SA Itinerary 2: West Coast & Cederberg

North of Cape Town is the  Swartberg  — now gaining a reputation for unadulterated wines — and the  Sandveld  — a huge area of rolling farmland between the fishing and tourist communities on the West Coast and the fruit and wine farms of the Cederberg. The region is bisected by the busy N7 stretching right up to the border with Namibia, but other less frequented roads provide access to the region too. Tourism is less important to the economy here — it’s the source of all potatoes for the Western Cape, plus honey, brandy, wine and various livestock.

Accommodation on the West Coast and Cederberg 

The range of places to stay in this region is more limited than the Winelands and Garden Route, but the standard remains very high. We selected a B & B guest-farm stay at Berg River; a sea-view apartment at Shelley Point, a self-catering cottage near Citrusdal, a charming Cape Dutch guest house in Tulbagh and on a  wine estate near Wellington. Kersefontein Guest Farm  is certainly a unique experience on the flat Sandveld watered by the Berg River, near Hopefield. Selected farm buildings are now luxury accommodation with heirloom furniture, plus visits from a range of farm animals including cats, dogs, a pig and Molly the sheep, who will leave her calling card in your room if the door is ajar! Breakfasts are taken in a room decorated with botanical prints and a four course dinner with owner Julian Melck in the main dining room of the antique filled manor house is not to be missed. Horses in the paddock and cattle down by the river are other attractions in this remote location; although Langebaan on the West Coast is only 40 minutes away by car.

Oystercatcher Lodge is within metres of the Atlantic Ocean at the appropriately named Shelley Point — a huge bank of mussel shells between the apartments and the ocean. Approached through a gated golfing community [not mentioned on the web site] Oystercatcher has amazing views of the ocean and the publicly assessable beach stretching past huge ocean-front properties towards Paternoster. We rented a studio with full kitchen, decorated in a contemporary/nautical style with floor to ceiling windows opening onto a shared terrace and small pool.

Pomegranate Cottage is on a farm off the N7 at the Piekenierskloof Pass near Citrusdal. Be warned — much needed long-term roadworks to widen and reinforce the carriageway along the whole of the pass results in a possible wait of up to 20 minutes in either direction from the cottage. The cottage is located in fields of fruit trees beside a dam [small reservoir] and is generously proportioned in a country style with a wide verandah for views up and down the valley.

In Tulbagh, De Oude Herberg [The Old Inn]  comprises just four rooms, beautifully decorated in a country house style and with air conditioning, a lounge and breakfast room with antique furniture and a very comfortable patio with a small pool and loungers, plus easy chairs under a roof with ceiling fans to keep you cool. It is on Church Street, a complete Cape Dutch vista, but actually reconstructed after the 1969 earthquake and tastefully developed as tourist accommodation and restaurants. There are a number of wine estates to visit in the vicinity.

The Mischa Wine Estate is just north of Wellington, comprising a wine farm and nursery and properties available for rental, including Dunedin Oak Tree Cottage — charming self-catering accommodation using an old farm building near Dunedin Manor and overlooking a large dam. The pool near the main winery buildings is available for guest use and Wellington town centre is about 10 minutes away by car.

Things to do on the West Coast and Cederberg 

The West Coast National Park preserves the southern end of Langebaan Bay and is open to day visitors and has accommodation too. The beaches can be accessed at several points with car parking nearby. The beach at Langebaan town has a promenade and rental facilities for several water sports, backed by several bars/retsaurants. On the rocks at the tip of Shelley Point are seals and cormorants and the focus of the community is a golf course with club house, hotel and restaurants open to the public. Near Pomegranate Cottage is a lookout point offering fabulous views accross the adjacent farmland towards the west coast and a few miles south from Citrusdal is The Baths: a resort comprising two open air swimming pools — one warm, one very, very warm — and various water treatment facilities all fed by naturally heated water, plus a restaurant and accommodation in several buildings around a clearing in the wooded valley. Church Street in Tulberg is a very attractive group of restored Cape Dutch properties, now mainly guest-houses and restaurants. There are some good wine estates in the valley including Krone, specialising in Cap Classique fizz and the contemporary styled Saronsberg producing a range of wines, plus a space for artworks. The wine estates around Wellington have collaborated to establish a Wine Route for tastings and visits including the co-operative Bovlei Valley winery and the charming Nabygelegen with it’s tasting room in the old stables. The Doolhof Estate offers sophisticated accommodation and dining further up the valley with free tasting for pensioners on Wednesdays and afternoon tea and a dinner when booking two or more nights. Wineries in the Riebeck Valley are also easily accessible from Wellington: Kloovenburg has a very good tasting experience with olives in addition to their range of wines — they also have an excellent website too.

To get to the other side of the mountains beyond Wellington take the scenic option: the R303 — Bainskloof Pass, completed in 1853 by Andrew Geddes Bains. Bains and his son built many of South Africa’s mountain passes in Victorian times — with convict labour. The Cape Nature organization has trails; a camp and picnic site at Tweede Tol in the Limietberg Nature Reserve accessed from the R303.

Dining and drinking on the West Coast and Cederberg 

As mentioned a meal at Kersefontein Guest Farm is unforgettable. Quite near, Langebaan has numerous bars and restaurants featuring fish and seafood, some right on the beach. At Oystercatcher Lodge we visited the Sao Antonio Restaurant at the grand looking Shelley Point Hotel, Spa and Country Club initially for pizza, but on arrival was astonished by the huge platters of seafood being served to other guests and we promptly opted for an indulgent feast of West Coast crayfish [langoustines] and king prawns at a ridiculously low price. A very friendly atmosphere and reasonably priced wine — as in most restaurants in SA — made for a memorable evening. Advance booking recommended. In Tulbagh we had drinks at the Saronsberg Theatre cafe on Van der Stel Street and we ate at the 29 Church [Street] restaurant and had an excellent meal — plus the owner’s life story too! Upmarket Riebeck Kasteel village has numerous eating options around the square and Church Street, whereas dining in bustling Wellington is mainly for local tastes rather than tourists. The friendly Gecko Bar on Main Road is popular for after work drinks and bargain meal deals.