South Africa revolutionized African travel with its stylish, upscale safari camps and hip beach resorts.

It’s also a trendsetter when it comes to quirky, offbeat and super-cool places to spend the night in urban areas, along the coast or within national parks and game reserves.

From east to west across South Africa, here are a few of the best:

Located on the outskirts of South Africa’s largest and most celebrated national park, this innovative boutique hotel features 24 carriage suites in a remodeled passenger train permanently parked on a railroad trestle over the Sabie River. There’s an overhanging pool, comfy open-air lounge car, in-room spa treatments, and of course game drives into the wildlife filled park.

Banish all thoughts of a traditional bed & breakfast, because this industrial chic abode on the coast near Durban brings the concept into the 21st century. Floor-to-ceiling views of the Indian Ocean highlight the five, smartly furnished rooms. Guests can chill beside the pool or the adjacent communal lounge and dining area or make for nearby Willard Beach.

The newest digs in South Africa’s newest wildlife preserve, this upscale safari camp lies along the White Umfolozi River in Babanango Game Reserve. Opened earlier this year, Madwaleni features a dozen sumptuous safari tents as well as infinity pool, library lounge and 2,000-bottle wine cellar. Activities range from game drives and guided bush walks to a multi-platform zipline and excursions to the nearby Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana battlefields.

Nelson Mandela’s home when he served as president of South Africa in the 1990s has morphed into a nine-room boutique hotel in Johannesburg’s fashionable Houghton neighborhood. Surrounded by his beloved gardens, the hotel restaurant features some of Mandela’s favorite foods and wines.

Take a journey through Johannesburg history at a stylish downtown hotel with a dozen rooms, each of them decorated to reflect a different decade in the city’s history starting in the 1880s when “Jozi” was founded during the Witwatersrand gold rush. The surrounding Maboneng Precinct offers plenty of places to eat, drink and play.

The lush coastal forest near Plettenberg Bay provides a romantic location for this hideaway along the fabled Garden Route. Elevated into the forest canopy on stilts, the lavishly decorated two-bedroom suites offer an exceptionally close encounter of the nature kind, complemented by one of South Africa’s top 100 restaurants and nearby activities like beaches, bungee jumping, boat trips and wildlife.

Also located along the Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the 26-room Turbine is an old sawmill power plant transformed into a chic, modern boutique hotel. Located on Thesen Island near Knysna, the hotel lies within walking distance of the island’s numerous waterfront bars and restaurants, one-off shops, and sailing and boating outfitters.

Famed for its spring wildflower bloom, the Namakwaland region north of Cape Town provides a vibrant venue for exploring a lesser-known part of South Africa. Guests can choose between traditional hotel rooms in a Dutch colonial-style manor house or oddball mountain suites that resemble giant boulders. Guests can arrange a 4×4 tour of shipwrecks along the nearby coast or whitewater raft the Orange River that separates South Africa and Namibia.

Tucked into the Cederberg Mountains of the Western Cape, the accommodation at this remote game reserve includes cave suites chiseled into rock formations and open-air star and sky suites with al fresco dining areas, outside soaking tubs and outdoor beds with unobstructed views of the star-filled night sky.

Perched on a rooftop in downtown Cape Town, the Grand Daddy features seven stylish Airstream trailers with South African design themes like Gold Rush, Cape Winelands, Karoo Dorps, Beach House and Rooftop Safari. Each trailer features an ensuite bathroom, high-speed internet and temperature control, and there’s a restaurant on the ground floor.

Overlooking Hout Bay on the Cape Peninsula, Tintswalo is the ideal spot to fall asleep to the sound of pounding waves in eight suites and a villa with over-the-top décor reflecting islands in the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Right on the doorstep of Table Mountain National Park, Tintswalo offers a great base for hiking, surfing or just hanging out.

published 2023-09-21 16:59:48