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South African bucket list ideas: countryside escapes

South African bucket list ideas: countryside escapes

Seasoned travellers share their favourite hidden gems across the South African countryside. Here you’ll find where you can have a beach all to yourself, get the best game-viewing spot in the country, discover a botanical wonderland and more great South African bucket list ideas.

Choose your own adventure: jump to the bucket list item that interests you the most, or scroll down to see them all.

  1. Fynbos Ridge B&B, near Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
  2. Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Paternoster, Western Cape
  3. Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
  4. Oranjekom Gorge Cottage, Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape
  5. Afsaal Cottage, Karoo National Park, Western Cape
  6. Middelplaas Cottage in Matjiesvlei, Western Cape
  7. Kraalbaai, West Coast, Western Cape
  8. Perriers Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, North Coast
  9. The Fernery, Storms River, Tsitsikamma, Western Cape
  10. Glamping in the Cederberg Mountains, Western Cape
Fynbos Ridge B&B, near Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
Bucket list: Nick van der Leek, travel writer

Travel writer, Nick van der Leek

Fynbos Ridge Bed and Breakfast, 7km outside Plettenberg Bay is a top spot for me. It has the perfect balance of being completely ensconced in the ‘saligheid’ of pristine nature, a fresh and comfortable home away from home vibe, delicious wholesome food and caring personable staff in owners Brian and Liz Phillips.

Take in a meal and a bottle of wine at the excellent Bramon Wines restaurant. Hike Robberg and spend the night at the rustic Fountain Shack.


Using Fynbos Ridge as your base, here are three other great things to do

Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Paternoster, Western Cape
Bucket list: Greg Landman, travel writer

Travel writer and food and wine connoisseur, Greg Landman

The houses at Cape Columbine Lighthouse are without a doubt my best place to visit.

It’s a great spot to get away from any distractions. The magnificent views in splendid isolation give you an unbelievable feeling of freedom.

A tour of the lighthouse itself is inspiring – being up close to such a giant prism that magnifies light to save ships from the rocks is humbling.

Swimming in the rock pool in VERY cold water with the ocean visible as far as the eye can see is like being on an enormous ocean liner. Bliss.

You might also like: Amazing Graze and Wine with Greg Landman 


While exploring the lighthouse, make a weekend of your Paternoster visit with our picks of the best restaurants and accommodation.

Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
Bucket list: SANParks Times editor, Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld

SANParks Times editor, Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld

The Richtersveld is a geological masterpiece, a botanical wonderland and one of the most breathtaking pieces of the Earth.

Some say it is the land God made in anger, with its awkwardly stacked mountains and barren landscapes.

For me it is the place where you can get in touch with the inner-most mysteries of the earth: here, it wears its rugged angry secrets on its sleeve, vulnerable and exposed.

This secluded, eerie and breathtaking piece of the earth, with rugged cliffs piercing the sky, will remind one of the vastness of the universe.

One thing is for sure, it will alter the state of your soul – either bringing it serene rest or shaking it to the core.

At the rustic chalets perched above the Orange River Tatasberg, you’ll experience tangible silence and peace.

In the black mountains over the river, the echoes of baboons break the silence. You can also search for the genets that live on the surrounding hills, and watch as goats head along their grazing routes in the early mornings.

Echo Canyon, 11km from Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, will take you into the heart of the Tatasberg mountains. This eerie landscape is made up of peaks that seem to be stacked out of large granite boulders. Here, quiver trees and strange succulents protrude from dry rock. It’s a sight to be seen.

No trip to the Richtersveld would be complete without a ride on the pontoon that transports you and your car across the Orange River to Namibia.


If you’ve made the trek all the way to the Richtersveld, here are some other activities to maximise your time there.

Oranjekom Gorge Cottage, Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape
Bucket list: SANParks Times reporter, René de Klerk

SANParks Times reporter, René de Klerk

If you ever find yourself in the Northern Cape in the Augrabies Falls National Park, be sure to stay for a night or two.

Instead of staying in the chalets near the waterfall, secure a spot in the Oranjekom Gorge Cottage.

Chances are that you would have driven the 30 minutes to see this spectacular scenery anyway, so you might as well spoil yourself and a loved one.

It offers accommodation for two people only, away from the busy rest camp. Plus, you get a room with a view, fully equipped and furnished – right on the very edge of a spectacular gorge.

Even when you are inside the unit, large glass sliding doors offer you a 180 degree view of this scenery.

Other attractions: Game viewing, scenic viewpoints in the park, the Augrabies Waterfall and hiking.


From foodie tours to extreme sports and a leisurely cycle through the wild flowers, you’re spoilt for choice.



The landscape of the Karoo is unforgiving, but once you get to know the place a little better, you might never want to leave again.

I love accommodation away from the crowds and the Afsaal Cottage is no different. This little revamped shepherd’s hut in the heart of the Karoo comes with a private, lit waterhole, giving you 24-hour game-viewing pleasure from the comfort of your porch.

You will be about 30km from reception and be able to enjoy the surroundings without a soul nearby. It is a great spot for peace and quiet as there is no cellphone reception and staying there will give you a headstart for your morning game drive.

Other attractions:
A variety of 4×4 routes, game drives, guided hikes from the main rest camp and a fossil trail near reception.


The Karoo National Park is a great base to explore the Karoo – here are three more journeys you might enjoy through the Karoo.


Middelplaas Cottage in Matjiesvlei, Western Cape
Bucket list: Jan Braai

Braaimaster and TV show host, Jan Braai

Spend a few nights and braai at the Middelplaas Cottage in Matjiesvlei, the valley on the Gamka River close to Calitzdorp.

You’re not so much on the foothills of the mighty Swartberg as you are actually in a remote rugged valley in the mountains.

The cottage is within walking distance of a secluded pool in the Gamka River and in front of the cottage is one of the most scenic braai spots in South Africa, with unparalleled views of the mountain peaks.

You get there by driving up the R62 from Cape Town and shortly before Calitzdorp take a left on the Matjiesvlei gravel road, accessible by normal vehicle.

The area is incredibly scenic. The valley is similar looking to Die Hel, which sits on the same Gamka River 10km upstream, but is on the other side of a giant mountain.

It’s more accessible and is much quicker to get to by car. You’re also a quick drive from Calitzdorp with it’s various tourist attractions and platteland shops.

Braai a few times, swim in the Gamka River, walk in the mountain trails of the valley, taste port at Boplaas and De Krans in Calitzdorp.


Explore the nearby town of Calitzdorp with our pick of the best attractions, tipple tasting and cycling tours in the area.

Bucket list: MiddelplaasBucket list: Jan BraaiBucket list: Calitzdorp

Kraalbaai, West Coast, Western Cape
Bucket list: Orange River Rafting

Nita Hazell, Country Life editor

Kraalbaai is not strictly a beach but part of the Langebaan lagoon, but this stretch of white sand and azure water is sheer paradise.

It’s only accessible by boat from Langebaan, which ensures that you have the beach all to yourself most of the time.

On weekends it looks like the Mediterranean with a small flotilla of houseboats moored in the shallow waters.

When the tide is out you can literally walk from your boat to the beach. The calm waters are ideal for learning to water-ski.


After visiting Kraalbaai, here are a few more West Coast gems to try.


Find out where you can have a beach all to yourself #TravelLikeALocalZA Click to Tweet

Perriers Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, North Coast

Delish Sisters, Country Life Country Chefs

Our favourite spot is Perriers Bay just beyond Mission Rocks in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park. Parking is at Mission Rocks and then the walk from there is about 1km along the rocks until you reach this gorgeous secluded bay.

Having grown up there we are in love with this untouched non-commercial heaven. With dunes of green tropical vegetation and a picturesque bay, there’s just so much natural beauty and it’s the perfect place to unwind.

We recommend going to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Park to spot the big 5. We also suggest taking a guided sunset boat ride on St Lucia Lake.


Learn more about the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

READER’S CHOICE: The Fernery, Storms River, Tsitsikamma, Western Cape

The Fernery situated in Storms River tsitsikamma is one of the most unforgettable places I have experienced. It has breathtaking views of forest, ocean and waterfalls, and is your home away from home on night three of the Dolphin Trail. What started out as a family home is now a luxury 4 star stay. Simply one to never forget. – Jannem Goussard, Country Life reader


All you need to know about Storms River.

READER’S CHOICE: Glamping in the Cederberg Mountains, Western Cape

De Pakhuys in the Cederberg Mountains is at the top of my bucket list. The permanent tents offer the ultimate glamping experience – our tent had a victorian bath in the bathroom, a kitchen with a fridge, table and wash-up area, as well as a very comfortable bedroom with a double bed and sleeper couch.

There are magnificent views from the braai area of the ancient rock formations. Stargazing at night is breath-taking, since the stars are extra bright out there – we saw several shooting stars. Plus there is a dam to swim in and a hiking trail with a waterfall – what more can you ask for? – Marle van Rensburg, Country Life reader


 If this bucket list inspired you, have a look at our other bucket list ideas:

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