BACKGROUND: A changing climate is likely to have widespread and varying impacts on ecosystems and human health. South Africa (SA) is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, given the projected increases in temperature, and changes in the amount and patterns of rainfall. Moreover, SA's vulnerability is exacerbated by extreme inequality and poverty. To prepare for the impacts of climate change and to ensure timeous adaptation, a perspective is given on essential heat and health research in the country. OBJECTIVES: To gather studies conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)'s Environment and Health Research Unit (EHRU) to illustrate the range of possible research key areas in the climate, heat and health domain and to present future research priorities. METHODS: Studies conducted by the SAMRC's EHRU were gathered and used to illustrate the range of possible research key areas in the climate, heat and health domain. Using national and international published and grey literature, and tapping into institutional research experiences, an overview of research findings to date and future research priorities were developed. RESULTS: Heat and health-related research has focussed on key settings, for example, schools, homes and outdoor work places, and vulnerable groups such as infants and children, the elderly and people with pre-existing diseases. The need to address basic needs and services provision was emphasised as an important priority. CONCLUSIONS: High and low temperatures in SA are already associated with mortality annually; these impacts are likely to increase with a changing climate. Critical cross-sectoral research will aid in understanding and preparing for temperature extremes in SA.