Combining wine adventures with a holiday breakaway doesn’t mean revisiting areas, especially when it’s flower season in the Namaqua West Coast. Just three hours north of Cape Town lies a region of spectacular beauty and diversity that reaches its peak from August to October.
Part of its charm is undoubtedly that it gets fewer visitors than other regions. Those who come, however, love it for its rocky coastline and hidden bays, unique arid landscapes, many outdoor experiences, and incomparable food and cultural traditions like bokkoms, skuinskoek and the rieldans. The carpets of flowers that appear after the rains are a particular highlight.
Towns to look out for during flower season
The region incorporates the coastal villages of Doringbaai, Strandfontein, Ebenhaezer and Papendorp as well as inland hamlets and towns like Lutzville and Koekenaap, Vanrhynsdorp, Vredendal, Klawer and Trawal. It is home to the Hardeveld and Bokkeveld as well as the Knersvlakte translated as “the gnashing plain” and named for its extreme environment.
It is however one of only 25 of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and the only one arid hotspot.
Agriculture and major wine grape vineyards have been able to thrive in the area thanks to a 300km network of canals fed by the Olifants River and whose construction began in the early 1900s. It still represents one of the country’s major engineering achievements.
Wineries to visit during flower season
- Klawer Wine Cellars, a kiddie-friendly winery that includes experiences such as a “Rooibos wine pairing” as well as grape juice pairing for children. http://www.klawerwine.co.za/
- Teubes Family Wines, an award-winning producer whose wines include a Cap Classique. https://teubeswines.com/
- Namaqua Wines, whose restaurant, Die Keldery, makes this one of the region’s must-visit cellars for families. https://www.namaquawines.com/
- Bellpost is the wine brand of the Thiart Family farm that can be sampled another of its enterprises, the Thi Art Restau located in Vredendal’s Maskam Mall. https://www.bellpost.co.za/
- Fryer’s Cove Vineyards, whose wine tasting venue in Doringbaai’s former crayfish factory is certainly among one of South Africa’s most memorable. The restaurant is open with portions being revamped for a big reveal coming soon. https://fryerscove.co.za/
The first stop if one is leaving from the Mother City is the Piekenierskloof Wine Company, which is the first tasting room once the low hills of the Swartland are left behind and the Piekenierskloof Pass is reached. Tastings and sales are available at De Tol, a rest stop for travellers since 1849 that now also has a deli.
One proposed itinerary might include exploring the hinterland beyond the Knersvlakte. August to October is the busiest because of flower season, when carpets of blooms follow the annual rains. It certainly doesn’t mean leaving the local wine behind; the region is fiercely patriotic of local producers.
Stay at Leeuriet Guest Farm outside Nieuwoudtville and you might find the Bellpost on offer; or, at Brandkop Guest Farm, renowned for its annual MTB and trail run championships, where the owners keep a cupboard stocked with their favourites from Teubes Family Wines.
Must-do highlights during flower season are:
Loeriesfontein: The Fred Turner Museum draws hundreds of visitors to this remote Karoo town because of its collection of windpumps. Adjoining it, is a display and history of the sheep trek that farmers undertake to this day. The museum’s small restaurant has a small menu, including offal, which must be pre-booked. https://bit.ly/3dsOjBx
Doringbaai: Walk the Flamingo Birding Route Hiking Trail or ride the Viswater MTB route, both which run along the coast, past the vineyards of Fryer’s Cove, between Papendorp and Doringbaai.
Doringbaai: Dine at Doringbaai’s The Cabin Restaurant, which was revamped in January for chef Bertus Basson’s TV show In die Sop. Be sure to book two days in advance for the “Feast” menu, which includes fresh catches and local delicacies. https://bit.ly/3QxwZJM
Vredendal: Take a break at Maskam Brewing Company, outside Vredendal. The brewery also has its own MTB trail and a playground for the kids. http://www.maskambrewing.co.za.
Vredendal: Visit the local 1st Principles independent distillery in Vredendal, which produces a small range of beverages using a solar-heated distillation. It’s only open by appointment. https://1stdistilleries.co.za/
Lambert’s Bay: Have lunch at Steenbokfontein Farm, whose small restaurant in a historic building includes a small museum. It’s a fascinating stop and you may even get to try some locally made goats cheese, produced by Bettie Bok whose farmstall is located a little further down the road. https://steenbokfonteinaccommodation.co.za
Lamberts Bay: Take the road less travelled and drive back to Cape Town via Lamberts Bay, stocking up on Namaqua West Coast wines at the recently opened wine shop alongside Roestyd Restaurant at the harbour. https://bit.ly/3peMSJx
For more information about the region, and flower season, visit the official wine route and tourism website http://www.namaquawestcoast.com or call 027 201 3376.