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Western Cape Travel Guide | South Africa

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Breathtaking mountain and coastal scenery, fishing harbors, sandy beaches, winelands and restaurants.

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The Western Cape at a Glance

Cape Town and the Fairest Cape - The Western Cape is a mountainous and superbly scenic province at the southern tip of Africa. This stunning region attracts visitors from around the world. Attractions include Table Mountain, white sandy beaches and scenic mountain and ocean vistas. Wine Routes provide visitors with a wide selection of wine estates to visit, offering wine tasting and fine restaurants with historic towns and breathtaking scenery.

The Overberg, Whale Coast and Great White Sharks – This is a region framed by rugged mountain ranges and ocean. The Whale Coast offers arguably the best shore based whale watching in the world and Shark Cage Dives.

The Garden Route – A region of forests, mountain trails, lagoons and sandy shores provides adventure activities, spa resorts, world class golf and eco-attractions, making this an ideal family, leisure and high adrenaline adventure destination.

Read More: Highlights of the Western Cape | Activities and Attractions

Calendar of events
Tours to this country
Garden Route information, Western Cape
Mountains, forests, lagoons and
shores provide a region of unrivalled scenic beauty, relaxation and adventure.
Cape Overberg information spotlight
'Over the Mountain' - a scenic region at the tip of Africa with mountain ranges, whale watching and shark cage diving.
The Cape Peninsula information spotlight
Explore wave swept shores, stunning scenic drives, secluded beaches - and the dramatic views from Cape Point.

Western Cape location map and scenic views

 

 



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Food & Wine
Spa Resorts
Golf

Other Special Interest Activities

Highlights of the Western Cape

Cape Town – Cape Town’s many attractions include its white sandy beaches, ample sunshine, Table Mountain, the shops, taverns and restaurants of the Victorian and Alfred Waterfront and world class cuisine.

Cape Floral Kingdom –Over 8,000 plant species grow within the Cape Floristic Region, of which 1,400 grow on Table Mountain. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee declared the Cape Floral Region to be "outstanding universal significance to humanity", describing it as one of the richest areas for plants in the world.

The Southern Tip of Africa – Cape Agulhas marks the southern-most tip of the African continent and defines the geographic boundary between the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The actual meeting of these great oceans is the boundary where the warm Agulhas current flowing south and west collides with the cold Benguela current flowing north - fluctuating seasonally between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point ( read more: Cape Peninsula).

The Whale Coast – In the Cape's Overberg region, a unique stretch of shoreline has earned the reputation for the best shore based whale watching in the world (seasonal). This region is also renowned for great white shark cage diving.

The Garden Route -  Situated along the southern shores of Africa, the 150 mile long Garden Route offers an abundance of attractions and activities for families, adventurers and leisure seekers.

The Cape Winelands -  The Western Cape is recognized as one of the finest wine producing regions of the world. Apart from wine tours, the Cape Winelands has many fine hotels, resorts, health spas and golf courses.

Adventure Activities -  A large choice of high adrenaline and family adventure activities are available throughout the province - including one of the world's highest bungy jumps, forest canopy tours, hot air ballooning, mountain and forest hikes, surfing, paragliding, diving and shark cage dives.

 

Photos (left):
Table Mountain view from Blouberg beach, Cape Town
Cango Caves - near Oudtshoorn, Klein Karoo (Route 62)

Gateway by Air: Cape Town and George
Regular flights connect with these cities from Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth and other centers.

 

 

Activities and Attractions


Western Cape Province

Map of Western Cape Province |Cape Town and Winelands | The Cape Peninsula
The Cape Overberg | The Garden Route | Western Cape Country Routes

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Map of Western Cape Province

Map of Western Cape

Western Cape Province, South Africa

How to get there

By Air:
Cape Town is the gateway airport to the Cape Peninsula and Winelands regions. Flights connect daily with Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) from other South African domestic airports and international destinations including Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport.

George Airport is the gateway to the Garden Route and Klein Karoo regions of the Western Cape.

Airlines such as South African Airways, SA Express, 1Time, British Airways/Comair and Kulula all service the airports with numerous daily arrivals and departures. 

By Road:
Roads in South Africa are very good and well maintained. Many highways lead into and out of the Western Cape from all over South Africa. A good place to get directions will be a local Automobile Association (AA) agent; they will have the most up to date routes and maps.

Back to Activities and Attractions

 

Cape Town and Winelands

Cape Town 

The Cape still reflects the influences of the many nations that have staked a claim to her. The influence of Dutch, French and British are seen in the architecture of the buildings and historic monuments scattered throughout Cape Town and surrounds. Language, culture and local cuisine have been similarly imprinted, providing the city with a colourful and vibrant ambience.

Cape Town and Table Mountain

Table Mountain dominates Cape Town's skyline

A trip by cableway to Table Mountain’s flat summit provides panoramic views across the ocean, along the shore and across the city. For the more energetic, several hiking trails lead to the top of the 3,500 foot mountain. Trails across the mountain top lead away from the busy cableway station and restaurant.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is South Africa’s most visited tourist destination and provides entertainment for the whole family. The "V&A" is situated on the edge of Cape Town’s historic harbor, with a wide variety of shops, street entertainers, restaurants and taverns.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Cape Town's V&A Waterfront

Entertainment options include cinemas, an IMAX, a large aquarium, a souvenir and craft market, boat trips around the harbor, helicopter flips and live entertainment.

Beaches in the vicinity of Cape Town are superb and varied. City beaches are very popular with both locals and vacationers. Clifton - a series of four beaches separated by granite boulders – pulses with a glamorous vibe, with golden tanned bodies and international jetsetters. The young and trendy are particularly drawn to the white sands of Clifton’s Fourth Beach for tanning in their designer swimsuits. The turquoise ocean is frigid, but people are here to tan and be seen, not to swim!

Beaches to the north of the city are open and mostly less crowded - popular with windsurfers, sunbathers and beach combers. Here are wide beaches, dunes and panoramic views across Table Bay to Table Mountain in the distance. For families, rock pools at low tide offer the discovery of brightly colored seaweeds and sea anemones.

Read more about Cape Town and Cape Town's Beaches.

Stellenbosch (Cape Winelands)

Stellenbosch (a university town) was founded in 1679 and is second only to Cape Town as the oldest town in South Africa. Many historic buildings date back to the early 1700's. Visitors are encouraged to take a walking tour of Stellenbosch to get the best perspective of its history, oak lined streets and architectural beauty.

Located in the heart of the Western Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch is an ideal base to explore the local wine routes and is centrally located in the region for day trips to the Cape Overberg / Whale Coast, Cape Town and the Peninsula.

Golfers have a choice of 3 local golf courses and another 8 within 30 minutes drive

Wine Routes and Regions

The heart of the Cape Winelands is just an hour’s drive from Cape Town and is internationally recognized as one of the finest wine producing regions, with the first vineyards dating back to 1658. However, this destination is not just about wine – the region offers stunning mountain landscapes and fertile valleys, wellness centers and spas, golf, hiking and climbing, historic Cape architecture and world-class restaurants.

Cape Winelands, Western Cape Province

The Winelands in the vicinity of Cape Town, Western Cape Province

For the wine lover, there are six main wine regions, each offering their own wine route. Many of the 300 wineries are open to the public for wine tasting. A day trip along one of these scenic wine routes is highly recommended, with a longer stay for guests with an interest in exploring the quaint and historic villages and architecture, or in indulging in some of the outstanding boutique hotels, restaurants and spas.

The Winelands and the entire Cape region also provide an idyllic backdrop and outstanding facilities for destination weddings, for honeymoons and for corporate incentive getaways. Golf courses are of international standard and golf and spa tours are popular with tourists.

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Cape Peninsula

The Cape Peninsula was described by Sir Francis Drake in 1580 as "the fairest Cape in the circumference of the world".

Cape Point at the southern tip of the Peninsula provides a spectacular view over the ocean and of the seabirds swooping over the sheer cliffs below. A crescent of white sand below the cliffs (Diaz beach) beckons to hikers to descend the steep path to the shore.

Cape Point viewsite

View Site Overlooking Cape Point and Diaz Beach

There are numerous routes for exploring the peninsula - and several are highly recommended. All ultimately lead to Cape Point, some 40 miles (65 Km) south of Cape Town. Taking one route south, returning along one of the others will ensure a full day of spectacular touring.

Read more about the Cape Peninsula.

Camps Bay Beach is one of the top beach attractions encountered on the Peninsula side of Cape Town. It's a palm-lined sandy beach with mountain backdrops. A tidal pool and safe ocean bathing and surfing make this a great beach option for everyone. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants are just a step away from the beach.

From Camps Bay, the coastal road south along the peninsula hugs the shoreline, with towering mountains on one side and the panorama of the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Atlantic Seaboard, Cape Peninsula

Views of the Atlantic Seaboard, Cape Peninsula

False Bay along the eastern shores of the Peninsula has several family-oriented bathing beaches and some great spots for surfing. The ocean temperature is noticeably warmer here than in the the Atlantic waters on the other side of the peninsula. Good sandy beaches include Muizenberg, St James, Fish Hoek, Glen Cairn and Boulders Beach. Some beaches have tidal pools and quaint colorful beach huts.

A novel way to explore the Peninsula's False Bay shores is by suburban train.

False Bay attractions

Boulders (Simons Town) has a large African penguin colony. Wooden walkways allow visitors to view the penguins from close at hand. A safe bathing beach, popular with families, is available at Boulders Beach.

If you’re visiting Cape Town during the winter months – May through September – then Seal Island in False Bay is the setting for unusual and spectacular shark behavior. The sharks’ technique for catching the seals is particularly unique - the Great White Sharks often attack their prey with such explosive force that their entire body is propelled out the water. This breaching behavior is seldom seen anywhere else in the world and provides a spectacular sight.

Air Jaws - sharks breaching in False Bay

Acknowledgements: African Shark Eco-Charters, Simon's Town.

The seals are incredibly agile resulting in a cat and mouse chase of epic proportions.

Read more about the Cape Peninsula.

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Cape Overberg

The Overberg is just an hour's drive east of Cape Town, ‘over’ the Hottentots-Holland Mountains. The N2 highway connects Cape Town with the Overberg via Sir Lowry’s Pass. An alternate route follows the coastline below Kogelberg to Hermanus. This is a very scenic route but can take several hours. Betty's Bay is worth a stop en-route - it has a wide, sandy beach with huge sand dunes.

Visitors are drawn to the Overberg by its shore-based whale watching in the winter months, majestic mountain backdrops, nature reserves, birdlife, rolling farmlands, orchards, rugged shores, beaches - and shark cage diving.

Hermanus (Whale Coast, Cape Overberg)

Hermanus is one of South Africa’s favorite vacation towns, popular with visitors of all ages. During the Cape's winter months, Southern Right whales are drawn to their breeding grounds in the shallower waters of Walker Bay. These baleen whales often approach within yards of the shore. Hermanus and Walker Bay are in fact considered to host the best land-based whale watching in the world.

Hermanus Whale Watching

Hermanus Whale Crier and Shore-Based Whale Watching

An official Whale Crier patrols the cliffs and will blow on his kelp horn to ‘announce’ the location of whale sightings. Apart from the whale sightings, entertainment includes street markets, live music and local theater productions.

Shark Cage Diving - Shark Alley, Dyer Island (Gansbaai)

A few miles offshore from Gansbaai are two small islands separated by a channel of water enticingly referred to as Shark Alley. This location is one of the best in the world for visitors to go Shark Cage Diving. Shark sightings can be good throughout the year at this location.

Dyer Island is home to thousands of African Penguins, Cormorants and Gannets. Geyser Rock is a smaller island nearby and is home to a large colony of Cape Fur Seals.

White Shark Cage Diving

Acknowledgements: Images by White Shark Projects, Gansbaai - South Africa

Visitors can watch the action from the deck of the boats - or slip on wetsuits and goggles to experience the sharks from the underwater safety of the cage.

Read more about the Cape Overberg.

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The Garden Route

The Garden Route is a narrow stretch of coastline bounded by mountains and ocean, stretching 240 Km (150 mile) along the southern shores of the Western Cape. The region's mountain ranges, forests, lagoons and beaches all contribute to this exceptional region's unrivalled scenic beauty. This is an ideal vacation destination for leisure, families, honeymooners and high adrenaline adventurers.

Several international standard golf courses, designed by famous golfers Gary Player, Ernie Els and others, are a magnet for golf enthusiasts from around the world. The Links Golf Course at Fancourt hosted the President's Cup in 2003.

Fancourt Golf course and Links

Acknowledgements: Fancourt Golf Resort, George

The Garden Route is renowned for offering a wide range of accommodation options, including luxury golf and spa resorts, boutique hotels, family hotels, bed and breakfasts and self catering accommodation.

Mossel Bay, Garden Route (West)

Mossel Bay is a small harbor town located on the Garden Route. This popular resort town straddles the Cape St Blaize Peninsula and eastwards along the sandy shores of the bay.   Blessed with a mild all-year round climate, Mossel Bay is a busy summer destination as well as an ideal winter retreat.

St Blaize Cave and Seafront Hotel, Mossel Bay

Acknowlegements: The Point Hotel, Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay is a sport, adventure and water sport enthusiast's paradise. A wide variety of adventure activities and sports can be enjoyed, including golf,  squash, tennis, bungy jumping, bridge diving and horse riding. Water sports include shark cage diving, ship wreck diving, snorkeling and power boating.

Knysna, Garden Route (Central)

Knysna is one of the most popular holiday destinations along the shores of the Garden Route. The huge Knysna Lagoon (an estuary), surrounding forests and mountains make this an absolutely stunning destination. The town is a blend of commercial main street and small-town charm and hospitality, with craft shops, boutiques and sidewalk cafes.

The Knysna Quays has interesting shops, restaurants, accommodation options and a small boat harbor in an attractive waterfront setting. This is a departure point for lagoon cruises, sailing charters and sightseeing trips across the water to Featherbed Nature Reserve and to the Knysna Heads (the narrow ocean passage and towering sandstone headlands separating estuary and ocean).

Knysna Keys

Knysna Quays (left) and a Thesen Island Waterfront Home (right)

The Heads - The eastern Head can be reached by road - to the beaches and rocks at the foot on the head or to view sites high above ocean and estuary. Observation points provide sweeping views across the Indian Ocean, shores, the cliffs and sea caves of the western head, Knysna Lagoon, Leisure Isle and the town of Knysna.

Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route (Eastern)

Plettenberg Bay ("Plett" to locals) is another popular destination, with miles of sweeping sandy beaches, lagoons, estuary and indigenous forests. In 2010, it was voted* the third best Beach and Sun Destination in Africa and also made the top ten list in the Outdoor and Adventure category, when it was voted as the eighth most popular wildlife destination in Africa. 
*TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards

Activities available along the eastern part of the Garden Route include Knysna Elephant Park, skydiving, sailing, surfing, scenic flights over the shores and ocean, a local game reserve, Ocean Safaris, one of the world's highest commercial bungy jumps, forest canopy tours and a primate and bird sanctuary.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden

A few miles east of Plettenberg Bay, Monkeyland is a free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary, home to fifteen different primate species. Monkeyland forest is a wonderful destination for kids of all ages and is the top ecotourism attraction on the Garden Route. Primates at the sanctuary include Lemurs, Gibbons, Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys and Capuchin.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden

Birds of Eden is located next to Monkeyland. The huge, covered aviary covers an area of 8 acres (3.2 ha) with a 0.75 mile (1.2 km) walkway. The sanctuary is home to over 3,000 birds (280 species). It’s free-flight capacity is larger than any individual free-flight dome in the world, including the World famous Kuala Lampur & Jarong Bird Parks.

Read More about the Garden Route

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The Western Cape - Meetings and Incentives

Western Cape Province provides superb settings and international-standard facilities for Meetings and Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions.

The Cape Town International Convention Centre caters for conventions of up to 10,000 delegates. Destination Management Companies catering specifically to the corporate market are able to organize conferences, team building experiences, incentives and executive breakaways.

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10 More Things to do
when visiting the Western Cape

 1 In early Spring, take a trip north to Van Rhynsdorp and witness the spectacle of the wild flowers of Namaqualand.
 2 Visit Sutherland in the arid Karoo (site of South Africa's Astronomical Observatory) for an amazing stargazing experience.
 3 Explore the limestone caverns and marvel at the dripstone formations of Cango Caves in the Klein Karoo.
 4 Visit Cape Agulhas, the southern most point on the African continent.
 5 Take a cableway trip up Cape Town's Table Mountain for spectacular views over the city, mountains and shores.
 6 Take a tour of Cape Town's historic Castle of Good Hope and District Six Museum.
 7 Enjoy the vibrant Cape Town Carnival in March.
 8 Visit the quaint historic village of Matjiesfontein in the Klein Karoo
 9 Explore South Africa's longest Wine Route and attractions - Route 62.
10 Take a trip by car across historic Swartberg Mountain Pass.


Western Cape Hotel Accommodation

 
 
 
 

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