South Africa’s best coastal hikes

Bored of lying around on the beach over the summer holidays? Perhaps you need something more active and exciting. So, dust off your backpack, get your boots on, and take a hike on one of these incredible coastal hiking trails.

1. Kosi Bay Trail

Swamp forests, savannah, wetlands and beaches form part of the varied landscapes you’ll experience on this flexible slackpacking trail. With only a few hours of hiking a day, you’ll also have plenty of time to enjoy activities like canoeing, snorkelling and turtle tours. Food and accommodation are provided, making this perfect for families and first-time hikers.

2. Wild Coast: Coffee Bay to Bulungula

This trail allows you to see some of the most scenic and iconic Wild Coast spots in just three or four days. The fully-guided, slackpacking trail starts at the famous surf spot of Coffee Bay, takes you past the legendary Hole in the Wall, and ends at Bulungula eco-lodge. Food is included, your luggage is transported, and you overnight at funky backpackers, so all you really need to carry is some sunblock and a sarong.

3. Alexandria Trail, Addo Elephant National Park

This 32-kilometre two-day circular hike isn’t guided, and there’s nobody to carry your pack for you. But, you do get to stay in a spectacular overnight hut, high on a remote hillside with blissful sea views. The hike traverses unspoilt indigenous forests, sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and the largest coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere. You’ll need to carry your own food and bedding, so a decent-sized backpack is recommended.

4. Otter Trail, Garden Route

Perhaps South Africa’s most popular hiking trail, this hike has all the ingredients of the perfect summer break: spectacular scenery, deserted sandy beaches, exciting river crossings, and evenings spent around the fireside at a series of huts, each more special than the last. Do note, however, that this is not a hike for the unfit or inexperienced.

5. Whale Trail, De Hoop

The ocean off De Hoop Nature Reserve is one of the world’s most important nurseries for southern right whales. Hikers on the whale trail from June to December often get to see more than 50 whales at a time. This is an easy five-night trail of only 55km, allowing hikers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful beaches and comfortable, well-equipped overnight cottages. There’s a slackpacking option available too, so you can have your food and luggage transported for you if you wish.

6. Swart Tobie Trail

This five-day, guided slackpacking trail is nonetheless a true wilderness experience. Covering 64 kilometres of wild and lonely coastline, it’s rated moderate to strenuous, depending on the tides (low tide at midday makes it easier). Your backpacks, food, and tents are transported by vehicle to each overnight spot, but there are few to no facilities at the camps and it’s advisable to take a spade for ablutions. Between November and April, the tidal pools are full of kreef, the rocks are covered in mussels, and you can fish for galjoen and kob.



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