Discovering the Western Cape
With its melting pot of cultures, rich historical and cultural heritage and the pristine white beaches that sweep along its coastline, the Western Cape has much to offer any visiting tourist.
The Western Cape is both the gateway to Africa and a major tourist attraction in its own right.
In Cape Town itself, there is juxtaposition of old and new, with major shopping centers, such as the Canal Walk Mall, sandwiched tightly with historical landmarks such as the Castle of Good Hope, the fort built by Jan Riebeeck on establishing a supply station at the Cape.
The city is vibrant and cosmopolitan offering excellent Cape Town hotels, restaurants and nightlife and and has long been a hotspot for film and modeling shoots. For beachlovers, Camps Bay, Clifton and many others offer the perfect opportunity to soak up the sun. For surfers, there are ample surfspots, from Long Beach to Kogel Baai, near Gordon’s Bay at the foot of the Helderberg Mountains.
Slightly further afield are the many South African Wine Estates that offer historic, unrivalled natural beauty and some of the best wine tasting in the world. The area is criss-crossed with wine routes, with the Durbanville Hills route a mere twenty minute drive from Cape Town. Continuing further one finds the renowned wine-producing areas of Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch. (See The Cape Winelands attractions).
On the west coast of the Cape, it seems time has stood still, with small fishing villages such as Paternoster having changed little since their founding, over a century ago. But for the visitor, there is choice. In the town of Langebaan, for instance, visit the Mykonos Casino complex for gambling and nightlife, or take a break at the Strandloper seafood restaurant located on the white beach sands.
In the spring and summer months, Hermanus on the eastern coast of the Cape draws countless visitors, who congregate to view the annual passing of the Southern Right Whale and watch the world’s only whale-crier. Small towns like Swellendam, located just off the N2 highway are also well worth a visit, offering, in this case, unique attractions such as the Faerie Sanctuary, while others, like McGregor, are a haven for artists and craftspeople.
Also within the borders of the Western Cape is the Garden Route, aptly named for its breathtaking natural vegetation. Towns worth visiting in the area include Knysna, famed for its twin heads, protecting a warm and peaceful lagoon, where it is possible to hire a houseboat and idly drift on the water as well as for local events such as the annual oyster festival.
Mossel Bay is another town in the area worth a visit, with its mild climate, and historic significance, being a regular stop for the Portuguese sailors who traveled around the Cape to India, centuries ago. Their influence remains recorded in the unique post office tree, and in the Bartholomew Diaz museum.
Wilderness, on the N2 en route to the Eastern Cape, lives up to its name and is ideal for those who wish to get away from it all, while Plettenberg Bay is famous both for its dolphin sightings and its genteel atmosphere, where yachting and polo are the order of the day. The Western Cape has a host of attractions to satisfy even the most discerning visitor and offers something to suit every taste.
With so much to see and do however, you would be well advised to plan your trip carefully and budget for a longer stay.