From a tourist’s perspective, the
Western Cape province of South Africa is one of the most fabulous destinations, and not least because it’s home to SA’s gay capital, Cape Town. On a jaunt around the Western Cape you can get a taste for wild coastlines, wild parties and wild adventures. Certainly a place worth visiting! But with so much to do and experience, where the heck do you begin? Here are a couple regions to start with to give you a nice rounded experience of what this diverse province has to offer.
The West Coast of the province is where the land comes into contact with the Atlantic Ocean and its cold Benguela current. Owing to the cold ocean temperatures, the air is cool and dry, making for a distinct climate. Furthermore, the region is flat, so what you end up with is long beaches and a sandy, arid landscape dotted with small shrubs. The starkness of this landscape is what makes it so thrillingly beautiful and in springtime when the wild flowers bloom, the area is transformed into a giant, multi-coloured rug. There are many small fishing villages along the coast including the popular surfing spot of Elands Bay and the ever popular Paternoster. Most of the small towns are home to traditional fishing communities, white-washed cottages and on occasion, wild weather. The West Coast is a place to ‘be’ as opposed to ‘do’.
The Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelandsare arguably the gem of the Western Cape. Easily accessible and home to numerous world renowned wine producers, local and international wine lovers flock to the region to sample the broad variety on offer and mingle with the on-site wine makers. It certainly helps that the region is picturesque, to say the least, and that it also happens to be the culinary capital of South Africa.
The Garden Route
While the West Coast is wild and stark, the Garden Route is warm and inviting. The heart of the Garden Route consists of a narrow coastline tucked between the warm Indian Ocean and a string of soaring mountain ranges. Not only is the weather pleasant all year round, but there are hoards of outdoor activities to help one take advantage it. Aside from beaching, you can go whale watching, hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining and even get up close and personal with wildlife at a few animal sanctuaries in the area. The most talked about Garden Route towns include Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and Wilderness, all popular for their prettiness accessibility to attractions and exciting foodie scene. Sedgefield is also worth noting as South Africa’s (and the Western Cape’s) only official Cita-Slow Town.
In grave contrast to the Garden Route and Winelands, the Karoo is a large, beautiful desert region of the Western Cape. It is a place you go to escape the bustle and enjoy uninterrupted views of the stars. It is also home to some beautiful historic towns such as Montagu and Prince Albert, both of which have a real small town atmosphere with friendly locals, organic markets, quaint restaurants and numerous farm-stall type shops selling fresh bread varieties, home-made jams, cheeses and biltongs.
Last, but certainly not least on the Western Cape list of iconic places is Cape Town, affectionately known as the Mother City. Here not only will you find the iconic Table Mountain bang in the middle of the city, but also a variety of gorgeous beaches suitable for swimming, surfing and people-watching. Cape Point is the tip of the peninsula and purportedly where the Indian Ocean (on the East Coast of SA) meets the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Town’s suburbs vary widely from the Bo-Kaap (Cape Malay Quarter) in the City Bowl to trendy Camps Bay and the fishing village of Kalk Bay, complete with small harbour. Cape Town is also a creative hub, and the 2014 Design Capital of the World.
The Western Cape’s magic is in its diversity, myriad languages, cultures and landscapes. There is plenty to do and see here so best you start planning to fit it all in now!