Just north of Cape Town along the Atlantic Ocean lies the large and diverse West Coast region, famed for its quaint fishing villages, unspoilt beaches and natural environment brimming with fynbos and colourful wildflowers in spring.
Since the West Coast is only a relatively short drive from the Mother City, don’t miss the chance to visit and lose yourself in its infinite beauty if you live in Cape Town or are passing through.
Langebaan, a coastal town just 120km from Cape Town, will make you feel as though you have stepped off a boat on a Greek island. The Langebaan Lagoon, a massive saltwater lake known for its turquoise water and white sandy beaches is a showstopper.
A large part of the lagoon and surrounding veld forms part of the West Coast National Park, ensuring mostly uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape and scenery. Club Mykonos, a holiday resort built in the style of traditional white limewashed Greek houses and set on the shore of the lagoon, adds to the town’s Mediterranean atmosphere.
While in the area, don’t just enjoy the beautiful views from the national park, but be sure to explore it as well. The park is famous for its blooming wildflowers that usually appear annually from August to September, and are a true sight to behold.
The park is also home to wildlife, including eland, red hartebeest, bontebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok, mountain zebra, duiker and ostriches, as well as smaller animals such as caracal and the bat-eared fox. The park is also a popular bird-watching destination and the global conservation organisation BirdLife International has named it as an important bird and biodiversity area.
The West Coast National Park has multiple accommodation options, including beach cottages and moored floating chalets, offering an extraordinary opportunity to be completely surrounded by nature.
Paternoster, 145km from Cape Town, is another small town not to miss. One of the oldest fishing villages in the region, its heritage is still very much in evidence.. Here, you can buy fresh fish straight from the traditional wooden boats as they return to the beach with their catch.
Drive to nearby Cape Columbine Nature Reserve to see the Cape Columbine Lighthouse, situated on a prominent headland. The park is also famous for its fynbos, Karoo succulents and colourful wildflowers in springtime. If a laid-back getaway is what you’re after, go camping at the park’s popular campsite at the edge of the ocean.
At the inland town of Clanwilliam, 230km from Cape Town, you won’t find beaches, but mountains and rugged terrain instead. Set on the slopes of the Cederberg and the banks of the mighty Olifants River, the town is known for its beautiful scenery.
As one of South Africa’s 10 oldest towns, with a colonial history dating back to 1660, Clanwilliam is home to a number of museums and historic sites, including the Clanwilliam Museum, housed in an old jail building and with many interesting old artifacts on display.
Although Dutch explorers were the first Westerners to arrive in the town in 1660, San people have lived in the area for thousands of years. Visit the Sevilla Rock Art Trail to see the fascinating art left behind by these early inhabitants.
The mountainous 71 000-hectare Cederberg Wilderness Area nature reserve about three hours’ drive from Cape Town offers the chance to immerse yourself in a captivating, rugged landscape characterised by sandstone rock formations.
The Cederberg is a World Heritage Site and the reserve offers numerous activities and sights, including rock climbing, San rock art sites dating back 6 000 years, donkey-cart adventures and multiple hiking routes. Stay over for a day or two at one of the park’s chalets or campsites and enjoy the sun setting across the stark landscape at the end of the day.
The West Coast stretches over 400km and offers a bit of everything. From incredible beaches and untouched landscapes to rugged, mountainous terrain, this culturally rich, pristinely beautiful region has it all.
Take a few days to explore some of the small towns or remote nature reserves and return to the Mother City refreshed and revitalised. Or maybe you will lose yourself in this region’s unspoilt charm and not even return at all …