There are surely few better places for some essential fresh air and escapism than the undulating fields and wide-open plains that run south from the N2 to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. You’ll find country dorpies and glorious nature reserves, empty beaches and charming wineries, high-end lodges and family-run restaurants.
GO HERE, DO THIS
Winter and spring are the perfect time to visit the southern Overberg, with the summer winds at bay and the farmlands flushed with wheat and ablaze with spring flowers.
An hour from the N2 brings you to Napier, worth a stop for the string of antique stores to browse, as well as the stately church that has watched over the main drag since 1838.
Twenty minutes farther down the R316 and you’re in Bredasdorp, the largest town in the area. Browse the boutique at Bredasdorp Square before wandering up to the Shipwreck Museum, which charts the ships and sailors who have foundered on the shores to the south over the centuries. Need a holiday read? Fiksie & Fantasie has the best range of secondhand books in the Overberg.
From Bredasdorp, the road south splits: follow the R316 to the popular seaside village of Arniston, where the coastal walk to the Waenhuiskrans cave awaits. Or take the R319 to Struisbaai, where you can cast a line from the harbour wall while looking out for the inquisitive short-tail stingrays that hang out at the jetty. Rays not playing ball? Wander the wide, flat sands of Die Plaat beach that stretches on for miles. Social distancing is no problem here.
The sprawling De Hoop Nature Reserve is as famous for its colony of Cape vultures as it is for the Southern Right whales that gather in the water from July to October. The reserve offers a range of comfortable self-catering options through the De Hoop Collection, but it’s hard to beat the suites at Lekkerwater Beach Lodge.
Situated on a private concession in the east of the reserve, Lekkerwater offers just seven cosy suites, each with jaw-dropping sea views and unfettered access to kilometres of pristine coastline. Look forward to guided fynbos walks, beach picnics, and some of the world’s best land-based whale watching.
The Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve also deserves your visit: it conserves a unique slice of the Cape’s floral heritage, and offers self-catering accommodation in the old farm dairy. Now nicely done up, of course.
Prefer to be closer to Agulhas? Try Langrug Lodge. This century-old farm cottage offers a slightly rustic, off-grid escape on the shores of Soetendalsvlei. Did someone say wood-fired hot tub?
Heading south from the N2, first pick up some padkos at the Napier Farm Stall. You’d be foolish not to leave with homemade pies and granadilla cookies.
In the community of Kassiesbaai, Willeen’s does a brisk trade in traditional bobotie and fishcakes, while the Arniston Hotel is the spot for generous seafood platters. You won’t go wrong with a take-away box from L’Agulhas Seafoods. Enjoy it on the public benches overlooking the Atlantic.
This corner of the Cape is also making a name for itself in the world of wine. The wineries in and around the historic mission village of Elim take full advantage of these cool coastal conditions, crafting superb sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and Syrah. Leave time for a tasting at Strandveld Vineyards or Black Oystercatcher. The latter also hosts the excellent Fraser’s Folly craft brewery, with its unforgettable Moer Koffie Stout.
THE ONE THING YOU’VE GOT TO DO
Pay homage to the southern tip. If you’re not afraid of heights — and wobbly, wooden ladders — brave the 71 steps to the top of the historic lighthouse for superb coastal views. Then follow the wooden walkways to the southern tip for the obligatory Insta snap. Just as memorable is the incredible Map of Africa Monument, a 3D relief map of the continent fashioned from reinforced concrete and stained metal powders.
LISTEN TO A LOCAL
Heather D’Alton was born and raised on a farm on the Agulhas Plain. She co-owns LoveGreen Communications, an agency focused on telling sustainability stories.
“My passions are hiking and trail running, and one of my favourite places in the world to walk is De Mond Nature Reserve. There’s a stunning route called the Sterna Trail, which starts in the milkwood forest at the entrance. You cross the bridge over the Heuningnes River, and the path then takes you into the dunes through beautiful limestone and dune fynbos. You come out at the ocean — then simply take a left and follow the path back to the entrance. Along the stretch where the Heuningnes River reaches the ocean, you’ll often see both greater and lesser flamingoes. It’s an easy trail, only about 7km, so you don’t have to be super fit.”