Heather Mason is an American writer/photographer living in Jozi. When she moved there in 2010, she started a blog about her life in Joburg and quickly discovered that she had a passion for exploring every corner of what she calls 'this crazy city'. More than four years later, she still discovers new things every day. See her blog or find her on Twitter.
World of Samoosas, Oriental Plaza, Fordsburg
Samoosas are sold all over Joburg (and South Africa), but World of Samoosas – true to its name – sells the tastiest samoosas on earth for R3.50 each. There's something about the spices they use, and that amazing dipping sauce. My favorite samoosa flavours are spinach and feta, cheese and corn, and the one-of-a-kind coconut samoosas for dessert. Wash it all down with scalding-hot masala tea in a styrofoam cup.
Kalahari Books, corner of Louis Botha and Dunnotar Streets, Orange Grove
Kalahari is my favorite Jozi book shop, for its charming owner as much as for the books themselves. Kalahari (which has nothing to do with the online retail giant that goes by the same name) is based in an airy attic space above a garage and is stuffed with the city’s most interesting collection of second-hand books. If you can't find what you’re looking for, owner Richard Welch can most likely find it for you. While you’re there, be sure to sit down in one of the wing chairs and have a strong coffee and a chat with Richard.
Alexandra Bicycle Tours, Alexandra township
Joburg has plenty of lovely parks for leisurely walks and picnics. But if you’re looking for a more exciting outdoor activity, try touring Alexandra township by bicycle. Tour guide Jeff Mulaudzi, a local with a passion for two-wheeled travel, will meet you at the Marlboro Gautrain station and take you on a journey that you won’t soon forget. Jeff’s rides, which run for three to five hours, include stops at several of Alex’s most historic sites – including Nelson Mandela’s first home in Joburg – and a traditional township lunch.
Desireé Haakonsen is a travel blogger. Although she’s lived in different parts of South Africa, she’s moved back to Cape Town three times and will always see the Mother City as her home. She has been living on the South Peninsula for the past three years. You can find her posts on TravelGround’s blog or follow her on Twitter.
I struggle choosing one meal off a menu, so I love a good tapas restaurant. The Foodbarn at Noordhoek Farm Village blew me away with how much flavour they pack into a tiny dish. There’s a great selection of tapas and they’re reasonably priced, so I can easily manage two dishes plus dessert. Surprisingly, the desserts are the biggest portions, so you may want to share. I highly recommend the calamari, braised pork belly, and risotto balls. If you’re not up for tapas, The Foodbarn also has an à la carte menu, bistro menu and deli.
One of our favourite family outings is catching the train from the South Peninsula into the city centre. Just walking through the city streets injects a new sense of culture from what we’re used to on the peninsula. The Company’s Garden is a beautiful place to picnic, feed the squirrels (we never forget a bag of raw peanuts), see local arts and crafts, and experience a piece of Cape Town’s history. The garden is surrounded by historical statues, several Iziko museums, and landmarks like St George’s Cathedral, the National Library, Houses of Parliament, and the Great Synagogue.
Moonlight hike up Lion’s Head
One of the most exhilarating and rewarding experiences is a moonlight hike up Lion’s Head. It’s a great mix of easy walking and more challenging clambering over rocks, but it’s obviously safe enough to do by moonlight. Pack a picnic (with a bottle of champers even) and enjoy one of the best sundowner spots in the city! [Don't go too mad with the champers! Remember that you need to be sober enough to walk down the mountain by moonlight (Roxanne)]
Stuart Parker is an African travel specialist with a passion for travel photography and blogging. He moved to KwaZulu-Natal in 2012 where he enjoys exploring the diversity of this beautiful province. Find him on his travel blog, or follow him on Twitter.
One of my most memorable dinners in Durban was at this restaurant at the bottom of Florida Road. Since it's an Italian trattoria we ordered home-made tagliatelle and imported penne which were simply delicious. Mamma’s is a family-run place and I highly recommend it for quality Italian food prepared the way it should be.
Victoria Street Market
If you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience in Durban this is to place to go. It started back in 1910 and is one of Durban’s oldest markets. With over 170 stalls offering anything from fresh produce to authentic arts and crafts, there’s plenty to keep you busy for hours. While you’re there, I’d recommend a traditional Indian curry or bunny chow for a true taste of Durban.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
Durban has done an exceptional job of turning the Moses Mabhida Stadium into a recreational park for locals. There’s plenty on offer, including an adventure walk, the big swing (for the more adventurous) and a viewing platform that offers beautiful views over the city. Another of my favourite activities from the stadium is to rent a bicycle and enjoy a relaxing ride along the Durban promenade. The city of Durban has been working hard at improving the Durban promenade and it is now a lovely area to enjoy a sunny day out in Durban. You can book a guided promenade with Bike & Saddle.
A passion for travel and the Eastern Cape along with 16 years experience in the tourism industry makes travel blogger and CEO of ECTOUR Jonker Fourie the perfect travel influencer and Eastern Cape tourism ambassador. Find him on his blog, or on Twitter.
PE has many outstanding restaurants and eateries but the one that keeps popping up in my mind is the Nanaga Farmstall. The best home-made pies, mouth watering roosterkoek and 100% pineapple juice. It’s hard to drive past Nanaga without stopping for the best padkos combination next to hard-boiled eggs, drumsticks and a flask full of coffee.
The Donkin Reserve has always been one of my favourite spots, but the public art with all its Mandela and freedom symbolism, combined with history going back to the establishment of Port Elizabeth as a town, makes it more special than ever. I never get tired of showing people around there and my favourite thing to do is to climb the historic Donkin Lighthouse for the best view in town.
I spend any free time I have in parks, nature reserves, hiking trails, beaches, trees, suburban streets, storm water pipes and every open space there is, using multi-billion dollar spy satellite technology to find Tupperware. Geocaching is the best way to be out and about and explore, the perfect excuse to get some fresh air. The Baakens Valley, Schoenmakerskop, Grysbok Reserve and beachfront are among my favourite caching areas in town.
Jeanri-Tine van Zyl grew up in Bloemfontein and left when she was 21. She still visits her parents every year at Christmas when thunderstorms and lazy days next to the swimming pool colour her days. See her blog or find her on Twitter.
When visiting Bloemfontein I always go to an eatery called Picnic on the Loch Logan Waterfront. It offers deli-style meals that range from healthy to scrumptious. What I love most is that it has a decent wine list with properly delicious wines – unlike the bulk of establishments in Bloemfontein.
Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Oliewenhuis Art Museum is where rolling green lawns (which are great for a picnic) meet a Neo-Dutch style mansion that houses some of South Africa’s greatest artists. The museum often curates contemporary art exhibitions that are definitely worth seeing. There’s also a lovely restaurant on the premises where you can enjoy languorous lunches under the trees.
Free State National Botanical Garden
When I need to clear my mind or just switch off entirely, I visit the Botanical Garden. In summer the trees offer a lush canopy overhead with the contorted old olive trees standing like guards along the many pathways. Thanks to numerous little ponds, water birds are also in abundance, which makes for great bird viewing. Although there’s a restaurant on the premises, packing a picnic basket is a much cooler way to enjoy this Free State gem.
Have any hints for food, culture or fresh air places in these 5 cities? Share your favourites in the comments below.