Three off-the-beaten-track escapes for your local December holiday

Avoid the crowds in favour of a road less travelled

Port Alfred, with its stretches of sandy beach that extend for miles, lies on the banks of the Kowie River
COASTAL HAMLET: Port Alfred, with its stretches of sandy beach that extend for miles, lies on the banks of the Kowie River
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. you’ll not only steer clear of the bustle, but will also push your holiday spend into corners of the country crying out for tourists.

Whether it’s a new summer holiday 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 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, and 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, also known as The Bay of Sleeping Beauty, boasts a winding river and beachfront lined with holiday homes for rent
SLEEPING BEAUTY: Stilbaai, also known as The Bay of Sleeping Beauty, boasts a winding river and beachfront lined with holiday homes for rent
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.

The eastern bank of the Goukou River is home to Inverroche distillery, one of SA’s craft gin pioneers
FYNBOS INSPIRED: The eastern bank of the Goukou River is home to Inverroche distillery, one of SA’s craft gin pioneers
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 a sunset admired from atop the otherworldly dolerite cliffs of the Valley of Desolation.

The Drostdy Hotel in Graaff-Reinet combines contemporary comfort with heritage flourishes
FINER BALANCE: The Drostdy Hotel in Graaff-Reinet combines contemporary comfort with heritage flourishes
Image: SUPPLIED
A stylish bedroom at the Drostdy Hotel
HOME COMFORT: A stylish bedroom at the Drostdy Hotel
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 offers a luxury stay, nestled in nature
SERENE SURROUNDS: Mount Camdeboo Manor offers a luxury stay, nestled in nature
Image: SUPPLIED
Guests on a guided drive through the Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve
WILDLIFE EXPERIENCE: Guests on a guided drive through the 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.

The Gary Player-designed golf course in the beautiful surrounds of the Fish River Resort
SPECTACULAR SETTING: The Gary Player-designed golf course in the beautiful surrounds of the 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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