Cape Town is one of the most popular places to visit in South Africa for obvious reasons and the city attracts many visitors from both home and abroad looking to indulge in the many attractions the city has to offer.
But there is a lot more to the Western Cape than what meets the eye.
Even the slightest investigation will reveal a number of hidden gems on the city’s outskirts that offer either a day outing, or weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of the Mother City.
Here are some special tips for the Cape Town area:
The Cederberg Mountains
The Cederberg Mountains are a brilliant place to visit for those fond of hiking and rock-climbing. The various trails throughout the mountain range offer excellent views of the rocky, fynbos-laden landscape.
In addition, the mountains also give visitors a glimpse into South Africa’s pre-historic past and numerous instances of sand rock art that adorn the caves and overhangs, providing evidence of the earliest human inhabitants in the area.
The Fishing Village of Paternoster
But if lounging on the beach is more your thing, just a two-hour drive from Cape Town along the west coast you’ll find the charming fishing village of Paternoster. This small town of just under 2000 inhabitants is a popular attraction on the coastline, especially during the local seafood festival in November.
Whitewashed houses, jagged boulders and colourful boats are a trademark of the area. Further, the village is one of the most important for the South African commercial fishing industry, with the local lobster factory responsible for much of the Western Cape’s exports to Europe.
Whale Watching at Hermanus
Another excellent beach location is Hermanus. Famed for its whale watching, the sleepy seaside town has a reputation for being one of the best places to see the migration of the Southern Right whale and hosts a whale festival towards the end of September, celebrating the return of these gentle giants to Walker Bay.
Located 115 kilometers southeast of Cape Town, the town also has a budding wine route and brilliant selection of beaches in addition to being just a half-an-hour drive from Gansbaai, the ‘great white shark capital of the world’.
The Oyster Festival at Knysna
Another beautiful town in the area is Knysna and the annual oyster festival in late June/early July is a great experience even if you aren’t a fan of oysters, of which an estimated 200,000 are consumed over the weekend of the festival.
Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch
If you’d prefer a day of wine tasting, the Stellenbosch wine route has some of the best wines South Africa has to offer and all of them are close enough for a day trip. Rent a car and visit some of the more renowned farms in the area.
The town itself is also a wonderful place to visit and is a popular place among tourists, offering a multitude of bars, restaurants and B&B’s, making it the perfect place to spend the night after a long day in the sun.
Wine Tasting in Franschhoek
Something similar could be said for another popular wine destination in the region: Franschhoek.
Although much smaller than Stellenbosch, Franschhoek is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and has a remarkable history. Founded in 1688 by the French Hugenots, the town has celebrated France’s national Bastille Day every year since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Another quirk of the town is the 27-kilometer train line that historically moved farmers’ produce between Franschoek and Paarl that are now used for the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a 32-seater tram that transports visitors along the wine route.
The Ostrich Farms at Oudtshoorn
If you’re willing to drive a little further, the town of Oudtshoorn offers something a little different from the others mentioned.
Situated about five hours’ drive from Cape Town, ‘the ostrich capital of the world’ is as you would guess from its nickname, famous for its large ostrich population. Ostrich farming in the town dates back to the late 19th century and remains an important industry today.
Tours of the many farms in Oudtshoorn are popular with visitors and for the more daring, ostrich rides are also available.
The Cango Caves
The Cango Caves are another fascinating feature of the area and are just a short drive from Oudtshoorn. Situated in a limestone ridge near the Swartberg Mountains, visitors have been marveling at the detail created in these towering dripstone structures for centuries.
These are just some of the more popular escapes in the Western Cape and there is far more to do on the outskirts of Cape Town than what meets the eye.
Keep these in mind the next time you are planning a road trip or weekend getaway.