The West Coast, as the name suggests is the stretch of coastline on the western side of South Africa and north of the city of Cape Town. It is characterised by small coastal towns, bustling fishing industries and miles and miles of empty beaches. The West Coast Peninsula is a prominent feature along this stretch and attracts thousands of visitors throughout the year, but especially in early spring when the region becomes awash with the colours of flowering wild daisies.
For adventurers and nature lovers, the West Coast is home to a plethora of natural treasures, and is perfect for those looking to soak up vast, open expanses of quiet solitude. So, if you're interested in some peace and quiet and a little time at the sea, then the West Coast may have just what you're looking for.
West Coast Highlights:
- Flowering wild daisies (August - September).
- Quiet fishing villages.
- Rugged coastline.
- Langebaan Lagoon.
- Coastal seafood restaurants.
- Penguin colonies.
West Coast Map:
Region 1: Yzerfontein area
With Cape Town's iconic view of Table Mountain a mere spec in the distance, you'll start to feel like you're on the West Coast proper as you pull in to Yzerfontein. This tiny hamlet is the archetypal sleepy coastal town. The town itself is nothing more than a few upmarket houses, a small fishing harbour and miles and miles of uninterrupted white-sand beach. It's a great place to come if you want peace and quiet surrounded by coastal dunes and fynbos.
Just outside Yzerfontein, on the R27 is the !Khwa ttu San Heritage Centre. Usually, we aren't big fans of cultural villages as they tend to feel a little contrived and more like a cultural zoo, however, !Khwa ttu certainly stands apart as an exception. Visitors to the centre are greeted and guided around the facility by a local San guide who points out various aspects of San life and culture.
As outdoors enthusiasts, we found it to be an incredibly educational experience learning how the various San groups have learned to utilise the natural resources of this area for hunting food, creating shelter and sustaining their communities. The !Khwa ttu San Heritage Centre is but a short detour off the main road up the West Coast, and we highly recommend the stop.
One other honourable mention in this region is the West Coast Farm Stall located on the corner of the main R27 and R315 to Yzerfontein. You will not regret this stop!
- !Khwa ttu
- 33°21'43.8"S 18°16'18.9"E
- -33.362172, 18.271904
Website: !Khwa ttu
- West Coast Farm Stall – roadside stop
- 33°20'05.5"S 18°14'20.5"E
- -33.334866, 18.239013
Find available accommodation in Yzerfontein.
Region 2: West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park is the jewel of the West Coast, with the famous Langebaan Lagoon as its centrepiece. It's a fantastic stop for any nature lover, particularly if you like birding. We found the Geelbek and Abrahamskraal sites to be the best for checking out water birds and waders.
The park is also home to some larger animals, most notably Eland which are the largest antelope in Africa. We have fond memories of early morning walks through the mist to get to the bird hides, and encountering large herds of these peaceful animals walking along the roads.
Of course, no trip to the West Coast National Park is complete without some time spent on the Langebaan Lagoon and there are a number of great places to do just that. We particularly enjoyed Kraalbaai beach with its dazzlingly white sand beaches and high sandstone walls to create some protection from the wind.
The wild Atlantic Ocean is another incredible feature of the West Coast National Park, and in the months of August to September, the park is alive with the bright hues of flowering wild daisies. This is a bucket list item to experience and one that needs to be planned ahead of time. As this is such a popular event, the park officials limit the number of people who can enter the park during these times. As you can imagine, it's a busy and crowded time in the West Coast National Park, but it's one of those natural wonders you have to do at least once.
- Geelbek – Lagoon-side buid hides.
- 33°11'40.1"S 18°07'32.2"E
- -33.194481, 18.125610
- Kraalbaai beach – Lagoon beach.
- 33°08'53.6"S 18°01'52.1"E
- -33.148227, 18.031143
- Abrahamskraal water hole bird hide
- 33°13'51.3"S 18°08'08.6"E
- -33.230929, 18.135709
We stayed at Duinepos.
Read more about our time around the West Coast National Park.
Region 3: Langebaan area
Truth be told, we've spent very little time in the town of Langebaan itself. It's one of the biggest towns on the West Coast and very popular with tourists - 2 ingredients in a recipe we seldom go for. That said, it's very well suited to tourists with hundreds of accommodation providers, restaurants and other amenities and its location on the edge of the Langebaan Lagoon is hard to beat.
If you're looking for something to do around the town, then we'd recommend visiting Thali Thali Game Reserve. This small animal park is kid and family friendly and has a great restaurant and even an archery range. While nothing on the West Coast comes close to the Big 5 game reserves of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, Thali Thali is still a great place for viewing wildlife on one of their open-back game drives.
Another animal encounter of a different kind (because all of these animals are dead!) is the West Coast Fossil Park. At some point in our history, the area around the park was a giant eddy for an ancient river that deposited thousands and thousands of animal remains. Paleontologists on site are actively working to dig out these remains and use them to help piece together the natural history of the region. Visitors to the park will be able to see live digs as well as sort through sediment samples in the hopes of discovering fossils. It's a great morning or afternoon activity and fun for something a little different.
- Thali Thali Game Reserve
- 33°02'05.2"S 18°08'58.9"E
- -33.034780, 18.149685
Website: Thali Thali Game Reserve
- West Coast Fossil Park
- 33°59'52.3"S 22°33'36.3"E
- -33.997867, 22.560090
Find available accommodation in Langebaan.
Region 4: Saldanha
Saldanha is the heart of the South African deep sea fishing industry. Household names like Sea Harvest have their factories in Saldanha and the flurry of fishing boats coming in and out of the bay are a common sight. Saldanha is also home to some lovely beaches at the mouth of the Langebaan Lagoon and the town is equipped with all the amenities for a comfortable stay.
One thing we like to do whenever we get to a small town is to check out the local museum - in this case, the Hoedjieskop Museum. The curator walked us through the tiny building pointing out old photographs of locals and retelling their stories. It was a fantastic opportunity to get insight into the local history of the area.
- Hoedjieskop Museum
- 33°00'39.0"S 17°56'50.2"E
- -33.010827, 17.947289
Find available accommodation in Saldanha.
Region 5: Jacob’s Bay
Jacob's Bay is one of the smallest towns on the West Coast. There are a few dozen white-washed houses tucked away in the small bays and coves around the town, and that's about it. Most people stop in to grab a bite at one of the incredible seaside restaurants and while the evening away sipping wine watching the sunset over the sea.
There's really not much to do around Jacob's Bay, so unless you really want to see the place (like we did), you won't be missing out on too much. It is, however, a lovely place to walk along the coast and what could beat a West Coast sunset spent on the beach?
We stayed at Jacob’s Bay Backpackers.
Find available accommodation in Jacob’s Bay.
Read more about our time around Saldanha and Jacob's Bay.
Region 6: Paternoster and Cape Columbine
This is one of our favourite regions of the West Coast. It's one of those areas that pretty much has it all. Long, white-sand beaches, a beautiful small town on the sea, and the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve right next door to do some exploring.
Its coastal charm and accessibility from Cape Town make Paternoster one of the most popular West Coast towns. Its sprinkling of Cape Dutch-styled houses and restaurants set along the fringes of one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast make for a relaxing weekend away.
The bay is bordered on the west side by an outcrop of rocks that is home to a colony of endangered African Penguins. These penguins use the rocks as a nesting site, so they are often seen darting in an out of the water on fishing missions. The best way to check out the penguins is on a guided ocean kayak which launches from the beach. The trips usually leave at first light, so it's a nice way to start the day and it's also a great way to get in some holiday exercise.
The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is another West Coast classic! The coastline is a hodgepodge of rocky bays and headlands, mingled in with a few sandy coves. It was one of our favourite places to hike along the beach and saying at the Sea Shack meant that we woke up right on the waters edge every morning.
Recommended Activity: Ocean Kayaking (contact The Sea Shack)
In Paternoster, we stayed at Farr Out Guest House.
Find available accommodation in Paternoster.
Cape Columbine Lighthouse
- 32°49'39.5"S 17°51'21.1"E
- -32.827628, 17.855851
In the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, we stayed at The Sea Shack.
Read more about our time around Paternoster and Cape Columbine.
Region 7: Port Owen, Velddrif and Laaiplek
The Velddrif region of the West Coast has a much more suburban feel than many of the holiday towns around.
There is a vibrant fishing industry in the town, with its epicenter at the Bergrivier mouth. One of the town's most famous produce is a type of dried mullet known locally as bokkom. These small, oily fish are hauled into the processing factories on Bokkom Laan where they are dried and salted and prepared for sale around the country. It's quite an experience biting into your first bokkom, and unless you have an acquired taste for strong fish, this may be an experience to try only once!
One experience that is definitely worth repeating, is a river boat cruise along the Bergrivier. The cruise meanders through the Port Owen Marina and up the river, offering great views of water birds and general West Coast life.
- Port Owen Marina
- 32°46'59.8"S 18°09'28.0"E
- -32.783286, 18.157788
- Bokkom Laan
- 32°47'15.2"S 18°11'14.0"E
- -32.787552, 18.187214
Find available accommodation in Velddrif
Read more about our adventures around Velddriff.
Region 9: Elands Bay, Lambert’s Bay and Doringbaai
Heading north from the West Coast Peninsula, the towns start getting fewer and further between. A great stop on the way to Elands Bay is a small spot called Draaihoek. It's a great overnight stop with a beautiful beach over the dune and the restaurant serves some of the best food on the West Coast. It would make a great spot for anyone looking for a romantic getaway along the coast.
Elands Bay is a well-known surf destination, while Lambert's Bay is a great place to watch dusky dolphins and nesting Cape Gannets on Bird Island. Don't miss out on eating at the famous Muisbosskerm nearby!
Heading even further afield, the landscape starts to take on a distinct desert feel as the red sand coats the walls of anything standing. Doringbaai and Strandfontein are the last small towns on the West Coast before entering into the Namaqualand proper.
- 32°28'57.4"S 18°20'11.3"E
- -32.482605, 18.336468
- 32°08'00.9"S 18°18'20.9"E
- -32.133589, 18.305801
- Bird Island
- 32°05'32.2"S 18°18'07.0"E
- -32.092283, 18.301940
Find available accommodation in Elansds Bay.
Find available accommodation in Lambert’s Bay.
Find available accommodation in Doringbaai.
Return via the inland route
Heading back to Cape Town is as simple as turning around and going back the way you came. If you don't mind a detour, you could always come back via the inland route through Clanwilliam, Citrusdal and Moorreesburg.
We loved staying at a few of the guest farms in the area around Piketberg and Koringberg along this inland route.
Kruistementvlei Farm: http://ksvfarm.co.za/
Vleidam Guesthouse: https://www.vleidamguestfarm.co.za/
Read more about the inland route.
Things to consider when visiting the West Coast
Here are some things you might like to keep in mind when you visit the West Coast:
- The West Coast has a Mediterranean climate and can be visited at any time of the year.
- The summers are extremely hot and dry, especially as you head further north.
- The nearest international airport is Cape Town International Airport.
- The West Coast is very well geared for tourists with plenty of accommodation and restaurants to suit all budgets and travel styles.
- This route can be driven as a circular route along the R27 north and back again, or via the inland route on the N7 heading back to Cape Town.
- Book ahead during peak daisy flowering season (late August through September) as this is an extremely popular time to be on the West Coast.
- The West Coast is perfect for self-driving but, as with anywhere in South Africa, store valuables in a locked boot (trunk) and make sure they are out of sight when you leave the vehicle unattended.