I’ve been a small-town girl ever since I can remember. South Africa has an insanely rich culture, with tons of stories and interesting people. The best way to experience them is by making a detour through the many small towns scattered all over the country.
I’ve rounded up some of the best places to give you that klein dorpie feeling. I also asked Elené to join in the fun, so also see her picks below:
Clarens, Free State
Only a three hour drive from Bloemfontein and Johannesburg, and four hours from Durban, you can find the charming little town of Clarens. Surrounded by the Rooiberge with its multicoloured sandstone formations, it’s no secret why Clarens is considered the “Jewel of the Free State”. It has a certain charm to it that you need to experience for yourself. If you’re not entirely convinced yet, read about my seven reasons why you should visit Clarens.
Hogsback, Eastern Cape
Rumour has it that J.R.R Tolkien, during his time in South Africa, spent some years in the sleepy little Eastern Cape town known as Hogsback. This is where he found the inspiration to write one of the greatest literary pieces of our time – Lord of the Rings. Whether this is entirely true, we’ll never know, but it’s easy to understand why it’s so believable. About an hour’s drive from Fort Beaufort, on the R345, lies this hidden South African gem, nestled cosily in the heart of the Amathole mountains. Read more about the magic of Hogsback here.
Matjiesfontein, Western Cape
If you follow the N1 all the way from Cape Town, Matjiesfontein is an easy find. About 30 kilometres before Laingsburg, you will find a sign that points you in the direction of this small village (and I say village, because you can hardly call 2 streets separated by a railway a town). If you make a left turn here, I can assure you, you will be pleasantly surprised. Matjiesfontein has a rich history; and its residents will make you feel right at home. If you’re not sure what to expect when taking this road less travelled, read about my visit to Matjiesfontein last year.
Parys, Free State
I’ve spent four years of my life in Potchefstroom; and if you’ve been there, you will know that there’s not much to get excited about. Lucky for me, just a 30 minute drive from the Free State border I discovered what soon became one of my favourite places in South Africa. Parys is small, artsy, and well-worth a visit. I can give you a whole lot of reasons to pack your bags and head up north, just pop over here to read all about it.
Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
Plett’s been getting kind of a bad rep these last few years because of the annual influx of matric students to this coastal town. But in truth, Plett is a little piece of paradise and a town that offers nearly every scene you could think of, from ocean views, to river views and vineyards. I’ve been going to Plett, and its neighbouring village, Keurboomstrand, since I can remember and it is still one of my absolute favourites – especially for some long weekend R & R. I’ve recently created a post on my favourite Plett experiences, so be sure to check it out.
Barrydale, Western Cape
At the start of 2017, I fell in love with a charismatic Klein Karoo boertjie from Barrydale. And ever since then, this small little town has been the backdrop to our relationship. I kind of fell in love with them both at once! Barrydale is known for its art, its place in the centre of Route 62 and its proximity to the infamous Ronnie’s Sex Shop. Situated in the heart of the Klein Karoo, the little village is part of a valley at the foot of the Langeberg mountains. A mere three hours drive from both Cape Town and George, makes this little town an easy escape for city dwellers wanting to be part of the nostalgic Little Karoo. A road trip is all about the stops, head to our post on Route 62 stops to plan your trip to Barrydale.
Stil Bay, Western Cape
The petite little holiday town of Still Bay is situated off the N2 just after Riversdale in the Western Cape. The town is divided by an estuary and features three gorgeous beaches, without even mentioning the lagoon. The best time to visit Still Bay is definitely in the off-season, which also gives you the chance to try some delicious fish and chips on the harbour, stop by the Inverroche gin distillery and drive around the Still Bay neighbourhoods in search of the beautiful beach houses along the coast. Still Bay is such a tranquil escape that one cannot help but indulge! I visited Still Bay recently for my birthday, read all about it.
Nieu-Bethesda, Eastern Cape
If there is one way in which you can describe the little village of Nieu-Bethesda, just outside of Graaff-Reinet, it would be ‘hauntingly beautiful’. This Greater Karoo town was home to the, now famous, Helen Martins and her Owl House. With just a handful of dirt roads, this town has a lot of character and never a shortage of tourists. While it can get quite chilly in the winter, the summer is quite hot. The area is known for its agricultural workings, so you’re bound to see some crops and loads of activity on the working farms. Be sure to also pop in at the brewery and Die Waenhuis Restaurant for some true Karoo hospitality.
I can’t wait to explore more of our breathtaking country and expand my list. What’s your favourite small town in South Africa? Let me know in the comments below.