Hidden Secrets Of 10 South African Towns

When you look at South Africa on any map you might think it is small compared to the rest of Africa but South Africa is large enough that it experiences several different weather patterns and the land is diverse enough to support various eco systems and habitats for a large diverse group of indigenous animals.

With these diverse weather patterns and unique land shapes the towns that have sprung up throughout South Africa are extremely unique and special. Every town has a tradition and they are all open to visitors as some towns in South Africa are solely dependent on income from the tourism industry.

It is thanks to this diversity that Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave South Africa the name “rainbow nation”. To show you just exactly how diverse our country can be here is a list of 10 towns and things that you probably did not know about them:

 

10. Parys: The town worth seeing.

 

The flat Free State in all of its beauty

The flat Free State in all of its beauty

This small town is not far from the big cities like Pretoria and Johannesburg and it has had a long history with the Boer Wars that were fought there but in modern times this town has seen. Some of the biggest industries built around the town centre and disputes over one single bridge lasting several years. All of these are contributions to the way the town looks and feels today.

The town was built for Religious purposes after which it became famous as a holiday destination during and after the Gold Rush period. During the Anglo-Boer War it was a strategic point for the Boers, the hills around the town and the islands in the river made the perfect hiding spots for the talented Boer marksmen.

After the Boer Wars, the town was transformed into an industrial and agricultural hotbed thanks to the bridge that was built over the river during the First World War. Eventually, the town calmed down and the industry moved away. However it is now regaining its popularity as a holiday town among the locals of the surrounding cities. This is a town that has quite literally gone full circle; from tourist hot spot, vital supply point, industrial centre and now becoming a tourist hot spot again.

 

9. Beaufort West: The ‘Capital’ of the Karoo

 

The Dutch Reformed Church in the middle of Beaufort West

The Dutch Reformed Church in the middle of Beaufort West

While not being in the exact centre of the Karoo it is considered to be the capital of the Karoo. The town was the first and is the largest town established in the Karoo. This means that it has a lot of history and there are multiple adventures that can be enjoyed here. The town stayed relatively quiet during the Boer Wars and was never really an industrial hub, it does however have the luxury of producing some of the most famous people that come from South Africa.

There is one man that should shine out particularly bright amongst the former citizens of Beaufort West, Professor Christiaan Barnard. Prof. Barnard was the first doctor to ever successfully perform an open-heart surgery, taking place in Cape Town on 3 December 1967. He went on to perform several more surgeries all with varying degrees of success.

 

8. Mossel Bay: A town with very deep roots

 

Mossel Bay at Dusk

Mossel Bay at Dusk

This small town is famous for its warm days and relaxing vacation feeling. This means that tourists love it. What you might not know is that the town has a history that stretches all the way back to the 1500’s. One of the most amazing things that makes this town special is that it is also the same spot where the first Europeans set foot on South African soil. In 1488 Bartholomeu Diaz was the first European to set foot on South African Soil and he did so here.

With a history like that and the proximity of the nearby town it should come as no surprise that almost any of the tourist hotspots can be visited by walking. The border between Hartenbos and Mossel Bay is almost non-existent, this leads to one of the best festivals along the coast. The water festival is held every year during December in Hartenbos and it stretches all the way to Mossel Bay. This festival celebrates seemingly nothing and involves dousing everyone around you with either water from buckets, water balloons or water guns (sometimes cannons).

The town is filled with activity and excitement and anyone that has the chance should definitely go visit it.

7. Paternoster: The White Town

 

The look of the beach near Paternoster, every day

The look of the beach near Paternoster, every day

This small town is close to Cape Town and it’s a very famous vacation hotspot. There are many things that attract tourists to the small town. Among them is the fact that all the houses in the town have been painted white. This means that the town is extremely beautiful when you view it from afar and during a certain period of the year, every year, it has a blanket of flowers that cover the streets, fields and alley ways.

What you might not have known is that the town’s locals all depend on the fishing trade and they are not so dependent on the tourist industry. There is a lone light house in the town that is the first light house you see when you approach South Africa from Europe on a boat.

6. Franschhoek: The French Heritage

 

Franschhoek with its surrounding mountains

Franschhoek with its surrounding mountains

Luckily, the people that live in Franschhoek are all perfectly able to speak Afrikaans and English, which are 2 of the prominent languages in the city, however their forefathers were all French. Unlike the rest of the Cape, which was colonised by the Dutch and Portuguese, the French mainly occupied Franschhoek. They were happy to have a corner of their own and aptly named most of the surrounding areas after their home towns in France. They also carried their family names over with them which is why most of the surnames in the area are stereotypically French: Du Toit, Marais and Joubert.

The weather around Franshoek provides you with the chance to experience some of South Africa’s most amazing phenomenon. During summer the temperatures can reach relatively high levels, which would prompt anyone into going swimming for the day. However during winter the temperatures cool down rapidly with the nearby mountains all having snow-capped peaks, an open invite to anyone willing to hike up one of the scraggly mountains.

 

5. Bela-Bela: South Africa’s hot springs

 

The Forever resort as seen from the top of the tube slide

The Forever resort as seen from the top of the tube slide

Located not far from Pretoria is the extremely small town of Bela-Bela. Originally called Warmbaths, the town was turned into a resort town when the Transvaal government bought the surrounding land in 1873. The first thing they did was create a resort called Hartingsburg not long after that the British took over the resort and renamed it Warmbaths in 1903. It’s around this resort that Warmbaths as a town started to exist.

Something to always remember while visiting Bela-Bela is that somewhere hidden away, between the massive pools and waterslides, there is an actual hot spring spa that promises to make you feel entirely relaxed and revitalised.

 

4. St. Lucia: The Town That Isn’t

 

The St. Lucia Estuary

The St. Lucia Estuary

The area in and around St. Lucia might have lot of houses and business’s but it has never been officially proclaimed as a town. The area is actually called the St. Lucia Estuary and Nature Reserve, with the main focus being to protect animals and give you the opportunity to see some amazing animals.

However if you have ever been to St. Lucia you can easily understand why it could be mistaken for a town. With the bustling tourist industry which has thousands of people travelling through the informal town every week, all the shops seem to be perpetually filled and most of the guest houses always have some sort of entertainment available. St. Lucia is definitely one of the top places to visit in KwaZulu-Natal.

 

3. Ballito: The town growing into Durban

 

One of the more quiet beaches in Ballito

One of the more quiet beaches in Ballito

With its close proximity to Durban and the houses that seem to form an endless line all the way to Durban, it is easy to get confused. Most people think that Ballito is a suburb of Durban like Umhlanga is. Fortunately it isn’t and it forms part of a set of holiday towns all along the Dolphin Coast.

Because of its close proximity to Durban and the fact that most of the guest houses available are super cheap Ballito is the perfect destination for family tourists. This is because there are hundreds of activities that are held throughout the year at almost every beach in Ballito. Combine this with the more solitary beaches where there are rarely people and the locals usually have a smiling face Ballito is easily one of the best places to enjoy a vacation on the East Coast of South Africa.

 

2. Magaliesburg: Vacation heaven

 

One of the hot air balloons from Magaliesburg going over the Harbeespoort Dam

One of the hot air balloons from Magaliesburg going over the Harbeespoort Dam

Located less than two hours’ drive from Pretoria, this small town looks and sounds extremely underwhelming when you first visit it. However underneath the skin there are hundreds of activities that will get your heart pounding available in and around the town. Everything from hiking, biking, zip-lining, sky diving and hot air ballooning.

These are just some of the things that are available here and considering that the town is close to some of the major cities you can easily enjoy several days of fun without being taken out of your comfort zone.

 

1. Knysna: Retirement central

 

A view of the Knysna lagoon

A view of the Knysna lagoon

Knysna is one of the very best holiday towns on South Africa’s coastline. The water in the lagoon is warm and calm enough that most people feel safe swimming there while within a few minutes’ drive you have access to the rougher water of the sea. Combined with a very relaxed and loving community you can easily see why people love coming to the town that fills three islands.

This is why throughout the holiday season people are constantly passing through the town. It becomes a hive of activity with thousands of people constantly moving through the town. However during the rest of the year the town is considerably different.

Knysna has senior citizens around every corner and everything seems to be relaxed outside the holiday season. Despite Knysna being filled with activities and a lot of young people partying whenever they can, the town is famous across the world for its retirement villages. The British love the town for its timid weather and the houses are cheap enough for them to buy and then still enjoy a long retirement.