South Africa : 5 Secret Coastal Gems

South Africa’s coastal areas are renowned for their stunning beauty and diverse ecosystems, offering a wealth of hidden treasures waiting to be explored. From pristine beaches to lush nature reserves, these secret coastal gems provide a perfect escape for those looking to experience the country’s natural splendour. Here, we delve into five of South Africa’s best-kept secrets along its coast.

South Africa : 5 Secret Coastal Gems
Coastal experiences at Gwe Gwe

Grootbos Nature Reserve

Nestled between mountains and the sea, Grootbos Nature Reserve is a breathtaking eco-paradise in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom just a couple of hours from Cape Town. This private reserve is home to some of the world’s most diverse and rare fynbos vegetation. In addition, its elevated position offers expansive views of Walker Bay and the ocean beyond.

Guests can enjoy a number of diverse activities during a stay at this private reserve, all in the company of expert and passionate guides. They are known for their engaging botanical 4×4 tours which offer a chance to learn more about this unique ecosystem, its plants, animals and birds which inhabit it. Guided nature walks, forest walks and horse riding through the reserve with amazing views of the coast are just some of the other land based activities offered.

Coastal safaris provide the opportunity to visit the pristine beaches of the area. With tours of the historical Klipgat Caves, Fatbike trips through the sand dunes and along the coastline and marine safaris which offer the opportunity to see sharks, whales, dolphins, seals and penguins, also available. In season, Walker Bay provides some of the best land based whale-watching opportunities in the world. Boat based whale watching or scenic flights over the pods can also be enjoyed by whale watching enthusiasts.

The luxurious lodges and exclusive use villas, offer supreme comfort, spectacular views and amazing food. Blending seamlessly with the natural environment, all offer the luxury of space with style and sophistication. With accommodation to suit all travellers – including two exclusive use villas and family rooms.

South Africa : 5 Coastal Secret Gems
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Gwe Gwe

Gwe Gwe is a brand new luxury lodge located within the Mkambati Nature Reserve on the Wild Coast and within a 5,000-hectare private concession. This hidden gem is set on a secluded beach and is perfect for those looking to escape the crowds and enjoy unspoiled natural beauty, whilst also having the opportunity to see land and marine mammals at the same time. Much of the coastline around Mkambati is in the Pondoland Marine Protected area, ensuring rich marine life.

The range of activities are as impressive as its remote location; you can go hiking to explore the rugged coastline, indigenous forests and waterfalls, enjoy birdwatching – both coastal and land birds can be seen – and fishing, kayak, SUP, canoe, swim, scuba dive, cycle, nature drives, guided or non-guided marine and botany walks. Seasonally you can enjoy shore based whale watching and the sardine run (also by boat or scuba).

The nine en-suite rooms, which include two family suites, each have their 6m pool, small garden and deck, are designed to blend into the environment. Laidback luxury is paired with excellent service and attention to detail offering a luxurious retreat in combination with the adventure offered by the remote location.

South Africa : 5 Coastal Secret Gems
Dolphins playing, Gwe Gwe Lodge

Morukuru Beach Lodge

Situated in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, Morukuru Beach Lodge offers a luxurious and intimate coastal experience. De Hoop Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site located along the southern coast of South Africa. This pristine coastal reserve is a haven for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, and is known for its diverse ecosystems, from sand dunes to marine environments.

The diverse ecosystems ensure a diverse range of activities are possible, including guided nature walks, mountain biking, nature drives, birdwatching and fynbos safaris to explore the unique plant life of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Guided marine walks offer the chance to encounter, and learn about, diverse sea creatures from octopus to vibrant sea anemones exposed at low tide. Beach activities include swimming, snorkelling, sandboarding and seasonal whale watching.

The luxurious Morukuru Beach Lodge features stylish suites with ocean views, ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay. The lodge can be taken exclusively, sleeping up to 10 adults and 4 children, making it an ideal place to stay for larger families. Rooms can be booked individually so all have the opportunity to explore this beautiful area in style and comfort. Views are expansive, both of the ocean itself and the surrounding fynbos and dunes.

Morukuru Beach Lodge aerial view - Ganders Travel
Aerial view of Morukuru Beach Lodge


Paternoster is a charming, and one of the oldest, fishing villages on the West Coast. Just two and a half hours from Cape Town, this charming village is known for its white-washed cottages, vibrant art scene, and delicious seafood. Deriving its name from the prayers of ship-wrecked Portuguese sailors (Paternoster means ‘Our Father’), this quaint and picturesque village is famous for its abundance of crayfish and the colourful fishing boats which line the shore.

Activities in this coastal village are very much centred around the sea; explore hidden coves, take walks along the beaches and spot seabirds and other coastal species in their natural habitat. Sea kayaking, mountain biking and hiking trails are all on offer, whilst fishing is a rewarding pastime. For 10 months of the year it is also possible to spot whales and dolphins off the coast.

This small fishing village has a number of different accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses and plenty of self-catering cottages as well. All ooze rustic charm.

South Africa : 5 Coastal Secret Gems

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is now South Africa’s second largest protected area having expanded significantly since 2019. Covering over 1.3 million hectares (marine and land area combined), there are diverse ecosystems including pristine marine, coastal, wetland, estuarine and terrestrial environments within it.

During a stay in this area, and given the variety of environments, the activities are equally diverse. In season, witness the nesting and hatching of loggerhead and leatherback turtles, explore vibrant coral reefs and marine life when snorkelling or scuba diving, kayak through coastal lakes and estuaries, take boat trips to see the marine species or hippos of St Lucia or enjoy some fishing. Forest walks, cultural tours, relaxing on the beach and bird watching – there are over 500 species recorded in the park – are just some of the land based activities on offer.

Within iSimangaliso Wetland Park there are a number of accommodation options from charming guesthouses to five-star lodges. Due to the size and variety of the park itself, it would be possible to combine a couple of these in different areas to be able to fully enjoy all that this area has to offer.

South Africa : 5 Secret Coastal Gems
Watching a nesting turtle, Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park


South Africa’s coastal gems offer a diverse array of experiences for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those simply looking to relax and unwind. From the fynbos-covered hills of Grootbos to the tranquil beaches of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, each destination provides a unique glimpse into the country’s natural beauty and rich biodiversity. Whether you’re watching whales, exploring marine life, or hiking through pristine reserves, these coastal retreats promise unforgettable memories and a deeper connection with nature.

If you would like to discuss a holiday to South Africa taking in any of these, or other, areas, please do get in touch to discuss your wishes. We would be delighted to help you.