Unlike the famous garden route, the West Coast is still a journey off the beaten track in South Africa. Driving away from Cape Town you’ll see how everything changes; landscape, food, people, and even their accent. Though nothing is predominant in the area there are enough things to see and to experience. Traveling the West Coast prepare to be surprised and see amazing things in the most unexpected places! My main impressions of the West coast are the endless sky and a feeling of absolute freedom!
The best time to visit Namaqualand
This part of the country gets very little rain throughout the year except for July and August. After these winter rains, the area transforms completely. Usually arid desert-like land it turns into a colorful carpet of flowers. Yellow, orange, white, and green colors dominate the landscape.
Without a doubt, the spring months of August and September are the best time to see the flowers in Namaqualand. The flower season varies a little bit between northern and southern parts of the coast; in the north near Springbok August is the best time for seeing spring flowers, in the south between Langebaan and Lamberts Bay you can see the most flowers in September. It might change from year to year some years after a dry winter there might be not as many flowers as after several months of winter rains. If it rains throughout September a lot there might be not many flowers.
When you plan your trip it’s important to remember that if you visit Namaqualand on a rainy day you won’t see many flowers, their petals will be closed. A warm and sunny day is the best for observing the flowers check the weather forecast before heading to the West Coast.
If you live around Cape Town it’s not a problem as soon as you start seeing flower photos in social media, it’s the right time. If you come from far I’d recommend planning your trip to Namaqualand for the first half of September.
Though the area is the most impressive during the spring if you come here outside of the flower season you won’t be disappointed there are many amazing places to visit along the West Coast.
Best places in Namaqualand to see the flowers
You can see the fields of flowers driving through Namaqualand but certain places offer the best flower fields sighting in the region.
West Coast National Park
- Nearest town – Langebaan, Western Cape
- Distance from Cape Town – 110 km
- Driving time – 1h30min.
- Peak season – September
- Admission fee – R80 – adults, R45 – children
Besides the stunning scenery, the park offers diverse outdoor activities for the whole family. The great thing about the park is that it’s located just 1-hour drive from Cape Town. You can visit it as a day trip from the Mother City.
- Nearest town – Clanwilliam, Western Cape
- Distance from Cape Town – 300 km
- Driving time – 3h15min.
- Peak season – second-half of August – mid-September
- Nearest town – Vredendal
- Distance from Cape Town – 350 km
- Driving time – 3h40min.
- Peak season – mid-August – beginning of September
There are several places around Nieuwoudtville where you can see flowers; Hantam National Botanical Garden, Matjiesfontein Flower Route, Papkuilsfontein Flower Route, Rondekop Route. One can spend the whole day driving around and enjoying the stunning beauty of the flower fields.
Namaqua National Park
- Nearest town – Springbok, Northern Cape
- Distance from Cape Town – 530 km
- Driving time – 5h30min.
- Peak season – August
- Admission fee – R46 – adults, R23 – children
Things to do on the Flower Route
Some places on the West Coast are famous for being amazing spots for practicing water sports. Langebaan is one of them. In summer this small town turns into a kitesurfing mecca. Hundreds of locals and tourists from all over the world come here to surf. Even to watch dozens of kites gliding in the sky is spectacular. Langebaan is one of the best places in the country to learn to kitesurf. We took our first lessons here. It wasn’t easy though. Summer is the windiest time here and in spring during the flower season, there might be no wind at all but it’s just another reason to come to the West Coast again for December holiday.
If you’re looking for a winter-spring water activity in the area head to Elands Bay, one of the best surfing spots in this part of the country. Unlike with kitesurfing surfing conditions in winter are the best. You can stay in Elands Bay for a couple of days and in between surfing sessions drive around the fields of flowers.
The marine life of the West Coast is truly impressive you can see dolphins, whales, seals, penguins, etc. Our favorite place to go out with a boat for spotting animals and birds is around St.Helena Bay. In a couple of hours out in a boat, we saw many dolphins, seals, a whale, hundreds of birds, and even a couple of Sunfish that were floating around our boat close to the surface for quite a while. It’s funny because we went to dive around Bali a couple of years ago to see it, did several attempts but had only a brief encounter.
Kayaking or paddleboarding is another great way to enjoy the beauty of the coast and to see its diverse marine life. Kayaking in Langebaan Lagoon to Schaapen Island where you can see a lot of sea birds, seals, and rabbits is a great family activity. Paternoster is another great place for sea kayaking. There you can see dolphins, occasional whales, seals, penguins, and many birds. Both towns Langebaan and Paternoster have kayak rental places.
Hiking & biking
West Coast National Park in Langebaan is probably the best place in Namaqualand where you can enjoy the beautiful coastline and fields covered n flowers while hiking or cycling. There are several short walking trails between 5 km and 9 km and a couple of 2-day routes (must be booked in advance). The trails offer spectacular scenery, especially during the flower season. The beautiful scenery is not the only thing to enjoy in the park, during the walk you can spot animals such as bat-eared foxes, Elands, rock hyraxes, ostriches, caracals, and many birds. Walking along the coast you might spot dolphins and whales.
There are two long cycling routes in the park; a 30-kilometer route and a 70-kilometer loop, both are on a tarred road. For mountain bike lovers there are two trails; 13 km and 17 km. Information on the admission fees and working hours you can find on the official website.
If you decide to explore the inland part of Namaqualand the Cederberg Mountain area is an amazing place for outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking.
Seafood and fish on the West Coast is something not to miss: fresh Saldanha oysters, massive crayfish, prawn, mussels, calamari, hake the list just goes on. Paternoster is probably the best place in Namaqualand to come for seafood. The Noisy Oyster and Voorstrandt are our two favorite restaurants here. Don’t worry if you’re not a big seafood lover (like Campbell) both places have extensive menus with meat and vegetarian dishes. Freshly baked ciabattas, croissants, and sourdough bread are another reason to stop by in Paternoster. Junk & Disorderly cafe-bakery is a great place to come for breakfast. They have great coffee as well (Truth Coffee, a well-known Cape Town coffee roastery).
Muisbosskerm, an open-air restaurant on the beach near Lambert’s Bay is a not-to-miss place on the West Coast. A very cozy place with a great variety of seafood, grilled, baked and smoked fish, freshly baked bread, and various side dishes. It’s a buffet meal that has to be booked in advance.
Namaqualand is not as famous for its wine as the Stellenbosch Wine Route but there are wine farms there that produce excellent wine. The Darling Wine Route has several beautiful farms that offer wine tasting. If you have time on the way to or back from the coast you can visit a couple of wine farms and do some tasting. Wine farms around Darling are closed on Sundays, some open on Saturdays. Over the weekend Friday afternoon is the best time for winetasting there. Beer lovers will enjoy Darling Brew where you can taste local craft beer including non-alcohol beer for designated drivers. The brewery is open Saturdays and Sundays.
Namaqualand – the West Coastal route itinerary
A weekend in Namaqualand during the flower season is a great way to spend a couple of days with family and friends. We created two itineraries for your weekend getaway in Namaqualand: the Coastal Route and the Cederberg Route.
We’d suggest starting the trip on Friday and spend two nights on the West Coast this way you’ll have two full days to explore the area. Luckily, the R27 road out of Cape Town along the West Coast is by far not as busy and crazy as the N1, N2, or N7 on Friday evening. Once you’re past Table View you will hardly see any traffic.
Day 1. Cape Town – Langebaan/Paternoster
If you start driving early enough you might make it in time for the sunset in Langebaan. In August – September the sunset is between 6 pm and 6.30 pm. After the sunset, enjoy dinner with fresh seafood or fish and local wine.
Day 2. Exploring the Coastal Flower Route
Start your day with breakfast and coffee at one of the local restaurants. In Langebaan, we can suggest Pearly’s Restaurant at the waterfront. Junk and Disorderly bakery is a great breakfast place in Paternoster.
After breakfast, you can spend some time on the beach before heading to West Coast National Park that is just a couple kilometers away. Late morning – afternoon, between 1 am and 4 pm, is the best time for watching the flowers. At the entrance gate, there might be a queue of cars you should be prepared to spend some time waiting to get in. There are several short hiking trails inside the park that you can follow. Walking across the fields is the best way to enjoy the flowers. You can spend a couple of hours in the park.
In the afternoon spend some time exploring the West Coast, drive to Jacobsbaai, Paternoster, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. At some places along the way, you can see more flowers. If you travel with children make sure to stop at The Pixie and Fairy Village in Jacobsbaai. It’s a magical place! Open daily from 8 am to 6 pm, admission fee – 20-30R.
Paternoster is a great place to stop for lunch, it has some of the best seafood and fish restaurants in the area. We can recommend The Noisy Oyster and Voorstrandt. For a tasty wood-fired pizza with great views go to Blikkie Pizzeria in Paternoster.
In the evening enjoy a braai with a couple of glasses of wine. If you’re planning to braai make sure your guesthouse has a braai place (if you camp you’ll definitely have one). What kind of weekend is it without a traditional South African braai!?
Day 3. Langebaan/Paternoster – Darling – Cape Town
Have breakfast with the sea view at one of the restaurants. If you like beer and burgers on the way back to Cape Town drive through Darling. It’s a quick detour from the route. Darling Brew is a great place to stop. There you can combine beer tasting with a delicious meal. The brewery has a jungle gym for kids and allows well-behaved dogs.
In spring the fields around the town are covered in flowers. Locally brewed beer, great food, and fields of flowers – the perfect way to finish your Namaqualand weekend. There are a couple of wine farms in the area that do tasting but they’re closed on Sundays and some on Saturdays as well.
Where to stay on the West Coast?
If you’re planning to visit Namaqualand on a weekend during the flower season make sure you book accommodation in advance the best options can be booked out if you try to do it just a couple of days ahead.
- Distance from Cape Town – 122 km
- Driving time – 1h20min.
If you’re planning to visit the West Coast National Park staying in Langebaan is the best option. The town is very nice with stunning sandy beaches, many restaurants, guesthouses, a couple of supermarkets, and one or two campsites. Langebaan situated very close to the National Park.
- Leentjiesklip Caravan park
- Jacobsbaai Backpackers
I’d recommend staying indoors rather than camping unless you have an RV or the campsite is fenced and gated with good security. Most of the time you’re going to spend outside your campsite whatever you leave in your tent or around it might be stolen. Campsites along the West Coast are not as busy in spring as in December there might be nobody around to look after your stuff while you’re out.
- Distance from Cape Town – 150 km
- Driving time – 1h40min.
Paternoster is another good option to stay for the weekend. The coastal drive through the nearby Cape Columbine Nature Reserve past Cape Columbine Lighthouse is truly beautiful. Hills along the shore are covered in flowers in spring. Fresh seafood and fish served in local restaurants is another reason to stay in Paternoster.
I’d warn you against camping at Tietiesbaai we’ve heard some bad stories about people’s stuff being stolen out of their tents and cars.
- Distance from Cape Town – 210 km
- Driving time – 2h20min.
If you want to combine a weekend on the Flower Route with surfing Eland’s Bay is the place for you. It’s a bit farther from Cape Town, about 200 km but closer to Biedouw Valley, a valley in the Cederberg Mountains 80 km outside Claimvilliam that offers one of the best flower sightings in Namaqualand.
Namaqualand – the Cederberg route itinerary
If you don’t worry too much about being close to the sea and rather want to skip seasonal crowds in the West Coast National Park I’d recommend going to the Cederberg Mountains. It’s more off the beaten track destination with fewer people that has a couple of amazing places where you can see thousands of flowers outside National parks and reserves. It’s important to remember that if you decide to take this route it’s better to go mid-August – beginning September to see flowers in Nieuwoudtville and Biedouw Valley.
Day 1. Cape Town – Citrusdal/Clanwilliam
You probably won’t be able to do much this day but to drive from Cape Town to the place you’re going to stay. Whichever place you choose, Citrusdal or Clanwilliam both have nice in-door places to stay and amazing campsites.
Day 2. Citrusdal/Clanwilliam – Nieuwoudtville – Biedouw Valley – Citrusdal/Clanwilliam
Go for breakfast to one of the local restaurants. In Citrusdal we can recommend The Grapevine Coffee Shop, it’s a small but cozy place that serves delicious breakfasts, coffee, and Rooibos tea. The area around Clanwilliam is famous for its Rooibos tea, don’t be surprised to see many tearooms there.
If you stay in Citrusdal to visit both places you’ll have to drive about 400 km which will take you pretty much the whole day including stops for photos and lunch. From Clanwilliam, the distance is shorter, about 300 km.
If you decide to visit both Nieuwoudtville and Biedouw Valley I’d suggest starting from Nieuwoudtville there is more than one place there to see the flowers. If you don’t have enough time to visit Biedouw Valley in the end you can always drive there the next day before you head back to Cape Town.
Day 3. Citrusdal/Clanwilliam – Riebek Casteel – Cape Town
On the way back to Cape Town you can do a short detour to Riebek Casteel, a charming town with a couple of nice restaurants where you can stop for breakfast. We can recommend Beans About Coffee, a cozy cafe-roastery. They have great coffee (that they roast themselves), tasty breakfast, and delicious cakes. A couple of local farms are open on Sundays (Meerhof Wines, Riebeek Valley Wine & Co, Riebeek Cellars) for testing after breakfast you can visit some of them and try local wines.
If you have a longer holiday you can extend your road trip and drive to Northern Cape. This way you can combine the flower season in Namaqualand with a visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. August-September is the best time for safari drives.
Where to stay in the Cederberg Mountains?
There are some amazing places in the Cederberg area for both indoor staying and camping. Some of our favorite campsites are located in the area. Camping here is safer than along the coast most campsites are far from the towns on private farms, away from the main road.
A small town in the Cederberg Mountains located about 140 km from Biedouw Valley, one of the best places to see the flowers in the area.
- Distance from Cape Town – 176 km
- Driving time – 1h50min.
From our experience camping in the Cederberg Mountains is safer than along the West Coast. Most of the campsites here are situated far from the road and towns which makes access more difficult. We’ve never had anything stolen while camping here but just for safety always lock valuable stuff in the car when we leave.
- Distance from Cape Town – 170 km
- Driving time – 2h10min.
- Price – adults – R75, children – R45, dogs – R50, car entrance fee – R30.
One of our dog’s favorite campsites in Western Cape. The plot is spacious, grassy and well looked after. The surrounding area is truly beautiful. There are a couple of hiking trails leading to the natural rocky pools. I’m sure in early spring it won’t be as full as in December.
The Bath Hot Spring
- Distance from Cape Town – 190 km
- Driving time – 2h20min.
- Price – R170 per person weekends, R120 – per person midweek
It’s a beautiful place hidden in the mountains with hot spring water pools, a couple of hiking and mountain biking trails. The Baths is a perfect place for a weekend getaway where you can enjoy hot springs and spa. We loved swimming in the hot pool in the evening watching the stars and listening to birds singing. Camping is not the only accommodation option here if you want more comfort you can rent an apartment. If you decide to camp watch for baboons, don’t leave your stuff unattended.
The advantage of staying near Clanwilliam is that it’s closer to Biedouw Valley and Nieuwoudtville. It’ll take less time to drive around to see the flowers.
- Distance from Cape Town – 230 km
- Driving time – 2h30min.
Cederberg Wilderness Area
- Distance from Cape Town – 218 km to Algeria Campsite, 240 km to Kliphuis Campsite.
- Driving time – 2h30min.
- Price – from R120 per night, plus R60 conservation fee – adults, R35 – children.
Both campsites Algeria and Kliphuis are located inside the Cederberg Wilderness Area. Both campsites are well-maintained and have good facilities: hot shower, toilet, braai place, etc. There is a couple of hiking and mountain-biking routes inside the reserve.
Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve
- Distance from Cape Town – 240 km
- Distance to Biedouw Valley – 150 km
- Distance to Nieuwoudtville – 250 km
It’s a unique place that would be a perfect stay for a special occasion. The stay at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve is quite pricy you might not want to spend that much money for an ordinary weekend getaway. The place is amazing, its location is truly spectacular. It’s situated in the Klein Karoo. There are a lot of activities and things to do at the resort to keep one busy from spa treatment and massage to hiking, mountain biking, and stargazing.
Useful Apps for the Namaqualand trip
- Maps.me for iPhone and Android – an offline map, you download a map for a country and use it offline for navigation.
- iOverlander for iPhone and Android – works offline, shows campsites in any selected area, we used it a lot in Namibia.
- WestCoastWay an app for iPhone and Android with a lot of info on the West coast.