling at awesome mass-scale, purpose-built artistic installations. For seasoned Burners, the idea of Burning Man in South Africa is pretty radical in itself!

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa's version of 'Burning Man'. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa’s version of ‘Burning Man’. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Another is Oppikoppi.

Not your average music festival by any stretch of the imagination, Oppikoppi is the festival with the nudie run we mentioned earlier. Yes, it might be reminiscent of Glastonbury, and attracts over 20,000 happy campers to the bush to listen to lots of phenomenal South African bands jam in the sticks, but it also prides itself on a range of strange things. In addition to the naked shenanigans, events like the Box Car Races, Running of the Bewilderbeats (the opposite of the naked dash as you have to wear a costume), and the Wil(d)abong Surf Classic where teams pull a member across the dust on a surf board, form part of the lovingly known ‘Dustbowl Olympics’. Reckon it’s worth losing yourself in the moment at this one!

Oppikoppi (meaning 'on the hill') is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

Oppikoppi (meaning ‘on the hill’) is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

There are so many other fantastic (and fantastical) South African festivals you could visit. If you like quaint for example, take a look at the Teddy Bear Fair in May in Constantia. Whatever your taste in zany festivals, book your perfect South African holiday today. For more travel inspiration and the latest news and planning tools, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

 

Festival information:

Cape Town Prawn Festival

When: 21 February, 2015
Where: Kenilworth, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. Public transport in Cape Town is excellent, but hiring your own vehicle allows you to explore at your own pace.
Where to stay: www.capestay.co.za
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

The Calvinia Meat Festival

When: 29-30 August, 2015
Where: Calvinia, Upper Karoo
How to get there: If flying, your best option is Kimberley which has direct air links to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Where to stay: www.calvinia.co.za
More information:

Northern Cape Tourism
Tel +27 (0) 53 832 2657
E-mail: northerncapetourism@telkomsa.net
Web: www.northerncape.org.za

The Ficksberg Cherry Festival

When: 20-22 November, 2015
Where: Ficksburg, Free State
How to get there: Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Bloemfontein Airport. If you’re driving; from Johannesburg and Cape Town take the N1 south and north respectively to Bloemfontein. From Durban, take the N3 out of KwaZulu Natal, and pick up the N5 at Harrismith to Bloemfontein. In order to cover the large stretches of territory required, getting around by car is recommended.
Where to stay: www.wheretostay.co.za/province/free-state/accommodation
More information:

Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 51 411 4300
Email: info@freestatetourism.org
Web: www.freestatetourism.org

The Lumberjack Festival

When: 14-15 April, 2015
Where: Stellenbosch, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the N1 via the R304, R44 or R300 and M12, or the N2 via the R44 or R310.
Where to stay: www.stellenbosch.travel/stay-us
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

Afrika Burn

When: 23 April-3 May, 2015
Where: Karoo, Northern Cape
How to get there: Afrika Burn takes place on Stonehenge Farm approximately 300km north of Cape Town, in the Tankwa Karoo. You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the R355, which connects the towns Ceres in the south and Calvinia in the north.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Afrika Burn
More information: www.afrikaburn.com

Oppikoppi

When: 7-9 August, 2015
Where: Gauteng, Limpopo
How to get there: Oppikoppi is held in the veld just north of the small town of Northam in the Waterberg District Municipality in the Limpopo province of South Africa, approximately 50 km south of Thabazimbi.. Fly direct from Johannesburg to Polokwane. If you’re driving, from Johannesburg take the N1 north motorway direct to Polokwane. By road, take the N1 motorway from Johannesburg and continue north to Polokwane. From Durban, either take the N3 motorway to Johannesburg and then pick up the N1 north to Polokwane, or take the N3 to Ladysmith and then pick up the N11 to Polokwane.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Oppikoppi
More information: www.oppikoppi.co.za

Getting quirky: bizarre festivals in South Africa

Did you know that South Africa is home to some of the world’s strangest and most irreverent festivals? It’s true. Where else would you find a festival dedicated to the odd combination of prawns and horse-racing? Or another where you can take part in a race where the rules are that you must wear shoes but you can’t wear clothes?

Spread throughout the year and the country, if unusual get-togethers are your thing, no matter when you visit, you’ll have an absolute ball in versatile South Africa!

Here are some of our favourite festival picks.

Cape Town Prawn Festival

This is the one with the horse-racing. Taking place at the Kenilworth Racecourse in February, you can mix sea and land by tucking into a bucket of prawns while watching the gee-gees gallop down the green. You can also watch the Cape Carnival minstrels perform (which is great if you missed seeing them on New Year’s Day). This is a is very popular festival, and best of all? Entry is free!

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival.

Enjoy a plate of peri-peri or lemon butter and garlic butter prawns while you watch the horses thunder past at the Cape Town Prawn Festival. Photo credit: www.food-blog.co.za

A couple of other foodie festivals to take note of are the Calvinia Meat Festival and the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. While they might sound quite mainstream and tame, they both have elements that are beyond the norm.

The Calvinia Meat Festival

A visit to the Calvinia Meat Festival (also known as the Hantam Vleisfees) in the Upper Karoo will challenge your tastebuds as well as your sense of adventure. Now in its 25th year, it’s a proud celebration of its local lamb. You can’t go and not try a “smiley” (a roasted sheep’s head, so called because, during the cooking process the lips of the sheep retract to reveal its teeth in a somewhat gruesome smile), skaapstertjies (docked lamb’s tails), kailings (crispy crumbs of fat) and peertjies (testicles). We did warn you it’d be different.

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore's appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Calvinia Meat Festival offers a smorgasbord of dishes to whet any carnivore’s appetite. Photo credit: www.tasteandliving.com

The Ficksburg Cherry Festival
Known as the Cherry Capital of the World (and the sole producer of South Africa’s glacé cherries), this Free State festival has been around since 1968. It’s the oldest crop festival in South Africa and is one of the country’s major tourist attractions. One of the things that makes it stand out so much (other than the magnificent fruit), is the cherry pip spitting contest. You’ll have to try it. It’s a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in although it can get quite competitive.

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

Try your hand at cherry pip spitting at the Ficksburg Cherry Festival. Photo credit: http://2summers.net

If challenging your body strength sounds tempting, you should check out the following festival for sure.

The Lumberjack Festival

Aptly named The Lumber Games, the Lumberjack Festival gives wannabe axe-swingers the opportunity to flex their muscles and maybe even rip through their plaid shirts in the process! It’s not all about chopping trees down though, axe throwing and log hurling are popular competition sports and visitors can also take part in a session on olive tree planting. And if you’re worried about the environmental impact of these manly lumberjack activities, rest assured all’s okay as the wood that’s used is from invasive alien species that are cleared as part of land regeneration programs.

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

Flex your axe-wielding muscles at the Lumberjack Festival in Stellenbosch. Photo credit: www.travel.nationalgeographic.com

One of the quirkiest of South African festivals in a creative sense has to be Afrika Burn which is based on the US phenomenon, Burning Man. It attracts thousands of participants who take months planning their outrageous costumes (worn as a form of radical self-expression), and wander the desert landscape of the Tankwa Karoo marvelling at awesome mass-scale, purpose-built artistic installations. For seasoned Burners, the idea of Burning Man in South Africa is pretty radical in itself!

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa's version of 'Burning Man'. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Express yourself at Afrika Burn, South Africa’s version of ‘Burning Man’. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Another is Oppikoppi.

Not your average music festival by any stretch of the imagination, Oppikoppi is the festival with the nudie run we mentioned earlier. Yes, it might be reminiscent of Glastonbury, and attracts over 20,000 happy campers to the bush to listen to lots of phenomenal South African bands jam in the sticks, but it also prides itself on a range of strange things. In addition to the naked shenanigans, events like the Box Car Races, Running of the Bewilderbeats (the opposite of the naked dash as you have to wear a costume), and the Wil(d)abong Surf Classic where teams pull a member across the dust on a surf board, form part of the lovingly known ‘Dustbowl Olympics’. Reckon it’s worth losing yourself in the moment at this one!

Oppikoppi (meaning 'on the hill') is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

Oppikoppi (meaning ‘on the hill’) is a wonderful mix of music and shenanigans. Photo credit: www.fest300.com

There are so many other fantastic (and fantastical) South African festivals you could visit. If you like quaint for example, take a look at the Teddy Bear Fair in May in Constantia. Whatever your taste in zany festivals, book your perfect South African holiday today. For more travel inspiration and the latest news and planning tools, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

 

Festival information:

Cape Town Prawn Festival

When: 21 February, 2015
Where: Kenilworth, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. Public transport in Cape Town is excellent, but hiring your own vehicle allows you to explore at your own pace.
Where to stay: www.capestay.co.za
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

The Calvinia Meat Festival

When: 29-30 August, 2015
Where: Calvinia, Upper Karoo
How to get there: If flying, your best option is Kimberley which has direct air links to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Where to stay: www.calvinia.co.za
More information:

Northern Cape Tourism
Tel +27 (0) 53 832 2657
E-mail: northerncapetourism@telkomsa.net
Web: www.northerncape.org.za

The Ficksberg Cherry Festival

When: 20-22 November, 2015
Where: Ficksburg, Free State
How to get there: Fly direct from any of South Africa’s major cities to Bloemfontein Airport. If you’re driving; from Johannesburg and Cape Town take the N1 south and north respectively to Bloemfontein. From Durban, take the N3 out of KwaZulu Natal, and pick up the N5 at Harrismith to Bloemfontein. In order to cover the large stretches of territory required, getting around by car is recommended.
Where to stay: www.wheretostay.co.za/province/free-state/accommodation
More information:

Free State Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 51 411 4300
Email: info@freestatetourism.org
Web: www.freestatetourism.org

The Lumberjack Festival

When: 14-15 April, 2015
Where: Stellenbosch, Cape Town
How to get there: You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the N1 via the R304, R44 or R300 and M12, or the N2 via the R44 or R310.
Where to stay: www.stellenbosch.travel/stay-us
More information:

Western Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 405 4500
Fax: +27 (0) 21 405 4524
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

Afrika Burn

When: 23 April-3 May, 2015
Where: Karoo, Northern Cape
How to get there: Afrika Burn takes place on Stonehenge Farm approximately 300km north of Cape Town, in the Tankwa Karoo. You can fly directly to Cape Town International Airport from most major airports around the world. The city is also linked by rail and air to the rest of South Africa. From Cape Town, hire a car and travel on the R355, which connects the towns Ceres in the south and Calvinia in the north.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Afrika Burn
More information: www.afrikaburn.com

Oppikoppi

When: 7-9 August, 2015
Where: Gauteng, Limpopo
How to get there: Oppikoppi is held in the veld just north of the small town of Northam in the Waterberg District Municipality in the Limpopo province of South Africa, approximately 50 km south of Thabazimbi.. Fly direct from Johannesburg to Polokwane. If you’re driving, from Johannesburg take the N1 north motorway direct to Polokwane. By road, take the N1 motorway from Johannesburg and continue north to Polokwane. From Durban, either take the N3 motorway to Johannesburg and then pick up the N1 north to Polokwane, or take the N3 to Ladysmith and then pick up the N11 to Polokwane.
Where to stay: You will be camping onsite at Oppikoppi
More information: www.oppikoppi.co.za

South Africa’s most romantic hidden gems

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, scouring the globe for that patch of perfection is top of mind for a lot of people. Now, we all know South Africa has unforgettable sunsets, breathtaking views, magnificent beaches and out-of-this-world cuisine making it the ultimate romantic destination, but did you know about these lesser known winners?

Text: Desiree Haakonsen

1. Paternoster, West Coast

This quiet, laid-back fishing village on the West Coast is filled with Mediterranean charm, and is both romantic and serene. With its traditional, whitewashed cottages and gorgeous beaches, Paternoster makes for a perfect place to leave your footprints behind in the sand. More information…

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious 'chill' appeal.

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious ‘chill’ appeal.

Credit: www.whatsonincapetown.com

2. Hartbeespoort, Magaliesberg

Are you in Gauteng and wanting something laid back but close by? We’d recommend the Hartbeespoort and its country markets, cafes and restaurants, water sports, mountain trails, golf, wildlife encounters, canopy tours, hot-air balloon rides and the aerial cable way. It’s definitely a getaway with options: choose to keep yourselves busy or simply enjoy doing very little. More information…

It's difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

It’s difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

Credit: www.functionvenues.co.za

3. Clarens, Eastern Free State Highlands

Clarens is a fairy-tale town waiting to be discovered. It’s known as the ‘Jewel of the Free State’ because of its wildlife, golden mountains, winding rivers and flower-strewn gardens. It’s also an artistic haven with lots of quirky spots to visit. More information…

One of Clarens' enexpected treasures.

One of Clarens’ unexpected treasures.

Credit: www.theclarens.co.za

4. Parys, Northern Free State

As chilled as Clarens is, if your partner’s style is more leaping out of planes, consider Parys! Mind you, although it’s big on adventure, it’s still a small town and you can definitely make equally happy memories there if you are after something more relaxed like chilling on the riverbanks! More information…

Stroll along the Vall River in Parys.

Stroll along the Vaal River in Parys.

Credit: www.getaway.co.za

5. Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Dullstroom is definitely not dull! It might appeal more to nature lovers than those looking for ritzy holidays though as it’s a slice of paradise with little more to do than relish the mountain and wild-flower vistas. You might have heard about it being a popular trout fishing destination, but given trout fishing is a winter activity, you’re pretty safe that your partner won’t have divided loyalties. More information…

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

Credit: www.tripadvisor.co.za

6. Knysna, Garden Route

Whether you prefer opulence or rustic stays, Knysna is a great option! Take your time getting there by meandering along the stunning Garden Route, and be rewarded with a peaceful lagoon, beautiful beaches, thick mountain forests, good weather and a tangible sense of ‘holiday’. More information…

Knysna lagoon.

Knysna lagoon.

Credit: www.africanbreezeguesthouse.co.za

7. Bela-Bela, Waterberg

Do we need to say more than ‘hot springs’ when it comes to the Limpopo’s Bela-Bela (previously known as Warmbaths)? The perfect spot to soak away any stress from the work week or a long-haul flight. More information…

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Credit: www.roomsforafrica.com

8. Hermanus, Overberg

Hermanus is a wonderful option for the romantic at heart and those who enjoy a little indulgence. If spending a day pottering the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route, enjoying a seaside candlelit dinner and then taking a gentle stroll on the beach is your idea of heaven, Hermanus will be your home away from home. More information…

If you can't get in to Hermanus this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

If Hermanus isn’t on the cards this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

9. Langebaan, West Coast

Langebaan is a hot favourite. It’s a place to unwind from the whirlwind of everyday busy-ness. The calm lagoon, soothing bird calls and untouched flora of the West Coast National Park make it an idyllic nature haven. But it’s not a completely sleepy town so don’t rest on your laurels. Places like Strandlopers beach restaurant get really busy so make sure you get in early! More information…

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Credit: www.high-five.co.za

10. Margate, Hibiscus Coast

Thinking subtropical, Hawaii-wannabe beach vibes where you only wear a cozzie and flip-flops for your special out-of-town break? Margate will be spot on. And if its palm-speckled beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters become too much for you to bear, there are lots of great shops, art galleries, craft markets, pubs and quaint restaurants to visit. More information…

Margate Beach.

Margate Beach.

Credit: www.booktravel.travel

And if your main squeeze happens to be a foodie, there are so many delicious delights to discover that will make him or her weak at the knees. What about a lazy lunch or dinner at Moyo in Durban? Or The Test Kitchen in Cape Town?

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

Credit: www.planyourholiday.co.za

Whatever your pleasure, head to South Africa and get romantic! For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African getaway, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

South Africa’s most romantic hidden gems

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, scouring the globe for that patch of perfection is top of mind for a lot of people. Now, we all know South Africa has unforgettable sunsets, breathtaking views, magnificent beaches and out-of-this-world cuisine making it the ultimate romantic destination, but did you know about these lesser known winners?

Text: Desiree Haakonsen

1. Paternoster, West Coast

This quiet, laid-back fishing village on the West Coast is filled with Mediterranean charm, and is both romantic and serene. With its traditional, whitewashed cottages and gorgeous beaches, Paternoster makes for a perfect place to leave your footprints behind in the sand. More information…

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious 'chill' appeal.

Traditional fishing village Paternoster has serious ‘chill’ appeal.

Credit: www.whatsonincapetown.com

2. Hartbeespoort, Magaliesberg

Are you in Gauteng and wanting something laid back but close by? We’d recommend the Hartbeespoort and its country markets, cafes and restaurants, water sports, mountain trails, golf, wildlife encounters, canopy tours, hot-air balloon rides and the aerial cable way. It’s definitely a getaway with options: choose to keep yourselves busy or simply enjoy doing very little. More information…

It's difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

It’s difficult to beat a Hartebeespoort Dam sunset!

Credit: www.functionvenues.co.za

3. Clarens, Eastern Free State Highlands

Clarens is a fairy-tale town waiting to be discovered. It’s known as the ‘Jewel of the Free State’ because of its wildlife, golden mountains, winding rivers and flower-strewn gardens. It’s also an artistic haven with lots of quirky spots to visit. More information…

One of Clarens' enexpected treasures.

One of Clarens’ unexpected treasures.

Credit: www.theclarens.co.za

4. Parys, Northern Free State

As chilled as Clarens is, if your partner’s style is more leaping out of planes, consider Parys! Mind you, although it’s big on adventure, it’s still a small town and you can definitely make equally happy memories there if you are after something more relaxed like chilling on the riverbanks! More information…

Stroll along the Vall River in Parys.

Stroll along the Vaal River in Parys.

Credit: www.getaway.co.za

5. Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Dullstroom is definitely not dull! It might appeal more to nature lovers than those looking for ritzy holidays though as it’s a slice of paradise with little more to do than relish the mountain and wild-flower vistas. You might have heard about it being a popular trout fishing destination, but given trout fishing is a winter activity, you’re pretty safe that your partner won’t have divided loyalties. More information…

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

The Critchley Hackle Hotel in Dullstroom.

Credit: www.tripadvisor.co.za

6. Knysna, Garden Route

Whether you prefer opulence or rustic stays, Knysna is a great option! Take your time getting there by meandering along the stunning Garden Route, and be rewarded with a peaceful lagoon, beautiful beaches, thick mountain forests, good weather and a tangible sense of ‘holiday’. More information…

Knysna lagoon.

Knysna lagoon.

Credit: www.africanbreezeguesthouse.co.za

7. Bela-Bela, Waterberg

Do we need to say more than ‘hot springs’ when it comes to the Limpopo’s Bela-Bela (previously known as Warmbaths)? The perfect spot to soak away any stress from the work week or a long-haul flight. More information…

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Bliss out in the warm baths at Bela Bela.

Credit: www.roomsforafrica.com

8. Hermanus, Overberg

Hermanus is a wonderful option for the romantic at heart and those who enjoy a little indulgence. If spending a day pottering the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route, enjoying a seaside candlelit dinner and then taking a gentle stroll on the beach is your idea of heaven, Hermanus will be your home away from home. More information…

If you can't get in to Hermanus this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

If Hermanus isn’t on the cards this weekend, definitely make a note to visit during whale season!

Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

9. Langebaan, West Coast

Langebaan is a hot favourite. It’s a place to unwind from the whirlwind of everyday busy-ness. The calm lagoon, soothing bird calls and untouched flora of the West Coast National Park make it an idyllic nature haven. But it’s not a completely sleepy town so don’t rest on your laurels. Places like Strandlopers beach restaurant get really busy so make sure you get in early! More information…

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Kitesurfing spot at Langebaan.

Credit: www.high-five.co.za

10. Margate, Hibiscus Coast

Thinking subtropical, Hawaii-wannabe beach vibes where you only wear a cozzie and flip-flops for your special out-of-town break? Margate will be spot on. And if its palm-speckled beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters become too much for you to bear, there are lots of great shops, art galleries, craft markets, pubs and quaint restaurants to visit. More information…

Margate Beach.

Margate Beach.

Credit: www.booktravel.travel

And if your main squeeze happens to be a foodie, there are so many delicious delights to discover that will make him or her weak at the knees. What about a lazy lunch or dinner at Moyo in Durban? Or The Test Kitchen in Cape Town?

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

moyo uShaka Pier, Durban.

Credit: www.planyourholiday.co.za

Whatever your pleasure, head to South Africa and get romantic! For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African getaway, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Discover the magnificent ‘French Corner’

Nestled in the foothills of the impressive Simonsberg mountain in the Western Cape is a gem you won’t want to miss on your travels to South Africa. Franschhoek, discovered by the Huguenots in 1688, is a little town with an old-world village feeling and the hospitality to match.

And there are so many exciting things to do there!

It’s probably best known for its gourmet food and exceptional wines, so it’s a must-see for any self-respecting foodie (especially since it’s only about 75 kilometres from Cape Town) but there’s so much more to discover.

Here are a few things we think will whet your appetite in other ways.

For the history buff

If you enjoy learning about the past, you really must pay a visit to The Huguenot Memorial Museum and Monument to learn about the early settlers in South Africa, and how their French culture impacted on the area. And while you’re there, check out the spectacular gardens including the protea displays. You could also mix your winetasting with your history at the Museum van de Caab on the Solms Delta wine estate. They have a small museum highlighting the local history from the Stone Age as well as the history of the farm itself and wonderful historical artefacts and recordings.

Huguenot_Monument
Credit: www.commons.wikimedia.org 

Another popular local attraction is Groot Drakenstein Prison, the low risk security prison where former President Nelson Mandela spent his last day in prison and took his momentous “Walk to Freedom”.

For the boys (and girls) who love their toys, definitely don’t miss the Franschhoek Motor Museum on the beautiful L’Ormarins property. Spanning more than 100 years of motoring history, this private collection of over 300 cars, motorcycles, bicycles and motoring memorabilia will transport you to a bygone era.

MercedesBenz540K_main
Credit: www.fmm.co.za (Franschhoek Motor Museum)

Looking for something a little more outdoorsy?

Franschhoek offers some of the most breathtaking walks and hikes in the entire country. The Franschhoek Pass, part of the UNESCO declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, and just a few minutes drive out of the village (or a hike up Cats se Pad trail if you are feeling more adventurous and energetic), boasts the most exceptional views over the whole valley. There are lots of places to stop along the way and take photos, but watch out for the cheeky baboons! You can also head into the Mont Rochelle Mountain Reserve from the top of the Pass and walk through the fynbos. We’d recommend an early morning or dusk adventure to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and stunning lighting.

61490584
Credit: www.panoramio.com

If you’re keen on feeling fit and healthy (or working off a delicious meal) but aren’t quite up for a hike to see the sights, why not hire a bicycle to explore the village or the trails around the Berg River Dam on the 7 kilometre purpose-built track? You can also go horseriding or take a garden tour or visit Franschhoek Medicinal Garden and learn about indigenous medicines.

garden_2
Credit: www.babylonstoren.com

And for the sporty types, if you’re visiting Franschhoek in summer, try to time it for a weekend and catch a cricket match at the Groot Drakenstein Games Club. Apparently it was the first turf cricket pitch laid in South Africa!

After a spot of retail therapy?

After indulging in the local fare, you might want to walk it off by taking a wander through the boutiques and picking up a little something for yourself, whether it’s clothing, antiques, jewellery or art. Franschhoek also has a delightful arts and crafts market from 9am to 2pm each Saturday where you can meet lots of the locals. And there are a number of working art studios you can visit too, including the Franschhoek Live Craft Centre where you can see the potter in residence at work.

2e
Credit: www.franschhoek.co.za

You could, of course, also book in for a spa treatment at one of the day spas instead.

Foodie fun for the family

While Franschhoek boasts wine estates and vineyards that are some of the oldest in the country and produce internationally renowned, award-winning wine that just has to be sampled, there are a few other foodie things to do in the village that will enthrall the whole family. Like taking a course in bread baking or going on a chocolate tour. And then there’s grabbing a picnic basket and simply lazing about, taking in the ambience of this amazingly rich and fertile land. Or going to one of the delicious choices of restaurants (bookings recommended from October-February).

3586893833_af08eac07d_z
Credit: www.flickr.com

Bread_Making_Collage
Credit: www.moreson.co.za

There really is never a dull moment in this exquisite part of the world. Whether you just want to sit on the stoep and sip wine or put on your tekkies and go hiking, Franschhoek caters for it all.

And, depending on when you’re visiting, you might even catch the Harvest Festival in February (and get to stomp on grapes), Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, Bastille Day celebrations in July or the Open Gardens Festival in late October.

6a0162fffe844e970d01a511dc6d4e970c-500wi
Credit: www.franschhoekbastille.co.za

Glitz and glamour

If dressing up to the nines and rubbing shoulders with high society is more your style, you won’t want to miss The Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique and Champagne Festival held very late November. It’s the perfect place to sample the bubbles and cuisine from some of the top regional producers, as well as some of France’s best champagnes. Last year’s theme was black and white with an emphasis on parasols and panama hats. Take a look - it’s well worth the effort!

6a0162fffe844e970d01bb07b68069970d-800wi (2)

Credit: http://www.franschhoekmcc.co.za/

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Discover the magnificent ‘French Corner’

Nestled in the foothills of the impressive Simonsberg mountain in the Western Cape is a gem you won’t want to miss on your travels to South Africa. Franschhoek, discovered by the Huguenots in 1688, is a little town with an old-world village feeling and the hospitality to match.

And there are so many exciting things to do there!

It’s probably best known for its gourmet food and exceptional wines, so it’s a must-see for any self-respecting foodie (especially since it’s only about 75 kilometres from Cape Town) but there’s so much more to discover.

Here are a few things we think will whet your appetite in other ways.

For the history buff

If you enjoy learning about the past, you really must pay a visit to The Huguenot Memorial Museum and Monument to learn about the early settlers in South Africa, and how their French culture impacted on the area. And while you’re there, check out the spectacular gardens including the protea displays. You could also mix your winetasting with your history at the Museum van de Caab on the Solms Delta wine estate. They have a small museum highlighting the local history from the Stone Age as well as the history of the farm itself and wonderful historical artefacts and recordings.

Huguenot_Monument
Credit: www.commons.wikimedia.org 

Another popular local attraction is Groot Drakenstein Prison, the low risk security prison where former President Nelson Mandela spent his last day in prison and took his momentous “Walk to Freedom”.

For the boys (and girls) who love their toys, definitely don’t miss the Franschhoek Motor Museum on the beautiful L’Ormarins property. Spanning more than 100 years of motoring history, this private collection of over 300 cars, motorcycles, bicycles and motoring memorabilia will transport you to a bygone era.

MercedesBenz540K_main
Credit: www.fmm.co.za (Franschhoek Motor Museum)

Looking for something a little more outdoorsy?

Franschhoek offers some of the most breathtaking walks and hikes in the entire country. The Franschhoek Pass, part of the UNESCO declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, and just a few minutes drive out of the village (or a hike up Cats se Pad trail if you are feeling more adventurous and energetic), boasts the most exceptional views over the whole valley. There are lots of places to stop along the way and take photos, but watch out for the cheeky baboons! You can also head into the Mont Rochelle Mountain Reserve from the top of the Pass and walk through the fynbos. We’d recommend an early morning or dusk adventure to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and stunning lighting.

61490584
Credit: www.panoramio.com

If you’re keen on feeling fit and healthy (or working off a delicious meal) but aren’t quite up for a hike to see the sights, why not hire a bicycle to explore the village or the trails around the Berg River Dam on the 7 kilometre purpose-built track? You can also go horseriding or take a garden tour or visit Franschhoek Medicinal Garden and learn about indigenous medicines.

garden_2
Credit: www.babylonstoren.com

And for the sporty types, if you’re visiting Franschhoek in summer, try to time it for a weekend and catch a cricket match at the Groot Drakenstein Games Club. Apparently it was the first turf cricket pitch laid in South Africa!

After a spot of retail therapy?

After indulging in the local fare, you might want to walk it off by taking a wander through the boutiques and picking up a little something for yourself, whether it’s clothing, antiques, jewellery or art. Franschhoek also has a delightful arts and crafts market from 9am to 2pm each Saturday where you can meet lots of the locals. And there are a number of working art studios you can visit too, including the Franschhoek Live Craft Centre where you can see the potter in residence at work.

2e
Credit: www.franschhoek.co.za

You could, of course, also book in for a spa treatment at one of the day spas instead.

Foodie fun for the family

While Franschhoek boasts wine estates and vineyards that are some of the oldest in the country and produce internationally renowned, award-winning wine that just has to be sampled, there are a few other foodie things to do in the village that will enthrall the whole family. Like taking a course in bread baking or going on a chocolate tour. And then there’s grabbing a picnic basket and simply lazing about, taking in the ambience of this amazingly rich and fertile land. Or going to one of the delicious choices of restaurants (bookings recommended from October-February).

3586893833_af08eac07d_z
Credit: www.flickr.com

Bread_Making_Collage
Credit: www.moreson.co.za

There really is never a dull moment in this exquisite part of the world. Whether you just want to sit on the stoep and sip wine or put on your tekkies and go hiking, Franschhoek caters for it all.

And, depending on when you’re visiting, you might even catch the Harvest Festival in February (and get to stomp on grapes), Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, Bastille Day celebrations in July or the Open Gardens Festival in late October.

6a0162fffe844e970d01a511dc6d4e970c-500wi
Credit: www.franschhoekbastille.co.za

Glitz and glamour

If dressing up to the nines and rubbing shoulders with high society is more your style, you won’t want to miss The Franschhoek ‘Magic of Bubbles’ Cap Classique and Champagne Festival held very late November. It’s the perfect place to sample the bubbles and cuisine from some of the top regional producers, as well as some of France’s best champagnes. Last year’s theme was black and white with an emphasis on parasols and panama hats. Take a look - it’s well worth the effort!

6a0162fffe844e970d01bb07b68069970d-800wi (2)

Credit: http://www.franschhoekmcc.co.za/

For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Add these experiences to your bucket list

Is your New Year’s resolution to finally tick a South African safari off your bucket list in 2015? But did you know, there’s so much more South Africa has to offer? Here’s our selection of ten hidden gems we think are bucket list worthy!

One – The Garden Route

If you enjoy coastal drives and wine, you will not want to miss the Garden Route, a popular driving route and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Bramon Wine Estate is the only Wine Estate located in the middle of The Garden Route. The restaurant is set in the vineyards and overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and The Elephant Sanctuary. The wine menu compliments the menu of tapas, local cheeses, oysters, meat and freshly baked homemade bread. If you’re looking for a relaxed, long lunch after driving along the Garden Route – the atmosphere at Bramon Wine Estate is sure to help you unwind.

Bramon Wine Estate

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Two – Matjiesfontein

Do you consider yourself a history buff and nostalgic for years gone by? Matjiesfontein is a tiny Victorian town in the Little Karoo that has been designated a national monument. Take a stroll through the main street and admire the white-washed houses or head to the Lord Milner Hotel for a drink. Rumour has it that the hotel is haunted! The town of Matjiesfontein offers travellers a unique experience and is a well-kept secret, but we predict for not much longer.

Lord_Milner_Hotel_at_Matjiesfontein (1)

Three – Balloon Safari

When you think of Safari, you think of South Africa. But, what if you could experience the magic of safari above the treetops? Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris has been in operation for over 30 years and gives visitors a unique vantage point where they can spot the big five while gliding over Cradle of Humankind and Magaliesberg Mountain range. After the safari, there is an English breakfast in the clubhouse for guests to share stories. The safari is a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg and well worth the journey.

Web-Top-Pic3-080126-088
Image source: Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris

Four – The Otter Trail

South African landscape is truly breathtaking. The Otter Trail in the Garden Route is a must see for anyone who loves hiking or adventure activities. This is a 5 day adventure, spanning 42km of trails on cliff tops along the shorelines; the diverse scenery along the way makes the journey somewhat more bearable. Tip: Take a camera and capture the beauty for your holiday album!

Otter_Trail01

Five – Nature’s Valley

Nature’s Valley in the Western Cape is at the end of the famous five-day Otter Trail, but hikers first have to cross the mouth of the lagoon, which is the dominant feature of this secluded coastal village, before they can call it a day. The town is aptly named as it is completely surrounded by indigenous forest and the Garden Route National Park. A great outing is the coastal walk to the nearby Salt River mouth, where you can enjoy complete privacy and seclusion.

Nature's_Valley_(S._Africa)_2

Six – The Big Five Marathon

The Big Five Marathon is a must if your New Year’s resolution is to get fit and travel more. Highlighted by Forbes Magazine as one the Top 10 marathons worth travelling for, there will be nothing separating you from running alongside the African wildlife. The next Big Five Marathon will take place on 20 June 2015. The 42Km marathon starts and finishes at Lakeside Lodge located on the Garden Route.

SouthAfrica_BigFiveMarathon_RunnersDownHill_039

Seven – Sardine Run

Around June each year, word gets out along the KwaZulu-Natal coast that the sardines have arrived. They’ve swum for more than 30 days from their spawning ground in the Cape to reach South Africa’s east coast. The annual sardine run sees massive shoals of the little silver fish journey from the cold waters of the Cape to the warmer tides of KwaZulu-Natal. The fish attract the attention of whales, dolphins, sharks and sea birds, leading to well-documented feeding frenzies.

Sardines_-_鰯(いわし) (1)

Eight – Zip lining in Drakensberg

Have you ever wanted to experience what it feels like to get a bird’s eye view of the greenest forest? The Drakensberg Canopy Tours runs zip line tours rain, hail or shine in the Blue Grotto Forest. The location is home to over 150 species of birds including the rare Bush Blackcap.

48bf697f444dc7a22c1461431c072268

Image source: Drakensberg Canopy Tours

Nine – The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, Cape Town has taken out first place for the prestigious Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant awards held in November 2014. It is also featured on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants

This dining hot spot is a hit amongst local and international travellers. The menu is South African inspired with a sprinkling of Asian flair. Dishes range from grilled scallop with miso and shiitake to seared springbok in turnip milk and fermented red cabbage. The Test Kitchen has taken out the Eat Out award for the third year in a row. Needless to say, if you want to book a table at this award winning restaurant, be sure to allow for a month’s waiting list.

large31

Ten – Soweto Township

The township of Soweto in Johannesburg was a key point during the struggle against apartheid. Former president Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived in Vilakazi Street in Orlando, making it the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace laureates. The Mandela home is a now museum open to the public. Visitors to Soweto can also go to the Hector Pieterson Museum, a memorial erected to pay homage to students who died during the struggle.

orlando__620_400_80_s
For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Add these experiences to your bucket list

Is your New Year’s resolution to finally tick a South African safari off your bucket list in 2015? But did you know, there’s so much more South Africa has to offer? Here’s our selection of ten hidden gems we think are bucket list worthy!

One – The Garden Route

If you enjoy coastal drives and wine, you will not want to miss the Garden Route, a popular driving route and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Bramon Wine Estate is the only Wine Estate located in the middle of The Garden Route. The restaurant is set in the vineyards and overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and The Elephant Sanctuary. The wine menu compliments the menu of tapas, local cheeses, oysters, meat and freshly baked homemade bread. If you’re looking for a relaxed, long lunch after driving along the Garden Route – the atmosphere at Bramon Wine Estate is sure to help you unwind.

Bramon Wine Estate

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Two – Matjiesfontein

Do you consider yourself a history buff and nostalgic for years gone by? Matjiesfontein is a tiny Victorian town in the Little Karoo that has been designated a national monument. Take a stroll through the main street and admire the white-washed houses or head to the Lord Milner Hotel for a drink. Rumour has it that the hotel is haunted! The town of Matjiesfontein offers travellers a unique experience and is a well-kept secret, but we predict for not much longer.

Lord_Milner_Hotel_at_Matjiesfontein (1)

Three – Balloon Safari

When you think of Safari, you think of South Africa. But, what if you could experience the magic of safari above the treetops? Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris has been in operation for over 30 years and gives visitors a unique vantage point where they can spot the big five while gliding over Cradle of Humankind and Magaliesberg Mountain range. After the safari, there is an English breakfast in the clubhouse for guests to share stories. The safari is a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg and well worth the journey.

Web-Top-Pic3-080126-088
Image source: Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris

Four – The Otter Trail

South African landscape is truly breathtaking. The Otter Trail in the Garden Route is a must see for anyone who loves hiking or adventure activities. This is a 5 day adventure, spanning 42km of trails on cliff tops along the shorelines; the diverse scenery along the way makes the journey somewhat more bearable. Tip: Take a camera and capture the beauty for your holiday album!

Otter_Trail01

Five – Nature’s Valley

Nature’s Valley in the Western Cape is at the end of the famous five-day Otter Trail, but hikers first have to cross the mouth of the lagoon, which is the dominant feature of this secluded coastal village, before they can call it a day. The town is aptly named as it is completely surrounded by indigenous forest and the Garden Route National Park. A great outing is the coastal walk to the nearby Salt River mouth, where you can enjoy complete privacy and seclusion.

Nature's_Valley_(S._Africa)_2

Six – The Big Five Marathon

The Big Five Marathon is a must if your New Year’s resolution is to get fit and travel more. Highlighted by Forbes Magazine as one the Top 10 marathons worth travelling for, there will be nothing separating you from running alongside the African wildlife. The next Big Five Marathon will take place on 20 June 2015. The 42Km marathon starts and finishes at Lakeside Lodge located on the Garden Route.

SouthAfrica_BigFiveMarathon_RunnersDownHill_039

Seven – Sardine Run

Around June each year, word gets out along the KwaZulu-Natal coast that the sardines have arrived. They’ve swum for more than 30 days from their spawning ground in the Cape to reach South Africa’s east coast. The annual sardine run sees massive shoals of the little silver fish journey from the cold waters of the Cape to the warmer tides of KwaZulu-Natal. The fish attract the attention of whales, dolphins, sharks and sea birds, leading to well-documented feeding frenzies.

Sardines_-_鰯(いわし) (1)

Eight – Zip lining in Drakensberg

Have you ever wanted to experience what it feels like to get a bird’s eye view of the greenest forest? The Drakensberg Canopy Tours runs zip line tours rain, hail or shine in the Blue Grotto Forest. The location is home to over 150 species of birds including the rare Bush Blackcap.

48bf697f444dc7a22c1461431c072268

Image source: Drakensberg Canopy Tours

Nine – The Test Kitchen

The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, Cape Town has taken out first place for the prestigious Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant awards held in November 2014. It is also featured on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants

This dining hot spot is a hit amongst local and international travellers. The menu is South African inspired with a sprinkling of Asian flair. Dishes range from grilled scallop with miso and shiitake to seared springbok in turnip milk and fermented red cabbage. The Test Kitchen has taken out the Eat Out award for the third year in a row. Needless to say, if you want to book a table at this award winning restaurant, be sure to allow for a month’s waiting list.

large31

Ten – Soweto Township

The township of Soweto in Johannesburg was a key point during the struggle against apartheid. Former president Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived in Vilakazi Street in Orlando, making it the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace laureates. The Mandela home is a now museum open to the public. Visitors to Soweto can also go to the Hector Pieterson Museum, a memorial erected to pay homage to students who died during the struggle.

orlando__620_400_80_s
For more travel inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

A very South African Holiday Season

During the December holiday South Africans, similar to Australians, are lucky enough to celebrate with friends and families in the sun, admiring the beautiful landscape of their country and enjoying the great outdoors.

A big part of enjoying the silly season is food and drink. South Africans enjoy a braai during the warmer months, known to Australians as a Barbecue. Braais are social events which are casual and laid-back events similar to barbeques in Australia. Traditional meats cooked on the braai include boerewors, sosaties, kebabs, marinated chicken, pork and lamb chops, steaks, sausages of different flavours and thickness, and possibly even racks of spareribs.

Lambkebabs
Image source: SBS

braai_1 (1)
Image source: Falling for white roses

sosatie-lamb-skewers_0Image source: SBS

December 26, known to Australians as Boxing Day is known to South Africans as The Day of Goodwill and is also a public holiday. In 1994 the South African Government renamed this holiday from Boxing Day to The Day of Goodwill, cutting ties from a colonial past. Similarly, South Africans and Australians like to be out and about during this time…or enjoying the sales!

 

With almost 3,000km of coastline, South Africa has many beautiful beaches, from long, sandy stretches ideal for a sunset stroll to cosy coves where you can spend the day basking in the sun. Popular beaches locals choose to relax at during the summer season include Camps Bay and Clifton Beach in Cape Town, Santos Beach and South Beach in Durban.

9522997973_4efeef74c0_z
Image source: Camps Bay – Travel Start

Camera360_2014_4_13_065505_jpg (1)565Image source: Clifton Beach – Travel Start

Horse riding in Cape Town’s Noordhoek Beach is a must-do for free-spirited travellers who love the idea of sprinting across a wide beach without a care in the world. Whether you’re an avid equestrian or just a beginner in search of an easy entry into the sport, this is the place to become one with nature. A truly memorable experience.

slide_beachfront
Image source: Imhoff Equestrian Centre

slide3
Image source: Imhoff Equestrian Centre

We hope this week’s blog has inspired you to make the most out of the holiday season!

Happy holidays and seasons greeting from the South African Tourism Australia and New Zealand team!

A very South African Holiday Season

During the December holiday South Africans, similar to Australians, are lucky enough to celebrate with friends and families in the sun, admiring the beautiful landscape of their country and enjoying the great outdoors.

A big part of enjoying the silly season is food and drink. South Africans enjoy a braai during the warmer months, known to Australians as a Barbecue. Braais are social events which are casual and laid-back events similar to barbeques in Australia. Traditional meats cooked on the braai include boerewors, sosaties, kebabs, marinated chicken, pork and lamb chops, steaks, sausages of different flavours and thickness, and possibly even racks of spareribs.

Lambkebabs
Image source: SBS

braai_1 (1)
Image source: Falling for white roses

sosatie-lamb-skewers_0Image source: SBS

December 26, known to Australians as Boxing Day is known to South Africans as The Day of Goodwill and is also a public holiday. In 1994 the South African Government renamed this holiday from Boxing Day to The Day of Goodwill, cutting ties from a colonial past. Similarly, South Africans and Australians like to be out and about during this time…or enjoying the sales!

 

With almost 3,000km of coastline, South Africa has many beautiful beaches, from long, sandy stretches ideal for a sunset stroll to cosy coves where you can spend the day basking in the sun. Popular beaches locals choose to relax at during the summer season include Camps Bay and Clifton Beach in Cape Town, Santos Beach and South Beach in Durban.

9522997973_4efeef74c0_z
Image source: Camps Bay – Travel Start

Camera360_2014_4_13_065505_jpg (1)565Image source: Clifton Beach – Travel Start

Horse riding in Cape Town’s Noordhoek Beach is a must-do for free-spirited travellers who love the idea of sprinting across a wide beach without a care in the world. Whether you’re an avid equestrian or just a beginner in search of an easy entry into the sport, this is the place to become one with nature. A truly memorable experience.

slide_beachfront
Image source: Imhoff Equestrian Centre

slide3
Image source: Imhoff Equestrian Centre

We hope this week’s blog has inspired you to make the most out of the holiday season!

Happy holidays and seasons greeting from the South African Tourism Australia and New Zealand team!

Summer Dining – Alfresco Style

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa share a summer because we are all in the Southern Hemisphere. It is at this time of year that the weather warms up and our thoughts turn to outdoor activities, eating alfresco and three fantastic months of getting out and enjoying the summer months.

The warmer months draw a lot of tourists to South Africa where they can participate in adventure activities, go on safari and indulge in the world class food and wine of South Africa has to offer.

No matter where your South African summer adventure takes you, be sure to bring your appetite because you are going to want to take part in everyone’s favourite activity whilst on holiday; eating and drinking.

The Garden Route is a popular driving route and is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. There are plenty of towns to stop at on your drive where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch and marvel at the view.

Serendipity restaurant located in Wilderness has a gourmet South African inspired menu which uses fresh, locally sourced and seasonal produce. Serendipity believes that South Africa has a wealth of culinary gems – mostly unknown to the world and they are passionate about showcasing them in a unique and innovative way. Serendipity currently holds the number one spot on Trip Advisor as the Best Garden Route restaurant. You can check out some reviews here.

Serendipity

Image source: Serendipity

If you’re after a more casual dining experience, East Head Café is just outside of Knysna and overlooks the sea – with a breathtaking view through Knysna Heads. The café supports local suppliers who source responsibly and describes their menu as “simple well-made food with an accent on flavour and freshness”. They have indoor and outdoor seating options, but no matter which you choose your meal will be accompanied by the most spectacular ocean views!

East Head Cafe

Image source: East Head Cafe

Bramon Wine Estate is the only Wine Estate located in the middle of The Garden Route. The restaurant is set in the vineyards and overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and The Elephant Sanctuary. The wine menu compliments the menu of tapas, local cheeses, oysters, meat and freshly baked homemade bread. If you’re looking for a relaxed, long lunch after driving along the Garden Route – the atmosphere at Bramon Wine Estate is sure to help you unwind. While there, be sure to visit the cellar and sample their range of Vukani Empowerment wines. Vintner Peter Thorpe established this line in 2004 and named it after the Xhosa word for ‘wake up’. A percentage of all these wine sales enable local projects, especially the training and development of local farmers.

Bramon Wine Estate Food

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Bramon Wine Estate

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Did you know that Western Cape restaurants frequently feature in the prestigious San Pellegrino World’s Top 50 Restaurant list? A visit to this region is a must for any foodie visiting South Africa.

The food of the Western Cape is heaven for adventurous eaters. The province is blessed with an abundant agricultural bounty, from both the land and the sea. Whether you feast on multi-course tasting menus in Franschhoek at the popular Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais or wolf down mouthfuls of umngqusho (a traditional Xhosa bean stew which was reportedly Nelson Mandela’s favourite dish) in Gugulethu, there is something to suit every mood, palate, and wallet.

Desert 2

Image source: The Tasting Room

The West Coast also offers up the traditional cuisine of the Sandveld (sand bush) at eateries such as Bosduifklip where delicious meals are served straight from the coals and Geelbek which is named after the Cape salmon. Eat just-caught seafood and spit-roasted lamb at the Musiboskerm and Strandloper restaurants near Lambert’s Bay. If you still have room, Paternoster’s quirky clutch of delicious delis and restaurants are not to be missed and can offer up a number of great snacks for the car!

Image source: Strandloper

Image source: Strandloper

Summer lunches mean one thing to South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians – fresh seafood! Seafood is prepared in many ways in South Africa – braaied (barbecued) on an open fire; battered and fried; drenched in Cape Malay pickles and curries; cooked Cajun-style; grilled and sauced with lemon butter; and, more recently, prepared Asian-style. You’ll find excellent seafood restaurants both on the coast and inland to suit any taste and budget from haute cuisine to the freshest of no-frills fish and chips

Inland, Johannesburg’s Fishmonger in Illovo is packed on a nightly basis, while Montego Bay Seafood Restaurant, Sushi and Oyster Bar on Nelson Mandela Square does brisk business. Portuguese, Mozambican and Brazilian restaurants in general are renowned for excellent shellfish.

Have we got your mouth watering?

For more summer inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African summer holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

Summer Dining – Alfresco Style

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa share a summer because we are all in the Southern Hemisphere. It is at this time of year that the weather warms up and our thoughts turn to outdoor activities, eating alfresco and three fantastic months of getting out and enjoying the summer months.

The warmer months draw a lot of tourists to South Africa where they can participate in adventure activities, go on safari and indulge in the world class food and wine of South Africa has to offer.

No matter where your South African summer adventure takes you, be sure to bring your appetite because you are going to want to take part in everyone’s favourite activity whilst on holiday; eating and drinking.

The Garden Route is a popular driving route and is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. There are plenty of towns to stop at on your drive where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch and marvel at the view.

Serendipity restaurant located in Wilderness has a gourmet South African inspired menu which uses fresh, locally sourced and seasonal produce. Serendipity believes that South Africa has a wealth of culinary gems – mostly unknown to the world and they are passionate about showcasing them in a unique and innovative way. Serendipity currently holds the number one spot on Trip Advisor as the Best Garden Route restaurant. You can check out some reviews here.

Serendipity

Image source: Serendipity

If you’re after a more casual dining experience, East Head Café is just outside of Knysna and overlooks the sea – with a breathtaking view through Knysna Heads. The café supports local suppliers who source responsibly and describes their menu as “simple well-made food with an accent on flavour and freshness”. They have indoor and outdoor seating options, but no matter which you choose your meal will be accompanied by the most spectacular ocean views!

East Head Cafe

Image source: East Head Cafe

Bramon Wine Estate is the only Wine Estate located in the middle of The Garden Route. The restaurant is set in the vineyards and overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and The Elephant Sanctuary. The wine menu compliments the menu of tapas, local cheeses, oysters, meat and freshly baked homemade bread. If you’re looking for a relaxed, long lunch after driving along the Garden Route – the atmosphere at Bramon Wine Estate is sure to help you unwind. While there, be sure to visit the cellar and sample their range of Vukani Empowerment wines. Vintner Peter Thorpe established this line in 2004 and named it after the Xhosa word for ‘wake up’. A percentage of all these wine sales enable local projects, especially the training and development of local farmers.

Bramon Wine Estate Food

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Bramon Wine Estate

Image source: Silke Marshall Marketing

Did you know that Western Cape restaurants frequently feature in the prestigious San Pellegrino World’s Top 50 Restaurant list? A visit to this region is a must for any foodie visiting South Africa.

The food of the Western Cape is heaven for adventurous eaters. The province is blessed with an abundant agricultural bounty, from both the land and the sea. Whether you feast on multi-course tasting menus in Franschhoek at the popular Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais or wolf down mouthfuls of umngqusho (a traditional Xhosa bean stew which was reportedly Nelson Mandela’s favourite dish) in Gugulethu, there is something to suit every mood, palate, and wallet.

Desert 2

Image source: The Tasting Room

The West Coast also offers up the traditional cuisine of the Sandveld (sand bush) at eateries such as Bosduifklip where delicious meals are served straight from the coals and Geelbek which is named after the Cape salmon. Eat just-caught seafood and spit-roasted lamb at the Musiboskerm and Strandloper restaurants near Lambert’s Bay. If you still have room, Paternoster’s quirky clutch of delicious delis and restaurants are not to be missed and can offer up a number of great snacks for the car!

Image source: Strandloper

Image source: Strandloper

Summer lunches mean one thing to South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians – fresh seafood! Seafood is prepared in many ways in South Africa – braaied (barbecued) on an open fire; battered and fried; drenched in Cape Malay pickles and curries; cooked Cajun-style; grilled and sauced with lemon butter; and, more recently, prepared Asian-style. You’ll find excellent seafood restaurants both on the coast and inland to suit any taste and budget from haute cuisine to the freshest of no-frills fish and chips

Inland, Johannesburg’s Fishmonger in Illovo is packed on a nightly basis, while Montego Bay Seafood Restaurant, Sushi and Oyster Bar on Nelson Mandela Square does brisk business. Portuguese, Mozambican and Brazilian restaurants in general are renowned for excellent shellfish.

Have we got your mouth watering?

For more summer inspiration and the latest news and tools to plan your perfect South African summer holiday, join the conversation on our Australian or New Zealand Facebook page.

South Africa’s best markets to snag a bargain!

Markets in South Africa are a visual and sensory feast. There are handmade crafts and art, home-baked food, unique gift ideas and lots more suited for all budgets. It’s a great way to take a little bit of South Africa back home with you whilst supporting the local community!

The Greenmarket Square Market in the heart of Cape Town’s business district is one of South Africa’s most vibrant markets. Vendors from all over Africa come to show off their hand-painted fabric, clothing. footwear and African crafts.

A trip to Greenmarket Square is a feast for the senses with a number of local performers entertaining shoppers making for a great day out.

Surrounding the marketplace are a wonderful selection of coffee shops and restaurants whose pavement tables are a great place to soak up the atmosphere!

The Greenmarket Square market is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 4pm but the best time to visit is on Saturday morning when the vibe is unbeatable!

Greenmarket Square

The Bay Harbour Markets are located just outside of Cape Town in Hout Bay, a historic and functioning fishing village. Hout Bay has long been a popular tourist attraction among both local and international visitors because of its great surfing (Hout Bay is recognised as one of sixteen ‘big wave spots’ around the globe), local colour and beautiful scenery.

The markets are in a functioning fish factory and take place every Friday evening and on weekends.

Their mission is to celebrate the vibrancy, spirit and diversity of creativity and culture that make South Africa such a unique country, whilst developing the creative and business skills of the vendors to build an uplifted community.

Shoppers can focus on the art, craft and fashion stalls or can sample the fresh local produce and pre-made meals all whilst listening to amazing local musicians live on stage each evening.

There are also more informal local markets near the beach in Hout Bay where you will find fantastic handmade South African arts and crafts. At these informal markets, you can often bargain with the seller about the price of the items you are buying.

Hout Bay vendor

Sellers with their crafts in Hout Bay. Image courtesy of Khaled AL-Ajmi, aka Khaled100

Food lovers in Johannesburg are spoiled for choice when it comes to delicious local and organic food markets. The Jozi Food Market  offers a smorgasbord of quality products, handmade with care in the local community.  The markets are open every Saturday morning in the lovely suburb of Parkhurst

Expect to find everything from raw honey and flavourful, homemade sausages, decadent sweet treats and heavenly fresh-from-the-oven breads.

Jozi Food Market

Photo courtesy of fiverlocker

The Neighbourgoods Market in Johannesburg is another option to excite your taste-buds. Housed in a modernist building that has a spectacular 15-storey wall mural by the famed artist Eduardo Villa, the market has a great vibe and offers tasty food, including paella, bunny chow (hollowed-out half-loaves of bread filled with curry), Balkan burgers, oysters, gelato and massive pancakes . This market takes place every Saturday from 9am in a parking garage; it closes at 3pm and can get quite full on warm days. There is also a rooftop seating area and vintage clothing stores.

For a taste of what you will find at the Neighbourgoods Market check out this amazing video…

For something a little different, visitors to Durban should check out the Victoria Street Market which celebrates Durban’s long history with India (Durban has the highest population of Indians outside of Asia).  Built to resemble a Maharajah’s palace, the Victoria Street Market is essential for those who want to experience Durban’s relaxed Afro-Indian atmosphere and pick up some great bargains.

A great way to experience the Victoria Street Market and the nearby Zulu Muti (traditional African medicine) Market is to take a guided walking tour which explores Durban’s Indian community and ends up at the Victoria Street Market.  Here you will find dealers of traditional kurtas and saris as well as ornately embroidered fabrics, and barrels of aromatic spices.

Victoria Street Market

The popular Victoria Street Market
© Image courtesy Niall McNulty

No matter which market you choose, the beauty of South Africa has long been a source of inspiration to the country’s artists and craftsmen and women, who are well known for the beautiful work they produce in both the cities and the rural areas, working with diverse and creative materials to produce both traditional and contemporary artworks.

South Africa’s best markets to snag a bargain!

Markets in South Africa are a visual and sensory feast. There are handmade crafts and art, home-baked food, unique gift ideas and lots more suited for all budgets. It’s a great way to take a little bit of South Africa back home with you whilst supporting the local community!

The Greenmarket Square Market in the heart of Cape Town’s business district is one of South Africa’s most vibrant markets. Vendors from all over Africa come to show off their hand-painted fabric, clothing. footwear and African crafts.

A trip to Greenmarket Square is a feast for the senses with a number of local performers entertaining shoppers making for a great day out.

Surrounding the marketplace are a wonderful selection of coffee shops and restaurants whose pavement tables are a great place to soak up the atmosphere!

The Greenmarket Square market is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 4pm but the best time to visit is on Saturday morning when the vibe is unbeatable!

Greenmarket Square

The Bay Harbour Markets are located just outside of Cape Town in Hout Bay, a historic and functioning fishing village. Hout Bay has long been a popular tourist attraction among both local and international visitors because of its great surfing (Hout Bay is recognised as one of sixteen ‘big wave spots’ around the globe), local colour and beautiful scenery.

The markets are in a functioning fish factory and take place every Friday evening and on weekends.

Their mission is to celebrate the vibrancy, spirit and diversity of creativity and culture that make South Africa such a unique country, whilst developing the creative and business skills of the vendors to build an uplifted community.

Shoppers can focus on the art, craft and fashion stalls or can sample the fresh local produce and pre-made meals all whilst listening to amazing local musicians live on stage each evening.

There are also more informal local markets near the beach in Hout Bay where you will find fantastic handmade South African arts and crafts. At these informal markets, you can often bargain with the seller about the price of the items you are buying.

Hout Bay vendor

Sellers with their crafts in Hout Bay. Image courtesy of Khaled AL-Ajmi, aka Khaled100

Food lovers in Johannesburg are spoiled for choice when it comes to delicious local and organic food markets. The Jozi Food Market  offers a smorgasbord of quality products, handmade with care in the local community.  The markets are open every Saturday morning in the lovely suburb of Parkhurst

Expect to find everything from raw honey and flavourful, homemade sausages, decadent sweet treats and heavenly fresh-from-the-oven breads.

Jozi Food Market

Photo courtesy of fiverlocker

The Neighbourgoods Market in Johannesburg is another option to excite your taste-buds. Housed in a modernist building that has a spectacular 15-storey wall mural by the famed artist Eduardo Villa, the market has a great vibe and offers tasty food, including paella, bunny chow (hollowed-out half-loaves of bread filled with curry), Balkan burgers, oysters, gelato and massive pancakes . This market takes place every Saturday from 9am in a parking garage; it closes at 3pm and can get quite full on warm days. There is also a rooftop seating area and vintage clothing stores.

For a taste of what you will find at the Neighbourgoods Market check out this amazing video…

For something a little different, visitors to Durban should check out the Victoria Street Market which celebrates Durban’s long history with India (Durban has the highest population of Indians outside of Asia).  Built to resemble a Maharajah’s palace, the Victoria Street Market is essential for those who want to experience Durban’s relaxed Afro-Indian atmosphere and pick up some great bargains.

A great way to experience the Victoria Street Market and the nearby Zulu Muti (traditional African medicine) Market is to take a guided walking tour which explores Durban’s Indian community and ends up at the Victoria Street Market.  Here you will find dealers of traditional kurtas and saris as well as ornately embroidered fabrics, and barrels of aromatic spices.

Victoria Street Market

The popular Victoria Street Market
© Image courtesy Niall McNulty

No matter which market you choose, the beauty of South Africa has long been a source of inspiration to the country’s artists and craftsmen and women, who are well known for the beautiful work they produce in both the cities and the rural areas, working with diverse and creative materials to produce both traditional and contemporary artworks.