As much as Capetonians would have you believe that South Africa ends at the Hottentots Holland Mountains, there is another whole world out there filled with historical and seaside villages, and mountain retreats, within easy driving distance of Cape Town.
Just don’t get away too late. Any time after 15h00, on a Friday, and you’ll spend over an hour in gridlocked traffic trying to leave the city. Here is our list of the Best holiday spots within easy driving distance of Cape Town …
Distance from Cape Town: 150 km, roughly two hours’ drive
Why it’s on our list: Sometimes described as a ‘wee, twee village’ (cannot think why), Greyton lies in the Overberg right up against the Sonderend Mountains, its oak-lined lanes and country cottages an ode to quintessential English towns – there is even a weekly Farmers’ market, if you can manage to make it out of bed in time (get there by midday and most organic vegetables have long gone).
There is no end to good food beyond the market, however, and you have only to nip into the Posthouse, or the Oak and Vigne, for a meal. Von Geusau Chocolates are made in Greyton, local wines are aplenty and, if you’re a hiker, you can walk the Boesmanskloof trail between Greyton and McGregor.
Where to stay: find a range of options from hotels, bed & breakfasts and self catering accommodation in Greyton.
Distance from Cape Town: 145 km, just under 2 hours’ drive
Why it’s on our list: Also in the Overberg, but closer to the coast, Stanford lies just off the R43 on the banks of the Klein River, its backdrop the Kleinriversberg Mountains. Its streets are lined with quaint heritage cottages, galleries, antique shops, artsy cafes and a number of excellent restaurants (Marianas, Madre’s Kitchen, Graze Slow Food Cafe).
Don’t miss out on the market on the green and the wineries in and around town. You’ll be forgiven for forgetting that you actually went there for downtime, there is so much to explore.
Where to stay: find a range of options from hotels, guest houses and quaint cottages for self catering accommodation in Stanford.
Distance from Cape Town: 95 km, an hour and a half’s drive
Why it’s on our list: The drive alone will raise your spirits – along the R44 from Gordons Bay – and Betty’s Bay is the epitome of seaside village. On the Overberg coast there is little to this town not to like. Its unfussy, untamedness (the town is a conservancy and every garden is a tribute to fynbos) lines the edges of endless sand dunes at the base of the rugged Kogelberg Mountains. Other than the attraction of the beach there is the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden and an African penguin colony at Stoney Point.
Where to stay: Here you will mostly holiday homes geared for those who prefer to cater for themselves. See the options at accommodation in Bettys Bay.
Distance from Cape Town: 82 km, just over an hour
Why it’s on our list: Regarded as South Africa’s ‘gourmet capital’ there are more award-winning chefs per block in Franschhoek than there are anywhere else in the country, and you’ll be hard pressed trying to decide where to eat. Named after the French Huguenot refugees who settled in the valley way back, the historical town is only a stone’s throw from Cape Town and easy to visit for a day or weekend lunch.
Throw in the wine farms close to town (best explored on the open-side hop-on-hop-off restored Wine Tram), the art galleries, the museums, annual literary festival, the restored and gentrified feast of architecture, and the fine town full of French names, and you will leave spellbound (it certainly has various celebrities, including Richard Branson who recently bought out here, completely hooked).
Where to stay: In Franschhoek you’ll find top of the range luxury hotels to beautiful cottages perfect for romantic weekends. See them at accommodation in Franschhoek.
Distance from Cape Town: just under 100 km, roughly one and a half hours’ drive
Why it’s on our list: Bainskloof is one of those well-kept secret destinations. It lies in the mountains just above Wellington, accessed via the Bainskloof Pass, one of the most scenic passes this side of Cape Town.
Part of the charm of Bainskloof is that little of the landscape has been altered, aside from the odd wine farm, guest house or hiking trail that winds through the valley, and the fynbos up here is incredible. Do your research and you’ll uncover a number of little mountain hideaways.
Where to stay: Options are limited, but there are some stunning self catering cottages and houses for you to choose from. See them at accommodation in Baainskloof.
Distance from Cape Town: 160 km, two hours’ drive
Why it’s on our list: This whitewashed fishing village, its beach littered with the colourful fishing vessels of still active fishermen, on the West Coast is one of the oldest in South Africa.
Its laidback atmosphere, beautiful beaches and inviting guesthouses make it a very popular weekend escape, and you could do worse – long beach walks, balmy days, excellent restaurants and local nature reserves, sea kayaking, diving and hiking, as well as regular dolphin, seal and whale spotting. Besides, fresh fish braais don’t come better than here.
Where to stay: There is plenty of choice in Paternoster, mostly self catering holiday homes. You’ll also find B&Bs and luxury guest houses at accommodation in Paternoster.
Distance from Cape Town: just under 100 km, depending on which route you take
Why it’s on our list: A friend of mine, who is an artist, just moved to Riebeeck Kasteel. She wasn’t alone in selecting this particular one of the trio of towns in the Riebeek Valley (the other two are Riebeeck West and Hermon) as home. Unusually, the town evolved around the Royal Hotel – still running and the place for an early evening gin and tonic on the longest stoep south of the Limpopo.
The heart of town, which is really about three blocks worth of boutiques, handmade delights and restaurants, is a healthy mix of bay windows, gabled porches, patios and little shady nooks littered with restaurant tables in the shade (Bar Bar Black Sheep is still one of your best bets).
Where to stay: find a range of options from charming guest houses, bed & breakfasts and holiday cottages for self catering at accommodation in Riebeek Kasteel.
Distance from Cape Town: 200 km, give or take two hours
Why it’s on our list: This is one of those destinations that, despite being a regular weekend getaway for Capetonians, doesn’t quite make it on to the average European’s list of must-do’s when in South Africa. More’s the pity.
Cederberg lies bounded by the towns of Citrusdal, Clanwilliam and Wuppertal, a geological mountain wonderland that took hundreds of millions of years to form and left us gazing at rock formations and night skies the likes of which bring us to our knees in gratitude. Hiking, climbing, San rock art and camping are the main attractions, but you’d be forgiven for simply gazing at the scenery too.
Where to stay: choice here is limited to a few guest houses and hotels. You’ll mostly find holiday homes and cottages for self catering at accommodation in Cederberg.