There’s nothing better than hitting the road in search of wide-open spaces. And that’s what we did. The goal was to explore the West Coast fishing villages of Elands and Lamberts Bays.
In a rush to get there we took the N7. Passing wheat fields dotted with blue cranes and colourful towns with purple Jacarandas and pink bougainvillea we took a left at Piketberg following the R366 towards Elands Bay. A new route for us and very pretty marked with Rooibos and potato crops.
Detour To Elands Bay located on the West Coast Way Wild Route.
Making another left we detoured to Redelinghuys. This potato capital of the Sandveld West Coast has beautifully decorated murals on some of its buildings. Redelinghuys is also the start of Verlorenvlei, a Ramsar site of international importance as a resting place for migrating birds. Driving alongside the 13.5 km vlei it’s heartbreaking to think of birds that have flown from the northern hemisphere to find the vlei dry and depleted by farmers and drought.
Entering Elands Bay, or E-Bay as it fondly nicknamed by the surfing community, the theme of paint continues with everything painted from trees to vibracrete walls. The colourful, welcoming hamlet was founded on the grain and fish production boom. Today it’s a sleepy place with a bottle store, takeaway and hotel.
Pop into Wit Mosselpot to ask Chantel Isaac why E-Bay is an internationally renowned surf spot, known for its left break. A restaurant is a quirky place where surfers hang out day and night unless conditions are right at the long, reeling kelpy Point Break reef north of Verlorenvlei estuary.
It’s a short walk to the beach overhung with a huge rock formation that resembles a reclining baboon staring out to sea. Around this headland is rock art national treasure Baboon Point accessed by steps above derelict WW2 barracks and radar station. According to registered guide Johnny Van Zyl only one U-boat was seen. “The problem is that it took 10 hours to get the message to Cape Town,” says Johnny.
Archaeological excavations have revealed human habitation dating back 15,000 years. The rock paintings show an eland, fat-tailed sheep and hundreds of handprints. The views of the coastline are brilliant making it a great place to whale watch and contemplate life.
Go With Johnny And You Will Learn A lot
Johnny takes visitors to the cave at sunset where he regales them with stories such as the one about a man who heard that a railway was coming through Elands Bay. He built the hotel only to find that it would be a goods train and not carrying passengers. Johnny also organises and leads hikes along this coastline.
He accompanied us to Lamberts Bay stopping to visit the ‘real’ Vensterklip. This natural rock arch off the R364 has views of the entire valley and is only accessed with permission from the Louw family, owners of this historic Vensterklip farm.
On the banks of Verlorenvlei there are various accommodation options from the manor house and cottages to private camping and caravan sites, a conference centre, Rooi Stoor Padstal and a swimming pool. We stayed in Scott’s house, a beautifully restored self-catering cottage above the farm. The Tin Roof restaurant is in a 330-year-old barn and serves delicious food and the pub serves wood-fired pizzas on Fridays.
In Lamberts Bay the road leads to the waterfront and a fish factory that now produces potato chips. It’s also the entrance to Bird Island, one of six Cape gannet breeding sites worldwide and the only one accessed by foot. After paying entry at the Cape Nature kiosk it’s a short walk along a breakwater, dramatic after spring tide with waves crashing against dolosse (reinforced concrete blocks designed by a South African).
Experience The Cacophony Of The Colony
From the concrete bird hide, visitors experience the cacophony of the colony of about 8000 pairs of birds as they laboriously run before take-off with their two-metre wings flapping. Beyond them are thousands of seals sprawled on distant rocks. CapeNature guide Ashwell Schippers told the story of how the colony was wiped out in 2005 when six seal bulls went on the rampage.
We then tucked into Cape bream line fish of the day and spinach quiche with locally sourced salad and chips while sipping local wine at Isabella’s restaurant.
This family-run restaurant is a good place to watch fishing boats offloading their catch. Up the road is High Tide which dates to 1918 and hosts a restaurant, gift shop and Teubes wines for tasting with Kathi Hanson.
Later Freda Hack and her Dachshund Otto (Von Bismarck to give him some stature) warmly welcomed us to her spacious, comfy Friedse Plek above Jakkalsvlei. Nibbling on goats’ cheese made by Bettie Bok paired with Kookfontein Sauvignon Blanc we watched the Sishen train pass by as the sunset.
Nearby Kookfontein is owned by fifth-generation farmer Joosias Andreas Engelbrecht. Their dream was to look out of the window of his typical Strandveld farmhouse and see green vineyards.
All too soon it was time to head home. We agreed that this stretch of coastline is a perfect place for surﬁng, bird watching, walking, ﬁshing, rock art, wild ﬂowers – or just going with the flow and enjoying what comes next.
How to get there from Cape Town: Take the R27 road for roughly two and a half hours.
What to take: bird and flower guides, camera, walking shoes and surfboard if you want to surf.
Where to stay: Vensterklip family resort 5 km from Elands Bay, 022 972 1340, vensterklip.co.za
Friedse Plek: 083 414 3880, 027 432 1074 or email [email protected]
Where to eat and drink:
Wit Mosselpot, 082 496 8931 or email [email protected]
Isabella’s restaurant 072 522 0408 or email [email protected]
High Tide and Teubes winetasting: 027 213 2377, [email protected]
Registered guide: Johnny Van Rooyen, 071 2700 754, wwwtours.co.za
Karen Watkins started out as a travel writer and photographer supplying articles for numerous newspapers and magazines including Indiwe, Country Life, Go, Good Taste and others. Joined Independent Newspapers Limited in 2007 to work one year with Special Projects writing marketing copy before joining the Constantiaberg Bulletin as a multi-media journalist writing news and taking pictures until May 2019. And now she is writing for West Coast Way