What bride could resist a country where the arum lily—close cousin to that herald trumpet of wedding bouquets, the calla—grows wild beside every highway and byway in its coastal Cape region? There’s nowhere better to jump-start your new life together than an adventure honeymoon in this gorgeous, rugged Eden.
By Mary Frances Emmons
The Cape Region
WHERE TO STAY: Tucked in the shadow of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain, the aptly named One&Only Cape Town (from about $600 a night; capetown.oneandonlyresorts.com)—part of an ultraexclusive global chain of seven locations—will treat you like royalty from start to finish, from the butler who greets you and explains the features of your loaded-with-extras room or suite, to the expansive balconies overlooking a stunning black-tile infinity pool, spa, and private marina, to the übercomfy king-size beds and oversize baths. Africa’s only Nobu restaurant is located here, and on weekends the lobby becomes a low-key but hip DJ party.
WHAT TO DO: One&Only puts you in the center of the Cape Town action, just steps from fantastic shopping and myriad dining ops at the Victoria & Alfred Wharf. Try Karibu (kariburestaurant.co.za), opposite the V&A Hotel, for real South African tastes like smoked crocodile and lamb bredie, a savory stew; or Quay Four Tavern (quay4.co.za), where metered taps of the tasty local Castle Lager are built right into the harborside table tops. At the African Trading Port (africantradingport.co.za), head upstairs for the really astonishing artifacts, a mix of African antiquities and modern art, and don’t miss the Red and Blue Shed craft and fine-art markets. New hubby isn’t much for shopping? Tease him with a harbor tour—by boat or helicopter—or sign up for a whale-watching expedition; you can readily find operators offering this and more all along the wharf. Make sure to get out of town and head down the peninsula to Cape Point and the legendary Cape of Good Hope. The Table Mountain National Park (sanparks.org) is not to be missed; dine at Two Oceans (two-oceans.co.za), which has spectacular views. On your way back into town, take the cable cars to the top of Table Mountain if the crazy Cape winds haven’t forced it to shut down.
WHERE TO STAY: One of the loveliest spots in this region is the Grootbos Reserve (from $219 per person per night based on double occupancy, grootbos.com), a small, independently run all-inclusive that takes romance to a new level with private, cottage-style accommodations nestled into a milkwood tree “forest” overlooking Walker Bay, which from June through December is packed with southern right whales that come here to calf. The views and the spare, understated design that make the resort seem part of the landscape will take your breath away, while the peace and quiet give you time to focus on each other.
WHAT TO DO: Ratchet up the adrenaline with a cage dive with great white sharks—no diving experience necessary. Marine Dynamics (sharkwatchsa.com) in nearby Kleinbaai can get you out on its brand-new Slashfin, where you’ll don a wet suit and mask and slip into a cage strongly secured to the boat, allowing you to get up close and very personal with these amazing, endangered creatures from a completely secure vantage (from about $200 per person). Glide down from that high with a trip to some of the nearly 200 wineries in the nearby famed Stellenbosch area, including Hamilton Russell (hamil tonrussellvineyards.com), makers of the aptly named Southern Right. Make time to stop in the charming British-settled town of Hermanus, where you can whale watch from shore or stroll through town and appreciate the charming thatch-and-slate roofs and whitewashed walls of this British-influenced enclave.
Johannesburg and Soweto
WHERE TO STAY: Chances are good your travel plans will take you through Johannesburg, so consider stopping for a night or two to savor all that this bustling region has to offer. The Manhattan of southern Africa, Joburg is the nerve center and business capital of this emerging nation, with a high-spirited population of young, savvy, sharply dressed go-getters. Put your finger on that pulse at Melrose Arch (melrosearch.co.za), a redeveloped shopping and nightlife complex in one of the city’s tonier areas, including the ultra-hip Melrose Arch Hotel (from about $364 per night, africanpridehotels.com/melrose-arch-hotel), where every detail says “urban chic”—the cleverly designed pool and deck, which play with shape and perspective in unusual ways, are worth a stay all on their own. Just around the corner, nearby hotel Fire & Ice! (from about $135 per night, proteahotels.com/protea-hotel-fire-ice!-melrose-arch) gives you Old Hollywood glamour done South Africa style, in flashy black, white, and silver; its restaurant will give you a new idea of what a burger can be.
WHAT TO DO: Have your hotel arrange a car tour of Soweto, the heart of South Africa’s civil-rights struggle and still home to many of its leaders to experience the joyfulness of South Africa’s free people, who will warmly greet you on the street as brother and sister. (Soweto is also a great place to shop for local crafts and textiles.) Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum (apartheidmuseum.org) is not to be missed—a world-class exhibit on the march to freedom designed to send you back in time to the center of an epic upheaval that ultimately engaged the hearts and minds of the entire world through Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, whose amazing journey is detailed here. Drop your pace a notch or two and turn up the romance with a dawn balloon ride over the peaceful hills and farmland outside of town with Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris (balloon.co.za), then toast your adventure on landing with a glass of champagne and a hearty breakfast, included for about $350 per person. Experience “an elephant’s kiss” at The Elephant Sanctuary (from about $80-$135 per person) near Hartbeespoort Dam (elephantsanctuary.co.za), a lush enclave devoted to preserving the future of these wise creatures and giving humans an education in how to do just that.