An epic 5,000km road trip through South Africa saw us fall in love with its stunning scenery, chaotic city life and dramatic coast line. Each day was filled to the brim with incredible things to do and spectacular bucketlist sights. From waking up to stunning wildlife outside our window to standing at the most southerly point of the African continent to braving the highest bungy jump in the world, South Africa stole our hearts. We’ve narrowed a million amazing moments down into 50 of the best things to do in South Africa which should be at the top of any bucketlist!
1 | Continent spot at the Map of Africa
The Map of Africa is viewpoint overlooking the Kaaimans River Basin near Wilderness Heights where the flow of the river has formed a piece of land shaped exactly like a map of the African continent. The mix of mountain, forest and river is a beautiful sight!
Check out the best sights on the Garden Route – click here
2 | Stroll through the colourful Bo Kaap neighbourhood of Cape Town
The Malay neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap is filled with colourful streets lined with brightly painted houses in a rainbow of colours.
Check out the best Cape Town sights – click here
3 | Hang out with the penguins at Boulders Beach
Thousands of adorable penguins roam around Boulders Beach in charming Simon’s Town on the shores of False Bay. An African Penguin colony resides on the beach and it’s incredible to watch them waddling, preening and minding their babies!
Check out where to stop on a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope – click here
4 | Have time stand still at the Valley of Desolation
The Valley of Desolation is an incredible geological phenomenon located in Graaff-Reinet. The vertical cliffs and the freestanding hundred metre high columns are breathtaking and the sunsets spectacular.
Check out the best sights on the Panorama Route – click here
5 | Stand at the most Southern point of the African continent
The dividing point of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, Cape Agulhas is the most Southern point in the African continent and the crashing seas reflecting the meeting point of two oceans.
6 | Experience the history and vibrancy of South Africa’s largest township
Soweto, the South Western Townships of Johannesburg, is most famous for its contribution in the struggle against Apartheid and a visit offers both the opportunity to experience its vibrant street life as well as giving an incredible insight into the country’s turbulent political history.
7 | Stand on the shoulders of giants at Vilakazi Street
One of Soweto’s most iconic areas, it was on the corner of Vilakazi Street where 12 year old Hector Piertson was shot dead sparking outrage across the globe and began a wave of protests which eventually saw the end of Apartheid. The street was once home to two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
8 | Gaze in wonder at Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Located on the Panorama Route, the smooth potholes, carved out by decades and decades of river erosion, are more akin to a work of art than a product of nature! The potholes are formed where the swirling waters of the Treur and Blyde Rivers meet at the start of the Blyde River Canyon.
9 | Witness the treacherous Knysna Heads where lagoon meets ocean
Knysna, a waterfront town along the Garden Route, is home to the Knysna Heads, two imposing sea cliffs which protect the entrance to the Knysna lagoon from the unrelenting Indian Ocean. It is a bumpy boat ride to the Heads but it is spectacular to watch the sea thrash through the narrow gap.
10 | Enjoy the panoramic views at God’s Window
With panoramic views of the lush Lowveld forests God’s Window offers incredible scenes along the Panorama Route. On a clear day it’s possible to see Kruger National Park and even Mozambique.
11 | Sip sundowners on Signal Hill
Signal Hill is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy spectacular views of Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Town and the ocean and, on clear evenings, scores of crowds gather to sip a sundowner and watch the sunset.
12 | Be amazed by the Drakensberg Mountains
The UNESCO designated Drakensberg mountain range are the highest in South Africa and one of its most beautiful landscapes. Stretching for more than 1,000km from northeast to southwest, the mountains are home to San rock paintings, dramatic rugged peaks, waterfalls and rivers.
13 | Go off road on the Sani Pass
The Sani Pass is a mountain pass filled with hairpin bends and white knuckle drops which cuts through the UNESCO designated Drakensberg mountain range linking South Africa with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. It’s the perfect spot to indulge in your 4×4 driving skills and navigate turns like Devil’s Corner and Hairpin Bend while conquering the pass!
Check out our Sani Pass adventures – click here
14 | Have a drink at the highest bar in Africa
After navigating the Sani Pass it’s time to have a much deserved beer at highest bar in Africa. At 2,873 metres above sea level the pub boasts amazing views over the Sani Pass into the Sani Valley.
15 | Explore the other side of the Sani Pass: Lesotho
The Sani Pass leads to the Kingdom of Lesotho, a country entirely landlocked by South Africa. It has the highest low point of any country in the world resulting in its nickname as the Kingdom in the Sky.
16 | Learn about the darker side of South African history at the District 6 museum
In the former District 6 area of downtown Cape Town more than 60,000 people were forcibly removed and relocated to derelict areas of the city and their houses in District Six were destroyed. The museum gives a glimpse into the time when Apartheid and segregation were part of South Africa’s way of life.
17 | Witness the relentless power of the Indian Ocean at Storms River Mouth
Storms River Mouth is the dramatic starting point of the Garden Route where the Storms River enters the Indian Ocean. Tucked away off the main road in the Tsitsikamma National Park sits this breathtaking stretch of coastline where the Indian Ocean relentlessly pounds the headland.
18 | Brave the highest bungy in the world at Bloukrans Bridge
The architecturally stunning Bloukrans Bridge is, at over 200 metres, the highest in Africa and arches dramatically over the gorge below. As well as being visually stunning, it is also home to one of the highest bungy jumps in the world…bungyyyyyyyy!!
19 | Feel tiny at Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant Park is home to one of the densest elephant populations on earth as well as rhino, lion and buffalo. With 450 elephants the elephant encounters are truly magical: we will never forget the moment a family of elephants walked alongside us in the setting sun.
20 | Gaze upon a New Wonder of the World at Table Mountain
Table Mountain and Cape Town. Cape Town and Table Mountain. They just go together! The flat topped mountain is visible from all over Cape Town and is a symbol of the city.
21 | … and ride a Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain
Seize the moment when the sun shines in Cape Town and hop in a cable car to the top of its most famous landmark! It’s an incredible feeling to stand atop the iconic landmark and see the city from above.
22 | Visit the birthplace of JRR Tolken
The Lord of the Rings author was born in Bloemfontein and spent 3 years living in the city before his family moved back to the UK. A plaque commemorating his birthplace hangs in the Hobbit Boutique Hotel where rooms draw on the Tolken universe. If you are a LOTR fan – check out the Hobbit Boutique Hotel here!
23 | Gariep Dam
The highest damn in South Africa, Gariep is a spectacular engineering feat and is a magnet for water sports and fishing.
24 | Hike the spectacular Lion’s Head in Cape Town…
Lion’s Head is one of the most iconic Cape Town landmarks and its spectacular Table Mountain views make a Lion’s Head hike an essential addition to any Cape Town itinerary. It’s an awesome spot to enjoy a Cape Town sun downer with magnificent views of Table Mountain, Camp’s Bay and the Ocean.
25 | … and explore its hidden caves
There are a number of hidden caves on Lion’s Head which have spectacular views of Table Mountain. Wally’s Cave is one of the most famous of the caves and is relatively easily accessible from the Lion’s Head hiking path.
For our guide on finding Wally’s Cave – click here
26 | Follow in the footsteps of human evolution at the Cradle of Humankind
More than 1,000 hominid fossils have been found in a network of limestone caves at the Cradle of Humankind with some dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago. The name refers to returning to the place of origin and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
27 | Swim under the waterfalls on the Panorama Route
The Panorama Route is lined with beautiful waterfalls powering over the rock edge and Mac Mac, Berlin, Lisbon and the Bridal Falls are the most famous. The beautifully clear waters in the pools at Mac Mac and Berlin are perfect for a quick dip on a hot day.
28 | Check out the retro beach huts on Muizenberg Beach
A beach side suburb of Cape Town, Muizenberg is best known for its white sandy beach and the very retro, brightly coloured beach huts which adorn it. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean are an added bonus and attract surfers from miles around.
29 | Understand the legacy of Apartheid at the Johannesburg Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum gives a devastating insight into the chequered history of a country divided by Apartheid from the origins of Apartheid, the struggle to overcome it and the aftermath.
30 | Chase the Big 5 on Safari…
Spending time in the African wilderness can be truly soul changing and South Africa is the perfect place to indulge in safari adventures. The country is home to lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and wild dogs and it’s a heartstopping moment to stare into the eyes of some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife.
For more on our South Africa safari adventures – click here
31 | …and sip sundowners in the African bush
Sundowners are a highlight of any safari day. It’s a magical experience sipping cool G&Ts against the backdrop of the sun setting over the lush African wilderness while lions roar across the bush.
32 | Explore the infamous Robben Island
Robben Island is a huge part of both Cape Town and South Africa history and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nelson Mandela was held in the prison on the island for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned before the fall of apartheid. Tours to the island make it possible to visit his prison cell and catch a glimpse of an era that once was.
33 | Indulge in wine tasting in the Winelands
South African wine is world famous and it would be rude not to indulge while in the country! From Stellenbosch to Franschhoek the wine region is a well travelled route.
34 | Face your fears with a shark dive in Gansbaai
In the hope of coming face to face with a great white shark participants are lowered into a cage on the side of a boat to await the arrival of one of the world’s greatest predators.
35 | Strike a pose in the famous Cape Town yellow photo frames
The yellow photo frames dotted around Cape Town are located to perfectly frame the spectacular Table Mountain! We had a blast discovering the six frames across the city and, as for the pics? Adorable!!
36 | Appreciate the plant life in the Cape Floral Region
The most southern area of the Cape Peninsula has outstanding floral and fauna and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cape Floral Region. The area is home to a wide variety of plants and trees, many of which are rare.
37 | Watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean at Plettenberg Bay
Plettenberg Bay, or Plett Bay as the locals refer to it, is a South Africa hidden gem. It’s a total escape to spend a night on the Garden Route overlooking the Indian Ocean from its shores.
38 | Be amazed by the natural beauty of the Three Rondavels
The Three Rondavels are huge pinnacles of rock towering over the Blyde River Canyon below and are shaped identically to the round, thatched roof beehive huts that are a common sight across the African countries.
39 | Take a roadtrip on Route 62
Cape Route 62, a tourist route in the Western and Eastern Cape between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, is a popular alternative to the Garden Route. Famous stops include Ronnie’s Sex Shop!
40 | Explore the smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere
Bordering South Africa and Mozambique Swaziland is a largely undiscovered African gem on a road trip across the region. Swaziland is an intriguing mix of nature, game viewing and, as one of the last remaining countries with a King reigning supreme over the population, a rich culture.
41 | Embrace the tourist vibes at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is a tourist dream with lots of food, shopping and souvenir options as well as being the departure point for the Robben Island cruises. The street performers, the Cape Town Wheel and the Table Mountain backdrop only add to its charm.
42 | Visit one of the greatest Botanical Gardens in the world
Nestled at the base of the Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is one of the great botanical gardens of the world and is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cape Floral Region. The scenery varies depending on the time of year and what’s in bloom and it’s a fantastic addition to a Cape Peninsula itinerary.
43 | Capture the picture perfect Kaaimans River Bridge
Close to the Map of Africa sits the Kaaimans River Bridge in Wilderness. The curved bridge, once a steam train route, passes over the amber coloured water at the mouth of an estuary and is a beautifully photogenic stop on the Garden Route.
44 | Be amazed by Pinnacle Rock
The freestanding Pinnacle Rock, located on The Panorama Route, is reminiscent of a scene from a sci-fi movie! The rock appears to spring up from the ground and the views through the canyon are magnificent.
45 | Embrace beach life at Camp’s Bay and Clifton Beaches
Camp’s Bay and Clifton are gorgeous Cape Town suburbs which sit at the foot of the Twelve Apostles and adjacent to Lion’s Head and Table Mountain and have an awesome beach town vibe! The beaches are some of the best in South Africa with pristine white sands and clear blue water and are the perfect anecdote to city life.
46 | Spot the sealife with whale and dolphins watching trips
South Africa is one of the world’s greatest whale watching destinations and humpback whale and bottlenose and orcha dolphins are common sightings in its waters. It’s also possible to sneak a peak at a great white shark, the Cape fur seals and the African penguins.
47 | Pay a visit to the Twelve Apostles
Stretching from Table Mountain, above Camps Bay, as far as Hout Bay and Llandudno, 12 distinct sandstone cliffs make up the Twelve Apostles, a famous Cape Town landmark.
48 | Experience the power of the ocean at the Cape of Storms
The Cape of Good Hope sits at the tip of the Peninsula and is one of the great capes of the Atlantic Ocean. On the first sailing around the Cape it was christened Cape of Storms by a Portuguese sailor but now goes by the beautiful Cape of Good Hope.
49 | Brave the hair raising Chapman’s Peak Drive
The windswept Atlantic Coast and Chapman’s Peak captures the ocean road at its most spectacular. The road is cut out of the cliff and the drive is dotted with near vertical cliffs and blind bends. It begins in the fishing village of Hout Bay and winds its way up to Chapman’s Point before ending at Noordhoek.
50 | Send your love in a postcard from the Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay
The story goes that in 1501 a Portugese sailor sought refuge in Mossel Bay during a storm and he left a written account, with an address, in an old boot. The report was found by the person it was addressed to and the tree then served as a post office and still does today!
Planning a trip to South Africa? To read more about our South Africa bucketlist destinations check out:
- Our South Africa itinerary and route – click here
- The best stops on the Garden Route – click here
- A lowdown of the Panorama Route – click here
- Our Cape Town favourites – click here
- A day trip to the Cape of Good Hope – click here
- Hiking Lion’s Head – click here
- Safari fun – click here
- Driving the Sani Pass – click here