South Africa is famous for its wildlife, beaches, mountains, winelands and hospitality.
But beyond the country’s obvious charms, there are plenty of quirky places to visit that reflect the Rainbow Nation’s fantastic sense of humour and its taste for eccentric adventure.
We're talking a giant pineapple, a Sex Shop and an owl house.
We take a look at some of the weird and wonderful places to add to the itinerary if you're looking for something a bit different!
Which one's going top of your list? Let us know in the comments below.
Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel, Cape Town
Camping is big in South Africa. Many childhood holidays are spent in sites across the nation. But if you don’t fancy waking up to a hippo outside your tent or tripping over guy ropes on your way to the loo, then how about a night in a vintage American Airstream? On a rooftop. In the middle of Cape Town.
You can do just that at the Grand Daddy, a beautiful four-storey Victorian hotel right in the middle of vibrant Long Street in the heart of the city.
The sunny rooftop plays host to seven luxury trailers which have all just had an individual makeover from some of the country’s top designers, depicting the wildlife, winelands, beaches, deserts and gold that define a road trip through this diverse land.
Glamping was never this glam, dahling. You can pop in for a drink at the rooftop Skybar if you’re not staying at the hotel.
Find out more at granddaddy.co.za.
The Big Hole, Kimberley, Northern Cape
This does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s literally a big hole in the ground. But the reason for it is an important part of what makes South Africa tick… diamonds! Some 150 years ago, thousands of prospectors armed with “shovels, picks and hope” descended on a remote hill – and turned it into a massive crater 234 yards deep with a mile-long perimeter.
Over 40 years it yielded 2,722kg (6,000lb) of diamonds – all dug out by hand. The open-air museum and visitor centre give a fascinating insight into the gruelling challenges the miners faced, and you can follow the journey of a diamond from a lump of rock to a polished gem.
Find out more at thebighole.co.za.
The Big Pineapple, Bathurst, Eastern Cape
At nearly 60ft tall, the Big Pineapple is the biggest one in the world (there’s a slightly smaller one in Australia).
The three-storey structure – made from fibreglass, steel and concrete – dominates the surrounding pineapple fields.
The fruit was first planted here by settlers in the 1860s, and the mad, giant pineapple was built in 1990.
Inside is a shop and museum celebrating all things pineapple, and you can climb to a viewing platform at the top for views across the fields to the Indian Ocean at the lovely beach resort of Port Alfred in the distance.
A 40-minute drive inland will take you to the historic university town of Grahamstown (now called Makhanda).
Soweto Towers bungee jump, Orlando, Johannesburg
Leaping off a bridge or a crane attached by just a rubber band is nuts at the best of times… never mind from a wobbly bridge suspended between two 984ft cooling towers covered in graffiti.
Welcome to Soweto Towers, where South African culture and adventure combine in a most thrilling way. The two towers from a decommissioned power station have been restored and beautifully decorated, and you can admire them from above, below or afar in the colourful suburb of Orlando. Then bungee, freefall or base jump off the very top – if you’re crazy enough.
Find out more at sowetotowers.co.za.
Afterwards be inspired at the nearby homes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, or head to the hipster Neighbourgoods Market if you’re in Jozi (as the locals call Johannesburg) on a Saturday.
Ronnies Sex Shop, Route 62, Western Cape
So you’re driving along Route 62 (South Africa’s answer to the USA’s Route 66) heading towards the town of Barrydale in the Western Cape, and suddenly there it is – Ronnies Sex Shop.
Highly scandalous in the conservative “platteland” countryside! Well, not really. What started out as a joke on the owner by his mates has now become an institution.
When Ronnie Price opened his roadside fruit and veg stall in the 1970s, his naughty pals added the word “sex” to the sign painted on the building – and a legend was born.
Ronnie – who can still be found behind the bar – turned it into a pub, and people came from all over to “donate” their autographed underwear, which festoons the bar and ceiling, alongside some very risqué graffiti on the walls.
A crowdfunding appeal kept the place afloat during South Africa’s very strict lockdowns, and Ronnie is back doing what he does best – pulling pints for bikers, farmers and curious tourists.
Unfinished freeway, Cape Town foreshore
The ultimate road to nowhere. Capetonians no longer even notice the Foreshore Freeway Bridge that ends abruptly where the N1 motorway hits the Waterfront, but it’s a source of great fascination to newcomers.
The freeway was started in the 1970s to alleviate rush hour traffic (something that still plagues this city, wedged as it is between the sea and that mountain) but the project ran out of funds.
Urban myths about its termination include a shopkeeper refusing to sell his property, and an engineering miscalculation which meant the ends didn’t meet up.
Whatever the truth of it, the project was never finished and, despite various plans and concepts over the years, it still isn’t. But it’s a top location for film stunts and fashion shoots.
Owl House, Nieu-Bethesda, Eastern Cape
Just outside the dusty little dorp (small town) in the middle of the Karoo desert is a fascinating/creepy (depending on your perspective) museum dedicated to owls.
A reclusive woman called Helen Martins returned to her remote family home in 1928 in her early thirties. After her parents died in the 1940s, she – along with builder Koos Malgas who interpreted her unusual ideas from the 1960s onwards – set about transforming her home and garden into what became known as the Owl House and Camel Yard.
Hundreds of exotic concrete and glass statues of owls, wise men and camels abound, drawing visitors from all over to this little village of just 1,000 people.
Find out more at theowlhouse.co.za
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