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Stunning day trips to take in the Western Cape
Fill your weekends with wildflowers, wildlife and 50m tall dunes on these 6 day trips
Fields of wildflowers up the West Coast, red stone hills in the Karoo and breaching whales along the shores of Hermanus: the Western Cape is tough to beat when it comes to its bevvy of beautiful getaway spots. Now that leisure travel is open, you can get away for a bit and enjoy everything the province has to offer. Here are six day trip ideas to get you started.
SELF-DRIVE GAME TOURS, WILDFLOWERS AND 50M HIGH DUNES
If you're interested in an outdoor adventure filled with wildflowers, sparkling white dunes and self-drive game tours, take a trip to the West Coast. Spring is the best time to head out: from August to October, the wildflowers along the Wildflower Route between Cape Town and Nieuwoudtville are in full bloom. You’ll pass fields of shocking yellow canola, quaint one-horse towns, and farm stalls selling baked goods and spreads and olives.
Along the way, stop off at the quaint town of Atlantis and sandboard down the pitch white dunes (some are as tall as 50m). Afterwards, drive through the West Coast National Park to spot animals from the tiny angulate tortoise to the giant eland. During August and September, make sure you explore the Postberg section, where the wildflowers are unbeatable.
Lunch: Dine at the Geelbek Restaurant alongside thousands of flamingos. It’s located right in the centre of the West Coast National Park.
Overnight: The chalets in the West Coast National Park will be open from Friday, 14 August, and the many sleepy towns have wonderful little BnB's to spend the night in.
Distance: The West Coast starts at Yzerfontein around an hour’s drive from Cape town, and runs all the way to Nieuwoudtville (just under four hours from Cape Town), so it's up to you how far you go.
TAKE A TRIP TO THE RUGGED OUTBACK
The Karoo stretches from Matjiesfontein all the way inland to the provincial borders and beyond. It starts about a two hour drive from Cape Town, and has arid plains as far as the eye can see, dotted with little towns. It will be difficult not to stare at the geographical marvel of the red hills which flank you as you drive. These hills along the R62 to Calitzdorp are steeped in ancient history which dates back as far as the early Cretaccous Period.
Make sure to keep an eye out for an amusing little restaurant called Ronnies Sex Shop when passing through Barrydale. In case you've ever lost your drivers license, you may find it inside along with hundreds of others adorning the restaurant walls. If you venture even further and pay a visit to the artsy town of Prince Albert. You won’t even need to head inside a gallery to spot local artwork. The town is filled with well-preserved Victorian buildings and even a Dustbin art gallery which lines the town roads. End the day off with a drive through the Swartberg pass and marvel at the sweeping views of the Karoo.
Lunch: The Lazy Lizard in Prince Albert serves up an authentic Karoo experience with an extensive menu that caters to all tastes.
Overnight: There are plenty of self-catering cottages dotted along the R62. If you’d like something a bit upmarket, Karoo View Cottages in Prince Alfred have a full view of the Swartberg Mountains.
Distance: The Klein Karoo is a wide area and the distance depends on which route you take, but to get to the nearest parts you’ll need to drive around two hours.
ROLL YOUR WINDOWS DOWN FOR AN IDYLLIC VINEYARD DRIVE
There's more to the Cape Winelands than award-winning wine. Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Tulbagh, and Wellington form the backbone of the Winelands. Between them all, you've got historical landmarks to see, top-notch food to devour and miles of rolling vineyards to explore. Take the trip on a Sunday and plan it so that lunch coincides with a stop at Spier Wine Estate. The chef has prepared a delicious full Sunday feast with pasture-reared chicken, roast potatoes and warm bread and butter pudding.
Before you head home, take a stroll through the pristine garden at Babylonstoren and walk along the belly of a snake in the Puff Adder Walk. You could even have lunch, picnic style, inside their glass enclosed greenhouse with freshly baked bread, jams, salads and preserves all served up in a wooden crate.
If art is more your thing, you could explore the new Stellenbosch Art Route and discover the variety of stunning pieces collected from galleries, craft markets, and museums.
Lunch: Babylonstoren’s Greenhouse Restaurant and Babel restaurant are both open for sit-down meals. You could also have a big Sunday lunch with the family at Spier Wine Estate.
Overnight: There are a host of stunning cottages and BnB’s for you to visit throughout the Winelands.
Distance: Wherever you go in the winelands, you’re looking at an hour or two’s drive out of Cape Town.
BLINK AND YOU'LL MISS IT
Every year between June and December, and particularly between August and November, Southern Right Whales make their way down the Western Cape coastline to breed and calve. It's an unbelievable sight to see these gentle giants so close. The best spots to catch them are along the Whale Route from Gordon's Bay, Pringles Bay and Betty's Bay to Hermanus. Pro tip: make sure you have your camera ready at all times because breaching happens fast.
If you’re feeling peckish La Pentola in Hermanus is open for sit-down and takeaway. Plus, they’re offering a 20% discount on their entire menu. Dine alongside breaching whales just a stone throwaway while slurping up their delicious seafood pasta with fresh herbs, prawns, calamari and mussels.
Lunch: La Pentola is open from Tuesday to Sunday for sit-down and takeaways.
Overnight: Take your pick between a spattering of self-catering accommodation, quaint BnB’s and cottages dotted between Gordan’s Bay and Hermanus.
Distance: It’s about a two hour drive all the way from Cape Town to the end of the Whale Route in Hermanus.
SELF-DRIVE GAME TOUR AND BIRD WATCHING
You may know the arid desert called Tankwa as the place that hosts Afrikaburn, but it has a life outside of the festival as the Tankwa Karoo National Park. It’s located about four hours out of Cape Town. There are plenty of animal species and great birding opportunities to explore on a self-drive game tour. Roll your windows down to get a good look at the bigger animals like Steenbok, Klipspringer or Springbok. If you’re lucky, you could pass the greater kudu or even the recently introduced Cape mountain zebra. Don't forget your binoculars, especially if you visit between August and October, as you could spot a Burchell's courser, Karoo long-billed lark or a tractrac chat.
On your way through make sure to stop at any one of the unique little towns from Ceres to Tulbagh or Citrusdal and Clanwilliam. If you’ve never seen snow, Matroosberg Nature Reserve is a good stop to make in winter months, just 35 kilometers outside of Ceres. It has gained a lot of attention because of the blankets of snow covering its Matroosberg peaks.
Lunch: Grab a quick lunch from the Veldskoen Padstal. This cosy little farm stall serves a range of salads, burgers and steaks with jams, preserves and freshly made farm-baked bread.
Overnight: Tankwa National Park has a range of cottages, guest houses and camping facilities you can check out online via sanparks.org.
Distance: Tankwa National Park is just under four hours out of Cape Town.
DRIVE FAR ENOUGH TO REACH THE TIP OF THE WORLD
Cape Point, also called The Cape of Storms, got its name for a reason. It's a spot notoriously known for its dangerous coastline, and the 26 recorded shipwrecks prove it. For now, the hiking trails are closed, but the reserve is open for self-drive game tours. Depending on which route you choose to explore you could drive all the way to the tip of the world along Pegrim's Point and Petunes Dairy. Keep an eye out for the 1,100 different plant species and 250 different bird species. Make sure to get there early as no more than 75 vehicles will be allowed into the reserve.
Lunch: Although Two Oceans Restaurant is closed, you could stop at the nearby Scone Shack, a whimsical little spot serving fresh scones and coffee, decorated with all manner of fascinating trinkets.
Overnight: Stay the night at one of the many self-catering beach cottages and chalets surrounding the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Distance: Cape Point is one of the shorter day trips as it’s only an hour and twenty minutes away from Cape Town - just 20 minutes or so past Simon’s Town.
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You’ll find waterfalls, rock pools and a breathtaking view at Krom River.
Visit one of South Africa’s oldest towns for some art and culture at Riebeek Kasteel.
E-bike your way in and around Zevenwacht and Jordan Wine Estate with African Eagle Day Tours.
There is something new to discover in every unique day tour around Cape Town.
Make exploring the Western Cape your weekly weekend activity.
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