I thought ten days would be more than enough to take in a few of the towns and highlights of the Overberg, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ten days is but a dress rehearsal for the performance, and we could easily return for another two weeks and still not have captured the essence of the Overberg.
The best part about travelling through this part of the Western Cape, other than the incredible scenery, is that getting there from Cape Town is really easy (bar the N2 bottle-neck through Somerset West, but even that is manageable if you time it properly). And yet, two and a half hours later, one feels as though one is in another part of the world.
In essence you are. After driving over both Sir Lowry’s and the Houw Hoek Passes (so different in character), one enters a world of wheat fields, the presence of mountains, quaint little towns, an enviable coastline to which the Southern Right whale returns annually to calve between July and November, fleeting glimpses of blue cranes in farmers’ fields, and vibrant scenery to take your breath away.
Top spots in the Overberg – 10 days just isn’t long enough…
Stanford is a delicious not-so-small, but very fashionable town, and a lot of Capetonians have second homes here. A lot of the original buildings have been restored and there is an historical walk one can do (pick up a brochure at the town’s information tourism office), followed by lunch in at least three highly recommendable restaurants – Mariannas, Madré’s Kitchen and graze (make sure to book ahead, as at least two of these are only open over weekends when trade picks up).
The town rests on the bank of the Klein River, along which there is a lovely walking trail. But you can also take a river cruise and experience the calm of the countryside from the deck, a glass of wine in your hand. In town find antique shops, book shops and galleries. Nearby are the Klein River Cheesery, Birkenhead Micro Brewery and a number of wine estates. You won’t be short of things to do in Stanford.
Baardskeerdersbos is a small, rural ‘dorp’ on a dirt road roughly 30 kilometres from Stanford, off the Grootbos turnoff. It’s a hamlet full of artists and they hold a three-times-a-year art route that you could easily make the highlight of your trip. Artists open their homes and their hearts to you, in a timeless way that is reminiscent of ‘koffee opie stoep’ in small towns of the imagination.
Aside from the fact that it is a beautiful, characterful town, lying in amongst a rich abundance of fynbos, and there are a couple of restaurants and places to stay, it is the artists themselves that bring delightful Baardskeerdersbos to life.
Napier is a gem of a town, perched on a hill at the foot of the Soetmuisberg, its main road filled with restaurants, guest houses and quirky shops. It’s also en route to L’Agulhas or Elim, so it does not struggle for passing trade. A drive through the little avenues and roads above the town reveals characterful cottages, vegetable gardens and a whole dollop of charm.
Many of the cottages have been restored by Capetonians, who have second homes here, but it has a different flavour to Stanford, retaining its quaint rural quality. Make a stop at the Napier Farmstall to pick up a loaf of homemade bread.
Bredasdorp, really close to Napier, acts as something of a fulcrum with roads leading from the town to Struisbaai and L’Agulhas, Elim, Arniston and De Hoop. It’s a far larger town than its neighbour, Napier, but claims to be South Africa’s first ‘dorp’, established in 1838.
This is a good town in which to stock up before moving on, but make sure to stop and visit the Shipwreck Museum and take in a couple of the old buildings, as the town has an interesting history and is very pretty, if you know where to look. The Heuningberg Nature Reserve is worth a visit to spot the Bradasdorp lily, best viewed in April or May.
Arniston is a beautiful seaside village, filled with whitewashed cottages that have spread out around the original Kassiesbaai, a 200-year-old fishing village that is also a national heritage site, and in which fishermen continue in the footsteps of their fathers and their fathers before them.
You can do a guided tour, or experience local food at a restaurant called Willene’s (house C62 in Kassiesbaai). Arniston is also known as Waenhuiskrans (it’s one of the only towns with two official names) after a huge cave reached only at low tide. Walk on the beaches, explore the town on foot and generally slow down.
Elim is a picture-book pretty little town that was a mission village. It is also the oldest village in the Strandveld, founded in 1824 by members of the Moravian Church. Church Street is lined with historical cottages, many of them thatched as a number of the locals are thatchers and renowned for their craftsmanship.
Make sure that you do a tour of the village with the local guide, visit the museum, and if you can, stay overnight in the local guesthouse. Elim is a gem.
L’Agulhas is the southernmost town in South Africa. It also has a magnificent lighthouse, which everyone visits and climbs, modelled on one of the Seven Wonders of the world – the Pharos. It is the country’s second-oldest working lighthouse, its function to keep ships from the sharp, jagged rocks of the coastline, after which the town is named.
The shore is wonderful for fishing, there are several tidal and rock pools and, of course, one can stand at the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and have one’s photo taken – there is a cairn just 1 kilometre west of the lighthouse.
When in the Overberg make sure you do:
- De Hoop Nature Reserve – beautiful reserve and wonderful place to view whales; you could spend days here
- De Mond Nature Reserve – on the mouth of the Heuningnes River, great for a picnic
- Agulhas National Park – on the coast at L’Agulhas, in which you’ll find the village of Suiderstrand completely surrounded by the park
- Platbos forest – an incredible opportunity to walk through an ancient forest
- Cape Overberg Attractions
- Things to Do in Cape Overberg
- Cape Overberg Hotels
- Cape Overberg Accommodation
- Western Cape Accommodation