Mention the Overberg region of South Africa to an international tourist and you could be forgiven for thinking that the only thing you will find there are whales and sharks. Sadly for too many people the area is overlooked and merely used as a drive-through with perhaps a stop off for a spot of shark-cage diving.
If you were just to stop and take a breath for a minute the Overberg would reward you with a world of stunning natural scenery, glorious beaches, lovely wine routes, scenic coastal roads, the De Hoop Nature Reserve and local markets.
Now don’t get me wrong I am as excited as any tourist to see whales at sea or to try my hand at shark-cage diving but these sorts of activities should be combined with exploring the natural beauty of the Overberg.
Whilst their cousins at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town revel in their fame there is also a wonderful colony of endangered African Penguins to be found at Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay. For just R10 per person you can wander along the raised boardwalk and watch the penguins going about their day. Stoney Point is less busy than Boulders Beach and has a less commercialised feel to the place.
Any family on holiday in South Africa will feel the tug of their children wanting to visit the beach and we can recommend the Pringle Bay beach and Grotto Bay beach, at Hermanus, as being ideal for little ones. Flat and spacious they will soon have their bucket and spade in hand designing some supposedly impregnable castle. Another popular family-friendly beach near Hermanus is the Blue Flag Kleinmond Beach which has a calm lagoon ideal for little ones and big ones to play in. From July to December this is also one of the best whale-watching beaches. Lastly between Sandbaai and Vermont is Onrus with another lovely beach and lagoon and a beach bar and restaurant so you can stay all day and relax.
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Overberg is a great place to go mountain-biking with a number of routes offering varying degrees of difficulty that take you deep into the valley and along river meanders and vineyards. Day permits typically cost from R20 to R30 per day.
South Africa has a number of famous wine routes but the Elim Wine Route can claim to be the southern-most wine route. Take a drive from Elim to Bredasdorp along the R43 (tarred road) and you will come across Zoetendal Winery, Quoin Rock, The Berrio, Black Oystercatcher Strandveld Vineyards and Lomond. Each of these offer wine-tasting, tours by appointment and you can purchase their wine as well.
For a spot of whale-watching with a difference you could try sea-kayaking in Walker Bay. Leaving from the old harbor you can enjoy a 2 hour trip inside the marine reserve where you have the chance of seeing cape fur seals, cormorants, penguins and of course whales in season. The operators are under strict license not to go within 300m of the whales and if they should decide to come nearer to you then you have to move away.
For the music lovers out there then the Up the Creek Music Festival could be right up your street! Set alongside the banks of the Breede River at the Felix Unite campsite just outside Swellendam the festival features three stages playing a mixture of rock and soul and even comedy. The festival takes place over three days and nights and a Full Weekend Ticket will cost you in the region of R650. Children under 13 years can enter for free. Your ticket price includes access to the camping area which works on a first-come-first-served basis. Alternatively you can pay and book one of their pre-pitched tents which include mattresses and linen and access to private ablution block.
Visiting local markets is a great way to pick some homegrown organic food and the Overberg region has a number of great markets worth visiting:
Hermanus Country Market – Every Saturday at the Hermanus Cricket Grounds
Open from 08h00 to 12h00 you will find a variety of organic produce as well as trinkets, wine and furnishings.
Onrus Country Market – Every Saturday at De Wet Hall, Roos Street in Onrus
Open from 09h00 to 13h00 this market is a bit of a mix of old school stalls with fun activities plus a few bargains to pick up along the way.
Fisherman’s Village Market – Weekends at Lemm’s Corner in Hermanus.
Open from 08h30 to 15h00 this busy craft market sells original art and creative craft products.
Stanford Evening Market – Last Friday of each month at Birkenhead Brewery, Stanford.
Open from 18h00 to 20h00 a market that has a relaxed feel set in the picturesque village of Stanford just outside Hermanus.
Recommended places to eat in the Overberg
The Stanford Table – situated in Queen Victoria Street this lovely restaurant is open Thursday to Saturday service tea and coffee from 10h00 and then lunches between 12h00 and 15h00. Evening meals are available on Friday and Saturday from 18h30. Booking in advance at this Stanford restaurant is recommended. Tel: +27 (0)28 341 0059
For a stunning scenic drive along the coast from Overberg down to Cape Town take Clarence Drive. From Kleinmond follow the R44 coastal route which takes you through Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay and all the way down to Gordon’s Bay. There are spots along the way where you can stop and get photos of the Southern Right Whales during season. Don’t forget Betty’s Bay is the place to see the African Penguins.