South Africa is the greatest country on earth. There, I said it. Seriously, if South Africa were a man, I would probably stop all my endless travels and settle down and have a big family. But what makes the country so great? Well, simply put – the endless amount of unique things to do in South Africa, of course.
Besides the breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cities, friendly people, beautiful accommodation, and fantastic food around every corner, the sheer number of unique experiences in South Africa will make anyone fall in love.
From distinct places to eat in Cape Town to adrenaline junkie activities along the Garden Route, diving with sharks, or staying in unusual hostel accommodation in South Africa, here is the ultimate travel guide for your next trip. Every entry is an absolute addition to your bucket list, don’t believe me?
Well, read on to discover not just the best things to do in South Africa but the best places to stay and the top things to see as well.
How much does it really cost to travel to South Africa? Have a look at my South Africa travel budget to find out.
Tip: If you’re planning to travel to South Africa for a few weeks, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have decent travel insurance. The reality of traveling in South Africa is that things often go wrong, and you need a reliable safety net. I always use World Nomads, as they’re known as the best insurer for backpackers and long-term travelers.
Top Fun Things To Do In South Africa
Here are my picks for things in South Africa that just scream fun.
Take A Photoshoot In Bo Kaap, Cape Town
If you love photography as much as I do, wandering around the beautiful Bo Kaap will be at the top of your list. It’s right in the center of Cape Town, on the slopes of Signal Hill, so most likely walking distance from wherever you decide to stay.
This district used to be called the Malay Quarter and was home to the descendants of enslaved people from Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka who were brought over to South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The area is still the center of the Cape Malay population in Cape Town, and it is thanks to these residents, who paint their homes bright colors to mark the end of Ramadan each year, that the Bo Kaap is now one of the most colorful residential areas in all of South Africa.
A visit to the Bo Kaap Museum is one of the most unique things to do in South Africa. As is a cooking class with Bo Kaap Cooking Tour, it’s one of those ‘what to do in South Africa’ eureka moments.
LUXURY STAY: The Table Bay Hotel
BUDGET STAY: Ashanti Lodge and Gardens
Taking A Bath On A Cliff
This is by far one of the most unusual things to do in South Africa, mainly because I don’t know anywhere else in the world where you will find a bath on a cliff. This particular bath is situated at the end of the garden in Away With The Fairies Backpackers hostel in Hogsback.
It’s one of my favorite and one of the best backpacker hostels in South Africa, not just because of their bath with a view. It’s one of the most peaceful getaways I’ve ever been to.
Complete with a nightly campfire, a treehouse to escape, and reading a book in a sunset view over the Amathole Mountains that is unbeatable. Except if you happen to be sitting in the bath with a beer looking at the same view. Magical.
BUDGET STAY: Away With The Fairies Hostel
First Thursday’s On Bree Street
I only discovered the First Thursday craze on my visit to South Africa this year and now wish I had stayed in Cape Town longer to experience more. Essentially on the first Thursday of every month, a lot of the bars and restaurants in Cape Town open up and come alive.
The streets are full of people after dark, and they are lined with unique food trucks and outdoor stalls. People flock to cool bars such as the secret gin bar behind Honest Chocolate or any hip bars on Bree Street or Long Street.
Art galleries and other attractions also stay open late; I believe this also happens in Johannesburg. This sets the scene ablaze with a vibrant atmosphere that makes the street one of the ultimate places to visit in South Africa.
Go On A Game Drive
What’s the difference between going on a self-drive safari and doing a game drive, I hear you ask. Well, a game drive is an excellent alternative for those tight on time (and budget) who still want a taste of what it’s like to be on safari. Don’t even get me started on the incredible addition this is to things to see in South Africa.
Game drives normally last a few hours, and you drive around a private game reserve in an open-top jeep, spotting animals just as you would on safari. The difference is that the area is enclosed, there are only a limited amount of animals, and some of the larger predators must be kept separate from the rest to stop them from causing mayhem.
It’s still an enjoyable experience and watching which animals like to mingle and which don’t. We did one in Plettenberg Bay and spent almost an hour driving around trying to find the one rare rhino who was hiding from us.
If a game drive isn’t enough for you, maybe consider doing a self-drive safari as part of a 7-day South African itinerary. They are more expensive but will result in an unforgettable activity in South Africa.
For the ultimate escape, this 2-day safari experience from Cape Town is the perfect guided adventure into the wild.
LUXURY STAY: The Robberg Beach Lodge (Plettenberg Bay)
BUDGET STAY: Mandalay Guest House
Explore Cape Town By Bus
I usually don’t like the sightseeing buses you find in every city worldwide, but doing this bus tour in Cape Town is slightly different. Even if you were to never get off the bus, the views alone make the ride worth it.
From Table Mountain and the City Bowl to Kirstenbosch, Camps Bay, Clifton, and even the Sunset Tour to Signal Hill – an open-top bus tour is the perfect way to see all the best bits of the city. It even goes to the Constantia Wine Route, another of the best things to do in South Africa.
This hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Cape Town is hand down the best way to see the city.
Shopping At The Watershed
If you are looking for the best place to buy souvenirs, art, and quirky crafts in Cape Town, then The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront is the place to go. Here you can meet and talk to the people making the crafts, get to know them, and understand why they do what they do.
You won’t find mass-produced souvenirs from China here – simply one-off pieces made by hand with a lot of passion. There are also some delicious treats – I especially loved the healthy smoothie stand! Be in fashion, jewelry, artwork, or furniture – you’re sure to find something you love.
Wine Tasting In Constantia
We *accidentally* ended up wine tasting in Constantia one day. We were on an open-top bus tour of Cape Town and soon discovered it actually linked up with the Constantia Wine Route.
One of the best private wine tours in the Cape area is hosted across four vineyards in the Constantia Wine Valley. A must-add to your best things to do in South Africa.
We obviously could not resist tasting a glass or two, and it ended up being one of our favorite afternoons in Cape Town, thanks to meeting the most inspiring elderly couple – and eating one of the best cheese boards I’ve ever had at Beau Constantia Winery.
I just wish I could have stayed there longer – even their wacky toilet has panoramic views. Another incredibly beautiful place to go wine tasting is Stellenbosch.
Wine Tasting In Stellenbosch
This particular wine tasting tour was not accidental. I think anyone who travels to South Africa should make it a priority to visit Stellenbosch. Not only is it the premier wine-making region in all of Africa, but it is also a quaint little town with so much more to offer than first meets the eye.
Like that Springbok steak, I just talked about! Our favorite winery here was Peter Falke Wines, mainly thanks to the large open-air restaurant and sprawling lawns where families, couples, and groups of friends were whiling away the afternoon, sipping good wine and enjoying the sunshine.
I’ve always been a fan of white over red, and this winery did not disappoint. Their cheese platter is also to die for, especially the cranberry delight. Looking for the best private guided wine tour of Stellenbosch? Look no further.
Walking Tour Of Johannesburg
This can be either done by yourself with a map and a bit of street smart or preferably organized by a local guide from Curiocity Backpackers. These inner city center walking tours will allow you to understand the workings of such a complex city and hopefully, you might even fall a little bit in love with this city, just as I did.
It honestly gets such a bad rep, and a lot of that is understandable, but there is also so much good to be found in the city if you just look further than the initial cracks. You won’t regret it.
Super Cool Things To Do In South Africa
If you want to stick with the cool kids, then the next entries into this guide will help you fit in just fine. Here are the coolest things you can do while in South Africa.
Take A Helicopter Tour Of Cape Town
Let’s be honest. Who hasn’t dreamt of taking a helicopter ride over Cape Town?! Of all the cities in the world, Cape Town is definitely one of the most amazing when viewed from the air. You can take panoramic aerial shots of the V&A Waterfront, Camps Bay, Table mountain, and the beaches stretching down the coastline with the 12 apostles in the background.
I did the City Hopper tour with NAC Helicopters, which while short at just 15 minutes, is the perfect tour for those on a budget keen to get good photos of the city from the skies.
Alternatively, this Cape Town 2 Oceans Scenic helicopter tour is a bit more expensive but lasts 25 minutes and includes some stellar sites.
Go Surfing In Jeffreys Bay
Jeffreys Bay is the premier surf destination in South Africa, so whether you are a surfing pro or have never stood on a surfboard in your life, getting in the water here is a must.
I always stay in Island Vibe Backpackers Hostel as the atmosphere here is fantastic at all times of the year, and they also have panoramic views of the beach and helpful surf instructors to get you from total beginner to pro; in no time.
While the weather is better from November to March, during the South African summer, you will have to come back in winter to see the professionals and all the bug surf competitions such as the Billabong Pro.
LUXURY STAY: House On The Bay (feel and stay like a celebrity)
BUDGET STAY: Island Vibe Backpackers Hostel
Stay In A Hostel
Seriously, you have not traveled South Africa until you have stayed in at least one backpacker’s hostel. Put your preconceptions away because the hostels in South Africa are far from what you are imagining. Take Ashanti Lodge and Gardens, for example.
This is a great hostel right in the city center, with high-speed WiFi, high ceilings, a swimming pool and bar with views of Table Mountain, a big garden, excellent security, and it is probably cleaner than many hotels you have stayed in.
Hostels in South Africa are great places for meeting people, offer endless adventure activities, and are the perfect base for budget travelers.
Stay In A Rondavel
I think staying in unique places is one of the more interesting things to do in South Africa. A traditional rondavel, like the one pictured below, is definitely a fun place to stay for a few nights – especially when it’s in a forest up in the mountains and you can hear all sorts of birds and monkeys jumping on the roof as you try to sleep!
Stay The Night On A Train
Out of all the fun hostels we stayed on up and down the coats, this old train in Mossel Bay was probably the most memorable. The Santos Express on the shores of Santos Beach in Mossel Bay is a perfect choice.
Parked right on the beach, which means you wake up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, the train hostel is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There are private cabins, the same as you would expect in a regular, working train or a massive dorm where one entire carriage has been turned into backpacker accommodation! Cheap and cheerful, and fun for one night.
Shop The Outlets In J-Bay
As one of the world’s most famous surf breaks, it is no surprise that J-Bay is also home to a string of surf clothing outlets. From Billabong, RCVC, and Roxy to Quiksilver to Rip Curl, Jeffreys Bay is a great place to stock up on shorts, t-shirts, summer dresses, and of course, bikinis!
You can also find some fantastic deals on surf accessories, boards, wetsuits, and some sweet sunglasses. I can never seem to travel here without buying a few lovely pieces to take home with me! More details about the shops and their opening times here.
Breakfast At Ile De Pain
I’m still dreaming of this breakfast. Would it be too crazy to return to South Africa JUST to eat at this amazing cafe/restaurant? No, I think not. Situated on Thesen Island in beautiful Knysna, Ile de Pain is where I ate one of the most delicious breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life.
While you’re in Knysna, why not indulge in this 75-minute lagoon boat cruise? It’s the best way to see the natural beauty of the forest from a cool perspective.
Thought and care go into everything you are served here, and you will leave feeling as if you have eaten like a king. I had the croissant while Ian had the French Toast with Berries – and just look how cute the tea-pot was. Open for breakfast and lunch daily. Get there early.
Springbok Steak In Stellenbosch
Continuing with some of the best food your taste buds will experience in South Africa, treat yourself to a Springbok Steak at Majeka House restaurant. Part of a boutique hotel and spa, this restaurant’s menu was as unique as it was mouth-watering.
Short and concise, the chefs here have chosen to keep the menu limited to allow them to spend longer creating the perfect dish for everyone who orders. Think quality and taste over quantity.
There is also an option to do the wine pairing, where they choose a different wine to suit every course you are eating – and that’s probably the element that made this place one of our most memorable meals. Try the Springbok Steak. It will melt in your mouth.
LUXURY STAY: Majeka House
Salt And Wine Pairing
I better be honest here because if I don’t, my travel buddy Ian will pull me up on it. When I first heard we were doing a salt and wine pairing, I stuck my nose up and was far from impressed. “Wine and SALT?! Should it not be Wine and CHEESE?!” Within minutes of sitting down, I was silenced and suddenly excited.
You can not imagine the amount of time and effort that has gone into this experience. The resident chef at Fleur Du Cap, Craig Cormack, actually traveled the world in search of all the best salts to use in his cooking creations.
Tasting these small bites, accompanied by the right wine, is like an entirely new culinary experience. I’ll say no more. You need to try it for yourself.
Lunch At Mama Africa
If you are looking for a traditional African meal right in the center of Cape Town, in a restaurant that is always busy, has an electric Africa, and your money is going to a good place, look no further than lunch at Mama Africa on Long Street.
This is also a great place to try some uniquely South African foods – crocodile or kudu!
Eat A Traditional South African Meal
This was the delicious meal we had as part of our township tour. I think Mama thought there were 10 of us even though there were just two; there was SO MUCH FOOD. Every dish was perfect, and everything was so different from the food we had been eating in hostels and restaurants around Cape Town.
It was so lovely to have a delicious home-cooked meal after months on the road – a real taste of home despite the dishes being quite alien to Ian and me. I would love to get a cooking lesson here!
Do A Township Tour
Having lived in a township in Limpopo for 12 months when I was 18, I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I did. Our guide was full of life, knew everyone we encountered, and gave us a lot of insight into the modern-day township in South Africa. How it works, who lives here, why people choose to live here, why they choose to stay. The perfect Soweto township tour.
We visited a small school, a barber shop (where I got a haircut for just €2), and stopped at a local Mama’s house for lunch. A unique experience everyone should have in South Africa and one which I plan to write about in more detail in a separate post. You can find more information on Jo’Berg and Soweto half-day township tours here.
Beer Tasting In Storms River Village
While staying in Storms River Village, we came across this small but cute craft brewery that did beer tastings for just R35 (about €2) and could not resist stopping by for some beer and board games.
The brewery is attached to a much larger bar/restaurant called Marilyn’s Diner, popular with locals and tourists alike. The decor is so much fun, jam-packed with vintage cars, old movie posters and whatever else you would expect to find in a retro American diner.
Crazy Things To Do In South Africa
If you’re feeling adventurous, join the club. During our time in the country, we managed to get in enough time to go crazy with the following thrilling things to do in South Africa.
Go Bungee Jumping Off Bloukrans Bridge
What would a holiday to South Africa be without a little adrenaline? Nothing will quite get the heart racing like getting some smiling strangers to wrap a bungee cord around your feet, lead you to the edge of a 216-meter-high bridge, and the count down for you to jump!!
This used to be the highest bungee jump in the world until a skyscraper overtook it in Macau. It still holds the record for being the highest bridge bungee in the world, and as you walk along the caged bridge to the jump spot, your heart will be in your mouth.
This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done and the most fun. You will be on a high for the rest of the day/week/month and might just opt to jump again.
Book this adrenaline-pumping bungee jump experience that includes some ziplining and a skywalk at the bridge. You won’t regret it.
Sandboarding In Wilderness
One of the most fun activities we did while traveling up the coast was an evening spent sandboarding. Admittedly I was pretty nervous and scared at first, but after a few tries, I got the hang of it, as you will see in the video below.
You can book sandboarding through Afrovibe Beach Lodge in Sedgefield, and what made it more fun was the group of people from the hostel we got to hang out with. The tour ran in the evening, just before sunset, and the views down to the ocean were spectacular.
Jump Off Orlando Towers, Soweto
If you plan to visit Johannesburg while in South Africa and are feeling adventurous, you can do a bungee jump off the famous (and super colorful) Orlando Towers in Soweto. While the Bloukrans Bungee might be the highest, jumping off of some giant water towers seems a little, just a little bit scarier to me! Looking for a place to stay after you do the jump?
Why not check into Lebo’s Backpackers, the only hostel in Soweto and a place that can help you get to know the unique place that is Soweto!
LUXURY STAY: Radisson Blue Sandton
BUDGET STAY: Lebo’s Backpackers
Zip Lining In Stormsriver
This was a total last-minute decision for me. A Brazilian girl at the hostel asked if I wanted to go zip lining with her just as I was eating breakfast, and an hour later, I was flying from cliff top to tree top, having the time of my life.
The course itself is quite short and only takes about an hour or so to complete, but it’s unbelievable fun. The longer zip lines were the best as you really build up some speed and feel like you are flying over waterfalls and through forested valleys.
For the ultimate zip lining in Stormsriver, book this Tsitsikamma National Park Canopy Tour.
Ride An Ostrich
Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to do this as I was too heavy; poor Ostrich would have kicked me right off, no doubt! My friend Anna from Anna Everywhere blog was brave enough to do it while traveling around South Africa and even wrote about her experience.
Even if you don’t want to ride an ostrich, visiting the ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn is excellent fun and you can even taste an Ostrich Steak sandwich. Yum!
Cage Diving With Great White Sharks
I was too scared to do this the last two times I traveled to South Africa; I was too scared to do this. I’ve always had a bit of fear when it comes to sharks, especially Great White Sharks, so I was so happy when I got the opportunity to FINALLY get in a cage and get up close and personal with these big guys.
This cage diving cruise tour from either Cape Town or Hermanus takes the top spot.
On our trip, we were lucky enough to see three Great Whites, two smaller ones and one MASSIVE one. The experience was way better than I imagined, and sometimes the view was even better from up on the boat than down in the cage.
Watching the sharks swimming around and around the boat was hypnotizing. We also learned lots about sharks, from the research currently being conducted, to how we really aren’t on their menu. It has honestly changed my opinion on these incredible creatures, and I hope to write a separate post with more details.
Kayaking In Tsitsikamma
Stuck thinking, “What to do in South Africa?”, well, the Tsitsikamma National Park is one of the most naturally beautiful places in South Africa. Kayaking here is an absolute dream, that could only be made better if the route was longer.
This particular adventure starts at the mouth of Storms River, right under the suspension bridge, and you paddle your way up the river until you can go no further. You then jump on a lilo (an inflatable mattress) and paddle your way over rocks and shallow water, exploring rock pools and bat caves. A seriously fun adventure for all ages.
Go Paragliding In Cape Town
What better place to strap yourself to a hot stranger and run off the side of a cliff than Signal Hill in Cape Town?! This was my first time paragliding, and I’m already super keen to do it again, and again, and again.
The views during this tandem paragliding tour, looking down over Seapoint and the city bowl, were incredible, and landing just meters from the beach was probably the best part of all.
Cross The Tsitsikamma Suspension Bridge
These photos just don’t do Tsitsikamma National Park justice. It is by far one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever been – pure, natural beauty. You can either spend a few hours hiking or just spend an hour or two walking over to the various suspension bridges, watching the waves crash against the shore or even go for a swim.
There are also kayaking and boat trips that run up Storm’s River if you are feeling extra adventurous. The Cattle Baron restaurant here sadly burned down in late 2016, but they have a pop-up one in its place, and the food is still as good as ever. Get the steak, you won’t regret it.
Unique Places To Visit In South Africa
I could go on forever about the places you simply have to visit in South Africa, but these are definitely a few of the most unique ones in the country.
Visit Robben Island
While South Africa is full of exciting adventures and other fun activities, it’s also essential to learn more about the country you are traveling in and get a taste of its troubled history. There’s no better place to do this than a half-day trip to Robben Island, the island where
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 20 years of his life. On the ferry across to the island, we were lucky enough to see two whales breaching right by our boat, so we got a taste of both the wildlife and history in one trip.
The tour of the prison is both sad and fascinating, primarily as the tours are run by men who were once imprisoned here for fighting for the rights of their country and fellow citizens. This is without a doubt one of the top things to do in South Africa.
It’s not all heavy going, though, as the tour also affords terrific views from Robben Island, looking back at Cape Town, and the chance to see more African Penguins which call the island home.
Visit The Fairy Realm in Hogsback
What could be more unique than getting lost in a Fairy Realm? There’s really only one place in South Africa where you would find such an attraction, and that’s the magical, mythical, and stunningly beautiful town of Hogsback in the Eastern Cape.
For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can spend an hour wandering around this magical walk, where you will come across hand-crafted fairy statues, wishing stones, and inspirational quotes. A fun experience for both young and old, this definitely tops the list of unique places in South Africa.
Visit the huts on Muizenberg Beach
The colorful huts that line Muizenberg Beach make it one of the most recognizable beaches in South Africa. What you might not know is that the water here is freezing, and the surf is home to many sharks.
You will spot safety signs up and down the beach, warning surfers to be careful! An excellent spot for a walk, and you can get yourself some delicious fish and chips at the nearby Lucky Fish and Chips shop. Yum.
If you’re looking to stay nearby, the Cape Capsules actually looks out onto the beach, and you simply can’t beat the views!
Take a walk on Noordhoek Beach
If you make your way to Cape Point or the Cape of Good Hope via Chapman’s Peak, you will pass this stunning beach on your right-hand side. This beach has some of the whitest sand I’ve ever seen in my life and is also one of the longest and widest beaches in South Africa.
The best thing of all is that the beach is always deserted – making it the perfect spot for long walks or even horse treks. The water is freezing, though, so don’t even think about going for a swim. If you’re feeling peckish, I recommend stopping for a quick drink or lunch at The Red Herring Cafe near the beach.
Explore The Cango Caves
Warning: If you are in any way claustrophobic, I would not recommend coming here. But, for one of the most interesting places in South Africa, this is a standout. The Cango Caves are a fun day trip inland from The Garden Route, allowing you to walk, climb, crawl and slide through this sprawling, sometimes dark, cave complex.
You can opt to do their adventure tour (provided you are under a specific size as people have got stuck in the caves before) to just do a leisurely walking tour of the larger caves.
Cost: R150 for adults.
Gaze At The Sunset From Signal Hill
Watching the sunset from Signal Hill in Cape Town is one of the most magical experiences you will have in South Africa. While you won’t be alone, it is possible to find a quiet and secluded spot on the hill to sit in peace and watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
Then, if you glance back behind you, as everyone else is looking at the sunset, you will be charmed by the view below of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head adorned with the most perfect light. It’s truly one of the best places in the world to watch the sunset. You can either drive or walk up here from the city or take the recently launched Sunset Bus.
Enjoy Beach Day In Camp’s Bay
While locals might argue that there are many beaches in and around Cape Town that are far more beautiful than Camps Bay, I would still argue it’s one of the most unusual places I’ve ever been.
The beach is beautiful (who doesn’t love the contrasting white sand and ocean blues?!), but what makes it truly special is the way it is framed by Signal Hill and Lions Head to the left and the 12 apostles, which form the most spectacular backdrop as far as the eye can see.
Camps Bay is also home to fantastic cafes and restaurants and is the place to go for Sunday Brunch. Ocean Blue has one of the best brunches in Cape Town – just get there early!
Catch Panoramic Views From Bloubergstrand
If you rent a car while in Cape Town, and if you read my Backpacking guide to South Africa, you will see it’s the best option. Driving out to Sunset Beach and Bloubergstrand is a must. It is here that you will those jaw-dropping views looking back across the bay at Table mountain and Robben Island to your right.
It’s also one of the best places in South Africa to go kite surfing – one of the coolest activities in South Africa.
Visit Maboneng Food Market
Once I get on to the topic of food, I always remember the delights tasted at the Masoning Food Market in inner-city Johannesburg. It might not have been top of your South African bucket list, but it should be!
You will find all sorts of exciting food and drink on offer, all made by local artisans who are passionate about food. Once you have finished eating, you can browse the various design and craft stalls both inside the market and out on the street nearby.
An authentic Joburg experience not to be missed. The food market, called Market On Main, takes place every Sunday from 10 am – 3 pm.
Best Things To See In South Africa
South Africa offers some of the most enjoyable things to do around the world. Here are just some of the best things to see while on your visit to the country.
Go Whale Watching In Hermanus
Sadly this activity is seasonal, with most sightings occurring between June and November. Recognized as one of the top whale-watching destinations in the world, Hermanus is a seaside town only 2 hours drive from Cape Town.
You can drive there, sit on a bench overlooking the beach and try spotting the whales yourself, or sign up for a whale-watching boat trip with Southern Right Charters and let the professionals spot the whales for you.
They say the best time to view whales are the months of September, October, and November, where you are almost guaranteed to see whales off the coast of Hermanus.
There’s a beautiful 12km long cliff path that offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the world – great for those on a budget. Probably one of the best things about South Africa is its marine and animal life, so why not indulge? The best way to do so is with this whale and dolphin-watching tour.
Visit Some African Penguins
Every time I go to Cape Town (I’ve been four times now), I always make visiting the enormous African Penguin colony down in Simonstown a priority. Where else in the world can you thousands of adorable and tiny African penguins chilling out on a beautiful sandy beach?
Did you know if you walk a little further down the coast, there is even a beach where you can swim with the penguins? Now that’s an experience you will never forget, especially when you feel how cold the water is.
Drive Down (Or Up) Chapman’s Peak
The Chapman’s Peak drive, which starts around 15km south of Cape Town and wraps its way around Chapman’s Peak mountain on the Cape Peninsula, is one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world.
The road is sometimes built into the cliff face, with just a tiny wall separating you and your car from the Atlantic Ocean.
Driving this route will afford you spectacular views of Hout Bay, Noordhoek Beach, and the coastline in between. Driving this will make you feel like you are a member of the Top Gear team on an epic adventure.
Spend An Afternoon In Kirstenbosch
Founded in 1913 to protect South Africa’s unique flora, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a great place for an afternoon picnic, long walks, or as a starting point for hiking Table Mountain.
In the summer the gardens host weekly outdoor concerts, from Christmas Carols to popular South African musicians and even the Philharmonic Orchestra. There’s also a tearoom and small cafe/restaurant in case you forget to pack a picnic!
Explore The Wild Coast
The rugged Wild Coast is a total contrast to Cape Town and The Garden Route. Here, it is all about getting back to nature, hiking across hills to secret beaches, and staying in traditional rondavels or even mud huts. And one of the must-do things in South Africa is to make your own adventure as you explore the Wild Coast.
The landscape is spectacular, and many activities are available, from horse trekking to surfing or kayaking through rivers and lakes. Hostels such as The Coffee Shack and Buccaneers are well established and offer guests a long list of adventures should they choose to be active or space in a hammock to just chill and enjoy the view!
Hike To The Hole In The Wall
If you are traveling up the Wild Coast and staying in Coffee Bay for any amount of time, hiking to Hole in the Wall should be top of your bucket list. This hike is popular with all guests here, so even if traveling solo, you will always find some other backpackers to hike with.
The views are spectacular, and if you make it to the end of the hike (just 2 or 3 hours long), you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the “hole in the wall,” a unique sea arch. Head back to your hostel for a well-deserved beer and hammock time!
Hike The Drakensburg
Have you ever seen views as beautiful? While most people either stick to the coast or spend their entire holiday on safari, the adventurous at heart try to seek out a different side of South Africa. If this sounds like you, then a multi-day hiking trip in Drakensburg is just what you need.
You can also cross the border into nearby Lesotho, The Mountain Kingdom, where you can explore more insanely red mountains on horseback. Whether you are super fit and agile or are more interested in short walks with amazing views, there is something for everyone in this region. For details on hikes, look here, and for hostels in the area, look here.
Hike Around The Cape Of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is the most South-Western point on the African continent and is an excellent place for a photo-op. Cape Point lighthouse is just a short drive away, and the short (but steep) hike up to the Light House will get your heart beating a little faster.
You can easily spend a few hours here, taking in the views, eating at Cape Point restaurant, or hiking to the nearby beaches.
Hiking Table Mountain, Cape Town
No visit to South Africa would be complete without hiking up or, at least around the top of Table Mountain. The centerpiece of the city of Cape Town, one of the most visited spots in South Africa and by far the most recognizable landmark in all of Africa.
Table Mountain is just as amazing in real life as it is in all the photos. A visit or hike at the mountain is a must-do in South Africa.
Whether you decide to take the Cable Car to the top and spend an hour or two exploring all the viewpoints or get up at the break of dawn and spend 2-3 hours hiking to the top, the views looking down on Cape Town, Camps Bay, and the 12 Apostles are absolutely spectacular. This is an essential bucket list item for anyone looking for reasons to visit Cape Town and South Africa.
Cost: Hiking is free. The cable car is R135 one-way or R270 return.
Final Thoughts | Unique Things To Do In South Africa
The final absolute must to any visit to South Africa is probably the most important entry in this list. Without further ado, here’s the final best thing to do in South Africa…
Plan your return trip
You can’t kid anyone, not least yourself. Once you’ve done any or all of the other 49 things on this list, as I have done, you will want to start planning your return trip to South Africa as there are always more exciting things to do! I’m already planning to return next November, fancy coming with me?