West Coast area information
The Cape West Coast of South Africa is an unique area -the vegetation, the sun, the wild flowers, the sea, whales/dolphins. Read about the area, where it is, the beaches, fishing villages Patermoster, Jacobsbaai and Cape Columbine – to know what to expect on the West Coast Walk-the self-guided walking/hiking holiday offered by Trails and Travel.
For many the Cape West Coast Peninsula (Saldanha Bay Municipal Region) typifies the West Coast with its quaint fishing villages, sea-side resorts and ever popular lagoon. It lies south of the Berg River mouth and includes the West Coast National Park, stretching inland to Hopefield.
The harbour of Saldanha and administrative centre of Vredenburg are within sight of each other and are both major contributors to the economical well-being of the West Coast. Fishing and watersports are popular attractions throughout the region. The coastal towns in the region boast rocky and sandy bays, beaches and an abundance of seafood. Boardsailing, windsurfing, sea kayaking, diving and angling, as well as whale watching in season are very popular.
The West Coast is an acquired taste. The vegetation is subdued, the sky incredibly wide and the sea very often a dead calm expanse of cerulean blue. But sometimes, of course, it’s an angry grey expanse of snarling and crashing breakers. But change is the only certainty. In spring, the somewhat monochromatic landscape explodes into a riot of colour. In small hollows between the dunes bright blue heliophilas nod on slender stalks as they turn towards the sun, and fields of orange, white, yellow and purple daisies shimmer in the heat as far as the eye can see.
Traditionally the West Coast has been populated by subsistence fishing folk, and their thatched, whitewashed houses are typical of the area
If you’ve ever been to Paternoster, the stand out will be the endless stretch of deserted white sandy beach. Think spectacular sunsets, succulent West Coast seafood, brightly painted wooden boats and friendly fishermen. Paternoster happily remains an easygoing fishing village where you can buy freshly caught crayfish from locals off the boat. It’s a great beach for walking, sea kayaking, fishing, whale and dolphin watching, windsurfing and horse riding.
Paternoster is an idyllic beach holiday getaway, perfect for plenty of eating, reading, snoozing or doing absolutely nothing at all. Numerous beaches and inlets offer hideaways where you can work on your suntan, watch whales and dolphins or simply or catch a fish. During July to September the spring wild flowers transform the landscape into a vivid carpet of daisies.
Beer monkeys and rugby fans usually head over to the ‘Panty Bar’ at the Paternoster Hotel, aptly nicknamed for the frilly canopy of lacy undies. Here you can get cheap beer and locally made pub grub – evil looking rollmops, sundried snoek biltong, pickled mussels or the West Coast delicacy, salty bokkoms. It’s essential to try bokkoms at least once.
You can purchase flapping fresh fish from the beach when the brightly painted little fishing boats come ashore. Snoek, geelbek, harder and hottentot are the usual catches – perfect for sizzling over the coals. There’s also a fish market right next to the beach. And then there’s kreef, red gold of the West Coast. The crayfish season usually begins in November and runs until April. Don’t forget to pack your diving gear and permit.
The atmospheric village shop, Die Winkel, is a Paternoster institution. Heap your basket with sout snoek, West Coast and Swartland wines, Ou Kaapse blatjang, cupcakes and other freshly baked goodies. It’s worth setting some time aside for a leisurely lunch in the garden.
Paternoster, meaning “Our Father” derives its name from the prayers of ship-wrecked Portuguese sailors. Paternoster is a small, quaint and picturesque fishing village about 145km (90 minutes drive) from Cape Town and 15km north west of Vredenburg.
A favourite weekend getaway destination for Capetonians, Paternoster is one of the oldest towns along the West Coast and is famous for its abundance of crayfish. Paternoster is an all year round destination famous for its traditional fisherman’s architecture and endless pristine sandy white beaches. Visitors to Paternoster delight in watching whales and dolphins frolicking in the ocean (ten months of the year) and after the first spring rains fall the landscape is transformed by the millions of indigenous flowers which open and densely carpet the earth in bright bursts of colour (usually between late July and September).
For bird lovers, Paternoster is home to over 250 species of birds with seabirds (Seagulls, cormorants, sacred ibis and the Oystercatcher) using this coastline as their breeding ground.
Activities and attractions include Beach Buggy trip along the coastline, long walks on the beaches, fishing, boat and land based cray-fishing, diving and spear fishing excursions, hiking trails, mountain biking, sea kayaking are all popular activities.
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve lies just south west of Paternoster It is manual lighthouse – the last of its kind – a draw card to many who then discover that the wildness and beauty of the Cape Columbine nature reserve itself is well worth a re-visit.
The reserve at Cape Columbine lies on a peninsular and covers 263 hectares of gorgeous wild, rocky coastline. Declared a nature reserve only in 1973, once there, one can only be thankful that this stretch of incredible countryside remains untainted by development, the Cape Columbine lighthouse a beacon amidst the rocks – the only brick and mortar in the reserve.
What makes the Cape Columbine reserve particularly special is the huge round rocks that sit just inside the bays and people are drawn here for the space, the sightings of dolphins and whales, in season, and the opportunity to kayak these inlets and shoreline – said to be some of the best kayaking available.
The bonus is that there are also two campsites to choose from. Down the far end is the one that obviously belongs to the reserve, with two ablution blocks, no electricity, but the chance to snuggle in amidst the giant boulders really close to the water – ideal for a scuba diving and fishing weekend.
The other, closer to the gate, is the Beach Camp, a series of rather jaunty A-frame huts or tents in which you’ll find more comfortable beds than are usually associated with camping. Add to that the eco-friendly ablution facilites and the fact that you’re right on the beach, and camping takes on a new meaning.
Trip up the spiral staircase of Cape Columbine Lighthouse and gaze at jaw-dropping views of the formidable Britannia reef and Atlantic Ocean.
Fortress-like and spectacularly situated on a windswept headland, Cape Columbine Lighthouse is usually the first lighthouse sighted by ships coming from South America and Europe.
The prominent rocky point is just five kilometres from the quaint fishing village of Paternoster and is definitely worth a visit. Not only to explore the lighthouse, but also for the stark beauty of the surrounding Columbine Nature Reserve. In spring the reserve is strewn with wild flowers and the coastline is renowned for its sea life, particularly crayfish and abalone.
Built in 1936, Columbine was the first South African lighthouse to receive all three navigational safety features – a light, a fog signal and a radio beacon. The impressive lens system was also the first designed to use a 4kW incandescent electric lamp instead of wick or petroleum burners. Today it is one of the last manned lighthouses on the South African coast and offers interesting guided tours.
Jacobsbaai, situated midway between Vredenburg and Saldanha Bay, is an isolated, traditional Cape West Coast Village. Strict building restrictions in the town have preserved the breathtaking 2 kilometers of coastline, boasting 7 individual bays and lime washed houses against an azure blue sea.
Most of the roads are gravel roads which keeps traffic at snails pace which has resulted in a peaceful little resort town, ideal for a weekend getaway or relaxing holiday.
Jacobsbaai is well known for its abundance of seafood and the magnificent display of wild flowers that transform the landscape of this West Coast paradise every year from late winter to spring. (July to September).
Jacobsbaai’s seven individual bays are Hospitaaibaai, Kwaaibaai which is popular with surfers, Jacobsbaai, Smalbaai and Moerie se baai which are great for launching boats from and Bamboesbaai and Toothrock are used for diving, fishing and cray-fishing.
For water sports enthusiasts, boating, fishing and diving are the main activities. For hikers there are coastal hiking trails and dune riding is a favourite with the more adventurous. For the less adventurous, Jacobsbaai is popular for whale watching and bird-lovers will be rewarded with an abundance of birdlife found in this unspoilt resort town.
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