Every year, there's a bloom of incredibly-coloured carpets on the West Coast of South Africa and travellers migrate to catch the impressive spring spectacle. Here's how to find those astonishing wildflower fields in an easy weekend road trip from Cape Town.
The perfect wildflower-finding itinerary
I loved visiting the West Coast National Park in late August last year. Word on the coast was that the flowers were pretty poor compared to most years, but my first time seeing the spring spread of blooms was still nothing short of sensational.
Reading the weekly reports, this year looks to serve up something really special after the trying season of devastating drought. Here is my perfect weekend route for flower spotting on the West Coast, starting in Cape Town.
Enjoy bubbles and bobotie on Saturday
Tulbagh is not on the route for most wildflower itineraries, but driving this route will take you past bright yellow canola fields and there's free bubbly tasting to be had in Tulbagh (only for those not driving - sorry Designated Dave).
The Piket-Bo-Berg Farmer’s Market is also free to visit at Kruistementvlei in the Piket-Bo-Berg and open from about 9:00 on the last Saturday of the month. It’s a local institution and offers genuine country hospitality with everything from pancakes, fresh flowers, olives, almonds, vegetables, bread and jam, to crafts and plants for sale. The next one will be on 31 August 2019.
Hopefield was an unusual stop for me and a delightfully authentic West Coast village. Drive here from Piket-Bo-Berg via Goedverwacht for a pretty gravel road detour (it takes an hour and a half, but offers great views). There were pockets of daisies all around the town and sunshine-yellow canola fields ensconced the road from here heading to Paternoster. Every Saturday, you'll find a local farmers market with cheese, incredible baked goods, samoosas, marmalades, fresh veggies and more. Next door at Hello. cafe, the homemade bobotie pie is scrumptious and affordable at roughly R45, so stock up on some frozen ones to take away.
The white-washed fishing village of Paternoster is a popular tourist stop, but just beyond it, the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is a great way to see the flowers sprouting against an ocean backdrop (entry is R26 per person). Drive the loops, check out the lighthouse and then enjoy small-town hospitality in one of the many wonderful accommodation options - I stayed in Klein Gelukkie, a little oasis just outside of town.
Find floral splendour at the West Coast National Park on Sunday
The West Coast National Park is your first stop. Get into the park early to avoid the queues and enjoy a picnic breakfast or coffee and rusks on the short drive there.
Home to the magical Langebaan Lagoon, white sandy dunes and incredible birdlife (over 250 species) the West Coast National Park is so close to the city and it was an effortless day trip from Cape Town. Make sure you get up with the sun because queues form quickly at the gates from the R27.
Plus, getting up earlier mean you'll be there in time to watch the flowers follow the sun and see the coverings sway with colour when you drive through the Postberg Nature Reserve section of the park, which is only open for two months of the year.
You can stop the car and get out to closely inspect the mad variety of hues that caresses the floors, but take care to tread carefully when inspecting the daisies, vygies and other fiery-orange florals. You're also likely to find zebra, wildebeest, bontebok and other antelope grazing peacefully in the vividness.
The most impressive though has to be the lookout over the lagoon, appropriately named Uitkyk. Make like a dassie and clamber the rocks. On your way out, enjoy the sweeping beaches of Kraalbaai. You’ll feel like you're holidaying on a Mediterranean island.
Essential info: 07:00 – 19:00 (Postberg is only open in August and September, during prime flower season from 09:00 – 17:00) and it costs R83 per person, but you can enter for free during the annual SANParks week, from 8 - 15 September 2019.
To really avoid the crowds, try your best to visit during the week. Otherwise enter the park via Langebaan because queues tend to be shorter there. Also, download the Gate Registration Form and fill it out before you come to the park. This will speed up time at the gate and shorten the waiting period for everybody.
If you want to stay nearby, try this affordable Airbnb in Langebaan. Six of us enjoyed a balmy evening here overlooking the pretty bay.
Darling is another must-do for any flower fanatic. The Renosterveld Reserve on Kalkoentjie Street, behind the Darling Primary School is a great way to get up close to some different blommies and you can find more reserves nearby here. The reserve is open all year round and entrance is free. When you've had enough swooning, slip into the Darling Brewery for lunch (where you cleverly booked a table in advance!) and enjoy the afternoon.
On your way home, double back on the R315 towards Yzerfontein and then take the R27 to Cape Town, so you can drive beside the Jakkalsfrontein reserve, which often boasts colour right at the roadside.
The best Resources for South African Flower-Spotting
Anything more I should add? I'd love to hear your tips for the ultimate floral weekend break.