South Africa is an amazing country with so much to see and explore. You could spend so much time here, and still have so much more to see! It has always been a dream of mine to visit, and my experience definitely did not disappoint. South Africa should be on everyone’s bucket list, and if you are able to visit, here are 20 ideas to add to your bucket list that you can’t miss!
Go on a Safari in Kruger National Park
Going on a safari is magic. Before going on safari in Kruger it was always at the top of my bucket list, and now that I’ve gone on safari I am constantly trying to get back! Riding around in a safari vehicle in Africa with your eyes peeled at the scenery, trying to find animals living their life in the wild is incredible. When someone initially spots an animal, everyones hearts start pumping and eyes darting around trying to see the same thing before the animal disappears from sight. It’s a different kind of adrenaline rush all day, and the nights are filled with excitement as you anticipate your next safari tomorrow.
Biltong is delicious. It is similar to beef jerky, but is hung and air dried instead. Nonetheless, it is delicious and makes a great road trip (or safari) snack. It comes in many different flavours (my favourite is the chili bites) and you can find it at any butcher in South Africa!
Go to the top of Table Mountain
Table Mountain is one of the 7 Wonders of Nature and is located in South Africa’s capital city, Cape Town. The photo above was taken on a hike up to the top of Table Mountain (one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done). The smaller mountain in the distance is Lions Head, another popular hike you can do while in Cape Town (and should do!!). If you’re not up for the hike up to the top of Table Mountain (there are a ton of routes to choose from), you can take the cable car up for around 200 – 360 rand ($15-$28 CAD at the time of writing), depending on the time you go and if you’re purchasing a round trip or one-way ticket.
You can find the Cable Car website here.
Tip: A popular choice is to either hike up Table Mountain and cable car down, or vise versa!
Roadtrip the Garden Route
The stretch along the coastline of South Africa’s South Eastern coast is known as the Garden Route, and technically stretches from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay. It’s a popular road trip to do when visiting South Africa, as there are a lot of fun things to see and do along the route!
The Blonde Abroad has a comprehensive itinerary and a ton of info on planning a Garden Route road trip here.
Hike Lions Head
Lions Head is another popular hike to do when in the capital, Cape Town. It’s a lot smaller than Table Mountain, but the nice thing is that it’s still located right in the city! There are some tricky parts on the hike, such as having to use the handles in the photo above on part of the trail, but it’s definitely manageable and worth the views of the city and ocean at the top!
Hike the Drakensburg Mountains
The Drakensburg Mountains are a mountain range located within the countries of Lesotho and South Africa. There is a lot of adventure to be found in the Drakensburg – hiking, biking, horseback riding, beautiful scenery, and more!
Spend a day at the Kirstenbosch Gardens
The Kirstenbosch Gardens are located in Cape Town and are stunning. Wandering the park is a great way to spend your morning or your afternoon: spending time in nature without having to leave the city! You can wander the gardens on your own or opt for one of their tours.
The Gardens also host festivals during the summertime and is known to be one of the best botanical gardens in the world.
Entrance price for adults: 75R ($5.75 CAD)
Shuttle Car Tours: 80R ($6.13 CAD) (in addition to entrance price)
Free guided tours are offered at special times within the park
Find more information on Kirstenbosch Gardens here.
Visit Robben Island
Robben Island is another hotspot located in Cape Town (there is a ton of stuff to do in Cape Town!) and is an island prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years. To get to Robben Island you have to buy a ticket in Cape Town at the Robben Island Gateway. Your ticket includes the ferry ride to and from the island (watch for whales and other marine animals!) and the tour while on the island. The tours do only run at certain times, so make sure to book your spot in advance! It was super busy when I arrived for my tour.
General Adult Tour Price: 380R (~$30 CAD) for South Africans, 550R (~$43 CAD) for non South Africans.
Find more information on Robben Island here.
See the Colorful Beach Huts of Muizenberg
These colourful beach huts are popular on instagram and are typically included as a stop in a multi stop tour. They are a fun place to see and take pictures at, but I wouldn’t go out of my way and spend a ton of money to make it here just to see these huts. If you can find a way to get here though, whether on a multi-stop tour or on a road trip, they are a fun stop to include!
Read more: 5 Popular Day Trips From Cape Town
Whale Watch in Hermanus
Hermanus is ranked as one of the best whale watching places in the world, and is something to add to the bucket list if you’re in South Africa during whale watching season! The season runs from July to November, so quite a span to see these beautiful creatures! The best part of it is you can watch whales no matter what you’re budget is – you can watch from land, or pay for a boat or kayaking tour to take you out on the water.
Find more information here for awesome whale watching tips in Hermanus, including the best places to watch for whales depending on the month, and a free whale watching guide!
Cage Dive with Great White Sharks
Gansbaii is another town where you might have some luck spotting whales, but what Gansbaii is really known as is the Great White Shark Capital of the World. Cage diving is a controversial excursion and is something I chose not do on my visit to South Africa, but it is what draws a lot of tourists here every year and gives you a chance to be up close and personal with great white sharks!
If you are planning on embarking on a cage diving tour, make sure not to leave it until the last day of your trip. This is what my friends who did go on a cage diving tour did, and they were unlucky on the day of their tour and did not see any sharks! The company offered to take them out again for free the following day, however, we were flying out that day, and so they basically spent a ton of money on a fancy boat ride.
Cape Point & the Cape of Good Hope
Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are two points of attraction that are typically combined on a day tour from Cape Town and both are located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula.
Cape Point offers stunning views of the ocean combined with mountainous rock formations. You can walk up to the very top of one of the rocks, or take a funicular called The Flying Dutchman, where a light house sits and to see some of the best views of the ocean.
The Cape of Good Hope is the most South-Western point of the African Continent, and also offers awesome views of the ocean. Also make sure to keep your eyes peeled when you’re driving up because you have the chance to see some animals on your drive in!
Jo’burg is the city I flew into on my South Africa visit, however I did not have time to explore the city when I arrived due to my tour leaving basically as soon as I arrived, but I wish I did! One of the most popular things to do in Johannesburg is take a Soweto township walking tour. In Soweto some of the popular sights you can see include Nelson Mandela’s old house and the Soweto cooling towers.
Scuba Dive with Cape Fur Seals
Having been scuba certified in Mozambique the month before arriving in South Africa, scuba diving with seals was high on my bucket list! The tour was so much fun and well worth the experience. We saw a ton of seals on our dive. The seals were so curious and would even swim right up to us even though we kept a distance and never approached them ourselves. I did my dive in Simon’s Town (which is also where you can see penguins on the beach at Boulder’s Beach!) with the company Pisces Divers.
If you are not dive certified, there is also the option to snorkel with the seals. But if you can dive, I would highly recommend diving!!
I did the Seal and Kelp Forest dive, which included 2 guided dives, equipment rental, water and chocolate while on the boat, and coffee and a small lunch after the dive! We were also able to lock up anything we did not want to take with us at the dive shop before departing.
Price: 2,200 R (~$167 CAD) for the Seal and Kelp Forest Dive
Meet the Penguins at Boulders Beach
Hanging out with the penguins at Boulders Beach is definitely a must do. This was another activity that was so high up on my bucket list when visiting South Africa. Unfortunately, I was unknowingly led by my tour guide to nearby Foxy Beach, a beach where you can see the penguins, but you can not actually hang out with them! Once I realized we had been led to the wrong spot, my tour guide told us it was time to leave.
I’m happy I was still able to see the penguins on the beach, but I for sure need to get back and go to the proper Boulder’s Beach to really see the penguins! So please, if you go, make sure you are taken to Boulders Beach!! It is definitely worth the trip.
Tip: Make sure to wear your swimsuit under your clothes in case you want to take a dip in the ocean!
Price: 65 R as a conservation fee (~$5.00 CAD)
Spend a Day Tasting Wine on a Cape Wine Tour
The Cape Winelands are not only so beautiful, but you can find some of the best wine in the world here. Most visitors opt to enjoy a day tour to visit multiple wineries and sample a large variety of wine, while also having time to explore the vineyards as well.
Some of the more popular Winelands include Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, as well as Constantia being the closest option to Cape Town if you are limited for time!
World of Wanderlust, a blogger living in Cape Town, has a great guide of the Cape Winelands best wineries here.
Have Fun at uShaka Marine World in Durban
On my trip we had one day in Durban and needed something to do, so decided to checkout the marine world! It was a lot of fun to explore the marine park and see the different marine animals. A fun thing to do while in the park is to check out the waterslides, which is what we saved for the end of our visit so we weren’t wet while exploring throughout the day. It started to rain right before we were about to head to the park, which worked out in our favour because we were the only ones there!
The Marine World is located right on the beach, so after we were done at the marine park we went for a swim in the ocean in the rain – so much fun!!!
Find more information on uShaka Marine World here.
Hike in Tsitsikama National Park
Tsitsikama National Park is a popular stop along the Garden Route (mentioned above) and offers a wide variety of activities for everyone to enjoy, including hiking, biking, climbing, tubing, bungee jumping, and so much more!
If you’re interested in hiking, the most popular hike to do is the Otter Trail.
Bungee Jump off Bloukrans Bridge
Located in Tsitsikamma National Park is the Bloukrans Bridge – the highest bungee jump from a bridge in the world. It seriously looks so cool, but also so scary! The bridge in itself is super pretty, and if you’re brave enough to try bungee jumping, why not do it off of the highest bridge bungee possible?!
Tube Down the Storms River
Tubing down the Storms River is another fun thing to do in Tsitsikamma National Park. You can hire a guide to take you on a leisurely tube ride down the river (they provide all of the gear – wetsuits, tubes, helmets, PFDs, even lunch!) and also stop along the way at the best spots to cliff jump! It was a great way to spend the day and a great way to experience the park!
Tip: Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes that you don’t mind getting wet – it’s a requirement by the company!
Price: 1200 R (~$90 CAD)
Tour Info: All gear was included, as well as lunch and chocolate bars while on the river. We spent around 4.5 hours on the river itself, but the tour lasted around 6 hours. It was so much fun and well worth it!
We went through the company Blackwater Tubing and did the Red Route.
Visit Cape Town – One of my Favourite Cities
Cape Town is hands down one of my favourite cities in the world. I love it. There is so much to do in Cape Town – hiking in nature, beach life, city life – you name it. Plus, there is so much day trip potential as well!
Read more: 12 Things to See & Do in Cape Town
Addo Elephant National Park
Located near Port Elizabeth, Addo Elephant National Park is a park you can go to to see some of the animals of Africa. The main animals at the park are elephants, but hyenas lions, warthogs, and so many other animals also call this park home! You can self-drive through the park, hire a guide, hike, camp, eat, go on a horseback ride, or even go to a spa!
Price: 328 R (~$25 CAD) for adults.
82 R for South African citizens & residents with ID.
Drive Chapman’s Peak
This drive is a total of 9km along the coast and is known as one of the most scenic drives in the world. You can get great views along this road, as it is absolutely stunning. There is a toll associated with this drive, so bring some cash if you are planning to drive this route!
Hogsback made it onto my radar because of a hostel that offers a really unique view – a bathtub on a cliff edge overlooking a valley. The hostel is called Away With the Fairies Backpacker Hostel, and if you have time to put this on your route – I am jealous of you and you definitely should! Some of the things they offer include free yoga, waterfalls, free fairy shots (sounds cool!), nature, and so much more. I didn’t have a chance to visit on my trip to South Africa, but I’m hoping to make it here on my next visit!
Hopefully, you enjoyed these photos and these suggestions inspire you to visit South Africa, and gave you ideas for your South Africa bucket list! Comment below or contact me with any questions you might have, or just to say hello!
Hey! I’m Kat. Based in Alberta, Canada I love to travel to the Rockies and explore new places around the world. Follow along on my adventures and find inspiration and tips for your own travels.