Top 10 things to do in winter

Winter is here, but that doesn't mean you have to stay bundled up at home. South African winters, which are from June to August, typically comprise of crisp days and cold nights in the higher-lying areas. The coastal regions of South Africa along the Indian Ocean enjoy excellent weather during winter months. The Western Cape has most of its rain during this time but there are bright sunny days in between and these can be the most gorgeous days ever.

When travelling in South Africa during winter always remember to pack warm clothes and keep an umbrella handy; and of course don't forget to charge the batteries on your camera and your phone because the photo opportunities are unlimited! So put on those woollies and enjoy the season with our Top 10 things to do in Winter.

  • Southern Right whale

    1. Go Whale Watching

    Without a shadow of a doubt whale watching is something you have to do during winter and one of the best and most renowned whale watching spots in South Africa is Hermanus. Hundreds of Southern Right whales make their way to Hermanus' Walker Bay every winter to breed and watching these majestic creatures of the sea can be quite an amazing experience. Carry a pair of binoculars if you want to spot the whales from land or get adventurous and take a boat ride out to sea to get a closer look.

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  • Sardine run

    2. Watch the Sardine Run

    An extraordinary marine spectacle that takes place every year during the winter months is the sardine run. This is when large shoals of sardines, specifically the Southern African pilchard, move in a band up the coast to spawn in the cool waters on the continental shelf of the east coast. The shoreline is coloured silver as the tiny fish make their way to the shores of the beaches in KwaZulu-Natal. This is a phenomenon that is worth watching from land, sea or even underwater. Carry a cooler box with you because chances are you will be able to scoop up sardines from the sea and take them home to eat! Enjoy affordable car hire with First Car Rental and plan a trip to the sunny beaches of KZN.

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  • brandy

    3. Sip on South Africa's finest brandy

    The R62 Brandy Route stretches along the R62 freeway from Worcester to Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape and is where some of the finest South African brandy distilleries like KWV House of Brandy, the Klipdrift Distillery and Die Brandewyntuin are located. You can get a peek into the rich history of brandy making and brandy culture. The journey down the R62 will also take you past beautiful mountain ranges, rivers, vineyards and orchards along the way making this quite an amazing road trip.

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  • Golden Gate National Park

    4. Camp out in the snow

    If you want to enjoy the ‘winter wonderland' kind of experience in South Africa, head to the Golden Gate National Park in the Free State! The park is quiet during winter months and you can have an entire campsite to yourself with snow on all sides! In winter, the famous sandstone cliffs that are usually bathed in brilliant shades of gold are wrapped in a soft blanket of snow and the sight cannot be described in words. If camping in the chilly weather isn't really your cup of tea, you can always stay in the nearby Golden Gate Hotel.

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  • Jeffrey's Bay

    5. Surf in the supertube

    You can enjoy surfing all year round in South Africa but if you are looking for some serious waves head to Jeffrey's Bay in the Eastern Cape during the winter months. Jeffrey's Bay is one of the best surf spots in the world and every year surfers from across the globe make their pilgrimage to this mecca of surfing. At Jeffrey's Bay you bear witness to one of the most magnificent right-hand point break waves that the world has to offer. Waves include Supertubes, Boneyards, Impossibles and the Albatross. Waves here can break in excess of 20 feet.

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  • safari

    6. Winter Safari

    In many regions of South Africa the drier winter months are actually the best time to view wildlife. In Kruger, Madikwe, Pilanesberg and KwaZulu-Natal game parks animals are concentrated around water sources and are easier to spot in the thinned-out bush. In these regions the skies are clear, most days are sunny, and there is little or no rain during these months, making it perfect for photo opportunities. It does get cold in the morning and night so carry warm clothes when going on safari in an open vehicle during June, July and August.

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  • Durban July

    7. Get glamorous at the Durban July

    Durban is certainly the warmest place to be in winter and in July the city comes alive with excitement for the nation's most glamorous event. The Vodacom Durban July Handicap at the Greyville Racecourse is an event known for its flamboyant fashion. Fashionistas go all out with stylish and sophisticated derby wear. Be prepared to see some of the most amazing to the most obnoxious hats at this event!

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  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

    8. Enjoy Winter Blossoms

    Acclaimed as one of the ‘great botanic gardens of the world,' the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a nature lover's dream come true in winter. A number of beautiful flowers bloom specifically during winter months and attract a number of lovely birds. Fynbos is at its best during winter. You will also see proteas, sugarbushes, pincushions, conebushes and some of the rarer Protea family shrubs. You can't miss the famous crane flower, also known as the Bird of Paradise, which flowers throughout the winter, starting in May and ending around October. Don't miss the special yellow cultivar, 'Mandela's Gold' named after former South African president Nelson Mandela.

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  • Grahamstown Arts Festival

    9. Indulge in Art

    Taking place from 3 to 13 July, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, is the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent. This 11 day event pays homage to every form of art - from dance, to music, to street theatre, to film and much more. The first festival was held in 1974 when the 1820 Settlers National Monument was officially opened. With the exception of 1975, a festival has been organised every year since then. Now in its 40th year, the National Arts Festival is where you go to see some of the finest talents come together. The festival takes place at approximately 50 venues scattered throughout the Grahamstown area.

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  • Reefsteamers

    10. Koo koo Ka choo!

    This may not be a typical winter activity, but it certainly is a lot of fun. Hitch a ride on an old steam train with the Reefsteamers, a non-profit organisation affiliated to the Transnet Heritage Foundation (Railway Museum) that is dedicated to preserving and rebuilding old steam locomotives. Reefsteamers offers train rides from Johannesburg to Magaliesberg and back. Their special ‘Winter Photo Day' offers the unique opportunity to photograph a number of locomotives moving around Reefsteamers' Germiston depot and in several authentic static positions around the depot in the early morning light. Seats are limited so booking is essential.

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Hire a car with First Car Rental and enjoy an awesome winter this year! We have 49 branches located across the nation to make car rental easy!

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