Cape Town is within driving distance of countless wonderful weekend destinations for all manner of tastes and lifestyles. In this section are listed a few of the most popular, mainstream getaways.
Perhaps the most popular draw card as far as the Western Cape is concerned is the beautiful expanse of Winelands that lie along the Garden Route, regions that produce numerous world-renowned blends. See the ‘Wine and Spirits’ section for more information.
Knysna is a town of around 76 000 inhabitants situated along the Garden Route. It lies in a large bowl created by mountain ridges that constitute the horizon in just about every direction, and is built on the north shore of a sizable warm-water estuary fed by the Knysna River. The estuary widens into a lagoon, much trafficked by pleasure boaters and canoeists, before passing into the Indian ocean via the infamously narrow passage between Knysna’s two mountainous headlands (known simply as ‘The Heads’). Here, countless vessels and not a few seafarers have met their ends.
The town is particularly popular with British and Mediterranean expatriates due to its year-round warm climate and sheltered conditions, ideal for watersports and pleasure-boating. Leisure Island, an artificial peninsula that juts into the lagoon, allows literally every inhabitant direct access to the water, and is very popular with retirees.
Knysna is also a favorite among golfers due to its numerous excellent courses. They include the Knysna Golf Course, which overlooks the lagoon, Simola Golf Course, and Pezula, a championship course that’s won internationally accolades and, with its access to miles of private beach and equestrian roués, is widely regarded as among the most beautiful courses in the world.
Brenton-on-Sea, the neighborhood adjacent to Knysna proper, is popular for its five mile stretch of unspoilt beach, as are the temperate rainforests to the north of the town, where nature walkers go each year to enjoy the stunning lush vegetation, and hope, one and all, to catch a glimpse of the elusive Knysna forest elephant.
Knysna is located a short drive from Oudtshoorn, the large Klein Karoo town known for having the world’s largest ostrich population. Several farms offer ostrich rides and educational tours, while the nearby Cango Wildlife Ranch sports all manner of reptiles, including crocodiles, leguaans and anacondas. The ranch is only a stone’s throw from the Cango Caves, a kilometer-deep series of spectacular flowstone caverns that never fails to stun even the most jaded traveler. Tours operate hourly throughout the year, every day except Christmas.
One option is to catch a domestic flight from Cape Town to George, and hire a car to drive the remaining 40 minutes to Knysna.
The alternative is simply to follow the N2 from its beginnings in City Bowl, and stay on the road for five to six hours, at which point the road becomes Knysna’s main thoroughfare.
Visit http://www.visitknysna.co.za for more information on the town’s many attractions.
This popular retirement town is famous for being the best whale-watching location in the country. It hosts a yearly whale festival in September of each year, when pods of Southern Right whales come to mate in the town’s bay. The festival attracts thousands of visitors, along with arts and crafts markets and performing troupes.
Hermanus also has several spectacular beaches which, with their characteristic tight-packed sand, are often sufficiently firm to cycle on, while still be comfortable enough for sunbathing.
It’s also near to the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, internationally renowned amongst paragliders for its powerful rising thermals.
The town is wonderful for a relaxed weekend away. If you take your kids with you, you may have to work a little harder to entertain them than you would with the the many outdoor attractions of Knysna.
Hermanus is only 120 km out of Cape Town, so you can reach it in under two hours by car. Take the N2 from Cape Town, go over Sir Lowry’s Pass and Houwer Hoek Pass, then turn left onto the R43. You’ll pass several towns until, just after Sandbaai, you find yourself in the middle of Hermanus.
Visit http://hermanus.com/ for more information on Hermanus’ attractions.
Tiffindell Ski Resort
Thirteen hours out of Cape Town, or 4.5 hours from Bloemfontein (accessible from Cape Town by both air and train), is Ben McDhui Peak, the highest mountain in the Cape, and home, among other things, to the highest resort, the highest bar and the only ski resort in the country.
Tiffindell sports an indoor training slope for children, and has button lifts serving its 2.3 hectares of slope, which are regularly blasted by snow guns that keep the snow at a minimum depth of 20cm. Its timber chalets, which overall provide sufficient space for 144 guests, are open to ski and snowboarding enthusiasts for 100 days of the year. Tiffindel is a delightful destination unlike anything else on the continent, and despite the the resort’s massive upkeep requirements, a week’s stay is regarded as being more affordable than skiing at most European or Canadian resorts.
For directions to Tiffindell, visit http://www.skisouthafrica.co.za/how_to_get_there.htm.
Call 0861 455 566 or visit http://www.skisouthafrica.co.za to book.
Aquila Game Reserve
Just an hour or two out of Cape Town, a few miles beyond the beautiful Hex River Valley, you’ll find Aquila, a private game reserve that offers day tours and overnight safari visits. While the reserve can’t quite compete with the Northern Province in terms of animal diversity, it offers the best range of big game in the Western Cape, and is home to substantial populations of rhino, lion, giraffe, zebra, black wildebeest, baboons, and ostrich. Aquila offers numerous safari daytrip options, including the unique opportunity to tour the area on a horse or a quad bike.
You’ll find that the reserve accommodates a wide range of tastes and budgets, with choices of accommodation ranging from tiny bush cottages to premium luxury chalets.
Drive about 130 kilometres along the N1, then take the R46 turnoff to Ceres on the left. Follow the road for about 3 kilometres, and you’ll find the Aquila Game Reserve entrance on your left hand side.
Visit http://www.aquilasafari.com or call 021 431 8400 for more information.