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Western Cape travel guide
The Western Cape practically zooms off the travel charts with its level of natural beauty and variety of sporting and cultural activities. Around Cape Town, the Garden Route and the West Coast you’ll find coastal scenery and beaches, as well as forested mountains. Moving inland you get to the green Winelands and a drier Klein Karoo, all with more mountains.
The star of the show is Cape Town, a microcosm of the whole province. In one sophisticated yet friendly city you can satisfy your longing to climb a mountain, paraglide and surf, but also grab some urban action with outstanding restaurants to suit all budgets, neighbourhood markets plus smart shopping centres, and theatre ranging from box office hits to alternative performances in a tiny room. Children love Cape Town for its beaches, open spaces and activities such as zip lining, surf lessons, tobogganing, penguin watching and loads of indoor science, arts and crafts.
But don’t neglect the rest of the Western Cape. Here’s where you can watch whales and dolphins play, discover a unique winemaker, go bungee jumping, explore history in a tiny country town, contemplate the stars from the desert, hike the glorious Cedarberg Mountains and see the spring wildflower tapestry in Namaqualand.
Around the coast:
- Cape Town – Chic in some ways and laid back in others, Cape Town hints of Europe and New York, yet is most definitely African. The city is singular for features such as Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, its Malay community of the Bo-Kaap, Constantia wine farms and Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Camps Bay, Clifton and Muizenberg are among the best beaches. The funky suburb of Woodstock is well worth visiting for its art scene, small boutiques and Saturday morning farmer’s market at the Old Biscuit Mill. Long and Adderley Streets still have historic old buildings, such as the Slave Lodge Museum. The area around Bree Street in the centre of town is known for innovative food, an artisan coffee culture and trendy nightlife, including cool wine bars, art galleries and plenty of cool LGBT venues.
- Cape Peninsula – At the very tip of the peninsula lies the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Here two oceans come together, and you can see a beautiful expanse of fynbos, the floral kingdom only found in the Cape. You may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a baboon or two (don’t feed them). Return via Simonstown, with its African Penguin colony at Boulders and Seaforth beaches. Stop off in bohemian Kalk Bay, picturesque St James and retro Muizenberg, beloved by surfers.
- Garden Route – Spend a memorable few days discovering lazy beaches at Stilbaai, Victoria Bay, Wilderness and Sedgefield. Take the family on a big game safari or find the fairytale castles at Noetzie. The coastal towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay offer boat-based adventures and dolphin and whale watching. Choose a magnificent Tsitsikamma Forest hike and canopy tour, or test your limits with the world’s highest bungee jump at Bloukrans.
- Hermanus and Overberg – Go between July and September to do some whale watching in Hermanus, not forgetting its gorgeous coastal walks and the wine farms of Hemel en Aarde. Close by are the hot springs at Caledon, and the historic charm of Swellendam.
- West Coast – In spring the ground of Namaqualand is covered with a Crayola box of flowers. Experience the theatrical genius of Pieter Dirk Uys’ Theatre and Mausoleum in Darling. Brave the mysterious mountain range of the Cedarberg and explore the untamed beaches at Paternoster and Langebaan. Discover a new talent among the quaint showrooms, shops and eateries in the arty village of Riebeeck Kasteel.
- Cape Winelands – Taste, taste and taste. Then decide on your own favourite wine along the various routes that take you to farms in Durbanville, Somerset West, Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek. The driving is easy along country roads with hillsides covered in vines dipping into valleys of all shades of green. Many of the estates have top-class restaurants to follow your wine tasting. You can buy South African wines directly from the farms.
- Breede River Valley – This is the largest wine and fruit-producing valley in the Western Cape. The setting is a magnificent zig zag of hills, sliced by the Breede River. Rafting, canoeing and hiking are some of the activities on offer when you are not stocking up on wine. Not to miss is Montagu, hugely popular for its hot springs and a base for rock climbing and cave seeking. The town is also bursting with Cape Dutch architecture as well as dried fruit, nuts and preserves. The Montagu dried fruit and nut factory shop is just outside the town. The wines of nearby Robertson have an excellent reputation. Annual Festivals in this area include Christmas in Winter and the Prince Albert Olive Festival.
- Klein Karoo – the Cape’s Route 62 leads travellers into a landscape of startling horizontal rock formations. Quirky towns include Calitzdorp, Ladismith and Barrydale.