20 Best Things To Do in South Africa, According to a Local

Cape Town, South Africa

You might have heard about the bad and the ugly of South Africa, but I am here to tell you that the good outweighs it all. 

This country is a wanderlust dream, from the most glorious sunshiney days year-round to the weird and superb cuisine and once-in-a-lifetime outdoor adventures. I’m a local, and here are the best things to do in South Africa when you visit.

1. Kruger National Park

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If you’re in Africa, you need to go on a safari. There is nothing quite like falling asleep to the sound of lions roaring, turning the car off to wait for an elephant to cross the road, or seeing the immensity of a hippo’s mouth when he yawns. 

2. Franschhoek

franschhoek south africa

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Step into another part of the world when visiting Franschhoek in the Western Cape. This gorgeous town has tree-lined streets, incredible mountain views, and a delectable culinary scene. 

3. Tugela Falls

tugela falls

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Only some people know this, but Tugela Falls was declared the world’s tallest waterfall in 2021. For the hikers and adventurers, the 7.5-mile roundtrip hike includes chain ladders. The views are worth all the huffing and puffing. 

4. Panorama Route

panorama route south africa

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A feast for the eyes if there ever was one. The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga and Limpopo takes you to waterfalls, forests, weird rock formations, and the second-largest canyon in the world — Blyde River Canyon.

5. Boulders Beach

boulders beach penguins

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Hang out with the African penguins on Boulders Beach just past Simon’s Town. The beach is protected by granite boulders, making it perfect for a day by the sea, and you’ll be able to see the tuxedo-ed, waddling birds if you walk along the boardwalks provided.

6. Addo Elephant National Park

addo elephant national park

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Another safari destination is the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape, which offers one of the world’s best elephant-viewing experiences. The park is also home to the rest of the “Big 5,” so you’ll have the chance to spot more than elephants. 

7. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

table mountain aerial cableway

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When you think of South Africa, you immediately think of wildlife and Table Mountain. This iconic natural phenomenon is beautiful and a perfect vantage point for a bird’s-eye-view of Cape Town. Take the aerial cableway to the top of the mountain on a clever morning for a spectacular sight. 

8. Tsitsikamma Suspension Bridge

tsitsikamma suspension bridge

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Most people visit Tsitsikamma National Park to walk along the suspension bridges and see the Storms River Mouth. However, you’ll find clear blue, hidden beaches, and a lovely coastal area that will elevate your visit to this national park to the next level. 

9. Garden Route

tsitsikamma garden route

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While in Tsitsikamma, consider taking the Garden Route. This 186-mile road takes you past some of the most breathtaking scenery you will ever see of mountain passes, seascapes, diverse ecosystems, and quaint coastal towns.

10. Estuary Cruise in Knysna

knysna estuary

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Known as “the jewel of the Garden Route,” this town is situated on the banks of the Knysna estuary and is loved for its incredible seafood, bathing beaches, forest hikes, and the two islands that comprise the town. 

11. Isimangaliso Wetland Park

isimangaliso wetland park

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The Isimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Park that stretches along the north coast of South Africa. Take an estuary cruise to see hippos wading in the water and crocodiles sunning themselves along the shore, or try out a game drive to see the land inhabitants like buffalo, elephants, rhinos, and maybe even the elusive leopard. 

12. Cape Winelands

cape winelands

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Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a traveler looking for a good time, a trip to the Cape Winelands is well worth your time. There are wine trams that take you to the vineyards, and the mountainous terrain you drive through is a bonus.

13. Route 62

route 62 bar

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The iconic “longest wine route in the world” takes you from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, past several wine regions, mountainscapes, gorgeous old towns, and natural attractions. Blare some good music, capture footage of the landscape rolling past your window, and enjoy the beauty of Route 62.

14. Valley of Desolation

valley of desolation south africa

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The Valley of Desolation is not on many people’s radars, locals or tourists, but it should be. Just outside one of South Africa’s oldest towns is the Camdeboo National Park, a beautiful wildlife reserve with hiking trails, picnic sites, and the Valley of Desolation. The valley has dramatic rock formations that reach 394 feet from the valley floor.

15. Cradle of Humankind

cradle of humankind

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The Cradle of Humankind, just outside of Johannesburg, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The discovery of some of the oldest human fossils makes the Cradle of Human Kind one of the most significant paleoanthropological regions.

16. Whale Watching in Hermanus

whale watching hermanus

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Hermanus is a bustling coastal town with long coastal boardwalks where people often catch glimpses of the whales that swim past. Get up close and personal with these gentle giants on a whale-watching tour boat in Hermanus.

17. Drakensberg

drakensberg south africa

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This glorious Drakensberg region caters to those looking for a relaxing getaway, a cultural experience, or an adventure. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a majestic mountain range home to a diverse ecosystem.

Climb mountains, cool off in natural rock pools, stay cozy in a “berg cottage” while the sun sets behind the mountains, or learn more about South Africa’s rich cultural heritage on your visit to the Drakensberg.

18. Robben Island

robben island

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Consider a visit to Robben Island to learn more about South African history. The island was used as a prison for political activists during the Apartheid era, one of its inhabitants being Nelson Mandela. Guided tours offer insight into the lives of the prisoners on the island. 

19. Kgalagadi

kgalagadi wildebeest

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The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (a Peace Park) spans over the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa. Large herds of gemsbok, springbok, and wildebeest wander across the arid desert, and leopards, cheetahs, and lions can also be seen in the park. When you’re not looking for wildlife, enjoy the scenery of sizeable red sand dunes and grasslands that stretch for miles.

20. Cape Cederberg

cape cederberg arch

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The Cederberg is another adventurer’s paradise. Hike to the Wolfberg Arch and soak in uninterrupted views of the Milky Way. The unique rock formations and San rock art make this region of the Western Cape a popular destination for locals and tourists. 

Have fun visiting this incredible country — a place I call home.

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Jordy Johnson

Jordy gave up her home base to travel South Africa and experience more of her country. From that decision, she’s landed work as a travel writer for a magazine that showcases southern Africa and has grown her Instagram travel page, WeTheWests. She enjoys showing locals and foreigners all the beautiful and unique places and experiences South Africa and the rest of the world have to offer.