10 wonderful things to do on a road trip round the southern Overberg
Food, wine, beaches and fascinating history are just some of the reasons it's worth exploring south of Cape Point, writes Nick Yell
When I say it's well worth exploring south of Cape Point, do I mean literally get on a boat and head off into the Southern Ocean? Well, not really.
Even though there certainly are recommended boat-charter services that will take you on fishing and pelagic-birdwatching trips south of this much-visited promontory, we're talking motoring around the southern Overberg, about 4,000km2 of which lies south of Cape Point.
Based in the Overberg for 16 years, I've explored this area many times, most recently on my old dual-sport motorbike. Though most of the back roads and dirt tracks are doable in a normal sedan, being on an adventure bike or in a higher-clearance AWD SUV gives you more freedom to explore.
Here are 10 awesome things to see and do along the way:
1. TOUCH THE SOUTHERN TIP OF AFRICA
At Cape Agulhas you can walk to the southernmost tip of Africa and ponder the enormous expanse of water between yourself and Antarctica, over 6,000km away.
Take in the Africa monument there; visit the museum at the Cape Agulhas lighthouse (1849) and brave the steep ladders to the top for epic sea views.
For more info, call Cape Agulhas National Park on 028-435-6078 or visit sanparks.org
2. SEE THE SHIPWRECK MUSEUM
The mercurial current and wind conditions, plus the shallow waters and rocky coastline off the Agulhas coast have caused around 150 ships to be wrecked in the region. The HMS Birkenhead and the East Indiaman, Arniston, are probably the most famous among them. Relive their stories from the realistic dioramas and informative displays at this maritime institution (1975) in Bredasdorp - and learn how these wrecks and their survivors influenced the history of the Strandveld.
Call the museum on 028-424-1240 or see their Facebook page.
3. STROLL STRUISBAAI HARBOUR
This colourful fishing and small-craft harbour offers much to enjoy, including an ozone-infused walk to the red light along the harbour wall; buying fresh fish from a trawler; and feeding the tame manta rays off the jetty.
4. EAT UP A STORM IN BAARDSKEERDERSBOS
Since the R317 linking Gansbaai to Bredasdorp was tarred in 2015, this once obscure hamlet has turned into a bastion of epicurean delights. You're spoilt for eating and drinking choices here - don't skip the voluminous breakfast platters at Marietjies Pub and Grill.
Find more info on Baardskeerdersbos at xplorio.com
5. HIKE THE WHALE TRAIL AT DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE
Although this must-do coastal slackpacking trail was closed for maintenance for some time, it reopened last year and bookings can now be made. I last did this 55km route (there are five overnight stops) some time ago, but the pungent smell of fynbos and photo reel of unique coastal habitats is still fresh in my memory. If you don't fancy undertaking this fairly strenuous hike, visit the reserve anyway as it has lots to see and is a perfect spot to chillax.
6. SHOP AND EAT IN NAPIER
This once conservative little town has evolved with the times and offers the visitor the opportunity to shop for art, wine, bric-a-brac and antiques. There are also a few art galleries to visit and a small military history museum. When hunger hits, you'll be spoilt for choice as good eateries abound here, too. One of my favourites is the Napier Farm Stall.
7. REDISCOVER ARNISTON
Full of history and tall fishing tales, this is arguably the prettiest bay in SA. With its colourful fishing boats bobbing atop aquamarine waters, the view from most vantage points will melt even the most ardent landlubber's heart.
A visit to the characterful fishing cottages of old Kassiesbaai, a walk to the Waenhuiskrans cave (at low tide), and a swim at Roman Beach will make for memorable experiences. To round off your exploration of this unique seaside village, lunch or drinks on the terrace of the Arniston Spa Hotel is highly recommended.
More info at xplorio.com
8. ENJOY AN AUTHENTIC FARM STAY
There are many working farms offering accommodation in the Strandveld. One such place is Langrug Lodge, a quaint cottage on the shores of the Soetendalsvlei, a haven for birders. Another is Klipfontein Keep, a large and tastefully decorated farmhouse which commands views over the farmlands where sheep and wheat live congenially side by side.
Local wine farms Black Oystercatcher and Strandveld Vineyards also offer accommodation in beautiful surrounds.
You'll find a wealth of other options by searching for "Overberg farm stay" on booking.com
9. GO WINE TASTING AROUND ELIM
The conservation-focused Agulhas Wine Triangle has steadily increased its reputation over the years. Initially known for its cool-climate varietals such as sauvignon blanc, today it is the source of a range of fine wines including shiraz, pinot noir, elegant red blends and even an MCC of exceptional quality.
The farms on the Elim wine route - the "southern-most wine route in Africa" - are located close together, so it's possible to explore them all in one day, with lots of wine-tasting opportunities and superb restaurants along the way.
Your options include Strandveld Vineyards, The Berrio, Black Oystercatcher Wines (which also offers meals, craft beer and accommodation), Quoin Rock, Zoetendal Wine Farm and Lomond Wine Estate.
10. EXPLORE THE BACK ROADS
There are only two prerequisites for this activity: a copy of Slingsby's Overberg touring map and an adventurous spirit.
With a little judicious tyre deflating (1.6 bars front and 1.8 bars rear) most sedan cars with reasonable ground clearance (min 150mm) should easily navigate the bulk of the southern Overberg's good dirt tracks, particularly in the dry months.
Ambling through this seasonally changing landscape, you'll see birds such as blue cranes, spur-winged geese and black harriers, as well as many an old farmstead in the rolling hills (rûens) carrying thriving wheat and canola crops.