See Traditional Pinisi Boats at Paotere Harbor
Paotere Harbor’s long history tracks that of the independent Gowa Kingdom that dominated South Sulawesi from the 1300s to the 1670s. Pinisi ships—designed and built by Makassarese shipwrights—sailed forth from Paotere, reaching ports as far away as Malacca in present-day Malaysia.
Pinisi still crowd the dock that's only a 15-minute drive from Makassar, where beyond shipping essentials like rice and coffee, fishing boats arrive holding the day’s catch. Go early in the morning to see Paotere at its busiest. Watch the sun glow against the pinisi masts and have breakfast at wharfside street food stalls selling ikan bakar (grilled fish).
Laze at the Sunny Islands of Makassar Strait
The islands off Makassar call for a day of lazing at the beach and snorkeling to see the fish and sea urchins. Two lovely spots are the Kodingareng Keke sandbar, with great fine white sand, and Samalona Island, a favorite getaway for a picnic or to rent a house for overnight visits.
An island-hopping trip to Kodingareng Keke and Samalona Island can easily be arranged at the Bangkoa fisherman's port on Makassar. Take your rented boat to the islands in the Makassar Strait, where you can swim and lounge. Remember to bring sunscreen before you go.
View Butterflies and a Waterfall in Maros
Karst landscapes (formed by the dissolution of rocks like limestone and dolomite) are magical, and the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung river system in Maros, an approximately 45-minute drive from Makassar, is no exception. Plus you can experience a waterfall and river—both of which provide a spectacular backdrop for having a picnic. Thrill-seekers love riding down the waterfall on inner tubes.
Concrete steps take you up to the gently meandering river that feeds the waterfall. The paved path leads to the entrance to the Goa Mimpi (Dream Cave), one of the more than 200 caves in the entire Bantimurung karst system. You may see some butterflies around the waterfall or the cave walkway, but touring the butterfly enclosure onsite is the only reliable way to view these beauties.
Snorkel in Tanjung Bira Beach
Tanjung Bira Beach, approximately 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Makassar, is known for its beauty, cleanliness, and soft white sand. The west side is a great place to dive or snorkel, such as around Liukang Loe Island—which is accessible by small boats. A colorful reef also draws tourists from inside and outside Indonesia.
Many hotels and bungalows are available for those wanting a longer stay, and restaurants can be found as well.
Explore a Stone Forest and Cave
Maros’ “Hutan Batu” (Stone Forest) is one of the most scenic trips in Makassar. A one-hour drive from the city is the Rammang-Rammang Pier in Salenrang, where motorized canoes bring you down the Pute River, past cliffs, jungle, bridges, and traditional Sulawesi houses.
You’ll disembark at a village next to rice fields, all surrounded by towering karst mountains. The “Stone Forest” is said to be the second-largest karst landscape in the world, offering a series of adventures in and around the limestone cliffs.
At the Leang-Leang Cave, Stone Age residents left handprints and an illustration of a babirusa, or wild boar. The images are some of the oldest art in the world, some 35,000 years old.
Take in Colonial History at Fort Rotterdam
After the Dutch conquered the Gowa Kingdom in 1667, they destroyed the king's fortifications and built a fort that served as a nucleus around which the city that became Makassar grew over the centuries.
After independence, Fort Rotterdam, just 10 minutes from Makassar, became a repository for ancient documents and relics. Many of them can be seen at the La Galigo Museum, housed in two buildings: You'll see clothing from South Sulawesi's diverse peoples, models of boats from Sulawesi's many seafaring tribes, and more.