Travel Guide For South Africa’s Underrated West Coast

Among the popular destinations in South Africa, the western coastal stretch often goes unnoticed by the tourists, even though it is easily accessible from Cape Town. Perhaps, that’s how it remained quaint and rural even today. With quirky farm stalls, antique shops, and museums of old collections, the majority of the district feels stuck in the 90s. If you add to this a vast semi-arid landscape with rugged mountains, rough waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and delicious seafood, you will have the perfect recipe for a road less traveled.

Best Time To Visit

West Coast is technically ideal for a visit all year round. The district experiences a transition between two climates – Mediterranean and semi-arid. The winters are mild and rainy, while the summers are warm and dry. Regardless of the time of visit, West Coast experiences strong winds throughout the year.

The best time to visit the West Coast is the period of August-September. Not only is the temperature moderate, but the entire district will be under the blanket of blossoming wildflowers. Capable of growing without human intervention, these colorful wildflowers create a landscape that will make Windows background photos look gloomy.

Western Cape Fynbos Joachim Huber Licence: CC

Getting Around

The main highway through the West Coast is N7 between Cape Town and Windhoek in Namibia. It passes through towns such as Malmesbury, Citrusdal and Vanrhynsdorp. Along the way, there are numerous turn-offs towards the coastal towns and nature reserves. Besides, the coastal road R27 starts in Cape Town and stretches until Velddrif before connecting R7.

Public transport is not available for travel between the towns. That’s why you might even come across lots of people hitchhiking. So, self-driving is the most convenient option. The roads are tarred and well-maintained, except for the dirt-roads off N7 going into Cederberg Wilderness Area.

Things To Do

Hiking

Mother Nature has worked her sculpting skills very well on the West Coast, especially in the Cederberg Wilderness Area that stretches for 50 km along the east. It is full of extraordinary sandstone formations with stripes of red and brown, such as Wolfberg’s Arch and the Maltese Cross. The nature reserve is home to several hiking trails of different lengths and difficulties. The best part is, the jagged terrain gave rise to lots of refreshing rock pools, where you can cool off in between hikes.

Chasing Cave Paintings

The mountainous landscape of the West Coast made it an excellent location for the Khoisan people. San people used caves for Shamanic rituals, where they used hallucinogenic herbs and drew the products of their imagination on the walls of the caves. A lot of the hiking trails pass near these caves, where you can observe the well-preserved San Rock Art.

Rock paintings Heribert Bechen 4 mio. Licence: CC
Seafood

South Africa sets the bar high when it comes to seafood, but the quality will peak up on the West Coast.

The coastal towns, such as Paternoster and Lambert’s Bay, have a prominent fishing industry, so you can pay visits to lobster factories, abalone farms, or join activities like deep-sea fishing and snoek catching.

Needless to say you can expect to find plenty of fresh seafood here.

Sea food goyumcha Licence: CC
Wine Tasting

Did you know that the West Coast has one of the largest areas allocated for mass production of wine? Towns such as Lutzville have wine farms, with a selection of high-quality wines that are much cheaper than the ones in and around Cape Town. Fryer’s Cove in Doringbaai is known as one of the closest to the shore in the world, with its vineyard only 500 meters away from the ocean.

Winelands flowcomm Licence: CC
Surfing And Sand boarding

The coastal stretch of the West Coast has a distinct landscape, with rough waves, and gigantic dunes. It makes the area ideal for watersports. Elands Bay is one of the most challenging surfing spots in South Africa, while Lambert’s Bay is famous for its dunes, where you can join sandboarding or 4×4 driving tours.

One man and his Dog, Western Cape South African Tourism Licence: CC
Quirky Museums And Shops

The towns of the West Coast have significant historic value because of the ports and railways that transported goods and soldiers during the World Wars and Anglo-Boer Wars. If you are into bizarre museums and quirky shops, West Coast offers more than you can imagine. You will find several museums, historic old towns, educational centers about Khoisan culture, vintage shops, and historic churches. The Radio Museum in Vanrhynsdorp, The Ou-Tronk Museum in Clanwilliam, and Fishery Museum in Velddrif are just a few examples.

Cabaret Dining

Just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the town of Darling has a famous Cabaret Theatre, where the internationally acclaimed performer and author Pieter Dirk Uys resides. He began his shows as the alter-ego Evita Bezuidenhout during the Apartheid to criticize the government without facing censorship. Tannie (Auntie) Evita still performs with full energy, so you can visit the area and watch her while enjoying a three-course meal.

Accomodation

West Coast is very popular amongst Cape Townians, so camping and glamping opportunities are abundant.

The Cederberg Wilderness Area has a long list of camping opportunities, such as Algeria Campsite, and Jamaka. There are also other campsites such as Beaverlac in Porterville and Gifberg in Vanrhynsdorp, with chalets and campsites.

You can also find many Caravan Park Sites along the coast, which are governed by the municipalities. The biggest campsites are in Elandsbaii, Yzerfontein, and Lambert’s Bay.

The accommodation price depends on factors, such as the number of people, the number of tents, the vehicle, whether you have pets or not, etc. Campsites cost 100-200 ZAR per person, while the price for a standard room in a guest house will be around 500-600 ZAR.

Fishing Village, Paternoster, Western Cape, South Africa South African Tourism Licence: CC

Tips And Things You Might Need To Know

  • There can be road construction sites along N7, so you should drive slower than usual at these sites.
  • There is a severe drought in much of the Western Cape, so be frugal with your water usage.
  • There are lots of baboons in Western Cape, including the West Coast. You should always avoid going near them and feeding them because they will get aggressive and demanding as a result.
  • In rural areas, many signs will be in Afrikaans rather than English. Also, the locals may not be very good at English, so it might be a smart idea to learn a few phrases in Afrikaans.
  • You should always sleepover at designated camp areas.
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