South Africa – the world in one country. The diversity of landscapes and experiences really does warrant such a label. From the iconic Table Mountain towering over the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town to the superb wildlife of the private game reserves bordering the Kruger. Not to mention the snow capped mountains of the Drakensburg, remote beaches of northern Maputaland, chilling battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift – the list is endless.
This trip I focused on the wine country, Northern Cape and West Coast. A short forty five minute drive outside of Cape Town are the breath-taking winelands. I spent a couple of nights visiting several hotels and guesthouses where delicious food and wine was never far away to keep my energy levels up!
The village of Franschhoek has always been a particular favourite of mine. The bustling main street, hugged by dramatic mountains has a lovely vibe with a number quality restaurants, bars and shops. Aside from the stunning scenery, it really is very much about the food and wine. Whether you are enjoying the exquisite tasting menu at Le Petite Colombe or stopping in for a quick glass of wine and nibbles in a small café on the high street – everyone is passionate about good food and wine!
I then travelled further north through more isolated areas of the wine country and spent a night at Bartholomeus Kip. It is hard to believe you are just an hour or so from Cape Town. The 10,000 acre nature reserve, which is also a working farm, is flanked by dramatic mountains and offers a wonderful remote winelands stay. If you love the outdoors, peace and quiet as well as gourmet food and warm hospitality, then it is definitely worth including for a couple of nights.
Leaving the winelands behind me, I travelled north to the Bushmans Kloof reserve outside Clanwilliam. I took the more ‘off the beaten track’ scenic route through the heart of the Cederberg Mountains and I am so pleased I did. It is up there with one of the most spectacular drives I have enjoyed in South Africa! The road has you climbing up the mountains with wide views of the vast farmlands before dropping into rocky outcrops and eventually onto dirt roads through dramatic mountains ahead of you, then towering above you, it was spectacular.
Nestled in the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains, Bushmans Kloof offers a wonderful wilderness retreat. Set within 7,000 hectares of stunning flora and fauna, the wilderness haven is home to over 130 unique rock art sites, some as old as 10,000 years. Explore the area on foot with several walking trails or scenic nature drives. The reserve also protected one of the largest private herds of Cape Mountain Zebra in the world, an animal saved from the brink of extinction.
Working my way back to Cape Town, I then travelled south-west to the stunning beaches of the west coast and visited the quaint fishing village of Paternoster and sea-side town of Langebaan.
Paternoster is one of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast of South Africa. Life in Paternoster is timeless. See the locals go about their daily lives, crayfishing or bringing in the daily catch, walk along the empty beach flanked by hardy fynbos growing on white dunes. For the more active you can kayak in search of penguins and dolphins, or explore the local area by car. There are some excellent award winning restaurants offering sublime sea-food, enormous juicy prawns washed down with a chilled glass of wine whilst you watch dolphins out in the ocean – that is why you go to Paternoster.
A short 40 minute drive south to the town of Langebaan bordering the West Coast National Park and the feel is completely different. Langebaan is much more a of a sea-side town. Offering some of the best windsurfing in South Africa, the town certainly has that ‘surfer’ feel and quite the hot spot for local Capetonians for an active weekend getaway. There are numerous watersports available and ideal for active couples or families. Nearby, the West Coast National Park is a protected area just south of Saldanha Bay and includes much of the Langebaan Lagoon where thousands of seabirds roost on the sheltered islands.
Bird watching is superb, either on foot along the numerous trails, or by using the Abrahamskraal hide. The park is also an excellent place to view the seasonal carpets of wild flowers which form a kaleidoscope from the coast to the mountains in August and September as well as do some whale watching (July to October).
In summary, exploring the Northern Cape and West Coast is an excellent option if you are looking to get a bit more off the beaten track, perhaps on a second visit to the Cape. The area offers some spectacular scenery and diverse landscapes. Travel late July to September for the flowers or November through to April for some sunshine – an ideal winter getaway from the Northern hemisphere!
Michele visited the following properties whilst in South Africa – La Cle Des Montagnes, Leeu Estates, Le Quartier Francais, La Cle Lodge, Leeu House, Maison Chablis, Franschhoek Country House, Babylonstoren, Bartholomeus Klip, Bushmans Kloof, Cederberg Wilderness Lodge, Yellow Aloe, Melkboomsdrift, Oystercatcher, Strandloper, Abalone House & Spa, At the Rocks Guest House, Harrisons House, Delaire Graff, La Petite Ferme, Auberge Clermont, Mont Rochelle, Avondrood Guest House, La Fontaine Guest House, Blackheath Lodge, Queen Victoria Hotel & Manor House, The Dock House, The Manor House, Radisson Blu, Place on the Bay, Sea Five Boutique Hotel, Compass House Boutique Hotel and Ellerman House.