Let’s just say that you’ll never get bored on the West Coast. Each of the many towns offers fantastic activities and fun for the whole family!
Paternoster and the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
Why you should visit: One of the highlights of visiting Paternoster is undoubtedly relaxing into a more leisurely pace of life, governed only by the ocean tides and meal times. Walking the long stretch of white beach in Paternoster, past colourful fishing boats and the whitewashed houses, is most definitely a highlight.
Another is making the 5km-or-so trip north to the rocky coastline of the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve to see the lighthouse and try your hand at birdwatching and angling.
How to get there: From Cape Town, it’s a two-hour drive to Paternoster, and 10 minutes from there to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
Play in Saldanha Bay
Why you should visit: Saldanha Bay is a natural harbour that feeds into the Langebaan lagoon. The sheltered bay makes it a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Take to the waters to sail, kayak, kitesurf and windsurf and, for those who prefer to keep one foot on dry land, the uncrowded beaches are ideal for leisurely post-lunch walks.
How to get there: It’s a 140km drive from Cape Town to Saldanha Bay along the R27.
Why you should visit: It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to think you’re floating in the clear, azure waters of the Maldives, or off a Greek island when dipping into the Langebaan Lagoon, aptly known as the jewel of the West Coast. The large saltwater lagoon, fed by the icy cold waters of the Atlantic, supports a vibrant marine ecosystem, as well as birdlife. There are a few beaches surrounding the lagoon but dreamy Kraalbaai beach, within the West Coast National Park, is a favourite for swimming and picnicking.
How to get there: It’s just shy of a two-hour drive from Cape Town. From Langebaan, follow directions to the beach. If you really want to appreciate the full scale and beauty of the lagoon, you’ll need to enter the West Coast National Park.
Wildflowers in Postberg Reserve, West Coast National Park
Why you should visit: Not only is the 27 600-hectare West Coast National Park, stretching from Yzerfontein in the south, home to the stunning Langebaan Lagoon but it also shelters more than 250 bird species. However, the jewel in the park’s crown appears, for a fleeting moment only, from August to September when fields of wildflowers carpet the Postberg Reserve. This section of the park is closed for most of the year to protect the biodiverse ecosystem.
How to get there: The Postberg Nature Reserve lies within the West Coast National Park. It’s 24km from the West Coast Gate and 34.3km from the Langebaan Gate of the park.
Stone Fish Art Gallery in Paternoster
Why you should visit: If you’re an art lover, pop into the Stone Fish Gallery and Studio, on the square near The Noisy Oyster Restaurant. The gallery exhibits fine art and photography of local and emerging talent inspired by the West Coast and there are workshops and classes on offer.
How to get there: The gallery is on 57 St Augustine Rd in Paternoster.
How much does it cost: Entrance is free.
Visit the Saldanha Bay Harbour and Museum
Why you should visit: Saldanha Bay’s economy is mostly dependent on the fishing and steel industries. Visit the Cultural Village & Hoedjieskop Museum where the curator, Linda Prezens, will bring the history of this fishing village to life. From there, you can gawk at the working harbour and watch the massive deep-sea fishing vessels come in and out.
How to get there: The museum is on 12 Diaz Street, overlooking the bay.
Horse riding in Langebaan
Why you should visit: Explore the West Coast scenery from horseback with Oliphantskop Horse Rides. Ideal for horse riders of all levels, including children, you’ll ride to the highest koppie (hill) in Langebaan, with stunning views over the lagoon.
There are also horse trails in the Saldanha Bay Nature Reserve, recommended for advanced riders.
How to get there: Enquire at Oliphantskop Resort Coastal Garden Centre, across from the Club Mykonos resort.
How much does it cost: Prices on request.
West Coast Fossil Park, Langebaan
Why you should visit: Journey back 5.2 million years at the West Coast Fossil Park, renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved fossils of now-extinct sabre-toothed cats, short-neck giraffes and African bears that once roamed the West Coast. Take the 45-minute guided walking tour to the dig site where you can see fossils embedded in the earth precisely as researchers uncovered them.
If paleontology is not quite your thing, but bikes are, there are mountain bike trails ranging from 3.5km to 10km around the park. Hire bikes from the visitor centre.
How to get there: The park is a 20-minute drive north of Langebaan along the R27.
How much does it cost: Guided fossil tours cost R100 per adult and R50 for children. Call the park to confirm tour times and cost of mountain biking.