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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
Last updated: Wednesday, 22 September
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. Why not take the chance to get away for a bit and enjoy everything the province has to offer? Here are 6 day trip ideas to get you started.
SELF-DRIVE GAME TOURS AND BLANKETS OF FLOWERS
If you're interested in an outdoor adventure filled with wildflowers, 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 flowers along the Wildflower Route between Cape Town and Nieuwoudtville are in full bloom. You’ll pass fields of brilliant yellow canola, quaint one-horse towns, and farm stalls selling baked goods, spreads and olives.
Along the way, stop off at Atlantis and sandboard down the steep dunes (some are as tall as 50m). Afterwards, drive through the West Coast National Park to spot wildlife, from tiny angulate tortoises 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 right in the centre of the West Coast National Park.
Overnight: The chalets and cottages in the West Coast National Park are open and available for bookings
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’s about a two-hour drive from Cape Town, with arid plains as far as the eye can see, dotted with little towns.The red hills that flank the drive along the R62 to Calitzdorp are steeped in ancient history dating back to the early Cretaceous period.
Keep an eye out for an amusing little restaurant called Ronnies Sex Shop when passing through Barrydale. Hundreds of missing or left behind drivers licenses adorn the restaurant walls. If you venture a little further, 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 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 more upmarket, Karoo View Cottages in Prince Alfred has 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 for about two hours.
GO ON AN IDYLLIC VINEYARD DRIVE
Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Tulbagh, and Wellington form the backbone of the Winelands. Between them all, you'll find historical landmarks, top-notch food and miles of rolling vineyards. Spier Wine Farm along Baden Powell Drive in Stellenbosch offers picnic lunches, wine tastings, freshly baked bread from the Vadas Smokehouse and Bakery and full country-style breakfast, lunch and dinner menu at the hotel restaurant.
If you carry on further for another 20-minute drive you can stroll through the pristine garden at Babylonstoren and walk along the belly of a snake in the Puff Adder Walk. You could even have tea inside its glass-enclosed greenhouse, where freshly baked bread, jams, salads and preserves are served 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 family-style Sunday lunch 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.
Burgundy Restaurant is known for having one of the best locations for whale watching. You’ll have a front row seat to the whale show while dining on excellent seafood fare. It offers an extensive menu that caters to all tastes, but try the speciality abalone dish. The abalone (a kind of mollusc or sea snail) is grown in the new harbour across town.
Lunch: Burgundy is open daily from 8:30am - 9pm
Overnight: Take your pick between a spattering of self-catering accommodation, quaint BnB’s and cottages dotted between Gordon’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.
A pod of whales frolicking along the coast. Image: Hermanus Tourism.
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. 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 - you could spot a Burchell's courser, Karoo long-billed lark or a tractrac chat.
On your way through, 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; it’s just 35 kilometres out 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 from 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. The reserve’s many hiking trails are open and you are welcome to take a self-drive game tour. Depending on which route you choose, you could drive all the way to the tip of the world along Pilgrim's Point and Petunes Dairy. Keep an eye out for the 1 100 different plant species and 250 different bird species. All you need to know is that all vehicles need to leave before closing time, which varies depending on the sunset.
Lunch: Make a 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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