The Western Cape Province, one of the nine provinces of South Africa, is the most popular travel destination in the country, with a rich history and stunningly beautiful landscape. The Western Cape comprises seven regions, namely the: Cape Peninsula (including Cape Town); West Coast; Winelands; Overberg; Breede River Valley; Garden Route and Karoo.
The Cape Peninsula
The Cape Peninsula is an area of great beauty and contrast and is an immensely popular South Africa travel destination. The natural beauty of the area, with its magnificent mountains, crystal clear water and pristine beaches, has a universal attraction, whether hiking, driving, visiting wine estates or enjoying a Sundowner cruise.
The area includes the city of Cape Town, Southern Peninsula, Southern Suburbs and Northern Suburbs. Cape Town with its legendary Table Mountain is the oldest city in South Africa. A full day’s excursion would involve going up Table Mountain, visiting museums and the waterfront. Alternatively, head off towards the Southern Peninsula, past the Southern Suburbs with its Rhodes Memorial and Constantia Wine Estates. The Southern Peninsula offers a more relaxed, yet no less fascinating set of experiences, with False Bay in the east, Cape Point in the south and the Atlantic Seaboard in the west. Stop en route at one of the magnificent beaches or lunch at one of a number of historical fishing villages. Finally, the Northern Suburbs is where the postcard pictures of Table Mountain are taken. This area is home to the largest shopping mall in South Africa.
The Winelands, north east of the Cape Peninsula, is second only to Cape Town in terms of popularity, catering for a diversity of interests from history to wine to nature.
Of the five towns in the region Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, with their beautifully restored and maintained historical buildings, are amongst the oldest in South Africa, while Wellington and Somerset West are also significant both historically and as wine producing areas. These picturesque towns surrounded by numerous wine estates, each with its own appeal, be it wines, unique cellars, restaurants, historical relevance or magnificent scenic location are a must for any visitor to the Cape. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the mountains, valleys and vineyards, with a leisurely drive or go on one of the many hiking or mountain biking routes.
The West Coast
The charm of the Cape West Coast lies in nature’s creation: magnificent floral displays, a pristine sparsely habited coastline, indigenous animals, amazing sandstone formations and pre-historic fossils. The area is best visited between July and September when the fynbos is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and the weather is cooler.
Significant towns in the area are Yzerfontein, Darling, Langebaan and Lambert’s Bay in the coastal region and Clanwilliam, Citrusdal and Cederberg in the interior region. The coastal region, with the cold Atlantic lapping its shores is not conducive to swimming but the pristine beaches, magnificent spring flowers and excellent seafood attract an increasing number of visitors from South Africa and abroad. The more fertile interior region also hosts stunning floral displays, with sandveld fynbos and proteas as opposed to coastal sandveld, scrubland and daisies. Further inland is the Cederberg, famous for its unusual rock formations, rock paintings and excellent hiking and mountain-bike trails.
The Breede River Valley
This valley lies between two contrasting Cape regions, the fertile Winelands and the barren Karoo. The Breede River valley has magnificent mountain ranges, beautiful valleys and pristine rivers. The region is also fast developing into the prime fruit and wine-growing region of South Africa.
Important towns or areas in the region are Ceres, Tulbagh, Rawsonville, Worcester, Robertson Valley and Montagu. As its name implies, the valley is dominated by the Breede River, which rises in Ceres, the prime fruit growing area in the region. Nearby is the picturesque town of Tulbagh, a historical town lovingly restored after a devastating earthquake in 1969. Worcester, the largest town in the region has numerous co-operative wine cellars and the largest brandy distillery in South Africa. East of Worcester lie the Hex River and Robertson Valleys, surrounded by soaring mountain ranges and vast expanse of vineyards. The Robertson Valley produces many internationally acclaimed wines. The quaint town of Montagu is a favorite tourist town with lots of old world character and charm.
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This mainly rural region has lots to offer the visitor, from wine tasting to hiking, fishing, river paddling and game viewing.
Despite the more illustrious bordering regions of the Cape Peninsula, Winelands and Garden Route, the Overberg has an old world charm of its own. It has fairly diverse eco-systems, from beautiful yet rugged coastal areas to rolling farmlands further inland.
Heading inland from Cape Town, through magnificent mountain passes, green valleys and rolling wheat fields, towns en-route include Elgin, Greyton and Swellendam. All with quaint charm, good accommodation and well worth a visit. Returning to Cape Town along the coast, the fishing villages of Witsand, Arniston, and Gansbaai are interesting with activities including whale watching and the best great white shark viewing in South Africa. Cape Aghulas, the southernmost tip of South Africa, can also be visited along this section of the coast. Stanford, a beautiful inland village is an excellent place to relax and unwind. Next is Hermanus, a prized holiday destination famous for whale watching while further along the coast the villages of Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay have good beaches and access to the Botanical Garden, Biosphere Reserve and a world class golf estate. From here, Cape Town is reached via the awesome False Bay coastline, with craggy cliffs on the one side and breathtaking drops to the azure blue waters of the Atlantic on the other.
The Garden Route
This is the coastal route lying between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, stretching from Mossel Bay to Tsitsikamma. The Cape Garden Route is an exceptionally beautiful region, with mountains, forests, rivers, estuaries and an exquisite coastline. This part of South Africa is an extremely popular holiday destination.
The main towns in the region are Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma. Mossel Bay is a popular holiday town, boasting a wonderful museum, bungy jumping and game viewing. George, slightly inland, boasts one of the finest golf estates in South Africa. Knysna, probably the most popular town on the Garden Route, has a wonderful lagoon, awesome sea views from the famous Heads and an endless list of activities to suit every taste, including a spectacular golf course overlooking the ocean. Plettenberg Bay, playground of the rich, has pristine lagoons, estuaries and kilometres of sandy beaches. Other areas such as Wilderness, Sedgefield and Tsitsikamma are extremely scenic and less chaotic but close enough to the action if required.
The Karoo is a vast area, transcending the provincial boundaries of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. It is a region of great contrast, from the barren scrubland of the Great Karoo, to the more fertile areas of the Little Karoo.
The Great Karoo is flat, dry and inhospitable, yet striking for its remarkable emptiness. The region is of immense historical interest, with fossils dating back several million years; it also hosts some unique plant life, found only in this area. The most important towns in the region are the historical town of Matjiesfontein, the little hamlet of Prince Albert and Beaufort West from where the wonderful Karoo National park can be reached. Western Cape
Commencing at Montagu, the Klein Karoo, extends 300km to the east and includes the towns of Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and Uniondale. This less barren area has some 14 spectacular kloofs and mountain passes. The area has been actively promoted as Route 62, a hinterland alternative to the N2 between Cape Town and Knysna or Plettenberg Bay.