6 budget-friendly, romantic hidden gems that make for the perfect getaway

A couple enjoy a quiet moment watching the sunset. Picture: Unsplash

A couple enjoy a quiet moment watching the sunset. Picture: Unsplash

Published Feb 22, 2024


Sometimes, all you need is a little time out with your lover. Work, parenting, paying bills and all-round adulting can get in the way of you relaxing.

There are plenty of places where lovers, young and old, can escape to around the country. The beauty in these destinations is that they are off the beaten path and couples can get as much or as little privacy as they desire.

As we close off the month of love, if you need some inspiration on where to escape with your other half, here are six budget-friendly, hidden gems to explore.

Clarens, Free State

Roadside views of the Milky Way in Clarens near Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Picture: Unsplash

Clarens in the Free State is the perfect place for lovers to hide out. The small town is an oasis with few tourist attractions and is an artist’s haven.

According to Safari Guide Africa, Clarens’s beauty lies in its toy-like picturesqueness at the base of some impressive sandstone mountains.

Lovers can enjoy a drive on scenic Highlands Route to get there and take in plenty of beautiful views. There are also lots of interesting little galleries and restaurants, with spectacular scenery, all around, making Clarens a great battery-charging weekend getaway.

The Meander Stay Clarens is the perfect home base with views Kloof Mountain and starts at R990 a night for 2.

Tankwa Karoo National Park, Northern Cape/Western Cape

Stargazing in the Karoo near the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Picture: Unsplash

Bordering the Western Cape and the Northern Cape part of the Karoo’s semi-desert and stark landscape, Tankwa is not for everyone, but perfect for lovers who like to stargaze.

The Karoo is the perfect place to go if you want clear night skies and brilliant star-scapes, as there are no distractions in this sparsely populated and barren semi-desert.

The Sutherland Observatory, which is located nearby, has the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. It’s the perfect location for amateur astronomers and star photographers.

Book a stay at Gannaga Lodge as the perfect hideout, starting from R1 300 a night.

Thesen Islands, Western Cape

Kayaking on the marina at Thesen Islands. Picture: Instagram

Thesen Islands in Knysna on the Garden Route is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. The islands are on the the banks of a beautiful lagoon in the heart of the Garden Route and surrounded by a natural paradise of lush forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches.

Thesen Islands is a multi-award-winning marina development located in the scenic Knysna estuary and spread over 90 hectares. It consists of 19 man-made islands linked by 21 arched bridges and surrounded by 25ha of tidal waterways.

As your home base, you can visit attractions such as Tsitsikamma National Park, Knysna Elephant Park and Featherbed Nature Reserve.

Consider a stay at Thesen Island Studio apartment listed on Lekkeslaap starting from R1 250 a night for two.

Pinnacle Rock, Mpumalanga

Blyde River Canyon where Pinnacle Rock is waiting to be found. Picture: Unsplash

Mpumalanga is a beautiful province to explore as a couple, offering beautiful scenic drives on the Panorama Route and game drives at the Kruger National Park.

Pinnacle Rock is a lesser-known attraction and a tower-like rock structure that looks like it was carved by hand and rises 30m out of dense forest. The quartzite monolith is a spectacular beauty along the Blyde River Canyon, and if you’re visiting this place, look for the ancient rock paintings at its base.

Blyde Canyon, A Forever Resort is the perfect hideout for exploring this region and accommodation starts from R923 a night for two.

Lekgalameetse Resort, Limpopo

A nature lover takes in views of a waterfall at Lekgalameetse in Limpopo. Picture: Tripadvisor

For nature-loving couples, this indigenous forest in this provincial park forms part of the Drakensberg mountain range and has incomparable natural beauty.

There are bubbling streams, magical rock pools, waterfalls, rare butterflies, vervet and samango monkeys, and a range of colourful birds waiting to be discovered.

You can explore the reserve on foot or by 4×4, and stay in one of its rustic bungalows among the trees.

If its wildlife and nature you’re seeking in South Africa, places like Lekgalameetse offer incredible alternatives to the tourist-heavy Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg and many private reserves such as Sabi Sand and Kapama.

The are also beautiful picnic spots throughout the reserve. Consider a stay at Town Lodge in Polokwane for R1 148 a night for two.

Kragga Kamma Game Park, Eastern Cape

A giraffe walking past self-catering accommodation at Kragga Kamma Game Park. Picture: Booking.com

The Kragga Kamma Game Park is a small reserve within the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in the Eastern Cape with lush coastal forest and grassland that is home to vast herds of African game, including white rhino, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, nyala, bontebok, lechwe and many more species.

The park is perfect for game drives and provides the perfect opportunity to hide out in the bush. All the animals roam freely, unrestricted in natural surroundings.

This owner-operated animal-friendly park, where no hunting or other disturbance of the game is permitted, means that you always get close-up views and great photo opportunities.

If this is your destination, consider a stay at the self-catering accommodation at the game park starting from R1 235 a night for two.