Local Travel

Do the Dorp Thing

Road to Gariep Dam Village

Larger-than-life characters, tall tales of mythical proportions, jaw-dropping urban legends, unsung nature conservancies, and ecological treasure troves all await you if you dare to trip off the main highway. Trawl through a dusty museum; chat to that old guy with the wild beard and twinkling eyes at a local pub or book into a main street hotel with a big stoep. You won’t be sorry, because the rural heart of South Africa is where you’ll discover true hospitality and real people.

Hantam Hideaway: Nieuwoudtville

Where: Northern Cape (Namaqua Region – 350km from Cape Town)

In his latest book, Things to Do in a Dorp, Jacques Marais discovers South Africa’s favourite rural hot spots...


To get to Nieuwoudtville, you have to cruise the vast and shimmering Knersvlakte like those Thirstland Trekkers of yore, but fortunately some terrific farm stalls along the way help in breaking the monotony. The real trick is to go there during their ‘secret season’. August to October is when the flowers are in bloom, but for the rest of the year you will practically have this little Hantam hideaway to yourself.

Do These Three Things!

1. Quiver Tree Forest: Climb the hill above SA’s most extensive quiver tree forest to see these giant aloes up close. Drive in the direction of Loeriesfontein for 23 kilometres, then turn right for 2 kilometres along the Gannabos Pass road.

2. Botanical Garden: Head south on the dusty main road for 3 kilometres until you reach the Hantam National Botanical Garden. Stretch your legs as you search for the African lily (massonia) and more than 650 other types of bulbous plants. Nieuwoudtville is known as ‘The Bulb Capital of the World’ after all!

3. Oorlogskloof: Trip into the wondrous Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve. The reserve is a haven for hikers, trail runners and bird watchers who want to get lost amid the clivias, kiepersols and Bushman’s candles growing here in wild profusion.

Garden Route Glory: Storms River Village

Where: Eastern Cape (Garden Route Region – 160km from George)


While screaming along the N2 highway, most travellers sadly miss this tranquil village. The charm of a bygone era envelopes Storms River Village, a town originally built in 1884, with historical buildings, colourful shops, adventure companies and quirky restaurants like Marilyn’s Diner lining the main road.

Do These Three Things!

1. Historic Inn - The main building of this magical hotel dates back to 1845 and both their Hunter’s Pub and Cafe Bacchus offer excellent meals.

2. Saddle Up – Get a SAPPI permit from Tsitsikamma Village Inn and crank for a couple of hours, or head onto 60 kilometres of trails at Misty Mountain Reserve.

3. Finebush Farm Stall - Holistic green living at its best, with sumptuous, slow food cuisine, country kitchen baking and a rustic shop filled with local faire.

Forest Fantastic: Hogsback

Where: Eastern Cape (Amatole Region – 150km from East London)


Perched above the forested slopes of the Tyume Valley, Hogsback is one of those places where you may just find fairies, gnomes and hobbits. Time seemingly stands still here, and tradition jostles with rural charm as you wander the tranquil streets of this leafy mountain village. The serene, stone-clad St Patrick’s-on-the-Hill chapel (built in 1935) perfectly captures the timelessness of Hogsback.

Do These Three Things!

1. Hike a high trail - You can’t visit Hogsback and not tramp the magical trails traversing these ancient forests. Anything goes, from a gentle stroll through the Arboretum to a glorious mission along the multi-day Amatole Trail.

2. Lose yourself – Breathe deeply and centre yourself before navigating the Chartres-designed labyrinth at The Edge, one of Hogsback’s original accommodation establishments.

3. Christmas in July – If snowball fights, roaring log fires, mulled wine and story-telling is your thing, head to the Arminel Hotel during mid-winter to partake in seasonal delicacies and good cheer.

Midlands Meandering: Nottingham Road

Where: Kwazulu-Natal (Midlands Region – 60km from Pietermaritzburg)


‘Notties’ – as the village is known to locals – is set within typical KZN countryside. Rolling green hills, fly-fishing streams and stud farms are set against the distant backdrop of the impressive Drakensberg peaks. The village originated as a tented camp, set up in 1856, and later grew around the railway station on the route between Johannesburg and Durban. Old-world taverns, traditional farm steads and an eclectic mix of artists and crafters will entice you to stay for a few days.

Do These Three Things!

1. Stunning Kamberg – Nestling against the Drakensberg foothills, you will find Kamberg Nature Reserve, one of SA’s premier fly-fishing, hiking and rock art destinations. Visit the Rock Art Centre or hike the scenic Gladstone’s Nose Trail.

2. Brewing Pleasures - Beer-lovers, gather round! Taste rustic, locally brewed beers with unique names such as ‘Whistling Weasel Pale Ale’ or ‘Tiddly Toad Lager’ at any number of boutique breweries.

3. Cast a Fly - The Mooi River boasts kilometres of prime fly-fishing beats against a backdrop brimming with natural grandeur; Glengarry’s 2km stretch of river frontage is just one these.

‘Little Serengeti’: Gariep Dam Village

Where: Orange Free State (Xhariep Region – 195km from Bloemfontein)


Less than two hours from Bloemfontein, a small little town slumbers on the shores of a vast, man-made lake. Endless vistas, 347 square kilometres of inland water and a unique sense oftranquility are just some of the jewels on offer. What began as accommodation for construction workers involved in a huge hydro project, is now a setting that allows you to plug into both the leisure and pleasure of the Free State’s largest nature reserve while exploring a region rich in history.

Do These Three Things!

1.  Bike Wild – Free-range cranking doesn’t get any better than dicing herds of blesbok, zebra, wildebeest and springbuck along the mini-Serengeti plains of the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve. Roadies will also find their piece of heaven along the deserted, sweeping tarmac roads of the region.

2. Family delight - Gariep’s Forever Resort is just the spot for a family getaway. There is a range of accommodation options on offer, while excellent weather and a long list of activities will enchant the whole clan.

3. Love Thy Neighbor - The nearby village of Bethulie was established as a mission station in 1828. This sleepy dorp has changed names seven times! It’s the hometown of Patryck Mynhardt and literally teems with historic sites.

WIN!  Tell us where your favourite little South African town is and stand a chance of winning one of three copies of Jacques Marais’ magnificent book: Thing to Do in a Dorp

Click HERE to go to onRoute’s competition page to enter!