Off the beaten track destinations are all the rage for 2019. With experiential, adventure and responsible travel featuring firmly on travel trends lists for the new year, here are Flight Centre’s top five lesser-known destinations locals absolutely must visit in 2019.
Plett Wine Route
Plettenberg Bay is one of the most popular summer holiday spots on the Garden Route, but did you know it has its own wine route?
“One might think that after an annual trip to the area for the past 10 years, I would have discovered all there was on offer,” says Kathryn Rossiter, Digital Editor and Content Creator at becomingyou.co.za.
“The beauty of returning to the same spot is that the more you visit, the more you discover. That was just the case when I came across the hidden gem [that is] the Plett Wine Route and set about exploring four wineries located in The Crags, on the stretch of the N2 between Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley.”
The Plett Wine Route produces cool-climate wines, mostly whites, with the Sauvignon Blanc becoming increasingly popular, says Rossiter, who also recommends the region’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Rossiter visited the Kay & Monty, Lodestone, Bramon and Newstead estates. “I spent a few leisurely hours chatting to the winemakers, sampling their award-winning wines and indulging in some delicious local produce while soaking up the views of the vineyards and the Tsitsikamma Mountains beyond,” she says.
As the ‘newest’ wine region in South Africa, Plett is sure to attract the festive season crowds.
If you’ve never heard of this little Eastern Cape Town (it has a population of less than 26,000), be sure to put it on your 2019 travel list.
“Port Alfred is an idyllic seaside getaway,” says Nicky Potgieter, Leisure Marketing Leader at Flight Centre. “Visit the Halyards Hotel at the Marina for a meal, embark on a sunset cruise or simply wander around admiring the boats and yachts. Imagine a miniature version of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.”
“Port Alfred is also home to fantastic Blue Flag beaches such as Kelly’s Beach and the neighbouring beaches of Boknes, Kariega, Kleinemonde and Kenton on Sea.”
There are a variety of outdoor activities to keep the entire family happy. “You can enjoy kayaking, surfing and even horse riding on Kelly’s Beach,” says Potgieter. “There are also plenty of game reserves in the area, including the Pumba Private Game Reserve.”
The popular summer months of December and January can get rather busy so be sure to book your accommodation early or choose to travel in the quieter off-season.
While the Midlands may be well known, there are many small villages off the beaten track and attractions waiting to be discovered.
Verushka Ramasami, editor of www.spicegoddess.co.za, says Karkloof Safari Villas Lodge and Spa, which she discovered earlier this year, is precisely this sort of hidden gem.
“It is a place of magic that literally gives you the true ‘Out of Africa’ experience,” says Ramasami. “There are beautiful hotel and spa facilities… wildlife casually roaming around, and there are guided game drives and walks to the magnificent waterfalls… It is perfect for a day trip, and should definitely be on your to-visit list [for] the Midlands.”
Another hidden Midlands gem is the family-run Abingdon Wine Estate, says Ramasami. A single vineyard boutique winery, it produces a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
“It is an unexpected find, with a fantastic restaurant and tasting room set in a beautiful and tranquil environment,” says Ramasami. She suggests booking in advance.
The Wild Coast of South Africa, as is to be expected from its name, is wonderfully wild, mysterious and unspoilt. The area is named for its dramatic coastline of rocky cliffs, battered for centuries by the warm Indian Ocean.
“There are many beautiful stretches of coastline in our country, but not that many where you can feel truly remote and removed from the hustle and bustle,” says Potgieter. “The Wild Coast is one such special place.”
Small villages, rich in Xhosa culture, dot the seaside hills and cliffs with traditional thatched rondavels and you are quite likely to come across a cow wandering between the villages.
The small community of Coffee Bay is a popular backpacker destination. It is accessible via a tarred road.
Nearby, Hole in the Wall is a famous rocky outcrop. The legend is that the Mpako River, which runs through the perfectly arched hole to meet with the sea, was once a landlocked lagoon.
The only people you are likely to run into at Mapuzi, approximately 2.5 kilometres north of Coffee Bay, are fishermen. Spearfishing, free diving, rod and reel fishing are extremely popular here. There is also a hidden natural Jacuzzi, rock pools and cliff jumping for adrenaline junkies.
On Mdumbi’s beautiful beach, meet friendly locals from the Pondo tribe. They are known to share stories of their culture and the area’s history with friendly visitors.
A 30-minute drive from Graaff Reinet in the Eastern Cape (the fourth oldest town in the country) lies Nieu Bethesda.
This tiny Great Karoo town is hidden in a valley beneath the Sneeuberg Mountains. Surrounded by semi-desert, life plods on slowly – much as it did 130 years ago when the village was founded.
Nieu Bethesda is most famous for the Owl House, a museum and home comprising of more than 300 statues of owls, people, animals and birds created out of ground glass and concrete by the late artist, Helen Martins, in the 1950s.
The hamlet has long been a haven for the creative minded and, today, visitors can browse the area’s galleries, potteries, craft shops and ‘Dust Covers’ Bookshop for inspiration. Pop in to one of the coffee shops (try the cake at Manna) or restaurants (head to The Karoo Lamb for lamb and venison dishes). Sample locally-brewed craft beers at the Sneeuberg Microbrewery.
Just don’t leave without a souvenir from the Honest stoep shop, which sells natural body products made locally. Choose what you want, and leave your cash in the box.
Where better to embark on a journey of discovery and adventure than in one’s own country? Go on, local really is lekker.