West Coast of South Africa
West Coast of South Africa offers some of the most beautiful sceneries in the world such as, mountains, oceans...
The West Coast offers some of the greatest small town experiences in South Africa. This is a region that is best savored, slowly, and therefore road trips along the West Coast are a firm a favourite with locals and international visitors. The area offers some of the most beautiful sceneries in the world such as, mountains, oceans and views of the beautiful surrounding areas.
The West Coast National Park (close to Langebaan) is where 50 000 migratory birds can be seen in the summer, and at the Bird Island in Lamberts Bay, an unobtrusive viewing platform allows close-ups of a jam-packed breeding site.
The national park also contains 40% of the earth’s remaining strandveld fynbos, and the West Coast largely blooms in the spring months of August to October. Endemic Clanwilliam cedar and Snowball Protea can be sighted in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, which also claims unusual rock formations and well-known hiking trails.
The West Coast has two official wine routes, the Swartland Wine Route and the Olifants River Wine Region. West Coast seas also produces a bounty of quality seafood and line fish to accompany the fruit of the vine. Some of the country’s finest restaurants are found along this coastline.
South Africa's West Coast, home to one of the largest mainland seal colonies in the world, is only one reason why travelers should come for a getaway. The other reasons are found in the towns along the West Coast. Diving and sailing will keep you at sea, while the area's wines, fruits and seafood will bring you back to shore.
The coastal regions of the south-western Cape were densely occupied by pastoralists, or herders, known as the Khoikhoi. The West Coast region was the land of the CochoQua, which included Saldanha Bay to Vredenburg. The ChariGuriQua or GuriQua occupied the lower Berg River area, St Helena Bay and points around Piketberg.
Archaeological sites on the West Coast, like Kasteelberg, show occupation by herders between 1800 and 1600 years ago. Places where whales often strand themselves along the shore are known as 'cetacean traps', which are areas where minima in the earth's magnetic field cross the shoreline, and where there are offshore reefs. St Helena Bay, or more specifically, Slipper Bay appears to be one of these 'cetacean traps', approximately 12km from Kasteelberg. It is well recorded that whale meat was used by the Khoikhoi.
The GuriQua and the SonQua (Bushmen) are forgotten in the history of the West Coast. They were here to witness the arrival and departure of Vasco da Gama. He stayed a mere 8 days in St Helena Bay and is revered as one of the greatest navigators and explorers. The history of the Khoikhoi and the SonQua after 1652 is well documented and it would be impossible to summarise it in this short review, except to mention the 1713 small-pox epidemic, which was one of the main causes for the virtual disappearance of the Khoikhoi from the south-western Cape.
The remnants of the ChariGuriQua of the West Coast followed Adam Kok, the founder of the Bastaard (later Griqua) group. The Bastaards or Baster group were descendants of mixed unions between European settler farmers and Khoikhoi women. After the 1950's many descendants of the Khoikhoi were classified as "Coloured". There are no written records by the indigenous peoples for the pre-colonial period. Anthropological and archaeological research are the only tools we can use to give us a picture of a people and culture lost in time. The only other sources of information we have are ships journals and the diaries of visitors written from 1488 to 1652.
Best Time to Visit West Coast of South Africa
August and September
West Coast of South Africa Attractions
Britannia Bay, Darling, Vredenburg, Jacobsbaai, Lamberts Bay, Langebaan, Paternoster, Saldanha, Shelley Point, St Helena Bay, Strandfontein, Vredendal, Yzerfontein, West Coast National Park, Darling Wine Route, West Coast Fossil Park, Verlorenvlei, Langebaan Golf Course, Bird Island Nature Reserve, Rocherpan Nature Reserve
West Coast of South Africa Attraction Details
Britannia Bay: Britannia Bay is 160 km from Cape Town, an easy 90 minute drive up the Cape West Coast. Britannia Bay is located 35 km from Vredenburg (the main commercial centre of the region) and 45 km from Saldanha Bay. Britannia Bay offers acres of unspoilt, safe beaches. The bay is very protected and the water is slightly warmer than most places on the West Coast, due to the Benguela current not entering the bay.
Darling: The charming little village of Darling lies between vineyards and golden wheat fields only 75km from Cape Town along the West Coast road and 25km from the beach at Yzerfontein. Traditionally known for its spectacular wildflowers, Darling has much more to offer visitors ... Darling has become the home of well-known South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys's theatre, Evita se Perron, a cabaret venue and restaurant in Darling, named after his alter-ego, Evita Bezuidenhout.
Vredenburg: Just 130 kilometres north of Cape Town lies Vredenburg, regarded as something of a business hub for the West Coast, and a springboard to the coastal towns of St Helena Bay, Langebaan, Paternoster and Saldanha Bay, to which it is closest. Interesting is its history, for despite its name, which means ‘peace’, the town originated at the time of a water feud that ensued over a spring serving as the boundary line for the neighbouring 18th century farms of Heuningklip and Witteklip.
Jacobsbaai: Jacobsbaai, situated midway between Vredenburg and Saldanha Bay, is an isolated, traditional Cape West Coast Village. Strict building restrictions in the town have preserved the breathtaking 2 kilometers of coastline, boasting 7 individual bays and lime washed houses against an azure blue sea. Most of the roads are gravel roads which keeps traffic at snails pace which has resulted in a peaceful little resort town, ideal for a weekend getaway or relaxing holiday.
Lamberts Bay: The unpretentious, picturesque seaside village of Lambert’s Bay lies right up the West Coast, not far from Clanwilliam and only 2.5 hours’ drive from Cape Town. This part of the coast is quite simply beautiful, with wide expanses of white sand under blazing blue skies and endless opportunity to experience seafood in the heart of crayfish country.
Langebaan: The popular town of Langebaan is just over 100 km from Cape Town on the West Coast off the R27 next to Langebaan Lagoon. The white Caribbean like beaches surrounding the crystal clear waters of the Langebaan Lagoon are one of the main attractions of Langebaan. Langebaan has a modern Country Club and offers numerous excellent holiday facilities for the water sport enthusiasts who favour a weekend visit or holiday in Langebaan to enjoy the host of water sport and fishing opportunities this vibrant holiday resort town offers.
Paternoster: Paternoster, meaning "Our Father" derives its name from the prayers of ship-wrecked Portuguese sailors. Paternoster is a small, quaint and picturesque fishing village about 145km (90 minutes drive) from Cape Town and 15km north west of Vredenburg. A favourite weekend getaway destination for Capetonians, Paternoster is one of the oldest towns along the West Coast and is famous for its abundance of crayfish.
Saldanha: Saldanha is a seaside village that lies in the northern most corner of Saldanha bay - the largest and deepest natural bay in the country. About 110 km up the Cape West Coast from Cape Town, the picturesque harbour town of Saldanha is essentially motivated by export and the fishing industry, and crayfish, fish, mussels, oysters and seaweed drive the economy.
Shelley Point: On the West Coast of the Western Cape lies Shelley Point, about 150 kilometres north of Cape Town, perfectly positioned between Saldanha and Port Owen. It is a beautiful part of the world, this previously undiscovered coastline, that boasts an abundance of crayfish, abalone, mussels, dolphins, cormorants, the rare oystercatcher and little to break the miles of white, sandy beaches other than a few fishing villages.
St Helena Bay: St Helena Bay was "discovered" by the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama on 7 Nov. 1497, during his pioneer voyage from Europe to India. He named the bay after Saint Helena, a devout, influential Christian and mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. It was on the shores of this bay that the first encounter between a European explorer and the indigenous Khoikhoi (nomadic herders of sheep and cattle) took place.
Strandfontein: Strandfontein is a small sea side village situated at the mouth of the Olifants River. Strandfontein ('beach fountain') has evolved from being an small rural beach resort to a bustling tourist hub, especially during the wild flower season (late July to September) and during the South African summer when the town is a favourite with locals as a weekend or holiday destination.
Vredendal: As its name intended, the little town of Vredendal, which borders on the southern tip of Namaqualand, is named after a peace settlement that brought harmony between two sparring parties. Part of the original Vreedensdal farm, which dates back to 1748, the now modern town lies on the banks of the Olifants River and has become something of a hub for the Matzikama region, known for its contrasting sandy plains, rugged mountains and some of the most diverse examples of succulent plant species in the world.
Yzerfontein: Yzerfontein is a tranquil sea-side village, 80km north of Cape Town on the R27 and marks the start of the beautiful Cape West Coast. Yzerfontein offers unspoilt coastline with both rocky and sandy beaches including the famous sixteen mile beach which stretches all the way to Postberg Nature Reserve within the West Coast National Park.
West Coast National Park: Just inland from the secluded harbour of Saldanha Bay one finds the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon, focal point of the West Coast National Park. Thousands of seabirds roost on sheltered islands, pristine golden beaches stretch endlessly into the early morning mist and brooding salt marshes are home to vast concentrations of migrant waders from the northern hemisphere.
Darling Wine Route: Although traditionally part of the Swartland, Darling is now a demarcated wine district and home to her own wine route, including five wine cellars all of which benefit from the cool breezes off the Atlantic Ocean and the long, hot summers to produce some stunning wines with concentrated flavour, depth and intensity.
West Coast Fossil Park: Contrary to the way the West Coast looks today, millions of years ago the area was dominated by riverine forests and wooded savanna, and animals that today are long extinct wandered the land. We know this because phosphate mining operations at Langebaan during the late 1950s exposed one of the richest fossil sites the world has ever seen, and since then the bones of some 200 different kinds of animals, some of them hitherto unknown to the world of science, have been recovered.
Verlorenvlei: Verlorenvlei is a long estuary stretching between the villages of Elands Bay and Redelinghuys, some 25 kilometres south of Lambert’s Bay. It is not only one of the largest lakes but one of the few coastal freshwater lakes that is at once one of the most important estuarine systems in the Western Cape, and one of the largest natural wetlands on the Cape west coast.
Langebaan Golf Course: Langebaan Country Club, Club Drive, Langebaan, Western Cape / Langebaan Country Club is a links-type course, designed as a figure 8 winding around residential stands. Located on the unspoilt Cape west coast about 70 minutes drive from Cape Town, the elegant clubhouse offers panoramic views of the 15km (9.3 miles) long Langebaan lagoon, which is part of the West Coast National Park and Saldanha Bay harbour.
Bird Island Nature Reserve: The world’s most accessible Cape gannet colony can be found on an island, linked to Lambert’s Bay by a breakwater wall. Bird Island also gives shelter to thousands of cormorants and penguins, whilst Cape fur seals can still be found on the rocks on the sea side of the island.
The three hectare Bird Island Nature Reserve is an important breeding and roosting site for this cacophonous and, on the face of it, unruly bunch of birds that serves as both an environmental educational opportunity, and a tourist attraction of note.
Rocherpan Nature Reserve: Rocherpan enthusiasts who head off along the West Coast to visit this nature reserve near Velddrif will possibly mention to you that the bird life is incredible, but what they will not reveal is that it is also a wonderful setting in which to spot whales.
The Rocherpan Nature Reserve is set a mere 25 kilometres north of Velddrif, near Dwarskersbos. Most of the 914 hectare reserve is part of a seasonal vlei, which dries up between March and June.
Where to stay in West Coast of South Africa
Whispering Whale Guest House, Baviana Beach Lodge, Friday Island Beach House, Gecko Beach House, Barrys Place, Puza Moya Guest House, Paternoster Dunes Guest House, La Baleine, Melkboomsdrift Lodge, Elm Tree Guest Cottages, Blueberry Holiday Flats