Written by Marike Cronjé
So, you want to travel to South Africa. You want to tick off those iconic tourist attractions and, as soon as that’s done you are going off-the-grid and finding those off-the-grid destinations in South Africa, without the tourist rush.
We are letting you in on three of our favourite hidden gems, all which are small coastal towns – because everyone can do with a bit of fresh, sea air. So, firstly, you have two options. You can head to the West Coast or the South Coast.
This town made its way onto our “off-the-grid” list for more than one reason. It is a destination where you can do nothing at all and still feel like it was a day well spent. While, if you were feeling active that day, you could still explore the remote beaches on horseback, venture into the ocean on a kayak or hike along the coastline. Only 2 hours from Cape Town lies the oldest fishing village on the West Coast of South Africa – Paternoster. Expect world-class crayfish, very few tourists and comfortable nights in your beachside villa or 5-star hotel.
This fishing village is best described as a barefoot luxury destination – where you can walk over to the bakery “Oep ve Koep” to buy your freshly baked bread for the day and eat seafood on the beach front, while dinner brings you to one of the most exclusive culinary experiences in South Africa with Kobus van der Merwe – a local chef. Here you will be served an authentic seven-course tasting menu in rustic, West Coast authenticity.
With adventurous days, comes the need for comfortable nights. While Paternoster is off-the-grid, the town is well equipped when it comes to world-class accommodation. Beach villas are first prize when it comes to group travellers and families, while the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel is a must for couples.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is one of Africa’s most remote coastal reserves. With 51km of white beaches and dunes to be explored, off-the-grid doesn’t get better than this, especially when you are staying in the only villa on 36 000 hectares of land.
Yes, you might be in the middle of nowhere, but adventure is at your doorstep. Just take your pick. The reserve offers the best land-based whale watching in Southern Africa, the months of August and September being your best bet to spot mothers calve in the marine protected bay.
If you are more of an active person, you can carve out your own coastal trails on a stretch of 51km or take it easy with a guided marine walk at low-tide. If you’ve had enough of the sand, fynbos hikes are up next. But don’t be surprised if you spot some wildlife too. The reserve is home to Bontebok, Eland, Zebra, baboons, hartebeest, ostriches and the elusive Cape Leopard.
To get your heart rate up you can also explore the reserve by mountain bike or take a sand board down some of the highest dunes in South Africa.
The small seaside town of Arniston is a hidden gem, which won’t be found without being sought out. A mere 2 hour drive from Cape Town, on the Cape South Coast, awaits pristine crystal clear waters resembling that of Greece, and untouched beaches and sand dunes waiting to be explored. Situated next to an old fishing village and surrounded by nature reserves, Arniston is the perfect getaway destination for travellers looking to experience a piece of South Africa unknown to most.
Arniston is loved for its warm turquoise waters, its never-ending white beaches and the local fishermen who still go out to sea in colourful wooden boats to supply the town with the freshest catch of the day. Declared a national monument in its entirety, the fisherman’s village, “Kassiesbaai”, is characterized by lime-washed, thatched houses and friendly locals who pride themselves in their community.
If you are looking to be active, the calm, clear waters allow for tranquil kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding trips from the harbour all the way around to the main leisure beach, Roman Beach. If you are an explorer at heart, the Arniston cave, which can only be accessed during low tide, is a must see, being a literal hidden gem due to the fact that it is obstructed from view during high tides. If you are in no rush, you can also spend your day fishing for your own catch of the day and enjoy a picnic on the beach while you are there.