Small towns that you shouldn’t just drive through
Bags packed, tank filled up, everybody strapped in and you’re zooming along on the N1 as fast as you can to reach your destination. Have you ever wondered what’s going on just behind those steel barriers and grass veld alongside the big road?
It’s no secret that the Louwkuls are explorers, professional detour takers and all round promoters of slowing down and getting to know new places. We have 5 of the best small towns for your next long weekend. Some of them can even work as a stop over to your December holiday destination.
1. Philippolis (N1 detour)
The perfect overnight spot, almost halfway between Cape Town and Pretoria. The town doesn’t look like much from the car, but there is a lot going on. Hometown of Laurens Jan van der Post and host to Emily Hobhouse’s spinning and weaving school after the Anglo Boer war, it’s loaded with history. You can even overnight in a national monument, we did.
The library and Van der Post Memorial is a must visit and we can definitely recommend dining at Sielskos “soulfood” right next to the memorial. There are several other dining options, shops, a gallery, authentic accommodation and even a home/farmstall brewery just outside of town. Philippolis is also close to the world renowned Tiger Canyon conservation farm if you’d like to see these big cats in action.
Van Der Post Memorial, Philippolis
Greyton (N2 Detour)
Not like the Capetonians needed another great getaway spot, but Greyton is situated just under 2 hours’ drive from the Mother city. It was our overnight destination en route from Mossel bay down the coast line. This small town boasts with boutique wine cellars, galleries and allegedly the only Anglo-Indian/Polish restaurant namely the Hungry Monk. Like most of the small towns, dinner reservations during peak season are essential and after serious negotiation we ended up eating on the stoep of the Post House.
There are several accommodation options and we opted to stay at the Old Potter’s inn. They brew their own beer which definitely made it onto our top rated SA craft beers list.
Old Potter’s Inn
Riebeeck Kasteel (N7 Detour)
The residents of this charming town keep themself scarce with temperatures over 40 degrees celsius in summer, it’s only during lunch and dinner that shaded courtyards and covered patios fill up with laughter and food. There is lots to see upon closer inspection and the town also has a great website, their own wifi network and a newsletter that will shed light on all the happenings.
Dining choices are ample, two places we tried were Eve’s eatery and Mama Cucina. Garagista, the town’s brewery boast with a beer allegedly brewed with the tears of hipsters. We sampled it and the tears are definitely a thirst quencher.
Off the beaten track, infamously known as one of the coldest towns in SA and renowned as the star-gazing capital. You won’t end up here by chance and after adding it to our road trip the weather didn’t even play along.
We stayed at the Skrywershuisie and Jurg, who runs the guesthouse, also leads the stargazing tours when it’s not overcast (Insert sad face). There are a few small but great restaurants to choose from. You cannot go wrong with a hearty meal at Ou Meule restaurant.
Graaff Reinet (N9 stop)
Well known by most as a place to pass through and maybe stop for a coffee or petrol just to speed off again. We certainly recommend spending more time here. You can actually spend a week here without getting bored of the dining options, shops, museums and the Valley of Desolation. If you haven’t experienced a sunset over the valley you are in for a treat.
The thing about small towns…
Small towns are great for contemplation and actually resting. We have always found inspiration and refreshment getting out of the city.
Make small talk
Getting to know the locals might seem strange but the only way to discover some off the beaten track places are to engage with the people who know about them.
Make dinner reservations
Despite how quiet the town looks when you arrive, find out what’s on offer and make a booking. You’ll thank us later.