South Africa: A Wayfaring, Wind-Swept Road Trip up the West Coast Peninsula
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
While driving north from Cape Town on the R27 toward the West Coast Peninsula, travellers have uninterrupted views of expansive beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, coupled with national parks and nature walks bursting with blossoms, blooms and the occasional baboon. Dotted along the way are quaint fishing villages, lighthouses, beach houses, shipwrecks, and lobster shacks. A perfect vacation stop-over is the winsome, whitewashed village of Paternoster.
Paternoster is a one of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast Peninsula in
South Africa. Known for whitewashed cottages and lobster fishing, the village is a paradise 90 minutes plus drive on the R27 north from Cape Town. Along the way, you pass Grotto Bay, the West Coast National Park, and the towns of Vredenburg and Langabaan.
Paternoster is where you come for a Mediterranean climate, expansive white beaches and an abundance of flora and fauna. The water is cold (19c) but the fish seem to like it. From here you will observe whale, penguin, seal, and dolphins. If you feel the need to commune with sea life, kayaking, kitesurfing, snorkelling, and scuba are all on offer.
If staying dry and snug is more your thing, break out your binoculars and witness the 200 species of birds that call Paternoster home. Try hiking the trails of the West Coast National Park, the Postberg Reserve or the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
The lighthouse at Cape Columbine, built on Castle Rock in 1936, is the last manually controlled lighthouse in South Africa. Named after the wreck of the Columbine, a wooden, British snow (a square-rigged vessel with two masts) in 1829, its beam is often the first seem by ships approaching from Europe. Check out africa-deluxe-tours.com for shipwreck and lighthouse tours of the area. Some lighthouses offer accommodation.
In Spring (July-Sept), Paternoster is a great stop off the Floral Route, where you can hike among beautiful blankets of wild flowers. Fun fact: the daisies, gladiolas, and lilies among other species only bloom when the sun is out, and always face north to the sun. Not a plan for a cloudy day! Check out tomtom.com for road trips & route planners.
WHERE TO STAY
I've heard you can find accommodation in many of the lighthouses along the West Coast, but when I next visit Paternoster I plan on a night at the Sea Shack. This is glamping at its finest! The Sea Shack is a collection of Eco-friendly, solar-powered wooden cabins designed by Dianne Heesom-Green. And while there are no outlets for hairdryers, there is free WI-FI!
photos borrowed from the Sea Shack on seashack.co.za
After 'roughing it' in a designer-built sea-front luxe cabin, I may enjoy the civility of the Strandloper Ocean Boutique. This lovely boutique hotel features 14 suites, the Leeto restaurant and the Elements Wellness Spa. The Strandloper has won many national and international tourism awards and is very much worth the stay.
photos borrow from the Strandloper Ocean website strandloperocean.com
*There are entry fees for the reserves. Please always stay safe and plan your hike with security as the most important.
WHERE TO EAT
When my sisters made their first visit to Cape Town, I delighted them with food, wine and all the sights to be seen. After a Sabi-Sand safari, they were clear in the opinion that nothing could top that safari (plenty of elephants, farting rhinos and the obligatory bird-blathering Englishman ironically named Robin in non-ironic red trousers, all withstanding).
But I had one last card to play, Die Strandloper.
Die Strandloper is a seafood beach boma (secured enclosure) in Langebaan, not far from Paternoster. In a cozy, little nook, surrounded by boulders and beach, Die Strandloper serves a 10 course set fish menu.
Food is prepared in large 'poykie' pots on the beach and served up on paper plates with seashells for cutlery. Diners sup at picnic tables or on the rocks, while the guitarist and the ocean compete for attention.
The Cocktail Shake balances high on a nearby boulder, and if after rambling up the boulder you still have breath in the tank, the spectacular sunset views will take it away from you immediately
Die Strandloper does a lunch and dinner service. I opted for dinner, which currently runs for R335 per person.
Cocktails in hand, gently setting sun, softly played strings and cool sand between toes, this was a perfect ending to a wonderful visit with my family. Until my sister, at fish-course four, admitted that she didn't like fish. This made dinner difficult because at Die Strandloper, there is only fish. 8 courses of fish with no sides, one beef and then desert.
By course 6, I didn't like fish either. After the koeksisters at course 10, a food coma enveloped my brain. The romance of sand lost its appeal as it was far harder to trudge through after gaining 10 pounds in one sitting of fish and butter.
Driving 90 minutes with a newly sprouted food baby late at night made me rue the day I booked dinner instead of lunch. What was i thinking? I am a creature of the matinée!
In Paternoster, a fishing village where the lobster nearly walk straight onto your plate, there are several restaurants that offer it up. According to Tripadvisor, the restaurant at the Gaaitjie hotel and Voorstrandt Restaurant are both beach-side establishments that offer the freshest of fresh lobster and seafood. The next time I have an urge for a unique and delicious seaside dining experience, I will take more time, and have the sense to book an overnight stay!
Paternoster, Langabaan and the entire West Coast Peninsula is a great little side-trip while visiting Cape Town. The sun, sand, flora, fauna, and food are definitely worth the drive.
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