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Get Out Of Johannesburg: Walk, Swim, Barbecue, And See Birds


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Caressa Boucher



Welcome to Johannesburg, a bustling metropolis known for its vibrant urban culture and fast-paced lifestyle. While the city offers a plethora of attractions and activities, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Fortunately, Johannesburg is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes and outdoor recreational areas that are perfect for those seeking adventure and tranquility. Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast, a water lover, or simply enjoy cooking up a storm on a barbecue, there are plenty of options for you to explore. In this article, we will take you on a journey beyond the city limits of Johannesburg, where you can escape the hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature. From picturesque hiking trails to serene swimming spots, from designated barbecue areas to prime birdwatching locations, get ready to embark on an adventure that will rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. So pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and grab your swimsuit, because we’re about to show you a side of Johannesburg that will leave you in awe. Get ready to walk, swim, barbecue, and see some fascinating bird species. Let’s dive into the wonders that await you just outside the city!


Exploring Nature

Johannesburg and its surrounding areas are blessed with an abundance of natural wonders waiting to be explored. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a more challenging adventure, there are numerous options to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.


One of the most popular ways to explore nature near Johannesburg is through hiking. The city is dotted with hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, catering to beginners and experienced hikers alike. The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden boasts scenic trails that wind through stunning landscapes, including waterfalls, indigenous flora, and abundant birdlife. For a more challenging hike, head to the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, where you can conquer rugged terrains with rewarding views from the summit.


If you prefer a more relaxed way of immersing in nature, consider visiting the Johannesburg Zoo. The zoo not only offers the opportunity to encounter various animal species but also features beautiful gardens where you can take leisurely walks and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere surrounded by nature.


For a different kind of adventure, the Magaliesberg Mountains beckon with their majestic beauty and a range of outdoor activities. The mountains provide an ideal setting for rock climbing, abseiling, and even hot air ballooning, allowing you to appreciate the spectacular scenery from a different perspective.


Exploring nature near Johannesburg isn’t limited to hiking and climbing. The area is also home to several nature reserves and game parks that offer guided safaris. Embark on a thrilling game drive at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve or the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, where you can have close encounters with Africa’s iconic wildlife, including rhinos, lions, elephants, and more.


Whether you choose to hike, stroll, or embark on a safari, exploring nature near Johannesburg is a wonderful way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with the serene and awe-inspiring wonders of the natural world.


Hiking Trails

If you’re a nature enthusiast looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Johannesburg and its surrounding areas offer a wide range of hiking trails to satisfy your cravings for outdoor exploration. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to embark on scenic adventures that will take you through breathtaking landscapes.


The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is a popular destination for hiking enthusiasts. With its well-maintained trails and stunning natural surroundings, it’s the perfect place for a leisurely hike. The Main Trail will take you on a journey through indigenous vegetation, past tranquil streams, and even up close to the majestic Witpoortjie Waterfall. Keep your eyes peeled for the incredible birdlife that thrives in this area.


For a more challenging hike, head to the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. Located just outside of Johannesburg, this reserve offers a network of rugged trails that wind through picturesque landscapes. The Summit Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers, as it leads to the top of a hill with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.


If you’re in the mood for an adventure that combines history and natural beauty, the Cradle of Humankind is a must-visit. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to several hiking trails that will lead you through ancient caves, fossil sites, and remarkable geological formations. Explore the wonders of our human origins as you traverse these captivating landscapes.


Another hiking gem near Johannesburg is the Magaliesberg Mountains. These ancient mountains offer a variety of trails suitable for all experience levels. From gentle walks along the mountain slopes to more challenging hikes that reach the summit, the Magaliesberg Mountains provide a truly immersive outdoor experience.


Remember to come prepared when embarking on a hiking adventure. Wear appropriate footwear, carry enough water and snacks, and be mindful of the weather conditions. It’s also a good idea to inform someone of your hiking plans and expected return time for safety purposes.


With its diverse range of hiking trails, Johannesburg and its surroundings offer endless opportunities for outdoor exploration. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful nature walk or a heart-pounding trek, you’ll find it all within reach. So grab your hiking gear and hit the trails for an unforgettable adventure in the natural beauty that surrounds the city.


Swimming Spots

When the sun is shining and the temperatures rise in Johannesburg, there’s nothing more refreshing than taking a dip in a cool and inviting swimming spot. Luckily, the city and its surrounding areas are home to several natural and man-made swimming spots that offer the perfect escape from the heat.


One popular destination for swimming is the Emmarentia Dam. Located in the heart of Johannesburg, this large man-made dam not only provides scenic views but also offers the opportunity to cool off in its clear waters. Whether you prefer swimming, kayaking, or simply floating on a lilo, the Emmarentia Dam provides a fantastic setting for a relaxing day by the water.


If you’re searching for a more natural swimming experience, head to the Kloofzicht Lodge and Spa. Nestled in the beautiful Cradle of Humankind area, this lodge features a series of natural rock pools and cascading waterfalls. Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters and feel the invigorating rush as the cool water revitalizes you.


For those who want to enjoy a swim in a unique setting, the Hartbeespoort Dam is a must-visit. Located just an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, this large reservoir offers scenic views of the Magaliesberg Mountains and provides several opportunities for water-based activities. Whether you want to swim, jet ski, or simply relax on the shores, the Hartbeespoort Dam has something for everyone.


If you’re craving a beach experience without leaving the city, head to the Zoo Lake. This popular recreational area features a large man-made lake where you can cool off in designated swimming areas. The park surrounding the lake also offers picnic spots and walking trails, making it a perfect spot for a family day out.


Remember to always prioritize safety when swimming in natural bodies of water. Pay attention to any signage indicating potential hazards and swim in designated areas with lifeguards present. Additionally, ensure that you are a confident swimmer and supervise any children swimming with you.


Whether you prefer a man-made dam, a natural rock pool, or a picturesque reservoir, Johannesburg and its surroundings have plenty of swimming spots to satisfy your desire for aquatic fun. So grab your swimsuit, sunscreen, and towels, and dive into the refreshing waters of these beautiful swimming spots.


Barbecue Areas

Nothing quite captures the essence of a South African summer like a good old-fashioned barbecue, or as locals fondly call it, a “braai”. Fortunately, Johannesburg and its surrounding areas offer a variety of designated barbecue areas where you can gather with friends and family to enjoy delicious grilled fare in a picturesque setting.


One popular spot for a barbecue outing is the Delta Park. This large park in the heart of Johannesburg not only features beautiful green spaces and walking trails but also provides designated barbecue areas equipped with braai facilities. Set up your grill, sizzle up some succulent steaks, and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature.


If you’re looking for a barbecue experience with a stunning backdrop, head to the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve. Situated in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg, this vast reserve offers serene picnic spots and braai areas where you can cook up a feast while taking in the scenic beauty of the surrounding hills and grasslands.


For a barbecue outing with a touch of historical charm, visit the Melville Koppies. This nature reserve and heritage site not only boasts ancient archaeological sites but also allows for barbecues in designated areas. Enjoy a unique blend of nature and history as you grill your favorite foods amidst the tranquility of the koppies.


If you’re looking for a family-friendly barbecue destination, the Rietvlei Lifestyle Centre is a great choice. This outdoor facility offers a range of recreational activities, including braai areas and picnic spots. The kids can enjoy the playground while you fire up the grill and create a memorable day of fun and relaxation for the entire family.


Remember to bring along your own charcoal, firelighters, and all the necessary utensils and ingredients for a successful barbecue. It’s also essential to adhere to the rules and regulations of each designated barbecue area, including proper disposal of waste and adherence to fire safety guidelines.


Whether you’re a seasoned braai master or just starting your barbecue journey, Johannesburg and its surroundings provide the perfect settings for a memorable outdoor grilling experience. So round up your friends, stock up on meat and veggies, and get ready to savor the flavors of a South African braai in these picturesque barbecue areas.


Birdwatching Locations

For nature enthusiasts and bird lovers alike, Johannesburg and its surrounding areas offer a wealth of birdwatching opportunities. Whether you’re an experienced birder or a beginner hoping to catch a glimpse of some beautiful feathered creatures, there are several locations where you can observe a diverse range of bird species in their natural habitats.


One notable spot for birdwatching is the Rietvlei Nature Reserve. Located just outside of Pretoria, this expansive reserve is home to a diverse array of bird species, including herons, eagles, kingfishers, and many more. Explore the numerous walking trails and hides strategically placed throughout the reserve, providing ideal vantage points for observing the abundant birdlife.


If you’re seeking a birdwatching experience within the city, make your way to the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. This lush green oasis is not only a haven for beautiful plants but also provides a habitat for various bird species. Grab your binoculars and wander through the gardens, keeping an eye out for colorful sunbirds, weavers, and other feathered visitors.


For a unique birding experience, visit the Marievale Bird Sanctuary. Located near Nigel, this hidden gem offers wetlands and reed beds that attract a diverse range of water birds. From flamingos to pelicans, herons to ducks, this sanctuary is a paradise for avid birdwatchers. Explore the walking trails and lookout points to get up close and personal with these beautiful avian creatures.


Another birdwatching hotspot is the Wonderboom Nature Reserve. This reserve, located in Pretoria, is renowned for its diverse bird population. Take a leisurely stroll along the trails, listening to the melodious songs of various bird species echoing through the trees. Keep your eyes peeled for the vibrant plumage of sunbirds and the elegant flights of raptors soaring overhead.


Remember to bring along a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide to enhance your birdwatching experience. Patience and silence are key, as many birds are easily startled by noise. It’s also important to respect the natural environment and observe birds from a distance, without disturbing their behavior or habitat.


Johannesburg and its surroundings are a birdwatcher’s paradise, offering a variety of habitats and ecosystems that attract an abundance of feathered friends. So grab your gear, put on your walking shoes, and prepare to be captivated by the enchanting world of birds in these remarkable birdwatching locations.



As we conclude our exploration of the natural wonders surrounding Johannesburg, it’s clear that this vibrant city is not only a hub of urban excitement but also a gateway to breathtaking outdoor adventures. From hiking trails that showcase the beauty of indigenous flora and fauna to serene swimming spots that offer a reprieve from the summer heat, Johannesburg and its surroundings have something for every nature enthusiast.


Whether you prefer to embark on an adrenaline-pumping hike in the pristine mountains or simply unwind with a relaxing swim in a natural or man-made water body, the options are plentiful. And let’s not forget the joy of indulging in a delicious barbecue in picturesque settings, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.


For bird lovers, Johannesburg opens up a world of avian wonders, with various locations that provide a haven for different bird species. Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of wetlands, forests, and gardens, and revel in the diversity of birdlife that calls these places home.


These outdoor adventures not only offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life but also provide an opportunity to reconnect with nature, rejuvenate the mind and body, and create lasting memories with friends and family. So whether you’re a Johannesburg local looking for a weekend escape or a visitor eager to explore the natural treasures this city has to offer, grab your gear and embark on a journey of adventure and discovery.


As you explore, always remember to respect and preserve the natural environment. Leave no trace, adhere to guidelines set by conservation organizations, and appreciate the beauty of the flora and fauna without disturbing their habitats. By doing so, you contribute to the conservation efforts and ensure that these stunning landscapes and experiences are preserved for future generations.


So go ahead, step out of Johannesburg and into the embrace of nature. Walk the trails, dive into the waters, savor the flavors of a barbecue, and immerse yourself in the captivating world of birds. The wonders awaiting you just beyond the city’s borders are sure to leave you in awe and create memories that will last a lifetime.