Port Alfred River, Port Elizabeth.
Port Alfred River, Port Elizabeth.
Image: Supplied

We’re all searching for a little R&R right now, but before you go rushing headlong to the same-old same-old, perhaps this is the year for a change of scenery. To avoid the crowds in favour of a road less travelled.

Head away from usual highlights and you’ll not only steer clear of the bustle, but you’ll also push your holiday spend into corners of the country crying out for tourists. Whether it’s a whole new escape, or just a few days off the beaten track, add this trio to your itinerary ...

The Cape’s quiet corner

It’s with good reason that the Garden Route draws thousands of tourists each summer. Between the glamour of Plettenberg Bay and the natural beauty of Knysna, what’s not to love? But leave these tourist honeypots behind and you’ll find the southern Cape coastline delivers equal beauty without the crowds.

Boggoms Bay boasts endless sandy beaches and warm (well, for the Cape) waters, while at Stilbaai the beachfront is lined with airy holiday homes for rent, while offshore the Stilbaai Point offers one of the country’s finest surf breaks. Jongensfontein, just down the road, is even more low-key and has equally good surf. At Skulpiesbaai, delve into ancient history as spring low tides reveal the elaborate network of fish traps built by the earliest Khoisan hunter-gatherers.

Stilbaai.
Stilbaai.
Image: Richard Holmes

It’s not all sea and sand though. Head upstream along the Goukou River and you’ll find self-catering bolt-holes offering lazy days filled with kayaking and swimming. The eastern bank is also home to Inverroche distillery, one of SA’s craft gin pioneers. Stop in for a tasting of their fynbos-driven spirits — there’s delicious rum on offer too — or take a deep-dive into distilling with a workshop in their Gin Sensorium.

Inverroche Gin Tasting.
Inverroche Gin Tasting.
Image: Supplied

The Plains of Camdeboo

Nobody ends up in Graaff-Reinet by mistake. And that’s a pity, for this quaint Karoo town has plenty to offer curious road-trippers.

For starters there’s the Camdeboo National Park, which surrounds Graaff-Reinet. This ancient landscape offers both walking and 4x4 trails, with the highlight being sunset admired from atop the otherworldly dolerite cliffs of the Valley of Desolation.

Drostdy Hotel.
Drostdy Hotel.
Image: Supplied
Drostdy Hotel interior.
Drostdy Hotel interior.
Image: Supplied

Back in the town centre, founded in 1786, the streets boast a rich blend of Cape Dutch, Victorian and vernacular Karoo architecture. Book a walking tour through the tourism office to get a proper understanding of the town’s heritage. Need a bed for the night? The Drostdy Hotel offers a range of rooms that deftly balance contemporary comfort with heritage flourishes, with fine-dining Karoo style at De Camdeboo restaurant.

Mount Camdeboo Manor.
Mount Camdeboo Manor.
Image: Supplied
Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve.
Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve.
Image: Supplied

The wide-open plains of Camdeboo lie just to the south of town, and both Samara Private Game Reserve and Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve are pouring enormous effort into rewilding the Karoo, and cementing the region’s growing reputation as a destination for luxury safaris.

Walking on sunshine

With a name like the Sunshine Coast, how could you not want to visit the villages east of Port Elizabeth? The likes of Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea are tailor-made for laid-back seaside holidays, with glorious coastal drives and long stretches of lonely sands.

But if you’re feeling more adventurous, keep heading east along the R72 towards East London. Golfers will love the Gary Player-designed track at the Fish River Resort, but the coast only gets quieter — and more beautiful — as you push on. At the Mpekweni Beach Resort there’s old-school hospitality overlooking an endless beach, while owner-run guest houses and airy Airbnb rentals pepper the coastline all the way to the hamlet of Hamburg.

Fish River Resort.
Fish River Resort.
Image: Supplied

This is the land of the old-fashioned seaside holiday. You won’t find celebrity chefs or brand-name boutiques here. Instead, quiet beaches and no end of sunshine, just as holidays were made for.

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