Any first-time visitor to the Western Cape will immediately realise why this province attracts the lion’s share of South Africa’s overseas visitors. Set at the southernmost tip of Africa, it's a region of breathtaking mountain scenery, golden beaches, fine food and wine and excellent infrastructure. Boasting an enviable Mediterranean climate of warm, dry summers and mild winters, it's little wonder that the Western Cape is the perfect place to start or end any South African holiday.
Cape Town, hugging the slopes of Table Mountain, is the undisputed jewel in the Western Cape's holiday crown. A friendly, active city offering plenty to see and do, Cape Town lies at the head of the Cape Peninsula, home to fishing villages, a penguin colony, hiking trails and of course terminating at famous Cape Point. Easy and fun to self-drive around, the Peninsula's east and west coastlines offer two sharply differentiated marine environments but stunning views are standard to both.
An hour’s drive from Cape Town will take you to the Cape Winelands – a hugely scenic region popular for its award-winning wines and traditional Cape Dutch architecture – while the Whale Coast lies less than a 2-hour drive from Cape Town along the Indian Ocean coastline of the agricultural Overberg region. These two regions are close enough to Cape Town to explore on a day trip but it's worth spending for a couple of nights in the region, especially during the August - November whale-watching season.
And then of course there’s the Garden Route, the Western Cape's holiday playground and packed with seaside towns and phenomenal natural scenery. A perfect self-drive destination, it usually takes several days to discover all the hidden treasures of the Garden Route - expect great beaches, a warm sea, soaring mountains and grand forests.
For an inland alternative to the Garden Route, take a drive along the picturesque Route 62 which meanders through the Western Cape from Cape Town, taking you through farming towns, over mountain passes, across rivers and along the longest wine route in the country.
Moving north from Cape Town along what is simply known as the West Coast, you’ll discover lesser-known but no less enchanting areas of the Western Cape. An easy 2-hour drive north of Cape Town takes you to the Cederberg, a range of rugged mountains whose raw beauty makes it a popular destination for adventurous hikers and climbers. Lying within the Cape Floral Kingdom, the seemingly barren Cederberg explodes with colour in late winter and early spring as the flower season begins.
You can explore the West Coast on a day trip but for a truly memorable experience you should consider spending a few days at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, a South African Natural Heritage Site tucked away in the foothills of the Cederberg. Home to Bushman rock art sites as well as extraordinary flora and mountain wildlife (including the elusive Cape leopard), a stay here makes for the perfect finale to a Western Cape holiday.
At a Glance
Famous for its winelands, whale watching, the Garden Route and of course Cape Town, the Western Cape is one of the world's most scenic, diverse and rewarding destinations.