10 Best Small Towns in South Africa

I’m itching to get out and explore again… but this will have to wait a while longer as we continue to socially distance and stay home during lockdown.

In the meantime I’m writing a series of posts called Best in SA that highlights all the best places to put on your local bucket list. The idea is that you’ll then have a lovely list of family-friendly places around South Africa that you can visit once life returns to a semblance of normality because it doesn’t seem like international travel will be a possibility for quite some time sadly!

Today’s post is a round up of the 10 Best South African Small Towns as selected by local and international travel bloggers. These are some of the loveliest small towns around (there are plenty to discover!) and they are all worth spending more than just a few hours – so plan to spend a weekend or even a week making the most of these little gems.

Best Small Towns in South Africa

Knysna, Garden Route

Nominated by: Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World

The lovely Knysna is one of the towns scattered along the Garden Route that you absolutely must visit and that marks a perfect stop during a road trip. You will not have time to get bored there – there really are many interesting things to do in Knysna. The most famous attraction in the area is the Knysna Heads, which can be admired from above (you will have great coastal views and, if you are lucky, also spot whales in the distance) and from a distance. A boat trip on the lagoon is a great way to admire the local wildlife. Knysna is a great destination for food lovers – it’s where you will find the delicious Knysna oysters. It is an overall very pleasant place to visit, with a relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous views.


Mossel Bay, Garden Route

Nominated by: Chrysoula from Travel Passionate

Mossel Bay is a family-friendly coastal town in South Africa located along the famous Garden Route, with lots of fun things to see and do. Of course, as it is a bay in South Africa, one of the highlights here is the beach, with Santos Beach being the perfect spot to kick-back and relax. With warm sandy shores and a regular lifeguard watching over the bay, this is a safe and secure spot to soak up some rays.

Alternatively, if the weather isn’t playing ball, visitors can enjoy the Diaz Express Train Ride, take a boat trip to Seal Island, go whale watching or take a trip to the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse.


Swellendam, Western Cape

Nominated by: Roxanne Reid from Africa Addict

Declared the Western Cape’s Town of the Year 2020, Swellendam is about two hours east of Cape Town on the way to the Garden Route, but it’s worth stopping a few days to explore. Lying between the Langeberg and the Breede River, it delivers a host of things to do in nature – like hiking, mountain biking and horse riding. There are good museums, art galleries and one of the Cape’s prettiest churches. Foodies will love its restaurants, honey shop, cheese shop, and picking their own berries. Don’t miss a township tour or taking time to chat to the friendly locals.


Kenton-on-Sea, Eastern Cape

Nominated by: Claire Stokes from Stoked to travel

Located in the Eastern Cape a few hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth and is wedged in between the Kariega River and the Bushmans River. Perhaps the perfect beachside town, Kenton-on-Sea has endless activities on offer from sandboarding, hiking, kitesurfing, beach horse riding, fishing as well boat trips on the river and in the lagoons. It is also home to some great beachside dining locations such as the popular family friendly Jerry’s, serving up delicious pizza and the lively Horn’s Up pub on the Kariega River, which is mainly accessible by boat.



Paternoster, West Coast

Nominated by: Erin Mushaway from Sol Salute

Paternoster is a lovely fishing village two hours from the Mother City on the Western Cape. It’s an ideal small-town beach escape to add on to any Cape Town itinerary. The expansive beach is perfect for families to run free and play. Activities range from wildlife viewing (whales, penguins, and dolphins all swim here) and water sports. Paternoster is for the family that likes to go off the beaten path. Rent a white-washed cottage that would feel right at home on a Greek isle and eat freshly caught fish in one of the small family-owned restaurants in town.


Franschhoek, Western Cape

Nominated by: Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads

Franschhoek, named after the French settlers who arrived here in the 17th and 18th centuries, is a small town in South Africa’s Western Cape filled with Cape Dutch architecture and surrounded by beautiful vineyards. Widely known as ‘the food and wine capital of South Africa’ this beautiful town is home to a high concentration of world-class restaurants and is a real foodies haven. With some of the top farms in the Cape Winelands in the area, wine tasting is a very popular attraction and the Franschhoek wine tram is a great way to do it. This double storey tram will take you to the amazing farms with great views over the valley sitting on the top deck. Surrounded by beautiful trails in the mountains and vineyards the town is great for mountain biking and trail running. There is a vast selection of activities around town; visit the Franschhoek Motor Museum that displays a collection of hundreds of vintage cars in perfect condition, go on a chocolate tour and learn from a professional chocolatier, stroll through Franschhoek Village Market or have a picnic in the beautiful winelands.


Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route

Nominated by: Rachael Gunn from Champagne on Arrival

For some of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches, great seafood and lots of wildlife spotting opportunities, Plettenberg Bay ticks all the boxes. For the first two, head for lunch at The Lookout which has beaches and views for days, superb cocktails and a great menu. For wildlife, go to Robberg Nature Reserve for a chance to spot whales and seals and then Birds of Eden or Monkeyland, two animal rehabilitation centres focussing on giving a great life to animals unable to live in the wild.


Matjiesfontein, Karoo

Nominated by: Janine Avery from 5 Star Stories

Veer off the N1 at Matjiesfontein and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve been abducted by aliens or travelled through a time machine. This literal one road town may just be the cutest place you’ll ever visit with one hotel, one café, a pub, post-office come gift shop, and a bright pink church. I loved this town for its vintage car museum, hilarious open-top bus tour and opulent ghost-riddled Lord Milner hotel with massive red-carpeted staircase. Download VoiceMap’s free walking tour of Matjiesfontein to explore all the intricacies of the ultimate road-trip stop over spot.


Graaff-Reinet, Karoo

Nominated by: Janine Avery from 5 Star Stories

Were the dusty desert meets mystical landscapes is where you will find Graaf Reinet. The Valley of Desolation here, which sits in the Camdeboo National Park, towers over the town with its dramatic cliff faces and simply stunning rock formations. The town itself centres around the magnificent church at its centre and is a haven of boutique wine shops, art galleries and antique stores. Venture a little bit out of town and you’ll find a number of amazing game reserves that are doing great work to introduce animals like lions and elephants into the area. Once such reserve I really loved visiting was Mount Camdeboo, their exquisite cuisine, personal service and plush manor house meant for the most relaxing break!


Hermanus, Western Cape

Nominated by: Janine Avery from 5 Star Stories

The coastal town of Hermanus is where you can have a whale of a time, quite literally! The town is known for its land-based whale watching and the easy cliff paths here make for some of my favourite walks in South Africa. While known for its blue flag beaches, when I visit Hermanus I love to head inland to the area’s Hemel en Aarde wine valley where the cool climate lends itself to some of my favourite Chenin Blancs and Chardonnays. With a penchant for adventure, Hermanus is also one of my favourite kitesurfing spots. The tranquil lagoon offers a great place for beginners like me to hone my skills on flat water, away from the crowds of some of the country’s better known beaches.


Which of these small towns are your favourite to spend time in?

Don’t forget to share your own favourite South African small town in the comments!

Pin this post!

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.