Every year, when I get a new calendar or diary, I immediately page through the months to see which long weekend is hiding where.
And then the planning starts. Because long weekends are meant for making memories; whether it is being adventurous, getting together with loved ones, switching off from the online world, being in nature or exploring a place you’ve never visited before.
In 2018 there are 6 long weekends spreading their extending arms from March to December, and with a little planning, a leave day here and there, you can make any long weekend your boss and turn it into an extra long weekend.
Make a long weekend an extra long weekend
21 March (Human Rights Day)
The 21st of March falls on a Wednesday, put in leave for the Monday and Tuesday or for the Thursday and Friday and boom, you’ll have 5 days!
30 March – 2 April (Easter Weekend)
Like every Easter weekend, Good Friday is uhm, on a Friday (30 March), and Family Day is on a Monday (2 April). Easter weekend is during the school holidays so if you’re planning a getaway, get your accommodation sorted as soon as possible.
27 April and 1 May (Freedom Day and Workers Day)
These two national holidays, are like “vinkel en koljander, die een kan nie sonder die ander”. The 27th of April is on a Friday and the 1st of May is on a Tuesday. Put in leave for Monday the 30th of April and you can look forward to 5 days. Schools also have the Monday off.
16 June (Youth Day)
Sorry. Your Youth Day long weekend will be back next year.
9 August (Women’s Day)
The 9th of August falls on a Thursday, schools have the Friday off and you can also have a day off if you put in leave for the 10th of August.
24 September (Heritage Day)
The 24th of September is on a Friday! Hooray to a 3-day long weekend!
16 December (Day of Reconciliation)
And hooray for another 3-day long weekend as the 16th of December falls on a Monday.
Christmas is on a Tuesday, with the 26th of December on the Wednesday. If you’re working over this period the 24th of December will be a widely requested day for leave.
Same goes for the 1st of January 2019 which falls on a Tuesday, taking off on the 31st of December and having a 5-day long weekend is the perfect way to go into 2019.
8 Long Weekend Escapes in South Africa
Now with the dates sorted, let’s have a look at some places that offer a bit more than what one can fit into a normal weekend.
If you’re planning to take leave around the public holidays, put your request in as soon as possible. If you’re planning a getaway around the public holidays, make your reservations as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Cape West Coast
Going in the direction of the West Coast is any road-tripper’s dream; there are small towns, unique farm stalls, wow sights, friendly faces and lots of photo opportunities along the way.
Base yourself in one or two towns over the long weekend and explore from there. For avid hikers and nature lovers, stay over in the area of Citrusdal to explore the Cederberg. Ocean addicts can stay over in Paternoster, Langebaan or Yzerfontein to enjoy the Atlantic and to explore West Coast National Park. For those who prefer a mix of culture, quiet time and quirky small town finds, the town of Darling is the way to go. If you want to add some hiking to your Darling getaway, you can hike the Darling Stagger, a slackpacking trail with some olive and wine tasting on the side. To learn more about the culture of the San, visit !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre (which is situated on the R27, en route to Darling and Langebaan).
For accommodation on the Cape West Coast, click here.
Discovering the Overberg is like discovering poetry; there’s a certain rhythm to its sights, there’s a balance between mountain and sea, fynbos and fish. Sunsets turn into ever-lasting golden memories, pristine beaches beg you to slow down and take it all in, and as you pass through one town en route to another town your list of places to visit “when you get back to the Overberg” just gets longer and longer.
If you are after a mix of nature, beach and limited signal, go to De Hoop Nature Reserve. If you want to get captivated by a cave, charmed by conservation and mesmerised by marine life then head to Gansbaai (seriously, don’t miss the cave at De Kelders). For your August and September long weekends, base yourself along the coast of the Overberg for whale-watching, Hermanus is known as the official whale-watching capital of the World. If you are craving a relaxing weekend and a small coastal town escape with long walks along the beach, Pringle Bay, Struisbaai (a stone’s throw from Cape L’Agulhas) and Betty’s Bay might be right up your ally.
If you want to see the sight Canola flowers for kilometers and kilometers, head that way in August or September.
For accommodation in the Overberg, click here.
The Panorama Route is a stretch of postcard-perfect-picture upon postcard-perfect–picture and often a detour for most travellers. But it’s a detour oh-so-worth-it as the Lowveld roads wind through spectacular views, impressive waterfalls and a dramatic terrain along the Mpumalanga escarpment.
If you’re after adventure for your long weekend you’ll be pleased to know that river rafting and abseiling are only some of the activities on offer for thrill seekers. Don’t forget to visit at least one waterfall; there’s the Berlin Falls, Lisbon Falls or the Mac Mac Falls and for a picnic and quick swim in the cold mountain water you can stop at the Mac Mac Pools. Enjoy the view from God’s Window and stop at the Bourke’s Luck Potholes that were formed over many years by swirling whirlpools. The Blyde River Canyon and its three Rondawels are probably one of the biggest highlights of the Panorama Route. You can also take a step back in time and visit the old gold-mining town in Pilgrim’s Rest (don’t forget to stock up on some macadamia nuts while you’re in the area).
If you have an extra day or two to spare, visit Kruger National Park; Phabeni Gate is the closest to Hazyview.
For accommodation along the Panorama Route, click here.
If you have a vehicle with a high clearance and enough oomph to be a 4×4 then get off the beaten track and off the digital grid for a long weekend in Baviaanskloof.
Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape is an ecological wonder containing seven out of eight of South Africa’s biomes; the 210 000 hectares is a World Heritage Site with a mix of farming and conservation as it is home to the most diverse species of plants per square kilometer.
The kloof – a road of 200 km that can easily take you 8 hours or more to conquer – is a rugged wilderness terrain of narrow ways, water crossings, balancing acts of sandstone rock formations and sheer cliffs; a true playground for 4×4 enthusiasts, outdoor lovers and motorbike troopers. It is where dust, diesel and diff locks come together to traverse over mountains and through valleys, from Patensie’s side all the way to Willowmore and vice versa. Baviaanskloof should not be rushed, the journey of going through the kloof is already a wow, but so is the numerous hiking trails, and you have the option to go mountain biking, swimming and bird watching, kloofing and more.
There is accommodation on Willowmore’s side and Patensie’s side that you can reach with a normal sedan vehicle, but when you enter the Wilderness area a 4×4 is necessary.
For accommodation in Baviaanskloof, click here.
Exploring the Wild Coast is perfect for one of those long weekends that have some extra padding – leave days – on the sides.
The Wild Coast is a stretch of coastline consisting of waterfalls, gorges, cliffs, rock formations, forests, landscapes, land and sea animals, culture, traditions, rivers, crashing waves, sunsets, sunrises, mangrove swamps and beaches. Base yourself in two locations and explore the area from your base and en route to your next base. Visit Hole in the Wall at Coffee Bay and the blowhole at Port St Johns, look for treasures from a ship that sank in the 1600s at Double Mouth Reserve (close to Morgan Bay), go hiking, go biking, go birdwatching, look for cows on the beach at Mdumbi, learn to surf at Cintsa, take the pont across Kei Mouth, have a cultural experience, stay with a local family, go horse riding and just enjoy the wildness of the Wild Coast.
The roads of the Wild Coasts often results in a bumpy ride where a high clearance vehicle might be best to get off the beaten path, but there are still a number of places accessible to those with a lower clearance vehicle.
For accommodation on the Wild Coast, click here.
Deep within the Limpopo province is Magoebaskloof and it is a place like no other. Magoebaskloof is a land of silver mist in the morning and blue skies in the afternoon and rainy clouds at night, it’s a place where pink and white lilies line up next to the road, where the sound of the Knysna Louries fill the forest-sphere and where mango trees promise something sweet while another hill whisper citrus secrets and avo treats.
The forests of Magoebaskloof are excellent for birders and Woodbush forest is known for the Cape Parrot, Bat Hawk, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Narina Trogon, Green Twinspot and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher to name a few (you can go on a birding tour with Kurisa Moya with some of South Africa’s top bird guides). Adventurers can enjoy kloofing and abseiling in the George’s Valley Gorge while others can stroll around the small town of Haenertsberg for a bite to eat, a bit of shopping and a visit to Zwakala Brewery. There are also 4×4 routes (plus an obstacle course) in the area, canopy tours and hiking trails.
For accommodation in Magoebaskloof, click here.
Take the Swartberg Pass from Oudtshoorn, and turn left into Gamkaskloof, also known as “Die Hel”.
It is the perfect escape for those who want to recharge their batteries and rejuvenate their souls using only solar power. The narrow valley in the Swartberg Mountains offers zero electricity, zero phone signal, and just as nature intended, zero wi-fi. Listen to the silence, go hiking or biking or fishing and listen to the kloof stories from Pieter Joubert at Fontein Guest Farm. In Gamkaskloof there is nothing – nothing but nature- and it is enough.
Graaff-Reinet and Cradock
Head inland to the Karoo and explore Graaff-Reinet and Cradock during your next long weekend. Exploring these two towns in the Karoo Heartland is for that long weekend that will allow you to stay over for four nights at least, for road trippers from Port Elizabeth it is a 600 km round-trip.
Explore the historic houses, iconic church and museums of Graaff-Reinet on foot and head to the Valley of Desolation for a view like no other (hiking trails and 4×4 routes are also available). Camdeboo National Park offers visitors the opportunity to go on a self-drive game drive, and there is a picnic site and also a bird hide looking out on the Nqweba Dam. Visit the art galleries and Obesa Cacti Nursery in town which has the largest collection of cacti and succulent plants in the world.
From Graaff-Reinet it is about a 100 km drive to Cradock through the scenic R61.
Cradock boasts Mountain Zebra National Park and it is the only park in South Africa where you can go cheetah tracking on foot. The park is also home to 4×4 trails, a variety of animals, incredible views and a picnic site with a swimming pool. While in town don’t miss the chance to pop in at True Living, the shop and restaurant of Lani Lombard, one of the semi-finalists of My Kitchen Rules. You can also visit the Olive Schreiner House (museum), do a walking tour and view the historic churches. Cradock is home to the Karoo Food Festival, happening in April every year, and the Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival in July.
Other popular long weekend trips…
The whole of South Africa is worth your long weekend, but you can also explore the Sunshine Coast, Robertson Wine Valley, Drakensberg, Eastern Cape highlands, Garden Route, Langkloof, Clarens and Golden Gate National Park and Kruger National Park to name a few of the hundreds of options we have in our beautiful country.
This piece was done in collaboration with SA-Venues.com.