Do you know what makes the West Coast such an unbelievable holiday spot? Yes, it’s the white sandy beaches, white cottaged fishing villages, mountains of the Cedarberg, citrus orchards above the Swartland and the apple and pear farms of the Koue Bokkeveld. But it’s also the historic towns along the Orange River of the Northern Cape, the annual flower display and the coming of the whales.
The West Coast is more than a pretty postcard home saying: I’m missing you (not!). It’s an unparalleled experience of intense beauty and diversity coupled with a wildness that is missing in many other parts of the country.
Here are a few of the secret activities that will allow you to fully experience its appeal:
SAMPLE THE WINE AT GROOTE POST, DARLING
Set in a green valley through which the Klawer River wends, Groote Post is an historic 18th century farm where the winemaking tradition was revivied by the Pentz family, who claim unique soils and cool winds off the sea make for superlative fruit and thus incredible wine. See more info here.
EXPLORE THE LIFE OF THE SAN AT !KHWA TTU
A three-hour tour given by the San will give you an inspiring overview of their ancient knowledge, oral history, how they track animals, identify edible and medicinal plants, and their recent achievements in land rights claims. Really worthwhile. See more info here.
GET LOST ON 16 MILE BEACH, YZERFONTEIN
Yzerfontein has the country’s longest stretch of beach, which runs from their main beach to the West Coast National Park. Spot whales here between September and November, or join the sun worshippers in December. See more info here.
VISIT PHILADELPHIA POTTERY
If you haven’t already visited this delightful little town (just 30km up the N7 from Cape Town) then do so, but don’t miss out on the pottery shop – part of the Pepper Tree Art Stable. See more info here.
CATCH A SHOW AT EVITA SE PERRON, DARLING
See the country’s most famous white woman and best babotie maker ‘live’ in her home town at her theatre at the old Darling railway station. See more info here.
SAMPLE FRESH LOCAL SEAFOOD AT GAAITJIE, PATERNOSTER
One of South Africa’s most famous chefs, Suzi Hotzhausen moved from Jo’burg to live in Paternoster and opened a small restaurant, known as Gaaitjie, in a converted Fisherman’s cottage right on the rocks – you’ll have to book in advance. See more info here.
DIVE FOR CRAYFISH IN ELANDS BAY
Elands Bay, the gem that has managed to elude the surge of development; home to Verlorenvlei, one of the biggest estuaries on the West Coast, offers crayfish diving to those with a valid diving license (November to April). See more info here.
EXPLORE THE WEST COAST FOSSIL PARK ON HORSE BACK
This trail with a difference, on beginner-friendly horses, takes one over sand dunes through the reserve. The area is under continuous excavation to recover fossils of animals that used to roam the area. See more info here.
KAYAK ON THE OCEAN IN PATERNOSTER
Paddle the calm of the Paternoster bay on double, sit on top, Epic kayaks with all safety gear and paddles supplied, weather dependent (includes short beach briefing to prepare). Launch from the main beach and follow an easy course. See more info here.
DELVE INTO THE HISTORY OF THE RADIO AT THE LATSKY RADIO MUSEUM, VANRHYNSDORP
A fascinating museum in Vanrhynsdorp worth a visit for its vintage value alone – George Latsky has always loved all things radio. Come and see his collection built from trawling second hand shops, flea markets and donations. See more info here.
VISIT STELLAR ORGANIC WINERY, KLAWER
The largest producer of organic wine in the country, and the first organic winery to achieve Fairtrade certification, Stellar Organics sources its grapes from farms in the lower Olifants River Valley and the Namaqualand. See more info here.
HEAD TO THE WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK
This 27 500 hectare reserve is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the R27 coastal road, to the east. Famed for its bird life and spring flowers, particularly Postberg flower reserve (open only during the season), the reserve, together with its islands in Saldanha Bay, has been identified as an Important Bird Area. See more info here.
VISIT BIRD ISLAND NATURE RESERVE
This island, linked to Lambert’s Bay by only a breakwater wall, hosts the world’s most accessible Cape gannet colony and gives shelter to cormorants and penguins. Its three hectares are important for breeding and roosting. The noise and smell are worth noting (be prepared) but the modern, glass bird hide helps disguise both. See more info here.
DRIVE PAST THE DARLING WIND FARM
On the hills outside Darling, roughly 70 kilometres from Cape Town, stand four wind turbines – an Eskom demonstrator site known as Darling Wind Farm. The electricity supplements Cape Town’s electricity supply. A larger project is planned for St Helena Bay (18 to 20 wind turbines). See more info here.
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