Cape Town-based Heather Richardson reveals a few ideas of what to do within a two-hour drive of the Mother City. Images by Heather Richardson.
Watch whales breaching from Hermanus
For land-based whale watching, the little town of Hermanus is the place to be. At peak whale season, between June and November, you can spot dozens of southern right whales chilling out or showing off, sometimes just a few metres from the shore. It’s here that they mate and care for their young. Hermanus is about 90 minutes from Cape Town (pictured above).
SUP in West Coast National Park
Just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, you’ll find the glorious Langebaan Lagoon in West Coast National Park. You can rent a stand-up paddle board and get out onto the azure-blue water to explore. There are also hiking and mountain biking trails – plus, if you go in August or September, you can see the fynbos flowering.
Seaside dining in Paternoster (below)
The Capetonians’ favourite weekend getaway, Paternoster is a seaside fishing town of cute white-washed houses, one hour and 45 minutes up the west coast from Cape Town. Buy your seafood fresh from the boats being hauled onto the beach and have a fish braai. Alternatively, book a table at Wolfgat, one of South Africa’s best restaurants; this relaxed, fine-dining restaurant is right by the beach and serves a killer tasting menu of seasonal, local, often foraged, produce.
Quad-biking in Grabouw
Strap on a helmet and hop on a quad bike to explore the stunning Cape Floral Kingdom. Grabouw is just over an hour’s drive south-east from the Mother City and from here you can zip along the scenic trails, through fynbos and forests, past lakes and waterfalls.
Hike and zip-line in the Hottentots Mountains
Just under two hours from Cape Town, the Hottentots Mountains are brimming with activities for itchy-footed travellers. In the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, you can hike or mountain bike, perhaps staying in an overnight hut, cool off in the natural pools, zip-line through the hills and forests, or go ‘kloofing’ (canyoning), leaping off waterfalls and wading down rivers.
Discover the wines of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (below)
The wineries around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are on most people’s radars, but the Hemel-en-Aarde valley is a lesser-known wine destination with some excellent estates. From Hermanus, drive up the scenic Hemel-en-Aarde Road, along which the wineries are located. Some of the best estates include Ataraxia and Creation; the latter is right at the top of the valley and also has a wonderful restaurant with a wine-pairing menu.
Shark-diving and fynbos safaris around Gansbaai
30 minutes along the coast from Hermanus, Gansbaai is not just for cage-diving with sharks (though that is the most popular reason people visit), but also for spotting whales, visiting the African penguin and seabird sanctuary, and climbing down to the Klipgat Caves, where the remains of some of the first humans were discovered. Nearby, there’s the luxury, eco-friendly Grootbos reserve where guests can go on fynbos safaris and explore the ancient milkwood forest.