Following up on the Spring Wild Flowers West Coast National Park post I shared after an idyllic weekend spent exploring the area, I thought I’d share some ideas on where best to celebrate the fact that Spring is Loading. As the nights shorten and the days become warmer, it’s time to hit the road to savour some of South Africa’s best attractions. From breweries to bike-routes, we suggest the following:
Flowers and a road trip. The West Coast explodes with wildflowers each Spring, drawing visitors from all over the world. But you needn’t drive too far to be dazzled by colour. Head north up the R27 or N7 motorways and the fields around you explode with blooms. For regular flower-spotters though, the West Coast National Park is an annual destination. It’s about 1,5 hours drive north of Cape Town and the 35 000 hectares includes beaches, picnic and braai spots, vast open spaces, walking and biking trails, a shipwreck and lots of bird-life. See West Coast National Park for details and offers of discounts on entry.
Insider tip: Take your foot off the accelerator and stop at the many farm stalls. We recommend the carrot cake and cappuccino served by Aaron, the waiter at Beulah near Yzerfontein, which is rated 4/5 by Tripadvisor. Weskus Spens is renowned for its pies and homemade ginger-beer, freshly baked bread and preserves. It’s on the R27, 10km before Vredenberg. The West Coast Farm Stall has a sit-down restaurant serving traditional fares like oxtail, tripe and bobotie. On weekends there’s a weigh-and-pay buffet.
If you’ve visited the farming town of Darling you’ve probably also spent time at Evita Se Perron, the museum, cabaret theatre and restaurant that examines the cruel absurdity of apartheid politics. While the venue remains well worth a visit. Stop in at the Darling Brew microbrewery nearby. Its taste-room offers fine beers and tasting platters of good local cheeses, cured meats, greens (the olives are a local speciality), wines and bread.
The lush beauty of this province invites exploration, but we recommend the Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa in Port St Johns. It’s been a family favourite for decades, but is also an ideal destination for couples, friends and singles, with its warm seas and lush vegetation. Accommodation ranges from spacious family suites to honeymoon love-nests. There’s plenty to do, from long walks or bike rides on the beaches, to canoeing up the river and exploring the mangroves. You can make the most of the Wild Coast’s balmy climate with sunset cruises, spa treatments, fishing and tennis, and there’s a water-park for the youngsters.
Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours operates in what’s arguably South Africa’s most majestic old-growth forest, with some Outeniqua Yellowwood trees estimated to be around 700 years old. A good way to appreciate their splendour is 30 metres up, on hundreds of metres of ziplines.
Springtime brings one of South Africa’s great annual events in Pretoria, when the city’s 70 000 Jacaranda trees explode into bloom, says Lavery, who suggests parking your hired car at the famed Union Buildings and strolling eastward along Government Avenue. This is one of the few thoroughfares with double rows of Jacarandas, planted to shade civil servants as they walked to the seat of government. Pretoria can be sweltering in summer, but in spring it’s mild and welcoming to civil servants – shady or not – and visitors.
Pretoria has a burgeoning markets scene, including the Market @ The Sheds, run by a non-profit collective focusing on urban renewal in the Pretoria CBD. It offers fashion, live music, good wine, cocktails and coffee, and a pop-up art exhibition.
Hazel Food Market focuses, as the name suggests, on good grub, with around 80 stalls – mostly operated by the folk who produce the fare – and trestle tables under trees in Greenlyn Village Centre in Menlyn Park. It’s open on Saturday mornings and some evenings. There are play facilities for kids.
Pretoria Boeremark is a firm locals’ favourite, where those selling traditional products are mostly the farmers themselves. Expect traditional flavourful, aromatic fare including handmade yoghurt, rusks, preserves and herbs, as well as fresh meat. Apart from the food, you can also buy jewellery, woodwork and clothing.
The Indian Ocean is vital to KwaZulu-Natal tourism and its economy. It’s warmer year-round than the Atlantic Ocean further south, and a playground for millions of South Africans. One good way to experience it is to take a charter cruise out to sea. Sightings of whales, dolphins, sunfish and many other ocean denizens are common. Charter outfits like ABM Charters, African Queen and Blue Water Charters offer cruises offshore and in the busy harbour, as well as deep-sea fishing. Don’t fancy being on the ocean wave? Take a hike: the Drakensberg mountain range offers short and multi-day treks for all fitness levels. Try the five-hour, 11km Injisuthi Battle Cave walk, which takes you to waterfalls and the cave itself, with its dazzling and mysterious cave art.
As an alternative to – or reward for – such exertions, linger on the Midlands Meander, a network of routes offering accommodation, arts and crafts, artisanal foods and more.
** This post was supplied, by Luane Lavery, the brand communications manager at kulula.com, providing these valuable insider tips. Pics sourced and provided.