Beyond Cape Town ... The Western Cape

| November 25, 2014

Are you considering a holiday in Cape Town? Find out exactly what you can discover in the wider Western Cape with our guide.

Explore the wonderful wineries of the Western Cape. Photo credit: Thinkstock/ iStock

Cape Town is one of South Africa's most celebrated destinations. Offering an ever-appealing mix of cultural attractions and natural wonders, this city has certainly earned its sterling reputation. However, there is far more to the Western Cape than Cape Town alone, and the city makes an ideal base for exploring this exciting part of the country.

Today, we are going to introduce you to some of the province's key characteristics and attractions.

The Western Cape: an overview

Located in the south-west of South Africa, the Western Cape is home to a wealth of varied treasures, from Cape Town itself to verdant winelands, and from whales to wildlife-rich national parks. The possibilities for exploring the Cape are truly exciting, and include the chance to go on a self-drive adventure to the Cape Winelands and on to the celebrated Garden Route.

Perhaps what lends the area such enduring appeal is its variety; few places offer such a broad spectrum of memorable experiences. For instance, one day you could be exploring Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, the next you could be sipping fine wines at a local vineyards, and the next you could be spotting southern right whales off the coast.

The Cape Winelands

Just a short drive from Cape Town lie the Cape Winelands, which produce the country's finest wines. Blessed with fertile soil and a good climate, this region not only offers the opportunity to enjoy fabulous wines, but also to drink in some of the country's most glorious scenery and dine on fine cuisine.

While there are numerous places to visit here, there are some that particularly stand out. Stellenbosch is one such destination. A university town, it is full of vineyards and, interestingly, is the oldest European settlement in South Africa. In addition to visiting a vineyard or two for a tasting, you can discover its Dutch roots with visits to attractions such as Fick House, which was built in the Cape Dutch style.

Another must-visit, beautiful Franschhoek is widely considered to be the prettiest town in the area. Settled by the French Huguenots more than three centuries ago, it is one of the region's finest culinary destinations. Indeed, this is where you can taste the finest local cuisine, created with exceptional skill.

Whale-watching in Hermanus

Ranking among the world's best destinations for land-based whale-watching, Hermanus is an ever-popular stop on itineraries around the Cape. From June to November, it is easy to spot southern right whales just off the coast - particularly as the town has a dedicated 'whale crier' to let tourists and locals alike know when one of these behemoths is visible.

While you can visit at any time during this period and have a strong chance of seeing a number of whales, those who are particularly enthusiastic about the idea of whale-watching should consider timing their trip to coincide with the annual Hermanus Whale Festival, which typically takes place at the end of September or beginning of November.

Wonderfully vibrant, this colourful enviro-arts festival presents not only the perfect opportunity to see whales, but also to learn more about them, as well as experience Hermanus itself at its vibrant best. Art exhibitions, craft markets, live music and much more are all part of this whale-themed extravaganza.

Discovering the Garden Route

Particularly well-suited to self-drive adventures, the Garden Route is a coastal belt that's known for its spectacular natural scenery, from the beaches that line the coast to its forests, mountains, lakes and national parks. Beginning in the Western Cape, it stretches all the way to the Eastern Cape, thereby offering travellers a fantastic opportunity to discover the wider coastline of South Africa.

Among the places to visit along the way is the 'feather capital' Oudtshoorn, which is located in scenic semi-desert setting. It earned its 'feather capital' title in the late Victorian period, when it became the heart of the ostrich feather industry (ostrich feathers being a key fashion item at the time). Today, you can still see vestiges of the wealth the industry brought to Oudtshoorn, in the form of grand houses, as well as tasting lean ostrich meat.

In addition to fascinating towns, the Garden Route offers the opportunity to explore a host of natural attractions - and indeed, it is these wonderful landscapes that earned the Garden Route its title. The Garden Route National Park, which has united several existing reserves, is one such place. Come here to walk along its varied nature trails and discover its fascinating mix of ecosystems.

Cox & Kings offers tailor-made travel and private or group holidays to South Africa and the Eastern Cape. Please see the website for more details, or call a Cox & Kings Africa expert on 020 7873 5000.

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