The Western Cape, with its relaxing vineyards and beautiful, bustling coastlines, is home to iconic attractions such as Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Cape of Good Hope, constantly drawing crowds to the Mother City. But beyond this obvious, within-reach beauty, the road leads to everything your traveling heart could desire. Hiking trails, mountains, deserts and Karoo skies, and countless small country towns full of character and charm.
Small towns to absolutely see
Matjiesfontein in the Karoo – In the north of Cape Town, just off the N1 highway which links Cape Town and Johannesburg, you will find Matjiesfontein, a picturesque hamlet rather than a town which consists of a hotel, a train station, a collection of museums and more than a touch of magic. Its story takes us to a time when railway lines reached inland and pioneers had a vision of a route from Cape Town to Cairo. They were chasing a dream. Just like the young Scottish immigrant James Logan, who bought land called “Matjiesfontein” in 1884. Over the years, Matjies has grown from its rural serenity to one of the leading tourist resorts of the time. Now affectionately known as the Grand Duchess of the Karoo, the Lord Milner Hotel still welcomes visitors in style, a testament to a bygone era. Things to do include a visit to the Transport Museum with its private collection of vintage cars and a tour of the area by bus from London, which takes no more than ten minutes. Spend time at the Mary Rawdon Museum and enjoy walks in the surrounding Veldt, where some 10,000 British soldiers were camped during the Anglo-Boer War. At night, take a walk outside and breathe in the beauty of the Karoo starry sky.
Paternoster on the west coast – One of the oldest fishing villages in the country and located around 150km north of Cape Town, Paternoster is a true example of west coast living. It is an authentic fishing village, whose name, which means Our Father in Latin, refers to the prayers of the Portuguese Catholic sailors who were shipwrecked there. Others believe it may have come from the beads the Khoi tribe wore, called Paternosters. Today, Paternoster is a popular tourist destination, best known for its whitewashed fishermen’s houses and brightly colored fishing boats selling their daily catch right off the shore. Things to do include long walks on the pristine white sand beach, searching for treasures at Die Winkel op Paternoster, and a visit to the Cape Columbine Lighthouse, built in 1936 and still occupied today. Also explore the West Coast National Park and don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Noisy Oyster.
Swellendam at the N2 exit – Once overlooked by motorists on the N2 highway between Cape Town and the Garden Route just past, Swellendam is now a destination in itself. The third oldest town in South Africa, Swellendam was declared a district and appointed a magistrate in 1743. From there a village developed where artisans and traders settled. Today, it offers travelers a welcome break from their journey, with a variety of accommodation options to choose from, as well as an assortment of restaurants, activities and attractions. Things to do include a visit to the Drostdy Museum and time in the nearby Bontebok National Park, created with the specific aim of saving the species. Stroll down Swellengrebel Street to the art galleries and cafes, and for the kids, spend some time at the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary and definitely book a massage at the Rain Africa Spa.
Country life McGregor – A picturesque country village surrounded by the Langeberg Mountains with Robert-son, Ashton and Montagu as neighboring towns, McGregor is considered the best preserved 19th-century South African village with its whitewashed, reed-roofed Victorian cottages. and Georgians. houses. Every Saturday there is a morning market in the square next to the church, a good place to mingle with the local community. The roads are mainly used for walking, very poorly paved, and the pace of life is idyllically slow. Temenos Gardens has been drawing people to McGregor since it opened, with its soul-nourishing gardens and spiritual mediation programs, and its established art route includes visits to 10 galleries. Head to the Old Post Office transformed into a pub for a whiskey tasting, book a visit to the Tanagra Distillery and for Method Cap Classique, don’t miss Lord’s Winery.
Greyton, Overberg – Greyton originated in 1854 when a farm in the area was divided into plots and the village was named after the then Cape Governor, Sir George Grey. Today, its leafy streets, historic cottages and natural environment attract visitors from near and far. The town has managed to preserve its authenticity while still offering the facilities and attractions expected of a popular vacation destination. Things to do include the Saturday morning market, where you’ll find a wide selection of farm fresh produce. Funds raised from the market go toward environmental conservation efforts, such as maintaining the Greyton Nature Reserve. There are great hikes to do in the area, good shopping, three wine farms, Von Geusau chocolates which are a must for tasting and walking through the historic village.
Taste the magic
Cape Town’s impressive food scene draws on international influences, Cape Malay infusions, African tradition and local agricultural produce from outlying farmlands. For consistently delicious meals, visit Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia, Black Sheep on Kloof Street, Harbor House in Kalk Bay, and Ramenhead for an intense asian flavors and finesse. Fine dining restaurants include Fyn, Salsify and award-winning restaurant La Dove Restaurant. For a more relaxed but notable dinner, try Foxcroft in Constantia or the Food barn in Nordhoek.
The Belly of the Beast, in the heart of the city, is a hidden gem, while Chef’s Warehouse in Tintswalo Atlantic, which allows you to dine directly on the ocean and overlooking Hout Bay is well worth the detour. Emazulwini at Maker’s Landing – a space for budding food entrepreneurs, celebrates Nguni cuisine. For breakfast, don’t hesitate Hemelhuijs and The Foreigners’ Club. Il Leone Mastrantonio, Villa 47, Between Us, Maria’s Greek Café and Café Paradiso are locals favorites. Not to mention the coffee scene or the abundance of vegan and healthy options so ingrained in the city’s character.
My favorites from Cape Winelands in Franschhoek and surrounding areas include Chefs Warehouse à Maison, Orangerie Restaurant in Le Lude, Pierneef in La Motte, La Petite Ferme Restaurant, Indochine in Delaire Graff and The Werf Restaurant in Boschendal. Situated on a well-kept estate outside the historic town of Stellenbosch, Rust en Vrede has long set the bar for fine, elegant dining, while Babel, Babylonstoren’s flagship restaurant, is where generosity of the garden is transformed into splendid breakfast platters and super gourmet seasonal lunch menus. -local and intensely seasonal.
From words to actions
Discover the wonders of Walker Bay’s nature, culture and heritage on the Diversity Trail. A five-day, four-night hiking adventure in the South West Cape that takes you through fynbos, forests and along the coast – with touches of luxury along the way. On this 25-mile slackpacking trail, you’ll sample local cuisine with every meal, sip the region’s finest wines at the end of each day, and enjoy four nights of accommodation at Bellavista Country Place. A balance of reconnection with nature and the remains.
In the same way, the Whale Trail passes through one of the most unique and diverse nature reserves in the Western Cape and stretches 55km from Potberg to Koppie Alleen. The trail offers the opportunity to explore the natural diversity of De Hoop Nature Reserve, where the scent of Potberg Mountain fynbos and unique limestone plains mingle with the salty sea air of this marine protected area. Along the way, walkers discover an abundance of native plants and rich birdlife. De Hoop is also world-renowned as one of the best whale watching locations, and between June and December this coastline transforms into one of the world’s most valuable nursery grounds for southern right whales.
Looking for a totally unique experience?
THE Domaine Weltevrède Bonnievale has been in the Jonker family for four generations. Book a tasting in their underground cellar and wander through a maze of rooms lit by flickering candles to a space where their MCC Philip Jonker and delicious wines are served over anecdotal tales from years past. Delve deeper into Cape Town with a tour of the historic underground tunnels discovered beneath the bustling Mother City. Built between 1652 and 1895 for the express purpose of diverting tons of mountain water from the ocean, they were vaulted and forgotten around 1895. They are now part of a popular historical tour, making them one of Cape Town’s most unique experiences. Are you looking for a market experience to immerse yourself in? THE Oranjezicht city agricultural market takes place every Saturday and Sunday at the V&A Waterfront. With a strong focus on supporting independent local farmers and artisan food producers, it’s the perfect place to do your weekly shopping and stock up on vegetables, fruit, bread, organic dairy, free-range eggs, honey and more. As well as spending the morning chatting with some of the locals who frequent it.
Up close and personal
Join Meerkat adventures just outside the town of Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, where you can experience a meerkat encounter with a wild but habituated colony of these adorable and charismatic meerkats in their natural habitat. Leaving De Zeekoe Guest Farm before dawn, you camp in a semi-circle a good distance away and wait for them to emerge from their burrows to warm themselves in the morning sun. You can stay with them for a while, keeping your distance while you watch them go about their daily lives, searching for insects and stealing your hearts.
Do good, feel good
If you want to support a wellness effort, consider a visit to one of these authentic, real-life animal rescue sanctuaries. In the Plettenberg Bay area at Monkeyland and Birds of Eden, as well as in Cape Town, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Two Oceans Aquarium and learn about the invaluable work carried out by the SANCCOB Seabird Rescue Centre. Providing care for furry friends of a different kind, the Eseljiesrus Donkey Sanctuary in McGregor and the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary outside the picturesque village of Prince Albert work tirelessly to provide forever homes and loving care for destitute, retired and rescued donkeys. Don’t be surprised if you leave after adopting a new member of your family.
Either way, the Western Cape is worth exploring in depth and offers endless discoveries – this article should guide you to some of the highlights.