The Western Cape Tourism Board serves ten different regions, namely the Cape Metropole, Winelands, Breede River Valley, Overberg, West Coast, Swartland and Sandveld, Olifants River Valley, Garden Route, Klein Karoo Kannaland and Central Karoo regions. There are eight regional tourism organisations under the authority’s jurisdiction, as well as 84 tourism bureaux throughout the Western Cape, 29 of which have been accredited.
Cape Metropolitan region
Cape Town, the Southern Peninsula, Blaauwberg, Helderberg, Tygerberg and Oostenberg form the Cape Metropole. Life in the city of Cape Town centres around the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a working harbour offering everything from upmarket shopping malls, arts and craft markets, theatres and live music to museums, the Telkom Exploratorium and the Two Oceans Aquarium.
Major attractions in the city include the Bo-Kaap Museum; the Castle of Good Hope; the Company’s Garden; the District Six Museum; flea markets; the Grand Parade; the Houses of Parliament; the Planetarium; the South African Cultural History Museum; the South African Fisheries Museum, and the South African National Gallery.
Air flips and trips are available, as well as many boat and yacht trips from Table Bay harbour, including trips to Robben Island, which is fast becoming one of South Africa’s premier tourist attractions. Between January and July 1998, 128 000 people visited the island. A tourism summit was held on Robben Island in 1998 to create a working relationship between the Robben Island Museum and Cape Town’s tourism professionals.
Table Mountain is a World Heritage Site, and visitors can reach the summit by cableway. The mountain is covered by thousands of species of wild flower and is home to the famous silvertree.
Clifton is known as Cape Town’s most glamorous beach. Granite boulders divide the beach into four separate coves, making it especially popular on windy days.
Newlands is home to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. In summer, various open-air concerts are held, and visitors can bring their own picnic baskets.
The Josephine Mill is Cape Town’s only surviving and operational water-mill, built in 1840.
At the South African Rugby Museum, visitors can follow the history of the sport back to 1891. The Kenilworth Racecourse is home to the annual Cape Metropolitan Handicap.
The Rhodes Memorial is situated in Rondebosch on the slopes of Table Mountain. It was built of granite from the mountain as a tribute to the memory of Cecil John Rhodes, Prime Minister of the Cape from 1890 to 1896.
The Irma Stern Museum contains this South African artist’s work, rare Congolese art, European furniture from the 15th century and Ming dynasty ceramics.
The University of Cape Town is worth a visit for its historic Middle Campus, and many buildings designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
At Cape Point, part of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, there are many drives, walks, picnic spots and a licensed restaurant. A great deal of care has been taken to protect the environmental integrity of this 7 750-ha reserve of indigenous flora and fauna.
Simon’s Town’s naval atmosphere and Historic Mile are major attractions of the area. A statue of the famous dog and sailor’s friend, Able Seaman Just Nuisance, stands at Jubilee Square. Other attractions include the South African Naval Museum, the Stempastorie Museum, and the Warrior Toy Museum. The first phase of a waterfront development project, including a four-star hotel, restaurants, coffee houses and shopping arcade, has been completed. At Boulders Beach, visitors can swim with members of one of only two mainland jackass penguin breeding colonies in the world.
Hout Bay is well known for its colourful working harbour. Seafood outlets, roundthe-bay trips to the nearby seal colony, shell and gift shops and a world-famous harbourfront emporium (Mariner’s Wharf) attract many visitors. Duiker Island, opposite The Sentinel, is a seal and sea bird sanctuary. The World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the largest bird parks in the world and provides a home for some 3 000 birds. Visitors are allowed to walk through the large, landscaped aviaries.
Garden Route region
The Garden Route has a well-developed tourist infrastructure, making the region popular all year round.
At the Aloe Factory at Albertinia, aloe juices are extracted for medicine and for highquality skin-care products. Nearby, bungee jumping on the Gourits River Gorge, hiking, mountain biking and angling opportunities are popular pastimes.
The Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve outside Heidelberg comprises the popular Bushbuck Trail, a wilderness trail and two mountain bike trails. The Pont at Malgas is the only remaining pont in the country, ferrying vehicles and livestock across the Breede River. Whale-watching attracts tourists at Witsand and Port Beaufort during the period May to November.
At the historical Strandveld Architectural Heritage at Stilbaai, visitors can watch tame eels being fed daily (except Sundays). Ancient fish-traps can be seen at Morris Point and the harbour. Stilbaai is also famous for every conceivable kind of water sport.
Other popular coastal towns include Buffels Bay, Victoria Bay and Herolds Bay.
George is home to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, the oldest existing Roman Catholic Church in South Africa. The George Museum has the timber industry in the Southern Cape as theme and is also the starting point of the Timber Route. The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe winds through forests and along the coast to Knysna. The Montagu Pass is a national monument offering spectacular views and several hiking trails. Bird watchers flock to the Langvlei and Rondevlei bird sanctuaries and the Wilderness National Park.
Knysna is a very popular tourist destination. There are many art galleries, craft shops and furniture factories. The Knysna forest offers hiking, biking and equetrailing, scenic drives, picnic spots and abundant fauna and flora. Other activities include oyster-tasting, bird-watching, snorkelling, scuba-diving, deep-sea fishing cruises and canoeing.
The Tsitsikamma National Park offers many scenic walks and trails, including the world-famous Otter Trail. The last remaining survivor of the southern Cape elephants can be found in the Diepwalle Forest near Knysna. There are three bungee-jumping spots in the area, including the highest bungee jump in the world at the Bloukrans River Bridge. Other popular activities include boat cruises, trout-fishing, diving, seakayaking, gliding and golfing.
Great Brak River offers many opportunities for whale and dolphin-watching (in season), bird-watching and water sport.
Attractions in Mossel Bay include the Old Post Tree, the Malay Graves, the Bartholomeu Dias Museum Complex, Mossgas Information Centre and Munro’s Hoek. Activities include Orpa and Romonza seal-viewing, helicopter trips, deep-sea fishing, horseriding, scuba-diving, abseiling, rock-climbing and yachting. The Point is a natural tidal pool where visitors can view waves crashing against the rocky shoreline. Dolphins and whales often entertain onlookers.
The Historical Route at Plettenberg Bay takes the visitor to many interesting historical sites, including the Old Whaling Station, the Old Timber Shed and Forest Hall. The Keurbooms River Nature Reserve at Plettenberg Bay offers a canoeing trail, and the Robberg Nature Reserve is a treasure trove of land, marine, geological and archaeological wealth.
Major attractions at Riversdale include the Julius Gordong Africana Museum and Langenhoven House.
Sedgefield borders Swartvlei Lagoon, the largest natural inland saltwater lake in South Africa. Activities include beach horse-riding, hiking, angling, and bird-watching.
The Klein Karoo Kannaland
The Klein Karoo Kannaland is a semi-desert broken by unexpected, lush river valleys. Excellent wines and port are produced in the Calitzdorp and De Rust areas. Oudtshoorn, the world’s ostrich feather capital, is the region’s main town.
Oudtshoorn is synonymous with ostriches. There are three established ostrich farms in the area. South Africa’s first German Angora Rabbit Show Farm, the Cango Butterfly Farm and the Swartberg Nature Reserve and Pass are also worth a visit. The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees is held in the town annually.
Some 26 km from Oudtshoorn lies the remarkable Cango Caves, a series of spectacular subterranean limestone caverns. Bearing evidence of early San habitation, the thirty-cave wonderland boasts magnificent dripstone formations. Between 300 000 and 400 000 people visit the caves annually.
Amalienstein and Zoar are historic mission stations midway between Ladismith and Calitzdorp. Visitors can go on donkey-cart and hiking trails through orchards and vineyards, while the Seweweekspoort is ideal for mountain biking, hiking and protea and fynbos admirers.
Calitzdorp boasts four wine estates, three of which are open to the public. The spring water of the Calitzdorp Spa is rich in minerals and is reputed to have medicinal properties. The Gamka Mountain Reserve is home to the rare and endangered Cape mountain zebra.
De Rust lies at the southern entrance to Meiringspoort. The Meiringspoort Gorge extends 20 km through the Swartberg Mountain range. Halfway through, a beautiful 69-m high waterfall can be seen. Wine farms in the area are open to the public.
Ladismith is home to the Towerkop Cheese Factory, local wines and fruit. There are various hiking trails, mountain-biking trails and 4x4 trails in the area. The Anysberg, Klein Karoo and Towerkop Nature Reserves can also be visited.
Uniondale, on the main route between George and Graaff-Reinet, features the largest water-wheel in the country, the Old Water-mill. Uniondale Poort is a scenic drive linking Uniondale with Avontuur in the Long Kloof Valley.
At Vanwyksdorp, visitors can see how fynbos is dried and packed for the export market. Donkey-cart rides take visitors to restored ostrich palaces, Anglo-Boer War grave sites and an old water-wheel.
Central Karoo region
Beaufort West is often referred to as the ‘Oasis of the Karoo’.
The Karoo National Park just north of the town is home to the endangered black rhino and riverine rabbit. Activities include hiking, 4x4 routes, mountain biking and birdwatching.
The whole village of Matjiesfontein has been restored to its Victorian splendour and is a national monument. South Africa’s largest privately-owned museum can be found at the old station.
Prince Albert is a beautiful small town. The Fransie Pienaar Cultural History Museum includes an exhibition relating to early 19th century mining activities. Local traditional witblits (white lightning) is distilled and sold here. Prince Albert is the closest town by road to Die Hel in Gamkaskloof. One hundred and fifty years ago, trekboers made this remote valley in the Swartberg Mountains their home. Today, it is a nature reserve administered by Cape Nature Conservation. The Swartberg Pass is one of the most spectacular in Africa.
The Winelands region
The Winelands comprise many of the wine-growing areas of the Cape. The wine routes in the Western Cape are among the most popular tourist attractions in South Africa.
Franschhoek, first known as Olifants Hoek, was renamed after the arrival of the French Huguenots. The Huguenot Monument was built in 1938 to commemmorate the 250th anniversary of their arrival and the Huguenot Museum depicts the genealogical history of the Huguenot families. The Franschhoek Wine Route has about 20 members. Visitors can also enjoy various hiking trails and historical walks.
Paarl lies between the second largest granite rock in the world and the Du Toit’s Kloof Mountains, and is famous for its unique architectural heritage confined to two square kilometres. The Afrikaanse Taalmonument is situated on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain and the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum is in the centre of the town. Visitors can also visit Butterfly World and the Arboretum with over 700 species of trees. There are also various arts and crafts shops. The Granite Mountain and Nature Reserve is noted for enormous 500-million-year-old granite rocks. The Paarl Wine Route has 20 members.
Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa, and is also known as the Eikestad (town of oaks). Visitors can go on various historical walks. Dorp Street consists of one of the longest rows of old buildings still existing in the country. The Stellenbosch Village Museum consists of four homesteads and gardens ranging from the late 17th to the middle 19th century. The Simon van der Stel Festival takes place in October each year to commemmorate the birthday of the founder of Stellenbosch. There are a number of nature reserves in the area. At the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre, visitors can enjoy concerts, ballets and other entertainment staged from December to March. The StellenboschWine Route currently has 29 members.
Wellington is the home of South Africa’s dried fruit industry. The town is also known for its leather products. Most of South Africa’s vine-cutting nurseries are found here. Strawberries, raspberries, youngberries and Cape gooseberries can be picked by visitors on Wellington’s own berry farm. There are various hiking and horse trails, as well as leather, fruit, historical, religious and educational tours.
Within the first two months of the first good spring rains, wild flowers on the West Coast explode in a brilliant array of colour. The area is famous for its mussels, oysters, calamari, crayfish and abalone.
The town of Darling draws visitors to its museum and art gallery, annual wild flower and orchid shows, basket factory and wine cellar.
The Hartbeeshuisie at Hopefield is a replica of the original reed-built houses of the area. Langrietvlei, a national monument, boasts a Guernsey and Hereford stud, a honey farm and hiking trails.
Langebaan is a popular holiday destination. The West Coast National Park, an internationally renowned wetland, attracts thousands of visitors each year. The Langebaan Lagoon forms part of the park and is zoned for specific activities. The Postberg section of the park, across the lagoon, is famous for its wild flowers, blooming mainly during August and September. Bird-watching, fishing, hiking, horse-riding and whale-watching (in spring) opportunities abound.
Cape Columbine at Paternoster is the last manned lighthouse in South Africa. The Columbine Nature Reserve is home to many sea bird species.
Saldanha is a water-sport enthusiast’s paradise. Other attractions include the French Huguenot Memorial and Doc’s Cave, a landmark on the scenic breakwater drive. There are various hiking trails.
St Helena Bay is best known for the Vasco Da Gama Monument and Museum. Fishing (snoek in season) and hiking opportunities also draw many visitors.
In September 1998, phase one of the West Coast Fossil Park was opened by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The park is expected to attract mainly the scientifically-orientated tourism trade.
Lambert’s Bay is a traditional fishing village with Bird Island as a tourist attraction. It is a breeding ground for jackass penguins, Cape cormorants and other sea birds. Visitors can also watch Southern Right whales from July to November.
At Velddrif/Laaiplek, visitors can indulge in some bokkom (a salted fish and West Coast delicacy) at any bokkom factory along the Berg River. There are canoeing, birdwatching and sailing opportunities.
Yzerfontein is famous for its unspoilt beaches, fynbos, beautiful views and whalewatching. Another major attraction is the historical lime furnaces.
The Olifants River Valley
During the winter months, the Olifants River Valley is filled with the heady scent of orange blossoms. The citrus area in the valley is the third largest in South Africa. The wine route, from Citrusdal to Lutzville, boasts a selection of internationally acclaimed wines. The world-renowned South African rooibos tea is also produced in the valley.
Citrusdal is famous for its citrus products and wines. The Citrusdal Museum depicts the lives of the first Khoe inhabitants and the pioneering days of the early colonists. The Goede Hoop Citrus Co-op has one of the largest citrus packing sheds in the country. The Sandveldhuisie, a recently-built example of a typical Sandveld dwelling, houses an information bureau. There are 11 recognised mountain-biking routes, walking, hiking and canoeing trails, and a skydiving club. The Cederberg Wilderness Area features the elephant’s foot plant, the rare snow protea and the best examples of San rock art in the Western Cape.
Visitors to Clanwilliam can embark on a rooibos tea tour, or visit the Englishman’s Grave. Various historical buildings can be viewed. AtWupperthal, the oldest Rhenish Mission Station at the foot of the Cedarberg Mountains, a self-help footwear development project is under way. Workers sell the velskoens to retailers, primarily in Gauteng and the Western Cape.
Klawer was named after the wild clover growing in the area. During the flower season, the area is a kaleidoscope of colour. Visitors can go on a hiking trail along the Doring River, as well as on a river-rafting trail.
Lutzville and Koekenaap are a fisher’s and crayfish diver’s paradise. Visitors can also view the Sishen-Saldanha Railway Bridge. Where the railway line spans the Olifants River, it is divided into 23 sections, each 45 m long and weighing 610 t. The 14 100-t deck was pushed into position over teflon sheets with hydraulic jacks from the bridgehead. It is the longest bridge in the world built using this method.
Vanrhynsdorp houses the largest succulent nursery in South Africa. The Latsky Radio Museum houses a collection of old valve radios, some of them dating back to 1924. Bird-watching, mountain biking, day-walks, hiking and 4x4 trails abound.
Vredendal is the centre of the Lower Olifants River Valley. Major attractions include marble-processing and manufacturing, industrial mines (dolomite and limestone), the KWV Grape Juice Concentrate Plant and Distillery and the South African Dried Fruit Co-op.
Arniston was named Waenhuiskrans by the local fishers in honour of the huge sea cave capable of housing several ox-wagons. For outsiders it was named after Arniston, a ship wrecked here in 1815. The Waenhuiskrans Cave can be explored at low tide.
Barrydale is reputed to be one of the best bird-watching spots in the country. The Warmwaterberge (hot water mountains) is home to hot mineral springs.
The Agricultural Museum at Bredasdorp houses a collection of old farming equipment, as well as the biggest collection of bottles in the Southern hemisphere. The Shipwreck Museum displays material salvaged from ships wrecked off this treacherous coast. A wool-route tour to some local farms can be arranged between April and October. There are also tours to stud farms.
The De Hoop Nature Reserve on the road to Swellendam includes an internationally renowned wetland and bird sanctuary. The marine reserve is a winter retreat for the Southern Right whale and the Western Cape’s only Cape griffen vulture colony. There is a mountain-bike trail and an environmental education centre. The red Bredasdorp lily and many species of protea and erica are found in the Heuningberg Nature Reserve.
Caledon is famous for its natural mineral waters, hot springs and wild flower shows. The Southern Associated Maltsters is the only malt producer for the South African lager beer industry and is the largest in the Southern hemisphere.
Elim was founded by German missionaries in 1824 and is inhabited by members of the Moravian Church only. Visitors are welcome to attend services. The Old Water-mill (1833) has been restored, and has the country’s largest wooden water wheel.
Gansbaai is known for its excellent rock and boat angling, diving, and shark and whale-watching. The Danger Point Lighthouse can be visited, named as such because of the ships that have been wrecked and lives that have been lost on this dangerous coast.
De Kelders is the only freshwater cave on the African coast, and has been converted into a swimming pool with mineral-rich water. Spectacular views of Southern Right whales can be enjoyed from the cliffs at De Kelders and along the coast to Pearly Beach. Also popular are white-shark tours, diving safaris and fishing trips.
Genadendal is the oldest Moravian village in Africa with church buildings and a school dating back to 1738. The Genadendal Mission and Museum Complex documents the first mission station in South Africa.
The lighthouse at Agulhas is the country’s second oldest lighthouse, and it celebrated its 150th anniversary in March 1999. It is being used as a lighthouse once again after being restored. It houses a tearoom and a museum. About 1 km from the lighthouse is the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas. Struisbaai has the longest white coastline in the Southern hemisphere.
The Grabouw/Elgin district produces 60 per cent of South Africa’s total apple export crop. The valley is also renowned for cultivating fresh chrysanthemums, roses and proteas. The Elgin Apple Museum is one of only two apple museums in the world. Organised fruit and flower tours are also offered. Houwhoek Pass is a beautiful mountain pass and the Elgin Valley road-side farm stalls are famous for their fresh produce. Sir Lowry’s Pass offers spectacular views of False Bay from Hangklip to Cape Point.
The Hangklip-Kleinmond municipal area comprises Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Rooiels. It is a popular holiday region, ideal for whale-watching, and includes the Kleinmond Coastal Nature Reserve and the Harold Porter Botanical Garden. The Penguin Reserve at Stoney Point is the first penguin reserve on the South African mainland and is a breeding sanctuary for jackass penguins.
The Kakebeenwa Monument in Napier was built in memory of the Great Trek. The southernmost gold-mine shaft was dug 15 km from Napier at the turn of the century. Other attractions include the Bat Caves Route, donkey and horse-cart routes, fynbos viewing and horse trails.
Stanford is one of the few villages in South Africa where the village market square has been retained. The central core of the village has been proclaimed a national conservation area. A total of 124 bird species have been recorded to date.
Swellendam is famous for, among other things, its youngberries and eclectic architecture. The Drostdy Museum consists of a group of buildings containing a huge selection of period furniture. The Bontebok National Park, 7 km from Swellendam, gives sanctuary to, among others, the threatened bontebok. Activities include canoeing, 4x4 trails, mountain biking, river rafting, hiking, abseiling, horse-riding and bungee jumping.
The Theewaterskloof Dam outside Villiersdorp is the seventh largest dam in the country. The Villiersdorp Wild Flower Garden and Nature Reserve has an indigenous herb garden and a reference library.
The Breede River Valley region
The Breede River Valley region is the largest of the three wine and fruit-producing valleys in the Western Cape.
The Valley is also famous for its breathtaking passes: Bain’s Kloof, Du Toit’s Kloof, Gydo, Hex River, Cogman’s Kloof, Michell’s Pass, Nuwe Kloof Pass and Theronsberg Pass.
Bonnievale has two large wine estates, four co-operatives and two private wine cellars. Visitors can also tour the largest cheese factory in South Africa. Angling, boat and canoe trips on the Breede River are available.
Ceres, named after the Roman goddess of fertility, is South Africa’s most important deciduous fruit and fruit-juice producing district. Visitors can go on tours to various fruit co-ops and farms, as well as go raspberry, blackberry and cherry picking in season.
The Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve is home to the last few Khoe and San in South Africa. Visitors to the reserve can also go on game drives.
The Klein Cederberg African Wilderness offers art exhibitions, beautiful rock formations, ostriches and one-hour hikes to Khoe and San paintings (by appointment). In winter, the area gets some of the heaviest snowfalls in the Western Cape.
De Doorns is the centre of the Hex River Valley, which produces most of the country’s export grapes. Visitors can view the Cape Dutch homesteads scattered throughout the valley, the De Doorns Wine Cellar and a rose garden cultivating 150 000 rose trees annually in over 400 varieties.
McGregor is the starting point of the Boesmanskloof Trail between McGregor and Greyton. The area offers a variety of hiking trails as well as the McGregor Village Walk.
Montagu is known for its healing, hot mineral springs, tractor or trailer rides to the summit of the Langeberg Mountains and muscadel wines. There are opportunities for rock climbing, hiking, bird-watching and 4x4 routes.
Prince Alfred Hamlet is the gateway to Gydo Pass, offering spectacular views of the Ceres basin. Fruit tours, trout-fishing, mountain-biking and hiking are on offer.
Robertson is the largest wine-producing area under irrigation in the Western Cape. Except for outdoor activities such as biking trails, hiking trails, canoe adventures, guided horse trails, 4x4 routes and rock climbing, visitors can also view fynbos and proteas in the Dassieshoek Nature Reserve and Pat Busch Private Nature Reserve. There are many farm stalls, an arts and craft route and a wine route with 21 members.
The Astronomical Survey Monument in Touws River serves as a reminder of the British expedition that studied the transit of Venus in 1882. Mountain bike and hiking trails are available, and Khoe and San paintings can be viewed in the area.
Tulbagh has been faithfully restored to its old-world splendour after an earthquake in 1969. Visitors can walk along the Oude Kerk Volksmuseum complex, visit De Oude Drostdy Museum or go on one of the many trails in the area.
Worcester is the largest wine-producing district in the country. The historic Church Street is one of the best preserved street complexes in the country. A museum depicting the history of the Institute for the Blind opened in September 1997. At the workshops for the visually and hearing impaired, handmade cane furniture and weaving as well as other handicrafts are sold. Visitors are welcome to visit the Institute for the Deaf.
At the Kleinplasie Living Open-Air Museum, tourists can watch activities such as baking, harvesting, candle-making and shearing. There is a huge collection of farming artefacts, a steam train, steam tractors and engines. The KWV Brandy Cellar is the largest brandy distillery of its kind in the world.
Swartland and Sandveld region
Malmesbury is the biggest town in the Swartland. Major attractions include a cheese factory, Cartwright’s Museum, the biggest oak tree in South Africa and the Malmesbury Museum.
Elands Bay is a popular holiday resort and a surfer’s paradise. Khoe and San rock art can be viewed at Elands Bay Caves.
Moorreesburg is a major wheat-distributing town. Visitors can visit the Wheat Industry Museum, one of only three wheat museums in the world.
The Piketberg Museum and historic Watermill are worth a visit.
Porterville is famous for its Disa Route (best in January and February). The Groot Winterhoek Mountain Peak in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is the second highest in the Western Cape. There are several walking trails. The Dasklip Pass is very popular for hang-gliding.
(Source: GCIS: South Africa Yearbook)