If your 2019 travel goals sound more like far-off dreams at this point, then spend some time now to re-imagine travel for year. Many incredible travel experiences are right on your doorstep, from the beaches of Jeffrey’s Bay to the waterfalls of Howick. South African small towns have so much to offer and are great for travellers on a variety of budgets. In fact, many South Africans are choosing to stay in South Africa for their holidays and explore off the radar towns away from the tourist hotspots. Here are five of SA’s top small towns, according to guest arrivals on Airbnb across 2018.
Saldanha, Western Cape
Saldanha is often overlooked as a holiday town in favour of its slightly bigger, more buzzy neighbour, Langebaan. But this little town is not to be underestimated – there is plenty on offer for visitors to see and do. Plus, visiting towns that are off the tourist map helps spread the benefits of tourism to places and people who would not usually gain from this business. Bird-lovers will enjoy the fact that Saldanha is known to have a variety of bird species visit its shores throughout the year, including seagulls, cormorants, Cape gannets, duikers, and terns.
This KwaZulu-Natal town is part of the stunning Midlands Meander and is known for its amazing natural beauty, food, and adventure. Characterised by its many waterfalls, the town is ideal as a base for those wanting to see the nearby Drakensberg Mountains. This farming town is quaint and well-loved by travellers from around the world, with one of its most popular attractions being the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. It was here that Mandela was captured by the Apartheid government in August 1952.
Bethlehem, Free State
Not quite as small town as the rest of the towns on this list, Bethlehem is large enough to have lots to do, but still small enough to feel cosy and get a great sense of the local community. It’s a lovely area with lots to offer those who choose to visit there. Outdoor activities are famous here with horseriding, angling, abseiling, canoeing, river rafting, and game drives all being popular choices. And, with the Golden Gate National Highlands National Park well within reach for a day’s visit, a stay in the town makes even more sense.
Not a stranger to being one of SA’s most-loved little towns, Ballito is a short 40km drive from Durban. It’s perhaps best known for being a popular spot to see dolphins – which is why it’s also known as the Dolphin Coast. This holiday town has stunning natural beauty and locals and visitors alike enjoy frolicking in the warm Indian Ocean that hugs the shoreline. There is also a range of exciting outdoor activities to enjoy here, such as discovering an underwater wilderness through snorkelling.
Jeffrey’s Bay, Eastern Cape
With a year-round moderate climate, masses of activities on offer, plus the added cool factor of being a world-renowned surfing destination, Jeffrey’s Bay is an ideal destination for South Africans looking for a fun-filled getaway all-year-round.
This coastal town in the Eastern Cape has a lot to offer: museums, adventure sports, great food (especially seafood), shops packed with locally-made curios and, of course, beautiful beaches. There’s good reason that J-Bay, as locals and frequent visitors fondly call it, is a hotspot for surfing, surfing and more surfing. If you don’t know how to surf, don’t fret. You can book a learn-to-surf experience through so that you are on your way to becoming a pro in no time.
No matter where your 2019 travels take you this year, do try to explore what South Africa has to offer. If we re-imagine the way we travel by discovering the new destinations that are right on our doorstep, we can have incredible, sustainable travel experiences that spread the benefits of tourism across communities. Here’s to an exciting, healthy year of travel!