10 best small towns that will make you love South Africa
South Africa is a country rich in diversity. With its majestic landscapes, vibrant cityscapes, friendly nation, and ‘lekker’ local food, it’s easy to fall in love with this beautiful country. Situated at the tip of Africa, South Africa spans an impressive 1.22m km². Which might make choosing exactly where to go (especially with limited time) extremely difficult. Added to that, no visit to South Africa would be complete without spending time in Joburg, Cape Town, the Garden Route and of course the Kruger National Park. But, beyond the bustling cities and excitement of the Kruger, there’s so much more to explore. South Africa’s real character and charm lies in fact, in its ‘klein dorpies’ or towns. So, if you really want to get a taste of South African culture and hospitality, visiting the charming small towns of South Africa is an absolute must.
We’ve handpicked the best small towns in South Africa worthy of being added to any destination hit-list! If you’re into quirky little towns, off the beaten path traveling, natural settings and stargazing, this list is for you!
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Best small towns in South Africa
Roughly 145km north of Cape Town lies one of the oldest fishing villages in South Africa – Paternoster. Here, tiny white-washed fisherman’s cottages line the scenic bay, which is renowned for its jagged cliffs and white-boulders. Paternoster is simply beautiful and most certainly one of the prettiest small towns in South Africa.
Don’t leave Paternoster without…
- Eating freshly caught lobster and Cape Bokkoms (dried fish).
- Swimming in the chilly West Coast waters, and lastly
- Having a picnic at the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
De Rust is so small that you’ll barely even notice it driving along the N12 on your way to Oudshoorn. But, what makes this little town so unique, is it’s quaint Victorian architecture. And of course, it’s close vicinity to Meiringspoort; one of South Africa’s most beautiful gorges.
Don’t leave De Rust without…
- Stopping in at Tolbos, famed for its beautiful glass work,
- Sampling the locally crafted dessert wines and cheeses, and
- Driving through Meiringspoort.
This isolated village in the Karoo, just 60km from Graaff-Reinet is any stargazer’s dream come true. The town only has two dirt roads in and out of the village, and it is the perfect escape from South Africa’s bustling urban life. With its rustic charm and dusty streets, Nieu-Bethesda is one of the best small towns in South Africa and one we highly recommend you visit.
Don’t leave Nieu-Bethesda without…
- Checking out Helen Martin’s weird, yet unique art at the Owl House,
- Making a pit stop at the Brewery and 2 Goats Deli and
- Gazing at the stars.
Only 170km southeast of Cape Town lies the sleepy town of Cape Agulhas. This little ‘dorp’ marks the most southern tip of Africa. And, it is also here where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. The town is notorious for its rugged coastline, rocky beaches and shipwrecks which dot the coastline.
So, what shouldn’t you miss? Don’t leave Cape Agulhas without…
- Seeing the gorgeous view on top of the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse Museum,
- Visiting one of the nearby vineyards, and
- Trying your hand at deep-sea fishing.
When the hustle and bustle of city life gets too much, locals from Joburg, Bloem, and even Durban flock to Clarens. And for very good reason. This little town is most probably one of the most famous and picturesque small towns in South Africa. Set at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State, Clarens is well-known for its scenic views, cherries and up-and-coming art scene.
Don’t leave Clarens without doing at least one of these…
- Checking out the local art galleries.
- Trekking down dinosaur fossils on a Dinosaur Tour, and
- Marvelling at the sandstone formations at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The small town of Napier lies between Caledon and Bredasdorp in the Western Cape. Its unique blend of old-fashioned cottages and modern housing, makes Napier a must-visit small town in South Africa. But apart from this, the small town is surrounded by rolling wheat and barley farmland, whilst the Soetmuisberg serves as its backdrop, making it even more appealing to locals and tourists alike!
Don’t leave Napier without considering these must-do’s…
- Taking a selfie at the town’s giant sundial,
- Admiring the beautiful solid yellow copper pipe organ at the Dutch Reformed Church,
- Sampling some good ol’ fashioned ‘karringmelk beskuit’ (buttermilk rusks) at one of the farm stalls, and
- Visiting the Napier Brewery.
Cullinan is only a 20 minute drive from South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. Which makes this small town an easy getaway for Gautengers and tourists alike. The town is home to one of the biggest diamond mines in South Africa, and most noteworthy, it is here where the Cullinan Diamond (the biggest diamond in the world) was discovered.
Don’t leave Cullinan without…
- Taking a tour of the mining area,
- Zip-lining through the Moningy Gorge,
- Marvelling at the quirky art at Jan Harmsgat Se Agterplaas, and
- Feasting on ‘damn’ delicious Greek food at As Greek As It Gets.
Dullstroom is another great small town that you’ll undoubtably love. The town is one of the best fly fishing spots in South Africa and boasts with a rich history dating back to the Dutch settlers. If you are on your way to the Kruger, do spend a few days here to enjoy this small town’s trout, rustic charm and amazing surroundings.
Here are our top picks for things to do in Dullstroom…
- Exploring the countryside on horseback,
- Giving fly fishing a go, and
- Trying the local beer at Anvil Ale House.
Graskop is a small forestry town in Mpumalanga. Standing at the tip of the Drakensberg escarpment, it offers magnificent views over the lower lying valleys. If you love the great outdoors, this is one town you should definitely not miss. Added to that, Graskop is close to some of South Africa’s most prized scenic wonders. Such as God’s Window, the Blyde River Canyon and some pretty spectacular waterfalls to name a few. Not to mention, the town also serves as a gateway to the Kruger. In less than an hour’s drive you can enjoy the roars of the Kruger, which is yet another reason to love Graskop.
Don’t leave Graskop without giving some of these options a go…
- Checking out the Graskop Gorge Lift,
- Enjoying ice-cream and chocolate sauce pancakes at Harrie’s Pancakes, and
- Buying some African art at one of the curio stores in town.
Kaapsehoop is just a short drive from Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga Province. This quaint and quirky town oozes with greenery and charm. But, it is perhaps its age-old gold rush history and free roaming wild horses that make this small town even more attractive to locals and tourists alike.
By the way…if you want to know more about Kaapsehoop, take a deeper look from a local’s perspective here, Kaapsehoop: The best place to spend your day.
Don’t leave Kaapsehoop without doing all of these…
- Catching a glimpse of the wild horses,
- Devouring the pancakes at Koek ‘n Pan, and
- Drinking a glass of wine next to Salvador’s fireplace.
There’s no doubt that South Africa has something to offer all traveling styles and interests. Whether your travelling solo, with friends or loved ones…there are plenty of hidden gems and quirky small towns waiting to be explored within its wide open spaces.
For those of you who are exploring the country with family, here are some great options for the best child friendly hotels in South Africa.
Have you visited any of these small towns in South Africa? Let us know in the comments below.
Also, if you think we’ve missed a really cool town which should be on this list, we’d love to know!
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