While we tend to associate summer with fun events, South Africa is keeping things hot and happening this winter with an array of festivals taking place all across the country.
Whether you’re a foodie, a film buff, a culture vulture or enjoy quaffing alcoholic beverages, there is something for everyone – PLUS we have a Traveller24 top tip for each.
So, whip out those calendars, gather your friends and start planning!
1.Op ‘n Stasiefees, Wellington, 15 – 16 May
In celebration of Wellington’s 125th year of existence, the winelands town will be hosting the Op ‘n Stasie music, wine and food festival.
Taking place at Wellington Wines, the festival will kick off on Friday night with performances by Leani May and Karin K. This will be followed on the Saturday by fun for the whole family, including a strongman competition, train rides, milk tart making, comedy and lots of wine.
Tickets cost R125 per person and can be purchased on Computicket. For more information, call 082 374 3146
2.Cellar Rats Port & Red Wine Festival, Magaliesburg 31 May
Warm up and get cosy with the hearty wine, port and food offerings at the only festival of its sort in Gauteng. Enjoy some of South Africa’s best ports, sherry, dessert wines, potstill brandy & red wine at the Old Mill in Magaliesburg. There will also be delectable warm winter food. Only a 40 minute drive from Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, it makes for an enjoyable day outing.
Tickets cost R105 for adults and R10 for kids, who will have supervised entertainment throughout the day. Designated drivers get in free. The event starts at 11:00 and ends at 15:00.
Traveller24’s top tip: Why not make a weekend of it? Head out on Friday and spend Saturday exploring the Magalies Meander, ending your weekend getaway off with a bang at the Port & Wine Festival
READ: Winelands unwound
3.Wacky Wine Weekend, Robertson 4 -7 June
The ultimate winter wine festival in the Western Cape, Wacky Wine is all about enjoying all the magnificent scenery, gorgeous wines and delicious food the Robertson valley has on offer. The organisers are also very serious about responsible consumption of alcohol and have a special designated drivers program as well as a buddy bus service, which means you can sit back, relax and just enjoy the ride.
Apart from food and wine, the festival also has a great music and entertainment line-up taking place across the more than 50 venues participating in the event. Check out the program to start planning and booking.
A passport for the entire weekend costs R120, which you will pick up at your first port of call. This acts as registration to the weekend and takes the form of a stylish tasting glass with a strip around the foot of the glass, which will allow you entry to the various venues.
Traveller24’s top tip: Invest in a pair of gum boots before you go. Wacky Wine always tends to get a muddy and wet… and there’s nothing like wet feet to put a dampener on fun.
READ: Route62 – don’t just drive there, stop somewhere
4.Encounters Film Festival, Joburg and Cape Town 4 -14 June
This proudly South African documentary film festival is a highlight on the country’s cultural calendar. Featuring films from across the country, continent and globe, Encounters serves as a point of reference for the latest trends in the industry as well as a meeting spot for like-minded individuals to share their stories, debate their points of view and enjoy input from respected artists. The festival will be running in Cape Town and Johannesburg simultaneously at various venues across the cities.
Keep an eye on the Encounters website for updates
Traveller24’s top tip: Apart from film screenings there are a variety of related social events and parties happening in conjunction with Encounters. If you’re into films, we head to at least one of these to rub shoulders with fellow buffs.
5.Calitzdorp Port & Wine Festival, Calitzdorp 13 & 14 June
Centred around the Little Karoo town’s rich dessert wine production culture, the Port & Wine festival is an absolute celebration for the senses, featuring a gourmet food market, secret dinners and music events. The historical Calitzdorp Railway Station serves as the venue for the main festivities, while Boplaas, De Krantz and Calitzdorp Cellars also host a number of events.
Different events have different cover charges and some require pre-booking, so be sure to check out the programme to plan your stay.
Traveller24’s top tip: Take some time out on Saturday or Sunday morning to take a little drive further along the famed Route 62, maybe pop into Diesel and Creme in Barrydale for a milkshake or head to the Cango Caves just outside Oudsthoorn
6.National Arts Festival, Grahamstown 2 – 12 July
If you’re into arts, culture, drama and dance, chances are good that you’re well acquainted with the ‘Grahamstown festival’ as it is affectionately known. Spread over 11 days, this year’s festival is jam-packed with performances, exhibitions, installations, craft markets, lectures and workshops, some forming part of the Main programme and others, the Fringe. While there are a massive array of acts to look forward to, the announcement that British comedian Dylan Moran will be performing had many excited.
The National Arts Festival is of great historical importance, as it served as an important forum for political and protest theatre during the height of the apartheid era.
The festival programme will be made available online in May, with bookings opening on Monday the 4th.
Traveller24’s top tip: Bundle up! It gets icy cold in Grahamstown during winter months, so make sure you have a pair of warm boots, a padded rain-resistant jacket and a woolly beanie.
7.Dullstroom Winter Festival, Dullstroom 3 – 5 July
Famous for being one of South Africa’s top fly fishing destinations, Dullstroom will take on a festive atmosphere during the first week of July, as some top local artists will descend upon the town to warm everyone up with some toe-tapping tunes.
Apart from the musical element, there will also be a mountain bike race as well as a 10km trail run. Details about artists and ticket prices haven’t been released yet, but if last year’s line-up is anything to go by (featuring Khan from Parlotones, Southern Gypsy Queen and Robyn Auld to name but a few), there’s a lot to look forward to.
Keep an eye on the Dullstroom Winter Festival Facebook page for updates
Traveller24’s top tip: Be sure to visit Wild About Whisky. The speciality bar and shop has the largest collection of whiksy in the southern hemisphere!
READ: 12 spots to get off the grid
8.Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, Knysna 3 – 13 July
Whether you’re into food, wine, adventure, culture, just chilling or all of the above, the Knysna Oyster Festival has something to float your boat.
A quick squiz through this year’s programme reveals events as varied and exciting as a Bubbly, Oyster and Chocolate Experience, a Whisky & Jazz Cruise, a bowls tournament, a SASSI fish braai, forest hikes, nightclub dash, forest marathon and a comedy show, to name but a few. And that’s just one the programme! In between you can expect to have a ball of a time, as the entire Garden Route opens its arms in welcome.
There is no overarching cover charge for the festival, so make sure which events you want to attend/participate in beforehand so you can plan and book.
Traveller24’s top tip: Knysna gets crazy busy during the festival and chances of finding affordable, comfortable accommodation are pretty slim. Look at the outskirts – Sedgefield, Wilderness, Plett and George – for alternatives.
9.JBay Winterfest, Jeffreys Bay 8 – 19 July
With the JBay Open forming the backbone of the event, the Winter Fest is set to draw surf enthusiasts from all corners of the globe.
However, it’s not only about surfing! Other events on the programme include a mountain bike race, a surf event and loads of informal festivities happening at restaurants and bars across the town.
Head to the JBay Winterfest Facebook page for updates on events
Traveller24’s top tip: If you’re only going for part of the festival, don’t set your heart on seeing some spectacular surfing. Often days go by without any action as organisers and contestants wait for good waves.
10.Bloemfontein Vryfees, Bloem 13 – 18 July
The Bloemfontein Vryfees is an arts festival celebrating Afrikaans performers and artists. Backed by the University of the Free State as well as Volksblad, it is considered to be the Free State’s biggest cultural event of the year. Not many details have been released regarding this year’s festival programme or artist involvement, but if previous years are anything to go by it will comprise a good mix of drama, comedy and visual arts.
Keep an eye on the Vryfees Facebook page for updates and info.
Traveller24’s top tip: Bloemfontein is one of South Africa’s most underrated cities. Make sure you take some time to explore. Interesting attractions include the Free State National Botanical Garden, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Queen’s Fort Military Museum and Anglo Boer War Museum.
11.Oppikoppi, Northam 7 – 9 August
Ah, good old Oppikoppi! South Africa’s quintessential rock festival will be drawing thousands of music fanatics and good time chasers to the dustiness that is Northam in Limpopo one again this year. Confirmed artists include Albert Frost, Black Cat Bones, Livingston, Southern Wild, Crystal Park and The Bearded Ladies.
Tickets are going for R750, which includes a festival pass and allows you to pitch a tent in the designated camping areas. However, if you’re after a bit of comfort, you can always opt for one of the fancy schmancy tent hotels.
Traveller24’s top tip: Take a bandanna or a buff to cover your mouth and nose, as it gets pretty darn dusty.
12.Hantam Vleisfees, Calvinia 28 – 30 August
This year is the Hantam Vleisfees’ 25th anniversary, so if you’ve never been before, why not join for the momentous occasion? As the name suggests, the festival revolves around meat. But not just any meat! Karoo mutton and lamb to be more specific. Apart from delicious hearty food, the festival also presents an array of popular Afrikaans artists, from the Klipwerf Orkes to Heinz Winckler.
While ticket prices haven’t been confirmed, you can expect to pay round about R50 for entry to the festival on Friday night and R80 on the Saturday. Keep an eye on the Hantam Vleisfees website for details.