Athi-Patra Ruga’s iridescent art on black pioneers + more in Sculpture Garden
Hike Harold Porter garden + see Betty’s Bay’s prettiest waterfall
Find a shady spot on the manicured lawns and spread out a picnic or swim in a fresh river pool
Kirstenbosch is certainly South Africa’s most famous national botanical garden but there are many more under the banner of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Harold Porter in Betty’s Bay is one of the closest to Cape Town and well worth the visit.
Being close to the coastline, there’s a wide variety of fynbos that’s adapted to the salty air and wind gusting off the ocean and is distinctly unlike the flora in gardens in other parts of the country. Plus there’s a hike that takes you up to gorgeous clear caramel-coloured waterfalls.
THE DRIVE ALONG THE COAST IS A SCENIC ROUTE
The garden is on Clarence Drive - also called the R44 - and the section from just outside Gordon’s Bay to Rooi-Els has been recognised as one of the most beautiful stretches of road in South Africa. As you round the last of the R44’s 77 bends, you’ll be heading into Pringle Bay; Betty’s Bay is a few kilometres farther.
Travelling in this direction, Harold Porter will be on the left and the ocean on the right. When you enter the garden, the first sight you’ll see is a large amber pool, one of many for which this garden is renowned.
You’ll come across several more in the park, but this one is the largest. There are also little babbling brooks and streams, and the air is filled with birdsong and frogs’ croaking and clicking.
PACK A PICNIC AND COZZIE
Harold Porter is a combination of large natural fynbos areas and planted beds of indigenous flowers with neatly manicured lawns. There are sections which lead down shady pathways for respite from the sun, and wooden benches placed throughout for moments of quiet contemplation beneath trees.
The restaurant has been closed due to Covid-19 so this is the perfect opportunity to pack a picnic, load the kids and Granny (over-60s get free entry on the first Tuesday of every month) into the car and take an easy day trip. Being outdoors and with so much space, it’s the ideal social-distancing family excursion.
HIKE SOME OF THESE TRAILS WITH GORGEOUS VIEWS
Harold Porter has a few trails on offer. The Fynbos and Zigzag trails hug a route along the slopes of Bobbejaanskop and The Plateau, with the reward of magnificent views over Betty’s Bay to the sea.
You’ll need a permit (from the office at the entrance) for the Leopard’s Trail which heads up into the mountains and a waterfall.
DISCOVER SEASONAL TREASURES FROM TORTOISES TO PROTEAS
Spring is best for viewing flowering plants such as Ericas and proteas, and the many members of the daisy family. In the heat of summer, the Disa uniflora with its vibrant red blooms can be seen on the damp cliffs near the waterfalls. Look out for tortoises too. Note that Disa Kloof is wheelchair friendly.
In autumn it's the berry-ripening season so you’ll see lots of birds and animals. It’s also cooler so is the best time for walking, but always keep a jacket or cardigan handy because Cape weather can change in a heartbeat.
Winter is wet and rainy (interspersed with glorious sunny days), so this is when the waterfalls are at their best.
As you can see, visiting Harold Porter is a joy any time of the year.
By Bianca Coleman
There are plenty of awesome things to do this weekend in Cape Town.
Love botanical gardens? Why not check out what Kirstenbosch Gardens has to offer.
Get your outdoor fix this summer with the best picnic spots in Cape Town.
Use our events section for an up-to-date overview of what’s happening in the city, ‘burbs and dorpies. Join our newsletter and get quick access on the go by adding us to your mobile home screen for the ultimate guide to discoveries in Cape Town.