By March, the winter rains of the north are beginning to ease, and temperatures are also cooling, with more regular cold fronts along the southern coast. Expect dry, balmy days in Western Cape and warm days and cool nights with occasional rain on the highveld. Temperatures average 77°F (20°C) in both Cape Town and Johannesburg and 88°F (31°C) in Kruger, where lingering thunderstorms are generally relegated to afternoon cloudbursts. Still, weatherwise, March is less predictable than January and February, so pack a mix of cool- and warm-weather clothing wherever you're traveling.
Crowds & Costs
The beaches of Cape Town are not so crowded as peak season, but choose your time carefully: Easter school holidays start in late March when families pack the sands and take to the roads for camping and a long weekend away. And the city can be congested during the several big sporting events. Then, the more popular places can book up months in advance. Prices remain high, but many places drop their rates when shoulder season begins after Easter.
Where to Go
March means the beginning of the fall harvest—the ideal time to visit the Winelands. The vineyards bask in warm, sunny weather, and the vines are beginning to turn to crimson and gold. Rent a car and spend a few days winery-hopping around Stellensbosch and Franschhoek, or visit the less-explored, up-and-coming Elgin Region, with its cooler climate and more delicate wines.
If a safari is on your schedule, consider March a 'Goldilocks Season' for visiting Kruger National Park and other northern game parks. The temperature is not too hot nor too cold. It's just right! Afternoon thunderstorms are waning, while you don't yet need to pack your winter gear for early morning game drives. Colorful migratory birdlife is still in residence. And the big cats have started to come out of the shade in the daytime.
Spring is the best time to hike the Drakensberg Mountains, at 9,000 feet (3,000 m). By mid-March, the temperatures are pleasantly mild by day (and won't drop to zero at night for another month), summer rains are almost over, and the waterfalls are at their thunderous best. Plus, you can combine day hikes or longer treks with a visit to Splashy Fen, South Africa's longest-running music event.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
March is a tempting month to laze on the beach. Choose Noordhoek Beach below Chapmans Peak Drive for an exhilarating horseback ride along the white sands. Be sure to book well in advance, as horse riding is very popular. Or head inland to Stellenbosch to canter the trails that meander among the vineyards. And with its mild temperatures and dry weather, March is a good month for hiking Table Mountain, so lace up your boots to savor the fresh upland air as you hike any of the eight main trails that cater to every ability.
To the north, while the sun-drenched KwaZulu-Natal coast remains hot and drenchingly humid, the Midlands district is cooler and decidedly pleasant by March. Winding country lanes lead past rolling meadows grazed by horses and studded with grand country houses and spa resorts, with the Drakensberg Mountains as a magnificent backdrop. There are many activities to enjoy, from horseback riding to hiking, plus fishing, golf, and even hot-air ballooning.
And you can super-size your visit by touring the historic Battlefields region, replete with sites—Isandlwana, Rorke's Drift, Spioenkop, and Blood River—that recall the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War, the Second Anglo-Boer War, and the 1838 clash between the Boers and Zulus, respectively.
Events in March
Klein-Karoo National Arts Festival, Outsdoorn. Held annually for the past decade in Outsdoorn, this celebration of Afrikaans culture features exhibitions, music, and theater and has a significant classical music component. Held in late March, it extends into April.
Cape Town Cycle Tour, Cape Town. Almost 50,000 cyclists worldwide converge for what is billed as the world's largest cycling event—the highlight of the 9-day Lifecycle Week. This celebration of all things cycling includes an Expo, a kid's race, a mountain bike challenge, plus the 110-km Cycle Tour race. The event draws tens of thousands of visitors, so make your reservations for accommodation early.
Knysna Literary Festival, Thesen Island. Bookworms can combine a tour along the Garden Route with this annual decade-old festival, where South Africa's top talent offer readings and book signings. It's held in venues around Thesen Island.
Traveling to South Africa in March? Check out these great itineraries
Explore South Africa: Cape Town & Kruger Safari – 7 Days. Combine South Africa's two most iconic destinations for a sensational week-long experience.
Food & Culture in Cape Town - 6 Days. A gourmand's treat, this tour offers a week of delicious wine-tasting and savoring of the region's gourmet restaurants.