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10 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in South Africa (2023 Guide)

Bynewsmagzines

May 21, 2023
dog licks the owner’s face on the sofa


South Africa has a diverse range of landscapes, wildlife, cultures, languages, and personalities, and when you visit South Africa, its unexplainable magic never leaves you, and the memories you bring back home are irreplaceable.

If you are eager to visit sunny South Africa, there is no doubt you are daydreaming of playing on the beach, encountering wildlife, swimming in the river, climbing mountains, or hiking in the forest. However, going on vacation doesn’t always mean leaving your beloved dog behind. If your furry friend joins you, you will be happy to know that many of SA’s hotspots are dog-friendly, so you don’t have to miss out or leave your pal at home. From fine dining and leisurely stays to low-key coffee stops and rustic camping, there is a destination for you and your furry friend, and you won’t have to miss out on what SA has to offer.

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The 10 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in South Africa

1. Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of South Africa’s biggest and most popular national parks in the country. You will witness the country’s greatest diversity of wildlife, including the big five, for the ultimate safari experience.

While the park itself doesn’t allow pets due to health and safety concerns, there are many dog-friendly accommodations in the area, and some will be happy to pet sit during the day, leaving you free to visit the park as a day visitor for some wildlife viewing.

There are excellent options for accommodation that are dog-friendly which include safari lodges, guest houses, private villas, and hotels.  The little town of Hectorspruit, where Gecko Cottage is located, is a 20-minute drive from the Kruger National Park, and your dog is very welcome to stay. Nkomazi Kruger Lodge and Spa is another excellent choice if you want something a little more high-end.

woman playing with labrador dog in park
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

2. Cape Town

Cape Town is known as “The Mother City” and one of SA’s most popular holiday destinations. Cape Town is in no short supply of amazing attractions and, more importantly, dog-friendly spots. Whether it’s a run on the beach or a leisurely dining experience, there are many places where your furry friend is welcome.

Lions Head Is a popular area for hiking. The trail is open and beautiful all year round, and your companion is welcome to join, even off-leash, in some areas. De Waal Park is one of the most popular parks among dog walkers, and if you are looking for amazing views of Cape Town’s mountains, Green Point Urban Park is worth a visit. You and your dog can enjoy dams, interesting gardens, and picnics.

Enjoy incredible views of Lions Head and Table Mountain from Devils Peak if you love to hike. This is a 5.6 km trail that welcomes dogs, and they can be off-leash in some areas. Table Mountain National Park is one of Capes Towns’ most popular attractions. Mountain streams, forests, and sandy beaches are just some of the landscapes you can enjoy, and you get to bring your dog. If you choose to explore this national park, you will need a permit, and you will need to familiarize yourself with authorized areas, as well as the rules and regulations.

If beach vibes are what you are after, Cape Town has many dog-friendly beaches to enjoy. Scarborough is one of the most loved beaches for dogs and is incredibly beautiful. It offers a quieter and more peaceful shoreline and amazing rock clusters, making for a stunning sunset experience.

After a stroll on the beach or a fun day in the park, nothing beats an ice-cold beer, especially among South Africans. You can head to Aegir Project Brewery with your pal for a frosty beer and gourmet burger. Damhuis restaurant is also in a beautiful location, right on the beach, and was voted the best pet-friendly restaurant in Cape Town by locals. In their cozy setting, Café Paradiso is delighted to announce that animals are not only accepted but also specially invited. They have a great courtyard space outside that is ideal for dogs, and they also provide them with water bowls so they can stay hydrated.

The opulent Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay invites pets to stay in specific rooms furnished with the required pet beds, bowls, and menus. Small breed dogs are also welcome at the Leopard Bar to join you for your afternoon sundowner.


3. Drakensberg

The Drakensberg region of South Africa is home to the majestic mountain range of more than 200 kilometers long. It is found predominantly in KwaZulu -Natal and comprises rugged peaks, deep valleys, and incredible backdrops. The Drakensberg also creates a natural border between Lesotho and KZN.  The Drakensberg is popular for weddings, vacations, and hiking enthusiasts.

The Drakensberg has many pet-friendly accommodations, whether you are looking for a simple camping spot or a leisurely resort. The pet-friendly accommodations provide large open and safe areas to walk your dog. Some trails can be walked with your dog on a leash. Dragon Peaks is a popular resort for outdoor lovers and their dogs. It offers camping for you and your dog, and day visitors are also welcome. After an active day, you can visit their Dragon’s Rest Restaurant for a bite to eat.

Antbear Lodge is one of Drakensberg’s most special pet-friendly places. There is plenty of space for your dog to roam off-leash, dams to swim in, and fenced-in gardens.

male hiker with siberian husky dog
Image Credit: Osadcha Olga, Shutterstock

4. Wild Coast

The Wild Coast is made up of a section of untouched and wild coastal areas in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It stretches from East London in the south to the border of KwaZulu Natal in the North. The coastline is breathtaking and awe-inspiring with its wild landscapes, desolate beaches, secluded bays, and green rolling hills that are irresistible to explore.

The Wild Coast is widely pet-friendly, offering a variety of dog-friendly accommodations, beaches, parks, and reserves, provided they are kept on a leash and cleaned up after.

One of the most popular pet-friendly attractions is Bonza Bay, which has a spectacular walkway for dogs through a coastal forest that leads to a long walk on the beach. In addition, Haven Beach between Coffee Bay and Mazeppa Bay has a dog-friendly policy, while Second Beach in Port St. Johns allows you to let your dog explore its wild side.


5. Garden Route

The Garden Route is a famous stretch of coastline made up of sandy beaches, indigenous forests, and interesting, quaint towns. It is a popular route for road-tripping adventures! The Garden Route is an incredible 190-mile stretch from Mossel Bay to the mouth of Storms River, with plenty of attractions along the way, including George, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, and Tsitsikamma National Park.

There are plenty of attractions in and around the Garden Route that will welcome your pets, as well as pet-friendly accommodations. You can explore many seaside villages, beaches, and parks with your companion beside you, and of course, a range of restaurants where your pal is welcome.

Sea Gypsy Restaurant in Mossel Bay is a fantastic family-oriented restaurant/cafe situated along the oceanfront. You can pack in a few nibbles for your pet and bring their bowls for freshwater as they welcome pets.

Plettenberg Bay has quickly established itself as one of the Garden Route’s premier wine regions and is becoming well-known throughout South Africa. Indulge in a day of exquisite wines, mouthwatering cuisine, and quality time with your favorite companion.

The Garden Route National Park has recently instituted exceptions that permit dogs to visit beaches and designated sites inside the park. There are three color codes of behavior for these regions, so be sure to check before visiting.

shih tzu dog_Yarnawee Nipatarangkoon_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Yarnawee Nipatarangkoon, Shutterstock

6. Clarens

The “Jewel of the Eastern Free State” is how South Africans refer to Clarens, a little town in South Africa’s Free State province, nestled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. As one of the most scenic places in South Africa, Clarens is renowned for its magnificent sandstone mountains and wonderful temperature, and it is recognized as one of the country’s top trout fishing destinations.

For the most part, Clarens is known as a pet-friendly village, and there are plenty of accommodation and dining options, as well as outdoor activities for you and your dog. Pets are welcome at the cozy and pet-friendly Applegate Lodge. It is the ideal vacation rental option for large families or groups of friends because it can accommodate up to eight people.

Clockwise in the Clarens Valley conservation area is a highly recommended trail because of the breathtaking views. These routes can only be accessed with a Clarens Nature Reserve Hiking and MTB Permit, but it is a lovely day hike with many different small trail options, and, most importantly, dogs are welcome.

Since Clarens is known for being a pet-friendly community, it only makes sense that most eateries will greet your dogs with a grin and a bowl of water.

Some dog-friendly restaurants include:

  • The Grouse and Claret
  • The Highlander restaurant
  • The Post House
  • Artists Café
  • Clarens Brewery

Rhino Retreat in Clarens offers accommodation and many fun activities and is 100% pet friendly.


7. Magaliesberg Mountains

The Magaliesberg is a mountain range in South Africa that stretches from Pretoria in the north of the Gauteng Province to a location south of Pilanesberg. This spectacular mountain range is also one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges.

There are many hiking trails and accommodations that are dog-friendly, which include Nullarbor Cottages, Hornbill Lodge, Sable Ranch, Saamrus Guest Farm, and The Old Mill Hiking Trails. If you prefer to camp out and enjoy the fresh air, The Crooked Tree is a great, rustic, pet-friendly campsite.

Noble Village Brewery offers a cozy setting for families, children, and pets. Additionally, there are plenty of things to do for kids.

Dog Hiking and Rock Climbing in Acadia National Park, Maine
Image Credit: Jessica M. Sarnese, Shutterstock

8. Durban- KwaZulu Natal- The Zulu Kingdom

KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is a popular vacation destination for South Africans and foreigners, and Durban is home to an amazing coastline, culture, and the well-known Moses Mabhida Stadium.

You can enjoy a stroll along Durban’s promenade, taking in all the sights as you make your way for 5 miles along the coast of Durban. All the locals are seen buzzing around the many coffee shops, shops, and restaurants, along with skateboarders, cyclists, and surfers vibing in harmony with each other. Durban Beach promenade is dog-friendly and is the perfect place for a dog and its owner.

You can also visit the local botanical gardens, where you can take your dog for a stroll and enjoy the gardens and perhaps stay for a picnic, or visit Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market on a Saturday morning for a bit of local shopping and eating. It’s a great social event for your dog, and many locals bring their dogs along.

The Oyster Box is one of Durban’s most popular and leisurely hotels. Even for visitors who have dogs, The Oyster Box has a variety of beds and cuisine options. ‘Woof waffles’ are a popular meal for canines.


9. Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga is a haven for nature lovers. An amazing tourist route that must not be overlooked is the Panorama Route for the ultimate road trip. The Blyde River Canyon is the biggest green canyon in the world and features God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, and several waterfalls. There are numerous outdoor activities for you and your dog to enjoy in Mpumalanga. There are numerous hiking paths and 4×4 routes to discover.

Elangeni Trail is the longest dog-friendly trail in Mpumalanga, and their resort welcomes your pet too. Field and Stream: The Farmstead is the perfect retreat for anybody seeking seclusion, tranquility, and a location where you and your dog may reconnect with nature. Explore the farm’s four springs and three waterfalls while hiking with your dog.

The first pet-friendly bed and breakfast in Nelspruit is the Happy Hound Bed and Breakfast, which also has a pet-friendly restaurant and secure walking paths for you and your pet. Since the cottages are entirely fenced in, you can confidently leave your pets there and know they will be safe.

a dog sitting outside the restaurant with the pet owner
Image Credit: Luis Angelo, Unsplash

10. Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province. Whether you prefer the seaside, the desert, the bush, or quirky communities with a rich history and culture, it is an absolute must-see destination.

On the outskirts of Kakamas, in the Orange River Valley, is where you’ll find the Vergelegen Guest House and Restaurant.  All rooms have private entrances that lead to covered patios, and some have pet-friendly courtyards. Spend some time unwinding at the pool or walking your dog beside the river.

Kalahari Water provides a selection of pet-friendly self-catering lodging choices, from camping along the Orange River to fully furnished apartments tucked away between luscious vineyards.

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Conclusion

We couldn’t possibly list all the pet-friendly destinations in South Africa, but this list is a great start and includes most of SA’s top vacation destinations. You can visit a lot of South Africa’s hot spots and experience its wonderful diversity with your companion by your side. It is always important to do some research before traveling with your pet, and before you book and pay for accommodation, confirm with the lodge that they are dog-friendly.

South Africa is something special. It is a country that has overcome a lot and still stands strong and united no matter what it faces. You can feel this special energy when visiting South Africa, and now you can get the chance to experience this country in the company of your best friend.


Featured Image Credit: Tik.tak, Shutterstock

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