The biggest problem about visiting the Western Cape is having to choose where to visit!
Wonder how many you’ll argue we’ve left off our list of the 12 Best Small Towns in the Western Cape that we know and love. So, we’ll quickly add the proviso that the following didn’t make it, and should have: Suurbraak, Oudtshoorn, Stillbay and Vermaaklikheid, Riviersonderend and Ladismith…
Here’s our list of the 12 Best Small Towns in the Western Cape – in no particular order…
Think quaint fishing village, its beaches littered with little two or three-man fishing boats with names like Jackpot and Boetie Day, whilst in amongst the giant boulders and along the town’s tarred roads are a series of uncomplicated, predominantly whitewashed, cottages – some of them historical, others built with this same authentic character in mind. Despite the popularity of Paternoster there remains a ramshackle, beach-side atmosphere that is difficult to beat for weekend’s away.
The whale capital of the Western Cape, Hermanus has a cliff path alongside the sea that runs the length of town from the harbour and is downright incredible to walk. From there you can sight whales, but even when they’re not in the bay this walk is a shoreline treasure trove. Town is a weekend delight of restaurants, book stores, walks, coffee shops and
The foodie capital of the Cape Winelands, Franschhoek needs little by way of introduction (see Franschhoek – Eat, Do, Sleep in the Winelands’ Foodie Capital). It’s vibey, busy, an easy day visit from Cape Town, and the quintessential ambassador for the winelands’ towns, a title it shares only, perhaps, with Stellenbosch. The main road through town is a hive of activity – restaurants, historical buildings, wineland tours and coffee shops. You’re spoilt for choice.
When it comes to history and beauty rolled into one it’s difficult to beat Stellenbosch. The university town is filled with Georgian, Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture, its oak-lined streets lined with museums, hotels, restaurants, students and visitors. Only 45 minutes’ from Cape Town the second oldest town in South Africa serves also as a commuter town. You can happily while away a weekend or two here. Book now and go!
Wake up in Greyton during autumn and you’ll swear you’re in a little village in England. You’ll also be convinced that they managed to stop time – what with the quintessential village cottages with picket fences, a weekly farmers’ market, and little lanes lined with oaks and poplars that beg for bicycle riding and strolling. Greyton is, however, anything but a state secret and Capetonians enjoy their weekends here (some have second homes in town). And we’re no stranger to Greyton – already in-love with its slow pace, art galleries, mountain and quiet.
On the other side of the Riviersonderend Mountains from Greyton (you can hike between the two towns) is yet another charming wine and weekend village. At its centre is a retreat with gardens that extend an entire block and whose peacocks call intermittently between the clangs of the church’s bell. Mcgregor has attracted sculptors, painters, musicians and crafters, its local Waldorf school is thriving, and its buildings adhere to a set of guidelines. But you’re here principally to do nothing…
The riverside town of Stanford is fast establishing itself as the foodie capital of the Overberg – what with Mariana’s, its own wine route and micro-brewery, and a cheesery. When it comes to dirt road dorps that are close enough to Cape Town for weekend breaks, Stanford wins hands-down (well, almost). And if you simply cannot do downtime there are plenty of hikes, a river cruise, wine tasting, a Saturday morning market, antiques, and even beaches close by.
On the other side of the province, further inland on the southern edge of the Great Karoo, lies a darling of a dorp at the foot of the Swartberg. Just outside town is access to the famous Swartberg Pass whilst in town are lei water channels, gardens full of fig trees, Cape Dutch architecture and a mix of Karoo and Victorian buildings restored and functioning as restaurants, guest houses and little shops. If waking every morning to stillness and mountain views doesn’t do it for you then there are olive and wine farms to visit, Gay’s local Guernsey Dairy with giant round cheeses on the shelves, a weekend market, and big dollaps of charm and character.
Baardskeerdersbos is named after a spider that cuts your hair to use in the making of its web (go figure) and lies just inland of Pearly Beach in the Overberg (some of you will have been here for its twice annual art route – definitely worth attending). You may oppose our listing what is otherwise an obscure little town on this list. Visit. I defy you to find fault with this little, unpretentious place (I’d move there tomorrow, if I could).
Just about everyone in Cape Town knows someone with a house in Montagu. The small town on Route 62 in the Klein Karoo is both easily accessible and incredibly beautiful – it’s been described as a Victorian village, its streets lined with Cape Dutch style monuments, surrounded by vineyards, fruit orchards and mountains. A Saturday morning market, a nature garden, access to the surrounding mountains, wine farms, restaurants, hikes, MTB routes and idiosyncrasies like the Bird Tree (ask a townie to explain) and you can understand its popularity.
A little further along Route 62 from Montagu, just before the road takes you around the bend and passed the now famous Ronnie’s Sex Shop, you’ll find Barrydale – the pretty, quirky community with a main road lined with restaurants and shops where the R62 meets the R324. Just below the road is the rest of town, which also deserves a visit and includes a labyrinth, hot water springs, local shops, hand weavers producing beautiful cotton rugs, walks, trails and heavenly views.
Another quintessential Route 62 town, De Rust’s only drawback is that it is a little further than one would like – on the other side of Oudtshoorn. It won Small Town of the Year in 2011, which speaks volumes, and serves as a ‘spillover’ town for those attending the annual KKNK and KKK in Oudtshoorn. It lies on the edge of Meiringspoort its main road lined with art galleries and restaurants, Victorian-style architecture and little hills that, if you follow them, return to the koppies and mountains that surround town, its fynbos, renosterveld, spekboom veldt and Karooveldt incredibly beautiful.