What I love about the Overberg: from a City-Bowl-expat
I’d been visiting the Overberg for twenty years by the time I made the decision to pack everything up and move my little family out to the country, beyond the city smoke, traffic and frenetic pace, to a quieter place over the hills. Raised in Sea Point and residing in the Cape Town City Bowl as a young adult, I had never stumbled across a lifestyle that was so family-centric and influenced by the great outdoors.
Saturday beach expeditions with children made for a refreshing change compared to the social whirl of weekends in the city – and lush, languid Sunday lunches replaced being seen at the newest hip spot in town in a designer frock and heels. The soul-stirring beauty of the Overberg seeped into my heart and inspired me to traverse the region that must surely have inspired many poets, writers and painters in the past.
Country life in the Overberg is unashamedly abundant, mirroring the fertile farmlands, riverbanks and verdant scenery that drew me to the change of lifestyle in the first place. In summer, figs drip off trees, ripe for the picking, rambling roses spill over fences and gooseberries beckon under hedges. When you live somewhere, you have time to absorb details you may never have discovered during a short stay, and I’d love to share some of my favourite finds with you.
If you’re after a great big dollop of country charm, then you’ll fall head-over-feet for irresistibly cute Stanford and Greyton, which are both only 1.5 hours drive from Cape Town. Greyton boasts a wealth of wonderful restaurants (perfect for foodie explorers like me), picture-perfect quaint architecture, verdant valley scenes and a pretty river. Searle’s Trading Post invites talented South African musicians to perform there regularly, and most establishments have their finger on the pulse when it comes to culinary trends.
Stanford was recently voted ‘Best Village in South Africa’ by SA Destination Awards, and is has certainly become a destination village, owing in part to its preserved vintage charm and natural beauty. With a river running through it, Stanford has a romantic appeal during all four seasons, best suited to those who love storybook country cottages with fireplaces, delectable slow-food and river swims.
This small town is fast becoming an Overberg ‘culinary hot spot’, with award-winning Marianas having established itself as a ‘must-visit’ country restaurant (you can’t call yourself a proper foodie unless you’ve ‘lunched’ there!) over the past decade, along with the popularity of Havercrofts and Graze, which both require booking ahead. Kleinriver Cheese pack a gourmet picnic seven days a week, while Beloftebos’ recently launched Sunday buffet (under the trees in their sublimely serene setting), is yet another reason to linger longer on Sundays before returning home.
Newer venues such as The Tasting Room at Stanford Hills and Madre’s Kitchen are very popular with locals and visitors alike, while Farm 215 and Grootbos, which are outside of Stanford, offer the discerning foodie top notch nosh. If you’ve booked a self-catering cottage, remember to treat yourself to locally-grown produce at the Wednesday morning market at Graze, and the Saturday Morning Fresh Goods Market at The Stanford Hotel for the best flourless tortes, lemon curd, fresh vegetables, artisan breads and fig tarts you’ve ever laid your eyes on.
If you’re craving an escape from the city and love the ocean, then De Kelders, Franskraal and Struisbaai are coastal destinations with a somewhat rural feel. When you’re in De Kelders, be sure to spend some time in Die Plaat reserve, which offers kilometres of relatively untouched beach, reminiscent of the Wild Coast. Franskraal is a sweet family escape near to Gansbaai, while Struisbaai is an authentic fishing village, peppered with original fisherman’s cottages and colourful boats bobbing in the bay. Take the family to Panorama in Franskraal for a fun expedition – just be prepared for free-range ponies who may want to nibble at your lunch!
Elim and Baardskeerdersbos are both tiny villages which are well worth visiting. Elim was originally a mission village, and its history is preserved in the historical architecture of its cottages and authenticity of its residents. I’d recommend a visit to the Elim museum, before a sumptuous lunch at Black Oystercatcher restaurant and winery. For a rustic dinner experience, try Mariekies in Baardskeedersbos for heavenly fish ‘n chips and cold ales, while the kids play outside in the flourishing garden.
BBos, as it is referred to by locals, is a tucked away hamlet located a mere twenty minutes drive from Stanford, boasting some of the Overberg’s most prolific resident artists. The thrice annual BBos Art Route attracts visitors from far-reaching places, to experience the artists in their homes, in the spirit of a sort of ‘open stoep’ art celebration. Bodhi Khaya Retreat is hidden away amongst over 200 hectares on the way to Baarskeerdersbos, and was recently voted one of the top 8 ‘Awesome Wellness Retreats’ you didn’t know about, by Huffington Post.
The Overberg is a feast for nature-lovers, as it is so rich in natural attractions. Whatever takes your fancy – whether it’s paragliding, dune-boarding, kayaking or hiking (or just lazing on beautiful beaches) – this beautiful region offers you more than your money’s worth. With so many interesting towns offering the traveller a different experience every few kilometres, the Overberg is also day-trip Mecca, therefore I’d highly recommend basing yourself in one place and exploring the various surrounding towns during your sojourn.
Wind your way home via the coastal route and stop in at Hook, Line and Sinker in Pringle Bay for just about the best melt-in-your-mouth fish ‘n chips you’ve ever eaten, between drinking in the intoxicating beauty of the ocean from Clarence Drive. The region offers so much more than whale-watching (which is, of course, an absolute must); it is a world in one place – a paradise within reach.
Fall down the rabbit hole and I’m almost sure you’ll tap into the magic, leaving with a richer soul and an incurable case of wanderlust for the Overberg.