We’ve written about South Africa’s rarest animals and most historic places. Robben Island. Table Mountain. Kruger Safari Park. these are all well-known places in today’s globally connected world. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, exciting or even mysterious during your trip to South Africa – we’ve got you covered with this little list of hidden gems. From melancholy houses decorated in strange fashions by a reclusive outsider artist to the world’s largest pineapple statue (yes really), there’s a whole host of madcap and wonderful places to experience in South Africa.
Here are just four of them!
Bo Kaap, Cape Town
We’ll kick off with this one, even though it can’t really be described as a hidden gem since you can see its riotous colours from miles away. Still, it is one of the more interesting neighbourhoods you’ll find in SA. With each and every house bestowed with a completely different (but always bright) pastel paint job, Bo Kaap is one of the most colourful places to visit in the world.
However, the vibrant paint belies a sad past. When the Dutch controlled South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, they brought with them thousands of Muslim slaves from other parts of Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia. During the Apartheid era, Bo Kaap became a segregated Muslim area. The population decided to paint their town in crazy colours one year during Eid, to show their oppressors their spirit wasn’t broken. The tradition stuck and the colourful dwellings remain so year-round today.
The Big Pineapple, Bathurst
The world’s largest pineapple building – that’s about all you need to know. If you want more info though, this 52-feet-tall tropical-fruit-mimicking structure was built in the 1980s and today hosts a pineapple museum and an observation deck. Interestingly some Australian jokers also had the same fruity idea. However, their building fell short of the Bathurst builders’ attempt, only clocking in at a tiny 50 feet.
The Owl House, Eastern Cape
The work of a self-taught recluse by the name of Helen Martins, the Owl House in Nieu-Bethesda is one of the strangest houses anywhere in the world. After living here for 31 years caring for her parents, the 45-year-old Martins gave the house a huge makeover upon their death. She coated the walls in crushed glass to make them sparkle, tied up lights and lamps in odd places and sculpted literally hundreds of fantastic statues in the garden. Helen continued adding to her visionary environment, until she committed suicide by drinking caustic soda in 1976. She was 78 years old. Her house, however, will be her long-lasting legacy and is still open to the public to this day.
Macassar Beach Pavilion, Western Cape
Built in 1991 and abandoned by the late 90s this extensive Water Park has been reclaimed by the sand dunes and the winds of the Cape coast. Eerie and derelict, these once vibrant and exciting park lies quiet and sombre today. As such it has become a magnet for urban explorers, photographers and those seeking something a little different during their holiday or travels.