Magaliesberg Mountain range

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.

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.