Winter fatigue and winter tiredness is a real thing. For many weeks of the year, people are exposed to fewer hours of sunlight, they don’t feel the warmth of the sun on their skin, and the general mood just takes a dip for many. A lot of people have an actual seasonal affective disorder. For others, they just miss the sun, outdoors and warmth. With spring just around the corner, it’s time to shake off those winter blues. And what better way to do it than getting out of the house and escaping the city for a weekend?
We’ve put together a list of five nature-filled places to escape to if you’re living in a busy city or town. These are all places you can get to in around three hours or less. So, it could either be a day trip or you can make a weekend of it.
For those in Durban
Escape to: The Drakensberg region
For those living in and around Durban who want to get away for a bit, the Drakensberg will have you in your feels. Head to the Maloti-Drakensberg Park for stunning scenery and a breath of fresh air. This stunning part of KZN (and Lesotho) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to wide-open spaces, towering mountains and cliffs, forests and so much more. Visitors to this majestic site might spot a black eagle, bearded vulture, eland and more.
Time from Durban (by car): 2 – 3 hours
For those in Cape Town
Escape to: The West Coast National Park
Sitting on the doorstep to the Mother City is the West Coast National Park. With Table Mountain as its backdrop, pristine beaches, and a host of accommodation options to choose from, the West Coast National Park is a stunning place to escape to for a day or two. If you’re there in the springtime, be sure to check out the flowers that bloom all over Postberg. There are also a number of walking routes you can enjoy while you are there.
Time from Cape Town (by car): 1 – 2 hours
For those in Johannesburg
Escape to: The Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Ok, so this one is a bit of a longer drive, but it’s still very much doable for a weekend escape. Visitors to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park can explore Cathedral Cave, the Basotho Cultural Village and hike to the top of the Brandwag Buttress. And, of course, the nearby little town of Clarens is a not-to-miss destination. With award-winning places to eat, cute shops, craft breweries and more, you won’t want to leave when your weekend is done.
Time from Johannesburg (by car): 3 – 3½ hours
For those in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit)
Escape to: The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s biggest and best-known wildlife area. With an area that spans just shy of 20 000km2, it’s no surprise that you can spot many of your favourite local wildlife here. The Big Five roam freely, so look out for lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. It’s also a popular spot for those who are interested in bird watching. While you’re in the park, cool off at the Kruger Station near Skukuza. Here you will find everything a family could possibly want – delicious artisanal food, a bar to cool off at, a play zone for the tots, a biltong bar, a petit four station with small cakes and delicacies, and so much more.
Time from Mbombela (by car): 1 – 2 hours
For those in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth)
Escape to: Addo Elephant National Park
Addo Elephant National Park is a stunning wildlife sanctuary and experience for those wanting time out from the city. Thanks to a recent expansion of the park’s borders, visitors to Addo can take in the Big Five plus look out for two large ocean animals – the Southern Right whale and the Great White shark. If you can’t choose between land animals and sea animals, then Addo is perfect for you – you can enjoy both!
Time from Gqeberha: 50 minutes to 1½ hours