Discover the hidden wonders of the exquisite Overberg region !
The Overberg is a large area and not as close to Cape Town as the Cape Peninsula and Cape Winelands. For this reason, most first-time visitors to Cape Town often don’t venture this far and would rather stick to the more predictable, tourist-friendly routes. However, the Overberg is truly an amazing region and makes for a destination in its own right.
Gordons Bay – a beautiful and very much underrated seaside town
Clarence Drive (which connects Gordons Bay to Klienmond via Betty Bay) is a stunning coastal road equal in beauty to Chapmans Peak but longer, less busy and with more stop offs.
Bettys Bay Beach with its many wild penguins is far nicer than its cousin Boulders Beach mainly because it takes much longer to get here and you can only really do it by private transport so there are far fewer tourists.
The Kogelberg Biosphere is officially the world’s most complex biodiversity site by square kilometre and merits a whole day trip on its own.
The Harold Porter Botanical Gardens which are small but no less impressive than their big sister Kirstenbosch and both run by SANBI to a very high standard.
Hermanus itself which has transformed itself from an old whaling town into a vibrant retreat for Capetonians. You can do whale watching by boat, kayak or land-based here.
The Hemel en Aarde Valley (the R320 which connects Hermanus to Caledon) is a delightful meander of world-class wine estates and food, and is far easier to navigate than the myriad vastness of Stellenbosch and Franschoek.
Boasting a Blue Flag beach and calm tranquil waters due to its sheltered location, Gordon’s Bay has been a firm favourite amongst Capetonians for years. It’s a quiet town in the picturesque Helderberg region, with a very pretty yacht harbour, and known to have been described as a “mini Monte Carlo” since the bay is framed by the exquisite Hottentots Holland mountain. The climate here is more Meditteranean with maximum temperatures climaxing at 35 degrees between December and March. The water is also much warmer here compared to the Atlantic Ocean, so having a dip at Bikini Beach is a must. There are actually two harbours on Gordon’s Bay, both with interesting shops and restaurants, and off course, being situated near the ocean, there will be plenty of restaurants here serving fresh fish and seafood dishes.
From Gordon’s Bay, you get to drive one of the most amazing coastal drives in the world. The R44 was recently restored and you now have some of the best curves and bends, with stopping spots, viewpoints and beaches to meander down. You need a Harley Davidson for this road, so if you have a cheap and nasty Nissan from the rental shop, turn back to Cape Town immediately and get a bike.
There are many old whaling stations along this road which merit a stop off if you have time just for the view. In the summer, they turn into ‘day camping’ places where families come with a big hamper of food and just let the afternoon drift away under the trees.
The road skirts the Kogelberg Biosphere to your left as you drive down and the Hottentot Hollands Mountain Catchment Area, a series of dams built on top of the mountains there.
Whilst they are both sleepy little towns on the Overberg coast, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay are not architecturally wonderful but the beaches and the wildlife on them put many of the beaches nearer to Cape Town in the shade (pun intended).
Betty’s Bay was apparently a popular destination for runaway slaves during colonial times, and a formal whaling station was established here in the 1930’s. The African penguin colony now living here (which is actually called Stoney Point Nature Reserve) interestingly decided to settle near the remains of the old whaling station. The penguin colony here is much larger than the more famous one at Boulder’s Beach on the Cape Peninsula and because it’s a bit more of trek to get here from Cape Town, it’s unfenced (you walk along a boardwalk). That doesn’t mean of course that you should get too close to the penguins. They are after all wild animals and too much human interaction is not good for them. Please be especially careful not to litter the beach here. The best time of day to view them is late afternoon when they return from fishing.
Betty’s Bay is nestled within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, bordered by fresh water lakes and the Palmiet river. In this area you will find some the most unspoilt and exceptional examples of Fynbos in the country, which is why it is considered the Cape Floral Kingdom.
This marvellous smaller version of Kirstenbosch is again often overlooked because of the distance to travel to it and the smaller size. It’s managed and run by SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) who also run Kirstenbosch and you are in for a treat! The garden is open 365 days a year and won’t disappoint, even if you visit in winter.
Known for its waterfalls and amber pools, the garden is set between the mountains and the sea, and consists of 10 hectares of cultivated fynbos, and 109.5 hectares of natural fynbos. If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of the hiking trails and go explore! Several fynbos families reside here, and you’ll get to see orchids, proteas, ericas, irises and red disa. This is also the natural habitat for the South African national flower, the King Protea. You won’t be the only one to enjoy the wonderful flora here though, as a good few furry friends reside here and won’t go unseen!
The animal most often seen here would probably be the grey mongoose, as are the chacma baboons. They can often be heard barking from the mountain tops or in the trees or along the mountain tops, and can be very entertaining to watch. A word of caution though: if you do get to meet them, do not smile (while showing your teeth) or stare at them as they interpret this as threatening behaviour. Under no circumstances should you feed them as they can become aggressive! Some of the lesser spotted animals are rock dassies, antelopes, porcupines, leopards (very seldom seen!), and water mongooses.
Hermanus is a large coastal town, most famous for its cliff face sea frontage and the fact that the annual whale migration of Southern Right whales ends here every year.
The whales (so called because in the days of whaling they were considered the ‘right’ whale to catch due to their good meat, skin and fat) normally get to our shores around August to November every year to calf. As you walk along the cliff here you’ll be greeted by the sound of the Whale Cryer who can either be seriously irritating (when you are trying to look at whales he screams in your ear that they are in the bay) or very useful if you’ve spent hours scanning the surface and have given up and got a cappuccino instead. Hermanus itself has become a little over developed of late and you may find it very touristy. However, the rather dusty but fascinating whale skeleton housed in the Whale Museum is worth a visit particularly if you are travelling with children.
Grotto Beach is yet another “Blue Flag Beach” and the largest beach you’ll find in Hermanus. You will probably want some lunch by now. Pop over to the village square in Marine Drive, and you will be spoilt for choice, especially when it comes to fresh seafood and fish. We can definitely recommend Bientang’s Cave Seafood Restaurant, situated very close to the whale watching spot, for fantastic sea views while being served inside a cave.
Random fact: Hermanus has a railway station but the tracks were never laid. You could wait your whole life at the station for a train if you chose to!
Hermanuspietersfontein | www.hpf1855.co.za
The estate is nestled in Sondagskloof, a mountainous area with conditions perfect for European-style wine making, and has quite a story to tell. Farmers of this region during the 1800’s paid their farm teacher, Hermanus Pieters, in sheep. The village was founded in 1855 in his honour, and in 1902 the postmaster decided to shorten it to Hermanus (who was sick and tired of writing it out everyday!) This superb and boutique estate boasts a wonderful lineage of Sauvignon Blancs, of which they have no less than seven.
If you happen to travel through here on a Saturday, make a stop at the Food & Wine market, on the corner of the R43 and R320. The estate also hosts a night market and has the most brilliant collection of quips from its talking goats that they use on the bags and some bottles. A very fun, light-hearted and enjoyable place, with a focus on some serious wine.
Arguably one of most prestigious wine estates in South Africa, Hamilton Russell often gets overlooked for a visit because it’s just outside of the select Franschoek and Stellenbosch region. However, we think the standard and crafting of the wine here is simply sensational and would urge you to stop off for a tasting. The place also has a long tradition of fine dining in a home cooked way and even has its own cookbook. You won’t go far wrong.
The estate was founded in 1975 by Tim Hamilton Russel after a very long search for land with the ideal conditions for wine making. Since then the estate has specialized in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir Vertical. This is a really fantastic spot to do some wine tasting. Grab a seat on the stoep and soak in the fantastic view overlooking the lake!
The estate also produces its own olive oil and honey. Olives are grown in the traditional way (without irrigation) and hand-picked. The honey is made on the estate’s private Fynbos reserve and, as with the olive oil, is produced in limited quantities.
A superb collection of the three things needed for a perfect afternoon: wine, restaurant, food and eclectic design makes this a superb stop off for lunch. Don’t miss this place!