South Africa’s Biggest New Year’s Eve Parties

December 17, 2012 by

Festivals & Events, Things To Do, Unforgettable Experiences

Minstrels perform in Cape Town at New Year’s. Creative Commons photo by tsn92 via Flickr.

Spending New Year’s Eve in South Africa has perks you might not automatically think of. Sure, you’ll find the usual assortment of night clubs throughout the country putting on extra-big parties on December 31, and more than a few cities with great fireworks displays, but one thing you might forget if you live in the Northern Hemisphere is that December and January in South Africa are smack dab in the middle of summer. That means instead of bundling up to watch fireworks, you’ll be dancing barefoot on the beach and looking for ways to cool down.

Here are some of the biggest New Year’s Eve parties in South Africa.

Cape Town

For many people, Cape Town is the place to be in South Africa at New Year’s. The city’s famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront hosts a grand party on New Year’s Eve with live music performances, entertainment for the kids, and one of the best fireworks displays in the entire country. But the fun doesn’t end there. On January 1, the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival kicks off when 80,000+ people turn out to see minstrel troupes parading through the city. The holiday used to be called “Tweede Nuwe Jaar,” or “Second New Year,” when it was celebrated on January 2nd (since that was when slaves were given the day off), but nowadays it’s held on January 1.


It’s hard to beat the idea of ringing in the New Year on a beach – which is exactly what you can do in Durban. The city’s energetic nightlife makes it an ideal destination for anyone who wants nothing more than to dance the night away, since this makes Durban especially festive on New Year’s Eve. Combine your love of discos and your love of beaches by heading for one of the waterfront clubs. You’ll get to dance on the sand as the clock ticks over to midnight.

The Garden Route

If you want to spend New Year’s Eve on the beach but you’re on the opposite side of the country from Durban, never fear – the Garden Route is here. Now, much of the Garden Route is inland (and spectacularly beautiful at this time of year), but head south and you’ll get to where the water off South Africa’s coast starts to get warm (if you dipped your toe in the cold water around Cape Town you might have found out why people aren’t swimming!). Towns like Wilderness offer gorgeous beaches and warm Indian Ocean water – and more opportunities to dance all night on New Year’s Eve.


Spending New Year’s in Johannesburg wasn’t always a safe idea, but these days you can party with 50,000+ of your new friends at the Joburg Carnival. The highlight of the festivities is the parade – think Brazilian-style Carnival floats and giant puppets, along with musicians, dancers, and other entertainers. Parade participants start preparing their costumes, floats, and puppets months in advance, and when the parade is over everyone heads for Newtown Park to enjoy more music and dancing.

- Jessica Spiegel

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