As the nights shorten and the days become warmer, it’s time to hit the road to savour some of South Africa’s best attractions. From breweries to bike-routes, Luane Lavery, brand communications manager at kulula.com suggests the following:
Western Cape: flowers and a road trip. The West Coast explodes with wild flowers each Spring, drawing visitors from all over the world. But you needn’t drive too far to be dazzled by colour. Head north up the R27 or N7 motorways and the fields around you explode with blooms. For regular flower-spotters though, the West Coast National Park is an annual destination. It’s about an hour-and-a-half’s drive north of Cape Town and its 35 000 hectares includes beaches, braai spots, vast, open spaces, walking and biking trails, a shipwreck and lots of bird-life. See SanParks for details and offers of discounts on entry.
Lavery’s tip: Take your foot off the accelerator and stop at the many farm stalls. Lavery recommends the carrot cake and cappuccino served by Aaron, the waiter at Beulah near Yzerfontein, which is rated 4/5 by Tripadvisor. Weskus Spens is renowned for its pies and homemade ginger-beer, freshly baked bread and preserves. It’s on the R27, 10km before Vredenberg. The West Coast Farm Stall has a sit-down restaurant serving traditional fare like oxtail, tripe and bobotie. On weekends there’s a weigh-and-pay buffet.
If you’ve visited the farming town of Darling you’ve probably also spent time at Evita Se Perron, the museum, cabaret theatre and restaurant that examines the cruel absurdity of apartheid politics. While the venue remains well worth a visit, Lavery also recommends the Darling Brew microbrewery nearby. Its taste-room offers fine beers and tasting platters of good local cheeses, cured meats, greens (the olives are a local speciality), wines and bread.
Eastern Cape: The lush beauty of this province invites exploration, but Lavery recommends Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa in Port St Johns. It’s been a family favourite for decades, but is also an ideal destination for couples, friends and singles, with its warm seas and lush vegetation. Accommodation ranges from spacious family suites to honeymoon love-nests. There’s plenty to do, from long walks or bike-rides on the beaches, to canoeing up the river and exploring the mangroves. You can make the most of the Wild Coast’s balmy climate with sunset cruises, spa treatments, fishing and tennis, and there’s a water-park for the youngsters.
Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours operates in what’s arguably South Africa’s most majestic old-growth forest, with some Outeniqua Yellowwood trees estimated to be around 700 years old. A good way to appreciate their splendour is 30 metres up, on hundreds of metres of ziplines.
Gauteng: Springtime brings one of South Africa’s great annual events in Pretoria, when the city’s 70 000 Jacaranda trees explode into bloom, says Lavery, who suggests parking your hired car at the famed Union Buildings and strolling eastward along Government Avenue. This is one of the few thoroughfares with double rows of Jacarandas, planted to shade civil servants as they walked to the seat of government. Pretoria can be sweltering in summer, but in spring it’s mild and welcoming to civil servants – shady or not – and visitors. Lavery suggests the following:
Pretoria Zoo by night: between September and March, visitors can see the nocturnal behaviour of many fascinating creatures, with a one-hour guided walk as evening sets in. Braai fires are available for those who’d like to end the evening with a traditional dop and chop. Facilities are also available to camp overnight at the zoo.
Pretoria also has a burgeoning markets scene, including the Market @ The Sheds, run by a non-profit collective focusing on urban renewal in the Pretoria CBD. It offers fashion, live music, good wine, cocktails and coffee, and a pop-up art exhibition.
Hazel Food Market focuses, as the name suggests, on good grub, with around 80 stalls – mostly operated by the folk who produce the fare – and trestle tables under trees in Greenlyn Village Centre in Menlyn Park. It’s open on Saturday mornings and some evenings. There are play facilities for kids.
Pretoria Boeremark: This is a firm locals’ favourite, where those selling traditional produce are mostly the farmers themselves. Expect traditional flavourful, aromatic fare including handmade yoghurt, rusks, preserves and herbs, as well as fresh meat. Apart from the food, you can also buy jewellery, woodwork and clothing.
KwaZulu-Natal: the Indian Ocean is vital to KwaZulu-Natal tourism and its economy. It’s warmer year-round than the Atlantic Ocean further south, and a playground for millions of South Africans. One good way to experience it is to take a charter cruise out to sea. Sightings of whales, dolphins, sunfish and many other ocean denizens are common. Charter outfits like ABM Charters, African Queen and Blue Water Charters offer cruises offshore and in the busy harbour, as well as deep-sea fishing. Don’t fancy being on the ocean wave? Take a hike: the Drakensberg mountain-range offers short and multi-day treks for all levels of fitness. Try the five-hour, 11km Injisuthi Battle Cave walk, which takes you to waterfalls and the cave itself, with its dazzling and mysterious cave art.
As an alternative to – or reward for – such exertions, linger on the Midlands Meander, a network of routes offering accommodation, arts and crafts, artisanal foods and more. Lavery’s pick: Indezi River Creamery near Curry’s Post, known for the range and quality of its dairy products.
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