The 10 Best South African National Parks (+ what To Do To Do In South Africa’s National Parks Beyond Safaris)

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South Africa has a wide range of natural beauty on offer. Although best known for offering sightings of the Big Five, there is much more to experience in the national parks of South Africa. There are mountain parks, diverse game reserves, coastal escapes, desert landscapes, and a whole range of other stunning places to see. If you’re planning a trip to this country, visiting some of the astonishing national parks  in South Africa should be on your itinerary. The abundance of unique natural scenes on offer are spread across more than twenty national parks in South Africa, as shown in this list of national parks in South Africa. How do you pick among them for the best South African national parks for your journey? 

Planning your African safari holidays just got easier with this list of the best South African national parks.

National parks in South Africa

Here are 10 of the best national parks in South Africa from which to pick on our next South Africa trip. Although Kruger National Park is probably the most well known South Africa’s national parks, the list of national parks in South Africa above makes it clear that there are national parks dotted through out the country. 

1.   Kruger National Park South Africa

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most popular nature reserves in South Africa. This game park features a dense group of wildlife – including the famous Big 5. People come to the Kruger to admire the diverse animal and birdlife, a population that’s incomparable to anywhere else in the world! 

lion in the long grass
A lion in the long grass in Kruger, probably the most well-known of the best national parks South Africa has to offer.

Not only is the wildlife wide-ranging, but so is the natural scenery. The huge park covers all kinds of different landscapes, including bush plains, mountains, rivers, lakes, and even tropical forests. The Kruger National Park can be found in the northeastern part of South Africa. 

2.   Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park South Africa

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park lies in the Kalahari desert region of Botswana and South Africa. The park’s name translates to “Land of the Thirst” as the landscape is vast and dry. 

This national park offers a unique wilderness of red sand dunes, brushland, and dry rivers. You can expect to see plenty of wildlife here too, including large herds of wildebeest, springboks, and hopefully a few black-maned lions. 

3.   Tsitsikamma National Park South Africa

If you are looking for lush scenery along the famous Garden Route, then the Tsitsikamma National Park is the place to go. This park covers a beautiful marine reserve, dramatic gorges, and wide expanses of indigenous forests. The Tsitsikamma National Park South Africa is an essential road trip destination when travelling through the country’s southern coast. 

bird in South Africa
Tsitsikamma national park South Africa is great for bird watchers

Don’t expect to find much wildlife here (although this is an amazing place to bring your bird-watching gear). However, the scenic landscape makes up for this. Some highlights of the park include the Storms River suspension bridge, the Otter Trail, and Natures Valley Beach. 

4.   Addo Elephant Park South Africa

Addo Elephant Park is a true gem of the Eastern Cape. As the name suggests, the main drawcard is the large number of elephants that can be found stomping around the park. Although, wildlife here is still incredibly diverse. Addo is home to the Big 5 and is the third-largest national park in the country. 

elephant in the trees
National parks of South Africa offer a great opportunity to see wildlife

You can take a day trip to Addo to witness many elephants and other animals in their stunning, natural habitat. There are also some great lodges and camps that can be found around the park. Addo Elephant Park is only a short distance outside of Port Elizabeth, and it should be a definite stop for anyone in the area. 

5.   Golden Gate National Park South Africa

Located in the Free State, near the Lesotho border, the Golden Gate National Park South Africa is a hiker’s paradise! This beautiful area consists of rolling green hills, colourful sandstone cliffs, rivers, and mountains. 

hiking in South Africa
Hiking in South Africa national parks (such as Golden Gate National Park South Africa) is a great way to get up close to the countryside

The national park is the perfect place to immerse yourself in unspoiled nature and enjoy some peaceful rejuvenation. Come for the magnificent walking trails, the iconic rock formations, or just some peace and quiet. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park will be sure to offer an unforgettable experience. 

6.  Karoo National Park South Africa

The Karoo National Park is a semi-desert area that covers 750 square km. Located in the Western Cape of South Africa, this park offers some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. 

When visiting the Karoo, you can expect vast stretches of open landscapes. The area is home to a wide variety of endemic wildlife as well. This includes black rhino, black eagles, and buffalo. There is also a huge variety of fascinating succulent plants here. 

the desert at Karoo National Park
We consider the desert-like Karoo National Park one of the best national parks in South Africa

Visitors to the Karoo can expect a completely unique surrounding. The area is also famous for its historic farms and charming small towns that surround the national park. 

7.  Garden Route National Park South Africa

The Garden Route National Park extends along the coastline of the Western and Eastern Cape. Here you can find some of the country’s best marine landscapes, and indigenous forests. 

The Garden Route National Park South Africa is a popular holiday destination and it makes for an amazing road trip. While passing through here, you will pass the famous Bloukrans bungee jumping bridge, the Otter Trail, and the Birds of Eden Sanctuary. Enjoy the spectacular coastline and beaches along the way.

Tip!  We loved the beaches of Plettenberg Bay and stayed nearby in a luxury two bedroom  treehouse at the Tsala Treetop Lodge

8.  West Coast National Park South Africa

Only a short distance outside of Cape Town lies the West Coast National Park. This reserve runs along the Atlantic coastline, from the town of Yzerfontein to the Langebaan Lagoon. 

Most visitors come for the incredible lagoon, secret beaches, and inviting blue waters. During springtime, the park becomes covered in incredible wildflowers. 

wildflowers at West Coast National Park
South Africa national parks include West Coast National Park which in the spring is full of wildflowers

You can enjoy the West Coast National Park through a day trip from Cape Town, or spend some time at one of the excellent accommodation facilities here. 

9.  ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park South Africa

The ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is found between the border of South Africa and Namibia. This park presents dramatic desert landscapes, including the famous Fish River canyon. The Orange River runs through the park, offering some beautiful scenery. 

ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier ParkSouth Africa national park known for its biodiversity.

Most of the South African part of the park forms the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape World Heritage Site. This is known for its incredible biodiversity. The rugged landscape of the area offers some of the most spectacular views and feelings of solitude. 

10. Table Mountain National Park South Africa

Cape Town is famous for its natural beauty, and this is all thanks to the Table Mountain National Park South Africa. The park stretches through the city, from the Cape of Good Hope to the north of Cape Town. Even though abutting Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden isn’t part of the national park. 

This is a unique national park, as it offers unspoiled nature right within the city. The majority of this park consists of the iconic Table Mountain and its surrounding peaks. The park is also renowned for its indigenous fynbos, making it one of the richest floral destinations in the world. 

South Africa National Parks Map

    Planning your African safari holidays just got easier with this list of the best South African national parks. Check out which one will be near where you are vacationing on the South Africa National Parks map below.

      South Africa’s National Parks have a wealth of natural beauty for you to explore. Most visitors might be enticed by the impressive wildlife and game, however, there is still so much more to see around the country. 

      Whether you are after rugged desert landscapes, sparkling coastlines, mountains, or the Big 5, it can be found in national parks of South Africa. Explore some of South Africa’s national parks and witness for yourself just how stunning this country is.

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      10 Top National Parks To Visit in South Africa
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