SA’s Secret Seven

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

CLANWILLIAM

With the picturesque Clanwilliam and Bulshoek dams and the spectacular Cederberg Mountains in the area, this town offers the perfect weekend getaway. Two hours’ drive from Cape Town, the town is the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area, including the magnificent, but secluded Biedouw Valley.

Things to do:

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself. The spotlight falls on our lesser known local gems - here are seven secret small towns worth knowing about!
  • The Lotz-Inn House on Bulshoek Farm: Family owned now running into its third generation; Bulshoek Farm is a little piece of paradise in Clanwilliam. The large self-catering house has private access on the banks of the beautiful Bulshoek Dam. Bring your boat, pack your fishing rods and come enjoy a ski, tube ride and even wakeboarding.
  • The Biedouw Valley: The Biedouw Valley is a joy to explore! Here, Nature shows off her beauty and the valley comes alive with colourful wildflowers. The rugged mountains are great for hikes and well known for the beautiful smell of citrus mingled with rooibos.
  • The Kagga Kamma Cave Hotel: Fancy a weekend stay in a luxurious cave suite? This resort offers a totally unique experience that you will not find anywhere else, ensuring you take in your surroundings in the most magical way possible!

GARIEP DAM

Many motorists travelling through the Free State pass this gem by without giving it a second thought, but anyone who has woken up to the sunrise from the de Stijl Hotel, which overlooks the dam, will forever understand why this inconspicuous village made our list. The many islands and bays are reminiscent of a Mediterranean archipelago, made all the more spectacular against the backdrop of the Free State’s plains.

Things to do:

  • The de Stijl Gariep Hotel: This hotel is now the Upper Karoo’s most stylish hotel. It overlooks the Gariep Dam, giving breathtaking big sky views. The atmosphere is ideal for long lazy weekends!
  • The Tigers of Tiger Canyons: Not only a hugely successful conservation project, it’s also the chance for you to get up close to free ranging wild tigers in the African bush.
  • Go on a Dam Wall Tour: One of South Africa’s most celebrated civil engineering projects on the country’s biggest dam. Local guides take visitors on interesting tours of the Gariep Dam wall through passages and down to the bedrock. If you’re lucky, they might open the sluice gates while you’re there.

GREYTON

Little more than an hour’s drive from Cape Town is the picturesque village of Greyton. Founded in 1854, visitors can unwind and step back in time as they stroll through the village’s oak-lined lanes, past free-roaming cows and donkeys. Calming scenic beauty coupled with excellent restaurants and cafés make Greyton a favourite on our list.

Things to do:

  • The Rock Pools: Set against the beautiful mountain scenery, take a dip in the rock pools, enjoy a picnic and just relax.
  • Searle’s Trading Post: Searle’s is an upmarket restaurant that serves authentic and honest country cuisine in the quaint mountain village. 
  • The Saturday Greyton Market: The Saturday morning market is abuzz and packed full of beautiful things to buy and eat - from cheeses, breads, bakes, books, handcrafts, organic produce and plants.

TULBAGH

Bordered by mountains on three sides and located in a fertile, serene, wine-producing valley, Tulbagh is a hidden gem. The town is one of South Africa’s oldest (the first farmers settled here in 1700) and in Church Street, visitors will find the highest concentration of national monuments in the country (32). The nearby Matroosberg Reserve is known for its winter snowfall and the Saronsberg Wine Estate produces some of South Africa’s best wines.

Things to do:

  • Take a stroll down Church Street: This historical street contains possibly the largest number of Cape-Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian provincial heritage sites in one street in South Africa, and remains a major tourist attraction of the town to the present day.
  • Saronsberg Winery: Saronsberg is an inextricable part of the deep history of the Tulbagh Valley where you can experience and enjoy multiple award-winning wines.
  • The Belgian Kitchen: Known for the best hamburgers and steaks in South Africa! Try the homemade burger with Belgian fries, a juicy fillet with all the trimmings or live mussels cooked the Belgian way. There’s also an excellent array of good Belgian beers!

KAKAMAS

Vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see and line the majestic Orange River as it works its way through the town of Kakamas. The abundance of water (thanks to the river and a labyrinth network of canals), grand-scale vineyards, deep-blue African skies, quiver trees, wide-open landscapes and starry nights all combine to create this gem in the Kalahari. Friendly, hospitable, down-to-earth people ensure that visitors are treated like royalty.

Things to do:

  • The ‘Pienk Padstal’: This bright landmark roadside stall offers more of an experience than a pit stop. They sell everything from dried fruit to biltong, snacks and drinks to jams, locally made chutney and interesting antiques and collectibles.
  • Find a solitary Quiver Tree: Because of its incredibly unique sculptural form, the quiver tree is probably the most spectacular aloe species found in South Africa. 
  • The Augrabies Waterfall: Tucked in this ruggedly beautiful part of the country, the 56-metre high falls can be found in the Augrabies Falls National Park where hikes, game drives and an array of activities are on offer to visitors.

NIEUWOUDTVILLE

Nieuwoudtville is known for the springtime bloom of wild flowers which results in vibrant colour explosions. However, this town is worth visiting all-year-round as it has all the natural beauty, peace, quiet and genuine hospitality anyone can ask for.

Things to do:

  • The Flowers in Spring: Nieuwoudtville has a reputation as being the bulb capital of the world, making it both special and different from the rest of Namaqualand. The area has 309 species of bulbs and during spring flowers of every description bloom in the area[Ma1] .
  • Nieuwoudtville at Dawn: Experience the silence, space and beauty that contributes to this wonderfully tranquil way of life.
  • The Nieuwoudtville Waterfall: You will find it just outside of town. It’s decidedly underrated despite being one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. 

NOTTINGHAM ROAD

In the rolling green hills of KwaZulu-Natal lies the charming village of Nottingham Road. An art-lover’s paradise, Nottingham Road has country charm and an abundance of natural scenic beauty. It lies at the heart of the Midlands Meander, where visitors are welcomed into the studios of some of South Africa’s best-known artists, artisans and sculptors. The site of Nelson Mandela’s capture, which eventually led to his 27-year imprisonment, is 30 minutes’ drive away.

Things to do:

  • The Notties Brewery: Nottingham Road Brewing Company – or Notties for short – is the oldest surviving microbrewery in KwaZulu-Natal and one of the oldest in the country. It’s a charming ‘destination brewery’.
  • Blueberry Café: Here they don’t over-complicate things; they do the basics, and do them well! The menu, based on fresh available produce, tends to change weekly. 
  • Do some fly-fishing: Cast your flies over several dams in the area and experience what the Natal Midlands is all about! 

 Content Courtesy of: SAvisas.com –The South African visa experts