A feast of winter festivals for visitors

  • 22 May 2015 | Christine Marot
Giant puppets are a familiar feature at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. Image courtesy of Kim Nowacki

South Africa is synonymous with blue skies and summer sun, but there’s as much for your guests to enjoy during our relatively mild winter months – a feast of festivals, in fact.

Offering a unique perspective of the country’s culture, heritage and lifestyle, countrywide festivals offer visitors a taste of local flavour and an opportunity to mingle with South Africans in a relaxed, informal way.

Over the weekend of 13–14 June 2015 the Klein Karoo town of Calitzdorp hosts its annual Winter in Calitzdorp festival, featuring the produce of local wine cellars. In addition to promoting their homegrown port, activities include a treasure hunt, lifestyle market, local crafters showcasing their wares, a traditional Port Dance and the South African boules championships. 

Dullstroom, home of the Dullstroom Winter Festival. Image courtesy of Ika

South Africa’s most famous national arts festival takes place from 2–12 July 2015 in Grahamstown and features homegrown and international talent. The Grahamstown National Arts Festival runs for 11 days during which every venue in the university town is packed. More than 500 shows focus on arts, crafts, cabaret, drama, jazz, film, comedy acts, folk music, poetry, literature and many other facets of the arts sphere. 

The Dullstroom Winter Festival, aka Christmas in Winter, takes place in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga, from 4–6 July 2015. Festivities at this country event include a golf day, tagged trout competition, chocolate- and wine-tasting, art exhibitions, whiskey tasting and themed restaurant evenings. Top South African musicians perform live in roots, blues and folk music shows. 

The Knysna Oyster Festival is a nine-day celebration of this tasty mollusc. Image courtesy of coda

Lovers of seafood, particularly oysters, should not miss the Knysna Oyster Festival in the coastal town from 3–12 July 2015. From oyster barbecues to oyster tasting, oyster-eating competitions, live entertainment and sports events, life revolves around oysters for an entire week. 

Bloemfontein’s Vrystaat Arts Festival lights up the Free State capital from 13–18 July 2015. Now more than 12 years old, the festival provides a platform for performers from all over South Africa. A full programme includes music, cabaret, drama, comedy, film festival, book festival, visual arts, children’s theatre and more.

The heart of the African bushveld is the setting for the Ellisras Bushveld Festival in Lephalale, Limpopo province from 8–11 July 2015. With a distinct farming theme, the festival includes cattle shows, a game auction, horse jumping, dog shows, agricultural activities, a 4x4 competition, a game farm expo, hunting opportunities, bird- and tree-identification contests, traditional cuisine, a beer tent and evening campfires for all.

Down at the coast the waves are at their best during winter, which is when the Ballito Pro surfing contest takes place on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal. This year’s event, first launched in 1969, is scheduled for 29 June to 5 July and is expected to attract a host of international and local surfers who will compete for a substantial purse and improved rankings on the World Surfing League. Apart from showcasing the best surfers in the world, the event usually features local bands and entertainment for the crowds.

Discover more about festivals in South Africa here.