Welcome to The Western Cape!
The Western Cape lies bordered by 2 oceans – the Indian Ocean to the south and the Atlantic to the west. The splendours of the Western Cape lie not only in its world-class vineyards, stunning beaches and mountains, the wild Cape Agulhas coast, the extraordinary magnificence of the Garden Route, the rocky outcrops and fishing villages of the West Coast but also in lesser-known regions, such as the wide-open spaces of the Karoo.
The Western Cape offers a huge range of activities, from sedate endeavours such as wine tasting and scenic drives to more hair-raising encounters such as skydiving and rock climbing. It is a melting pot of cultures that begs to be explored. Khoisan rock art is at its best in the Cederberg Mountains and there are some fine opportunities to visit townships and be entranced by the fascinating culture of the Xhosa people.
TOP REASONS TO VISIT
The Cape Winelands
The extensive and verdant beauty of the Winelands region is one of the Cape’s most alluring attractions. No visit to this region would be complete without taking time to explore at least some of the 13 wine routes on offer. Rugged, blue-tinged mountains surround the green valleys dotted with charming historic towns among vineyards and olive groves. Visitors can admire traditional Cape Dutch architecture, sip world-class wines and soak up the rich cultural and historical heritage.
Many of these are within easy reach of Cape Town, particularly those in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Wellington, but there are those slightly further afield in other wine-producing valleys – the Breede River Valley, the Swartland and the Olifants River Valley, to name but a few – that are equally inviting.
Groot Constantia is part of the tiny Constantia wine route, in an area developed by Simon van der Stel in the late 1600s. Other smaller wine routes include Worcester, Tulbagh, Wellington, and Somerset West. With a selection of more than 200 cellars from which to choose, the Cape Winelands boast some of the finest wines in the world, and the routes also provide stunning natural scenery. Food and wine festivals take place throughout the year and are a great introduction to the bewitching charms of the region.
Located within Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, discover a region rich in floral diversity. From the viewpoint and lighthouse at Cape Point, reached via a funicular, watch the thundering waves crashing at the base of the cliffs, 209 meters below. The reserve itself is worth exploring, particularly on foot or by bicycle, for those interested in birds and botany. There are several beautiful walking trails, including the Shipwreck Trail which takes you to a few of the 26 recorded shipwrecks around Cape Point. There are also some great beaches and dive sites.
The restaurant at Cape Point has a terrace offering spectacular views while resident Baboons enjoy the spoils from tourists, although feeding the Baboons carries a stiff penalty.
One of the most spectacular coastal roads in South Africa and the world. It links the seaside community of Hout Bay to the Noordhoek Valley along the Atlantic Coast, with breath-taking views from along the narrow, winding road blasted into the cliffs. Use this scenic route to reach Cape Point Nature Reserve, situated at the tip of the Peninsula. There are several picturesque picnic sites and viewpoints along the route and it is very popular with cyclists. Chapman’s Peak Drive is also the ideal vantage point for Whale watching, the peak Whale season being mid-August to mid-November. Hiking up Chapman’s Peak and through Silvermine Nature Reserve and the Cape Peninsula National Park offers spectacular views over the South Peninsula. With sheer cliffs below, soaring mountains above, and the ocean stretching to the horizon, this dramatic stretch of road is a must-see for tourists in Cape Town. Open 24 hours, although the road closes occasionally due to heavy rainfall, or rock falls. Chapman’s Peak Drive is operated as a toll-road and fees apply.
Located 11 km from Cape Town and can easily be seen from the Table Bay shore. For nearly 400 years, this tiny rocky island was utilised as a place of banishment, exile, isolation, and imprisonment for numerous categories of people ostracised by society, ranging from political protesters to lepers.
During the years of Apartheid, Robben Island became synonymous with institutional brutality as numerous freedom fighters, including the island’s most famous resident, Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned here for more than a quarter of a century.
Robben Island is now a museum, symbolising the liberation and triumph of the human spirit. Regular island tours are conducted, lasting three and a half hours. The tours, which are guided by former prisoners, include a visit to the maximum-security prison on the island where an estimated 3,000 freedom fighters were incarcerated between 1962 and 1991.
The boat trip across the bay offers some wonderful views of the city and Table Mountain. The boat departs from the Nelson Mandela Robben Island Gateway in the clock tower precinct at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, leaves roughly every two hours between 9am and 3pm (weather dependent).
Operating around the world-famous Dyer Island where you may be fortunate to see the Marine Big 5 – the Southern Right Whale, Humpback, Bryde’s Whales, the iconic Great White Shark, the Cape Fur Seal (around 60 000 on Geyser Rock), the endangered African Penguin and various visiting Dolphin species. The area is also home to a wide variety of seabirds.
Cape Floral Kingdom
The Cape Floral Region, one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage sites comprises eight protected areas stretching from the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape, cutting across spectacular mountain and ocean scenery and containing some of the richest plant biodiversity in the world. The site displays outstanding ecological and biological processes associated with the Fynbos vegetation, which is unique to the Cape Floral Region.
The region follows the Cape Fold Belt of Mountains, the Cedarberg and Hottentots Holland mountains, then cuts through the Langeberg, Outeniquas, Tsitsikamma, Swartberg and Zuurberg Mountains.
Food, Wine & Nightlife
With a melting pot of cultures and cuisines born of the 17th century spice trade, Cape Town flaunts a long and flavourful culinary history and you’ll find plenty of tasty evidence to prove it.
Capetonian chefs are making a global name for themselves and the eating and cooking scene is skyrocketing. Have loads of fun checking out restaurants, both high-end and hole-in-the-wall, as well as contemporary and traditional; gourmet food trucks, food markets and more!
Upgrade your culinary skills, learn to make local cuisine or just have a fun evening with friends with some of the best cooking courses available.
There’s plenty to do in Cape Town after dark. Explore fashionable bars, small watering holes, classy dance clubs and hotel bars. Sip on a cocktail, watching the sunset at one of Camps Bay’s trendy sidewalk cafes in the summer, enjoying the gorgeous ocean views. Head to Observatory for a more bohemian experience, or Long Street, in the centre of town, where you will find just about every kind of bar or club on offer, from live music and DJs to pubs, dance clubs and the more trendy and laid-back lounge variety.
Famous for road tripping, beach lounging and hiking opportunities and known for the magnificence of its wild, unspoilt coastline and natural “gardens”. The amazing forests at Tsitsikamma, sweeping beaches of St Francis Bay and beautiful Plettenberg Bay, the bustling town of Knysna and lovely Lake District of Wilderness and Sedgefield are all to be found along the way.
Boulders Beach & Penguins
Boulders Beach isn’t just a great place for penguins, it’s also a popular family-friendly swimming beach where kids can climb over the boulders, explore the rock pools, or swim in the cool, clear False Bay water. A colony of African Penguins reside here, in fact, it’s the only place in the world where you can get close to African Penguins.
Pop over to the Boulders Visitors Centre and learn more about the area’s famous inhabitants, where expert guides will give you tonnes of interesting information about Africa’s own, unique penguins.
Aquila Private Game Reserve Safari
Less than a 2 hour drive from Cape Town, Aquila offers you a unique opportunity to see the Big 5 up close as well as additional wildlife and flora. The 10,000 hectare conservancy is situated in the historic town of Touws River, in a valley between the Langeberg and the Outeniqua Mountains in the Karoo.
A variety of adventure activities can be found in and around the Western Cape’s majestic mountains, under and on our shipwrecked seas, paddling down rivers serene, horseback rides through vineyards or on the beach, Quad Biking in the mountains, educational mountain hikes, zip lining from fynbos covered mountain cliffs over inaccessible terrain and waterfalls, canoeing or staring a shark in the eye, the offerings for adventure and nature appreciation are endless in our beautiful Western Cape.
Shark Cage Diving
A nature adventure experience that is guaranteed to send a chill down your spine. The small fishing village of Gansbaai is a 2 hour scenic drive from Cape Town and widely known as the ‘Shark Capital of the World’. From Gansbaai you will travel by boat to the Shark grounds where the experience of sharing the waters with one or more of these feared apex predators awaits you. No diving experience required!
The Swartberg Pass
The tallest range of mountains in the Western Cape. Today, 3 breath taking passes wind through the mountains linking the interior of the Great Karoo with the towns of the Klein Karoo and the coast beyond. Navigating the passes combines a thrilling experience with unforgettable scenery and views.
Cape Route 62
This route combines parts of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, that meanders between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn, the Langkloof and Port Elizabeth, offering the shorter, scenic alternative to the N2 highway.
It’s an area of magnificent landscapes and towering cliffs, crystal clear streams and an abundance of trees and indigenous flora – all contribute to make Paarl, Wellington, the Breede River Valley, Klein Karoo and Langkloof some of South Africa’s most diverse regions. The ever-changing colours of the majestic mountains, scenic passes, rivers, vineyards and orchards, as well as the multitude of attractions, will offer you an unforgettable adventure. Easily accessible towns, nestled along the valleys, all offer ample opportunity for discovery. From visits to wineries and game reserves, tribal art, cultural tours, museums and for the more adventurous: hiking trails and mountain climbing, 4×4 routes, canoeing, horse riding, even ostrich riding, fishing and caving. Cape Route 62 is an exciting experience, even for the well-travelled.
WHERE TO GO
A fusion of cultures, cuisines and landscapes, there’s nowhere quite like Cape Town, a singularly beautiful city crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain National Park.
From the brightly painted facades of the Bo-Kaap and the bathing chalets of Muizenberg to the Afro-chic decor of its restaurants and bars and the striking street art and innovation incubators of the East City and Woodstock, this is one great-looking metropolis. The informal settlements of the Cape Flats are a sobering counterpoint, but these townships also have enterprising projects that put food from organic market gardens on tables, or stock gift shops with attractive souvenirs.
From museums and historic sites to scenic drives and beaches, Cape Town has plenty to offer visitors in the way of attractions and excursions. The open-top, hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses operate two routes, visiting sights in and around the central city. The routes also go further afield in the suburbs, and this is an easy and fun way to see many of the city’s top attractions in one day. The city centre is easy to navigate on foot.
Wrenching yourself away from the magnetic mountain and all the delights of the Cape Peninsula is a challenge, but within an hour you can exchange urban landscapes for the charming towns, villages and estates of Winelands destinations, such as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Hermanus is a prime Whale-watching location, as well as a base from which to organise shark cage diving. Further afield, the delights of the Garden Route unfold, with more inspiring scenery to be viewed on thrilling drives down the coast and over mountain passes.
Cape Town’s world-class beaches offer residents and visitors a wealth of activities and well-maintained public facilities, whether you’re a surfer, a swimmer or after a top sunbathing spot.
The most popular choices include Camps Bay beach, a long, wide stretch of silver sand packed with locals and tourists alike and backed by a strip of trendy bars and restaurants.
Another favourite is Clifton, situated beneath exclusive houses and apartments, set into the cliff that protect sunbathers from the harsh south westerly wind.
The small suburb of Llandudno, 15 minutes south of Camps Bay, is home to one of the most scenic beaches in South Africa, popular for sundowners on the rocks or long days in the sun.
False Bay is also blessed with lovely beaches and these tend to be more family-friendly and less trendy.
Castle of Good Hope
South Africa’s oldest surviving colonial building that was completed in 1679. The castle contains a Military Museum depicting the conflicts that arose during the Cape’s early settlement, and houses the William Fehr Collection of decorative arts, including paintings, furniture and porcelain. Of interest are the dungeons, which bear carvings in the walls by prisoners incarcerated centuries ago.
The castle was built for defence, not beauty, and it is a fortress not a palace. Those interested in the history of the Cape will find a visit fascinating.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Just south of the city centre, covering a huge expanse of the rugged south-western slopes of the Table Mountain range, contains more than 22,000 plants, a research unit, botanical library, and nursery. Numerous paths meander through the gardens, including a Braille route for the blind, which are full of lush shrubs and fynbos, the Cape’s indigenous floral heritage.
Cape Town’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The views of the city and coastline from the top of the mountain in all directions are quite spectacular. A rotating cable car carries visitors smoothly up the mountain and back. The mountaintop is equipped with a restaurant and small gift shop, as well as numerous pathways and vantage points.
Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront
This working harbour, historical site, and shopping and entertainment development, has become one of Cape Town’s most visited tourist attractions. The Waterfront offers everything from shopping malls to arts and crafts markets, live music and buskers to a variety of festivals throughout the year.
There are also more than 70 eateries ranging from pubs and fast food outlets to 5-star restaurants. Those who fall in love with the Waterfront will be glad to know that there are several luxury hotels available in the area.
For those who want to experience the thrill of sailing, there are a variety of boat trips, harbour cruises, and helicopter charters leaving from the Waterfront.
The Two Oceans Aquarium has an impressive array of life from the oceans surrounding the Cape Coast, and great fun for the whole family.
The Malay Quarter was declared an exclusive residential area for the Muslim Cape Malays under the Group Areas Act of 1950, during the Apartheid years, forcing people of other religions and ethnicity to leave.
The term ‘Cape Malay’ was originally used to describe the slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, and various African countries who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, the area is still closely associated with the Muslim community and has a distinct and vibrant character all its own. The houses have been restored and colourfully painted, the steep cobbled streets, mosques, minarets, and blend of Cape Dutch and Edwardian architecture making it one of the most interesting historical and cultural areas of the city.
Situated only 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town on the southern coast of the Western Cape along the Cape Whale Coast Route. The seaside village of Hermanus, promises to enchant visitors all year round. Activities include Whale watching, Shark cage diving in Walker Bay, abseiling, treetop tours, quad biking and a 27-hole Hermanus Golf Course. Discover the wine route, art route, speciality shops and pamper boutiques. Meet the world’s only Whale Crier as he alerts you to the whereabouts of the Whales by blowing his ‘Kelp Horn’. Admire the diverse floral fynbos kingdom while hiking or biking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve or laze on one of the pristine Blue Flag beaches. Don’t miss the famous Hermanus Whale Festival, a celebration of all Marine life, happening from around late September.
Situated at the southern-most tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans collide. It’s a rugged, windswept coastline and the graveyard for many a ship. There is an interesting museum and Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas to explore.
One of the Western Cape’s gems, Arniston is a small seaside settlement in the Overberg region, close to Cape Agulhas. Colourful boats, warm blue-green waters and the backdrop of Kassiesbaai, the 200-year-old hamlet of whitewashed cottages form the core of the town. South of Kassiesbaai is Roman Beach with white sand and gentle waves. It’s a good place for families to explore as there are caves, coves and rock pools filled with sea urchins and colourful anemones.
THE CAPE WINELANDS
Stellenbosch is an elegant, historical town with stately Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture along its oak-lined streets and full of interesting museums, quality hotels and a selection of bars, clubs and restaurants. It has a vibrant, youthful culture thanks to the University, some of the world’s top wines, delicious local food and lots for the whole family to experience.
French Huguenots settled in this spectacular valley over 300 years ago, bringing their vines with them. Ever since, the town has clung to its French roots, and July visitors will find that Bastille Day is celebrated here. This is the food and wine heartland and top chefs create international cuisine. Enjoy breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality, world class cuisine and the finest wines to create lasting memories.
The scenic beauty of Paarl compels visitors to explore the many cultural and historical attractions in the Drakenstein Valley, together with some of the most bountiful nature reserves in the surrounding mountains. The town was founded in 1687 and is the third oldest settlement in South Africa, with a rich cultural and historical heritage. Paarl boasts true country hospitality, award winning wine farms and estates, and a plethora of accommodation to suit both your requirements and budget.
The picturesque town of Wellington is a scenic 45 minute drive from Cape Town and renowned for beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads, picturesque environment, gardens and wineries. The historic Bain’s Kloof Pass, with unsurpassed vistas, indigenous flora and fauna and crystal-clear streams and rivers, is the perfect spot for hikers and fly-fishermen. Closer to town, guided wine-walks and horse-trails through rich farmland and flowering fynbos offer the opportunity to see and experience Mother Nature at her finest. Wellington is surrounded by fruit orchards, wine estates, buchu plantations and olive groves.
Not only the home of several world-renowned wines, it is also undeniably beautiful. Set within a basin, it is surrounded by impressive mountain ranges, which are a major part of the unique climate that makes this such a fabulously ideal spot for wine-makers. The area of Tulbagh also yields lovely olives and fruits. A great destination for families, friends or couples that are looking for a tranquil retreat amidst breath-taking countryside with hiking, walking and horse riding along the many trails.
THE KLEIN KAROO
Oudtshoorn & De Rust
The towns of Oudtshoorn and De Rust are in the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains and forms part of the greater Garden Route. Oudtshoorn is the ‘Ostrich Capital of the World’, and home to the spectacular Cango Caves. Here you can also observe the Meerkats in their natural habitat.
Snuggled between the Outeniqua, Swartberg and Rooiberg Mountains, its ideally situated as a hub from which to partake in all that the region has to offer. Known as the Port Capital of the Klein Karoo and home to 200 species of plants found nowhere else on earth, night skies and sunsets, and gorgeous Karoo architecture.
This perfect getaway in the Langeberg, near the Robertson Wine Valley, takes some time to explore. This beautiful town is famous for more than just its Hot Springs, it is the perfect retreat for eco, wellness and adventure sports, as well as golfing holidays, wine and food. Take the popular Tractor Ride to the summit of the Langeberg and when you are here in spring or summer, the flowers are in bloom and you may even get to pick some gorgeous Proteas. The trip is followed by a delicious lunch of potjiekos (traditional stew cooked over a fire in a single cast-iron pot).
THE WEST COAST
One of the oldest and most charming fishing villages in South Africa, where life moves at a different pace. Paternoster is a sought-after tourist destination and is known for lobster and the white-washed fishermen’s cottages. The remarkable coastline of jagged cliffs and white boulders makes this one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast.
Darling is like a fine wine; a soft yet crisp experience on the West Coast, best enjoyed with good company, at a slow speed, with an explorer’s undertone and a good balance of fun and laughter all together with a blend of uniquely South African. It’s part of the Cape Floral Region and home to hundreds of species of flowering plants. The Darling Museum, in the 1899 Town Hall, traces local history, including the 19th-century butter industry.
You can’t visit Darling without stopping by Evita se Perron where satirist, Pieter Dirk Uys, turned the old Darling station into a theatrical experience, complete with a restaurant, exhibition hall, garden displays and a theatre.
Cederberg Wilderness Area
Only 2 hours from Cape Town and yet the landscape is completely different: wilder, warmer with a raw, dramatic beauty. Clanwilliam and Citrusdal with its towering mountains, brilliant purple and orange sunsets, laden with the scent of orange blossom in the spring. Lambertsbaai and Elandsbaai, with their perfect waves for surfing, offer open air restaurants serving only the best seafood and have an abundance of bird life to be spotted. Wupperthal and Elandskloof, both missionary villages situated within these magnificent mountains, both have a wealth of history to be discovered.
The Cederberg has an exceptional botanical diversity, being part of the Cape Floral Kingdom of South Africa, and among the twisted rock formations, farmers cultivate the world-famous healthy Rooibos Tea, found only in the Cederberg of South Africa.
Extending from the vast Atlantic Ocean on the West Coast all the way to the tiny town of Pofadder in the east and the Orange River in the north, Namaqualand is a dry and barren place for most of the year and part of the only arid biodiversity hotspot in the world. During the spring, a rich diversity of succulent flora, as well as countless Namaqualand daisies, burst into life, turning the lifeless terrain into a kaleidoscope of colourful wildflowers.
The best way to see this multi-coloured display is to drive along the Namaqualand Flower Route, through nature reserves and national parks, to witness a display of almost 4,000 species of flowering plants.
Considered the flower capital of Namaqualand, Springbok is the only major city in the area and an ideal base from which to explore the region. The flower season peaks between early August and late August and it is dependent on the winter rains.