The Western Cape’s wildflower route has become one of South Africa’s most popular attractions.
People are absolutely blooming mad over these flowers – and it’s easy to see why. The flowers that you’ll see along the West Coast and Namaqualand are endemic to the Western Cape, so you will not be able to visit any other place in South Africa that will be as colourful.
Each year, families or young couples drive from near and far to appreciate this short-lived spectacle. Even people who fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town rent a car to embark on the West Coast wildflower route.
Tip: Use the bathroom before leaving home if you’re embarking on a day drive to the West Coast, as public toilets are few and far between.
The best viewing times for West Coast wild flowers
Drive the West Coast flower route from the end of August to mid-September to have the best chance of seeing wildflowers in full bloom. Visitors often make the mistake of driving too early or too late in the season and are left disappointed by meagre splashes of colour here and there. Keep in mind that if the sky is cloudy or overcast, the flowers don’t open. Keep your eye on the weather forecast, so that you can plan your trip for a sunny day or perhaps phone the West Coast National Park on the day to check the weather before making the trip: +27 (0) 22 772 2144
The quaint towns you’ll come across along the wildflower route
It’s advisable to begin your drive from Cape Town early in the morning, so that by the time you reach the flowers, their petals will have opened. You may also miss some traffic – not guaranteed though!
Follow the R27 out of Cape Town, driving through Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand until you reach the R315 intersection. Turning left will take you to the lovely small town of Yzerfontein where you may see carpets of cheerful white or yellow daisies. Also, keep an eye out for the pretty flowering grasses that glisten in the sunlight. Stop at the beach to admire the azure ocean as you enjoy sipping the hot coffee from the thermos flask you brought along with you.
Driving from Yzerfontein back to the R27/R315 intersection, cross the R27 and follow the R315 to the quaint town of Darling. In 2016, the famous Wild Flower Show takes place from Friday 16 September to Sunday 18 September. You will be welcomed by the burst of colour and fresh perfume of a variety of “pypies”, vygies and daisies, as well as other fynbos species. Often the most beautiful flowers are small and grow close to the ground, so keep your eye on the ground as you wander along the dusty paths. Tickets for the Darling Wildflower Show cost R50p/p for adults and R30p/p for children older than 13. Entry is free for children under the age of 13. Pensioners will pay R30p/p on the Friday. Tickets will be available on the day at the festival door and online at Quicket.co.za.
Return the way you came by driving back to the R27/R315 intersection where you will turn right to follow the R27, which will take you to the West Coast National Park. (Kindly note that road works are currently under way and that there are stop-and-go measures in place, which could delay your journey by up to an hour). The West Coast National Park can also be entered at the second gate situated in Park Street, on the Langebaan side of the park.
West Coast National Park
The Potsberg section of the West Coast National Park is where you need to be. Here, over 80 different species of wild flowers are on display. Do not rush the drive because on the way there are wonderful places to braai (bbq) and picnic, with some spots almost on the rocks. Many families gather at these braai areas and enjoy the ocean spray while cooking lunch on the fire (admittedly also battling to keep the fire burning at the same time). These picnic spots are called Kraalbaai, Preekstoel and Uitkyk.
The West Coast National Park’s Geelbek restaurant sells ready-packed picnic baskets if you wish to travel back to the picnic sites, or you can take a seat and order a delicious meal, mostly traditional South African fare.
Tip: While you’re in the West Coast National Park you have to visit Langebaan’s sparkling lagoon.
The West Coast is so inspiring that many South African artists have written songs and poems about its unhurried way of life, beauty and serenity.
Tankwa Karoo National Park
If you’re not in a hurry, you can journey onwards to Tankwa Karoo National Park where the beauty of the flowers becomes even more impressive. On the Roggeveld Escarpment, you’ll see gorgeous lilac, white, burned orange, red and pink flowers.
Why not make a weekend of it and stay the night somewhere in the area. Consider one of the small towns along the way, or book accommodation at either the West Coast National Park or Tankwa Karoo National Park.
Tip: Book your accommodation for the popular flower season early in the year.
Photo of Tankwa Karoo National Park
West Coast National Park accommodation:
Tel: +27 (0) 22 772 2144
Tankwa Karoo National Park accommodation:
Tel: +27 (0) 27 341 1927