20 Cool South African Towns

1. 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.

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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.

2. Clarens

Dubbed “the jewel of the Free State”, Clarens is a haven for artistic and food-loving types.  Nestled in the foothills of the Maluti mountains and a stone’s throw from Golden Gate National Park, which lies on the border between the Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, Clarens would be a serious contender for the title of “South Africa’s favourite town”.

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Dubbed “the jewel of the Free State”, Clarens is a haven for artistic and food-loving types. Nestled in the foothills of the Maluti mountains and a stone’s throw from Golden Gate National Park, which lies on the border between the Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, Clarens would be a serious contender for the title of “South Africa’s favourite town”.

3. Coffee Bay

It may be a stretch to classify Coffee Bay as a “town” (it is tiny), but our list would not be complete without it.  Nguni cattle graze freely on rolling green hills which abruptly end to meet the ocean.  Coffee Bay is located on the “Wild Coast”, which is completely untouched by industrial development and breathtakingly beautiful.  The Hole in the Wall is one of South Africa’s most famous tourist attractions Umdumbi beach has been voted one of South Africa’s best beaches.

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It may be a stretch to classify Coffee Bay as a “town” (it is tiny), but our list would not be complete without it. Nguni cattle graze freely on rolling green hills which abruptly end to meet the ocean. Coffee Bay is located on the “Wild Coast”, which is completely untouched by industrial development and breathtakingly beautiful. The Hole in the Wall is one of South Africa’s most famous tourist attractions and Mdumbi beach has been voted one of South Africa’s best beaches.

4. Dullstroom

Fresh air, tranquility, magnificent scenery and the unofficial title as South Africa’s premier flyfishing destination make this village the perfect getaway and a shoe in on our list.

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Fresh air, tranquility, magnificent scenery and the unofficial title as South Africa’s premier flyfishing destination make this village the perfect getaway and a shoo-in on our list.

5. Franschhoek

Known as the good food and wine capital of South Africa, this scenic gem never disappoints.  Its dramatic mountains, fusion of French and Dutch architecture and laid-back atmosphere has visitors returning time-and-time again.

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Known as the good food and wine capital of South Africa, this scenic gem never disappoints. Its dramatic mountains, fusion of French and Dutch architecture and laid-back atmosphere has visitors returning time-and-time again.

6. Gariepdam

7. Graaff-Reinet

Graaff Reinet is South Africa’s fourth oldest town, and arguably one of its most beautifully-preserved.  The hometown of one of South Africa’s greatest industrialists and philantropists, Anton Rupert, the town boasts with leafy streets and a treasure trove of quant restaurants and cafés.  Camdeboo National park and the Valley of Desolation, just outside town, is a wonderland of scenic contrasts.

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Graaff Reinet is South Africa’s fourth oldest town, and arguably one of its most beautifully-preserved. The hometown of one of South Africa’s greatest industrialists and philantropists, Anton Rupert, the town boasts leafy streets and a treasure trove of quaint restaurants and cafés. Camdeboo National park and the Valley of Desolation, just outside town, is a wonderland of scenic contrasts.

8. 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.

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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.

9. Hogsback

Legend has it that Hogsback was the inspiration for the worlds J.R.R. Tolkien created in his “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” books.  There is something undoubtedly magical about this village.  The road leading to it winds steeply through lush green forests until the small town reveals itself perched atop the Amathole mountains.   With regular snowfall in winter and its pristine forests, the town of Hogsback can confidently claim to be one of the most picturesque towns in South Africa, if not the world.

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Legend has it that Hogsback was the inspiration for the worlds J.R.R. Tolkien created in his “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” books. There is something undoubtedly magical about this village.  The road leading to it winds steeply through lush green forests until the small town reveals itself perched atop the Amathole mountains. With regular snowfall in winter and its pristine forests, the town of Hogsback can confidently claim to be one of the most picturesque towns in South Africa, if not the world.

10. 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.  Everyone needs to visit Kakamas at least once in their lifetime.

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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.

11. Montagu

At the foot of the Langeberg mountains on the eastern edge of the Cape Winelands, lies the charming village of Montagu.   The town has an old-world charm, great restaurants, a vibrant Saturday market and superb guest accommodation which caters for every budget.  Whether visiting for a weekend of fun with the kids, relaxing with friends or a romantic breakaway with a loved one, Montagu will not disappoint.  Voted “Town of the year” by CapeInfo.com in 2012.

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At the foot of the Langeberg mountains on the eastern edge of the Cape Winelands, lies the charming village of Montagu. The town has an old-world charm, great restaurants, a vibrant Saturday market and superb guest accommodation which caters for every budget. Whether visiting for a weekend of fun with the kids, relaxing with friends or a romantic breakaway with a loved one, Montagu will not disappoint. Voted “Town of the year” by CapeInfo.com in 2012.

12. Nieu-Bethesda

This tiny village at the foot of the Sneeuberg is a favourite amongst artists and writers.  The village gained popularity thanks to Athol Fugard’s acclaimed play, The Road to Mecca, which tells the story about the Owl House and Helen Martins, its reclusive and eccentric former inhabitant.  One of the most interesting places in South Africa, if not the world.

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This tiny village at the foot of the Sneeuberg is a favourite amongst artists and writers. The village gained popularity thanks to Athol Fugard’s acclaimed play, The Road to Mecca, which tells the story about the Owl House and Helen Martins, its reclusive and eccentric former inhabitant. One of the most interesting places in South Africa, if not the world.

13. Nieuwoudtville

Nieuwoudtville is known for the springtime bloom of wild flowers which results in explosions of vibrance of colour.  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.

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Nieuwoudtville is known for the springtime bloom of wild flowers which results in explosions of vibrance of colour. 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.

14. 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, craftsmen and sculptors.  The site of Nelson Mandela’s capture, which eventually led to his 27-year imprisonment, is 30 minutes’ drive away.

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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, craftsmen and sculptors. The site of Nelson Mandela’s capture, which eventually led to his 27-year imprisonment, is 30 minutes’ drive away.

15. Pilgrim’s Rest

A living museum which offers an insight into the gold rush at the turn of the 20th century, the entire town has been declared a national monument.  As much as the town itself is interesting and quirky (don’t miss the Royal Hotel’s Church bar, which was transported from Cape Town to Pilgrim’s rest, via Maputo, by sea and ox-wagon), the town is on Mpumalanga’s picturesque Panorama route, which boasts with some of the most majestic scenery on earth.  Everyone should see the view from God’s Window at least once in their lives.

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A living museum which offers an insight into the gold rush at the turn of the 20th century, the entire town has been declared a national monument.  As much as the town itself is interesting and quirky (don’t miss the Royal Hotel’s Church bar, which was transported from Cape Town to Pilgrim’s rest, via Maputo, by sea and ox-wagon), the town is on Mpumalanga’s picturesque Panorama route, which boasts some of the most majestic scenery on earth. Everyone should see the view from God’s Window at least once in their lives.

16. Port St. Johns

Port St. Johns is touted as the “Jewel of the Wild Coast” on account of its subtropical climate and completely untainted natural environment. Similar to Coffee Bay, Port St. Johns is adorned by numerous secluded beaches and hectares of dense forest. This is rural Africa at its best.

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Port St. Johns is touted as the “Jewel of the Wild Coast” on account of its subtropical climate and completely untainted natural environment. Similar to Coffee Bay, Port St. Johns is adorned by numerous secluded beaches and hectares of dense forest. This is rural Africa at its best.

17. Prince Albert

Prince Albert lies in a picturesque fertile valley on the edge of the great Karoo on the one side and the Swartberg mountains on the other.  The legendary Showroom theatre, with its art deco architecture, attracts many well-known artists to the small town and visitors can choose from many good-quality restaurants, guest houses and art galleries.  The spectacular Swartberg pass, one of the most dramatic and scenic mountain passes on earth, starts just outside town.

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Prince Albert lies in a picturesque fertile valley on the edge of the great Karoo on the one side and the Swartberg mountains on the other. The legendary Showroom theatre, with its Art Deco architecture, attracts many well-known artists to the small town and visitors can choose from many good-quality restaurants, guest houses and art galleries. The spectacular Swartberg pass, one of the most dramatic and scenic mountain passes on earth, starts just outside town.

18. Riebeek-Kasteel

Want a food and wine lover’s paradise in the Cape winelands without the crowds or exorbitant prices?  Look no further than Riebeek-Kasteel.   Try the French-Italian inspired country cuisine at Café Felix, the beautifully presented comfort food at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant and a late afternoon gin and tonic on the verandah of the Royal Hotel.

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Want a food and wine lover’s paradise in the Cape winelands without the crowds or exorbitant prices?  Look no further than Riebeek-Kasteel. Try the French-Italian inspired country cuisine at Café Felix, the beautifully presented comfort food at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant and a late afternoon gin and tonic on the verandah of the Royal Hotel.

19. Sabie

Sabie and its surrounds is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.  Game viewing, hiking, fly fishing, white-water rafting, rock-climbing & abseiling are only some of the activities on offer.  Add to that the majestic scenery on the Panorama route and the fact that day trips to the Kruger National Park can easily be made from town.  Named “Town of the Year” by Rapport and Kwêla in 2012.

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Sabie and its surrounds is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Game viewing, hiking, fly fishing, white-water rafting, rock-climbing & abseiling are only some of the activities on offer. Add to that the majestic scenery on the Panorama route and the fact that day trips to the Kruger National Park can easily be made from town. Named “Town of the Year” by Rapport and Kwêla in 2012.

20. St. Lucia

St Lucia’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park became the first South African World Heritage Site in 1999.  Wild and largely unspoilt (hippopotami roam the streets at night), nature lovers can marvel at the area’s large populations of hippos, crocodiles and other wildlife.  Apart from the wetlands areas, the area also offers pristine beaches and sensational scuba diving.

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St. Lucia’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park became the first South African World Heritage Site in 1999. Wild and largely unspoilt (hippopotami roam the streets at night), nature lovers can marvel at the area’s large populations of hippos, crocodiles and other wildlife. Apart from the wetlands areas, the area also offers pristine beaches and sensational scuba diving.

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