South African small towns have so much to offer and are great for travellers on a variety of budgets.
In fact, many South Africans are choosing to stay in South Africa for their holidays and explore off the radar towns away from the tourist hotspots.
Many incredible travel experiences are right on your doorstep, from the beaches of Jeffreys Bay to the waterfalls of Howick.
Here are five of SA’s top small towns (according to guest arrivals on Airbnb across 2018).
Saldanha, Western Cape
Saldanha is often overlooked as a holiday town in favour of its slightly bigger, more buzzy neighbour, Langebaan. But this little town is not to be underestimated - there is plenty on offer for visitors to see and do. Plus, visiting towns that are off the tourist map helps spread the benefits of tourism to places and people who would not usually gain from this business. Bird- lovers will enjoy the fact that Saldanha is known to have a variety of bird species visit its shores throughout the year, including seagulls, cormorants, Cape gannets, duikers and terns.
Saldanha resident and Airbnb host, Marlon, believes that his little seaside town is perfect during the warmer months. “Because of our position in an almost enclosed sea water bay, everyone swims here in summer and there’s no need for a wetsuit. It’s also a safe spot to learn kite- and windsurfing, and the beachfront is dotted with palm trees and the most beautiful turquoise blue sea water on sunny days,” says Marlon.
This KwaZulu-Natal town is part of the stunning Midlands Meander and is known for its amazing natural beauty, food and adventure. Characterised by its many waterfalls, the town is ideal as a base for those wanting to see the nearby Drakensberg Mountains.
This farming town is quaint and well-loved by travellers from around the world, with one of its most popular attractions being the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. It was here that Mandela was captured by the Apartheid government in August 1952.
Being a farming town, farm stays are a popular choice for visitors. There are a number of farm stay options available on Airbnb - each giving guests that special country stay feeling.
Bethlehem, Free State:
Not quite as small town as the rest of the towns on this list, Bethlehem is large enough to have lots to do, but still small enough to feel cosy and get a great sense of the local community. It’s a lovely area with lots to offer those who choose to visit there.
Outdoor activities are famous here with horse riding, angling, abseiling, canoeing, river rafting and game drives all being popular choices. And, with the Golden Gate National Highlands National Park well within reach for a day’s visit, a stay in the town makes even more sense.
Justin, who has a rustic self-catering flat in this town believes that the natural beauty of the town is what makes it a great destination to visit at any time of year. According to Justin, it’s also the perfect base from which to explore surrounding areas.
Ballito, KwaZulu Natal
Not a stranger to being one of SA’s most-loved little towns, Ballito is a short 40km drive from Durban. It’s perhaps best known for being a popular spot to see dolphins - which is why it’s also known as the Dolphin Coast. This holiday town has stunning natural beauty and locals and visitors alike enjoy frockilig in the warm Indian Ocean that hugs the shoreline. There is also a range of exciting outdoor activities to enjoy here, some of which can be enjoyed by booking an Airbnb Experience such as discovering an underwater wilderness through snorkeling.
Jeffrey’s Bay, Eastern Cape
With a year-round moderate climate, masses of activities on offer, plus the added cool factor of being a world-renowned surfing destination, Jeffreys Bay is an ideal destination for South Africans looking for a fun-filled getaway all-year-round.
This coastal town in the Eastern Cape has a lot to offer: museums, adventure sports, great food (especially seafood), shops packed with locally-made curios and, of course, beautiful beaches. There’s good reason that J-Bay, as locals and frequent visitors fondly call it, is a hotspot for surfing, surfing and more surfing. If you don’t know how to surf, don’t fret. You can book a learn-to-surf Experience through Airbnb so that you are on your way to becoming a pro in no time.
For local host Louisa who lists her cute cottage on Airbnb, it’s truly the beaches and the relaxed atmosphere that make the town.
“Jeffreys Bay has such stunning beaches that go on forever, with regular sightings of dolphins and whales. The town is a mixture of all cultures and restaurants to match each culture. Stay in J-Bay and take a drive to Tsitsikamma, Storms River, PE and Addo for a day visit. Our town is just laid back, providing the perfect getaway,” says Louisa.