White-washed walls and turquoise seas. A sea breeze brings the scent of fresh line fish grilling over glowing coals. The cork pops on a bottle of white wine crafted from local vineyards.
Close your eyes and it’s easy to imagine yourself in the Greek isles. But on the Cape west coast there are no long-haul flights to contend with, nor pine-tinged retsina to feign a taste for. Rather, the same sense of laid-back living against a backdrop of stark seaside beauty. And all this just a few hours north of the Mother City.
West Coast National Park: Holidays afloat
Looking for a little social distance? Run away to sea in the West Coast National Park.
Moored just offshore of Kraalbaai, four luxury houseboats bob quietly on the calm waters of the Langebaan lagoon. Here the tides racing across sandy sea floors deliver captivating hues of blue, and the wildflowers on dry land make the park a tourist magnet come springtime. In summer, these shallow waters are warm enough to swim in, while the steady southeasters have made the lagoon an ideal escape for kitesurfers.
A group might take over Nirvana, which sleeps 24, but the smaller boats are the best. Larus and Serenity sleep six, while the new addition, Eve, welcomes eight aboard. On each you’ll find a small kitchen, solar power for charging up and a spacious sundeck where, take our advice, you’ll want to spend most of your time. The four houseboats are permanently moored; so don’t expect to go cruising, cap’n. Kayaks and SUPs are available to rent though.
Jacobsbaai: The quiet one
Most west coast road-trippers speed right past the turn-off to Jacobsbaai, and what a shame that is. Pitched between the working port town of Saldanha and the chic escape of Paternoster, Jacobsbaai keeps a low profile. And that’s precisely its charm.
Strung out along a series of rocky coves, the coastline is wilder here than further north, with ocean swells booming onto shoals offshore and slamming into the rocky points. It’s dramatic and untamed, and so you’ll want a bolt hole with a view.
Happily, Paula’s Cottage offers two.
Perched atop a dune on the northern edge of the village, here the kitchen overlooks a shallow tidal inlet that’s perfect for young children to splash about in. Across the house – which sleeps 10 – a wide deck overlooks the long sweep of the main beach. There are hammocks and Adirondacks for soaking up the view, while the spacious living area is book ended by fireplaces: a convection stove in one for warmth, and a wide hearth for the evening braai. It’s superbly kitted out — all you need to pack is the family.
Paternoster: Come hungry
The once-sleepy village of Paternoster has boomed over the past decade, attracting weekend escape artists and semigrants swapping city life for the coast. Wolfgat put the village on the global culinary map, but you’ll eat equally well at Gaaitjie, Abalone House or the Noisy Oyster. Across the village holiday homes and boutique lodges abound, with something for every wallet.
The new kid on the block is Gonana Guest House, overlooking the town’s quieter Bekbaai beach. Owned by Swedish entrepreneur and interior designer Jonas Sandström, the lodge wears its eco-credentials on its sleeve: all electricity is solar, all water is recycled and the gardens are indigenous. Unsurprisingly, the décor is gorgeous too, with screed floors, organic textures and rooms flooded with natural light. A heated saltwater pool means there’s no need to brave the icy Atlantic if you fancy a dip. Gonana offers seven en suite rooms, most offering private outdoor areas and/or sea views.
Elands Bay: Go glamping
If your taste leans more towards raw beauty than contemporary comfort, the under-canvas escape of West Coast Luxury Tents may be your cup of moerkoffie.
Pitched on the private farm of Fork West, the three tents here offer easy access to the main attraction: a wild and unspoilt beach just an easy walk over the dunes.
Tents come with a well-equipped kitchen, en suite bathroom and outdoor braai area sheltered from the infamous west coast winds. Set midway between Dwarskersbos and Elandsbay, this is a place for gearing down in peace and quiet. About the only bright lights you’ll find will be in the Milky Way overhead.