9 Lesser-known small towns worth exploring

There’s nothing wrong with exploring touristy towns around South Africa. However, we tend to forget that we have unique lesser-known small towns worth exploring.

Take to the open road and visit some wonderful hidden gems in South Africa.

There’s something magical about the heritage and culture of this melting pot of a country that can be best seen in the many small towns scattered in the valleys and plains of its vast countryside, arid landscapes, mountainsides and, coastlines.

Here are some of the lesser-known small towns in South Africa:

Goedverwacht, West Coast

Though a historical town, Goedverwacht is a tiny village that you can walk around on foot.

Nestled between Mountain Fynbosch off the R399 between Piketberg and Velddrift lies Goedverwacht. There aren’t many activities to do but it’s worth spending the day visiting historical Moravian sites.

Read more about my experience in Goedverwacht.

Pella, Northern Cape

Most people have heard of Pella in the Northern Cape but not many have taken the plunge to explore it. Just along the N14 towards Upington is where you’ll find Pella.

Pella has one of the most beautiful provincial cathedrals in the country. However, there’s not much more than a few sandy roads and a couple of brick buildings but it’s worth taking a tour inside the cathedral, popping in at their tiny museum, and obviously, spend time with the locals.

Read more about our pitstop to Pella.

Willowmore, Eastern Cape

Named after William Joseph, Willowmore is a charming Karoo town with antique furniture stores, delis, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, and places to stay. 

Willowmore is usually an N9 bypass but it’s filled with historical architecture which includes a wonderful old Boer graveyard and, a well cared for Jewish cemetery. Make sure to pop in at Sophie’s Choice.

Read more about our 11-day road trip.

Witsand, Garden Route

Once a bustling port town due to the natural anchorage provided by the estuary, Witsand is a small coastal dorpie; situated at the mouth of the Breede River.

With only 400 residents, it’s a sleepy town yet only livable during the holiday period. With an abundance of old buildings and sites of historical interest, 4km of white sandy beach, the heart of the Cape floral kingdom, and a paradise haven for nature lovers, it’s worth a visit.

Read more about our trip to Witsand.

Elim, Overberg

Founded in 1824, Elim is the third Moravian Mission station in the Cape and, it’s been declared as a National Heritage Site.

With its neatly vibrant cottages; many dating back to the 19th century, it’s hard to believe that they built from mud-brick and thatched roofing. Although there are more modern renditions with brightly painted walls and corrugated iron roofs, to date.

Read more about our day in Elim.

Doring Bay, West Coast

Located on the edge of the West Coast route, Doring Baai is a peaceful fishing village with spectacular ocean views from the cliff paths.

Just before the fishing industry collapsed, Doring Bay was used as an anchorage trading route – storing goods transported by camels to Vanrhynsdorp. Now it’s a sleepy town with beautiful deserted beaches and a few local eateries.

Read more about our weekend in Doring Baai.

Williston, Northern Cape

Tucked away in the Upper Karoo in the Northern Cape, Williston is one of many underrated small towns.

The drive to the Namaqualand region is sparse but equally beautiful with arid landscapes. Don’t be fooled by the dry terrain; it’s the kind of place you can spend a week in; admiring the historical sights there are to see.

Read more about our stay in Williston.

Genadendal, Overberg

Genadendal is one of the oldest Moravian Missionary stations in the Cape with an interesting history.

With an hour and a half drive from Cape Town along the N2 before turning onto the R406, you immediately aware of the poverty-stricken 300-year-old town with still that timeless charm of history.

Today, Genadendal, with its 3 500 registered occupants is a forgotten, remote, underdeveloped, and degraded village but worth a day trip.

Read all about our trip to Genadendal.

De Rust, Klein Karoo

De Rust is situated at the foot of the Swartberg Mountain Range and was once as a base for many travellers back in the 1900s.

It’s known as the town that never sleeps because it’s situated on the N12 where tracks pass through every minute; transporting goods to neighbouring towns. However, it’s a vibrant small town with so many activities to do and see.

Read more about our trip to De Rust.

For more travel inspiration, make sure you subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Till the next adventure.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog