Wild and windswept

The West Coast has a rugged beauty unique to the country

Wild and windswept

Is the suurvy (Carpobrotus edulis) your thing? How about the elandsvy (Carpobrotus acinaciformis)? Or the gousblom (Arctotis hirsuta)? Maybe the sporrie (Heliophila coronopifolia) then? Or surely the Bokbaai vygie (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis)?

Those are some of the wild flowers found on the West Coast during the famed ‘flower season’, which runs from the tail-end of winter through a bit of spring. Endless carpets of nature’s canvas ablaze with fiery hues (the West Coast brings out the poet in everyone) as the area turns into a botanical paradise, covered with orange, purple, yellow and pink petals for only a brief period.

Ah, the West Coast … where the winds blow all the time and the pristine white beaches proverbially shimmer deserted into the distance. Small towns such as Paternoster and Elands Bay cling to the rocky shoreline, and the icy Atlantic provides the backdrop for sunsets and sundowners.

Fuelled by the cold Benguela current that provides rich nutrients for fish, this is pescetarian territory, so there’s freshly caught seafood at small eateries and, to complete the culinary experience, wine tasting at boutique vineyards carved out the fynbos wilderness.

The main access route to the West Coast is the R27, which is single lane for much of the way. Trucks trundle along, hogging the road, while SUVs hurtle past, intent on breaking speed records while overtaking. The further you go, the less intense the hustle, and part of the West Coast’s appeal is that it’s within easy travel from Cape Town, making it perfect for long-weekend getaways.

Strandloper Boutique Hotel, Paternoster
A word, first, about Paternoster. About 145 km from Cape Town, it’s one of the oldest villages on the West Coast, but the origin of the name, derived from Latin (our father) is unknown. It could be from the Lord’s Prayer uttered by grateful mariners who had survived a shipwreck, or Khoi beads. Renowned for its multitude of carefully restored whitewashed fishing cottages, now upmarket holiday homes, it is also the location of Wolfgat, a tiny 20-seater eatery that was voted Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in 2019.

The Strandloper is known for its personalised service, environmentally conscious ethos and organic design cues. Intended to ‘blur the lines between outdoors and indoors’ and drawing inspiration from the humble fishing history of Paternoster, the hotel makes use of locally sourced furniture and fixtures – crafted from stone, wood and fine linen – for decoration.

Guests have the option of choosing Ocean suites, Nature King suites, Ocean King suites or Courtyard rooms, all containing natural handmade amenities and featuring touches such as Bang & Olufsen audio systems.

Part of the Strandloper’s appeal is the extensive access to Paternoster’s natural environment, and the hotel facilitates a variety of activities for guests, including a guided coastal bush hike, horse rides on the beach, a riverboat bird safari (guided by a National Geographic photographer and environmental educator), an organised beach picnic, guided kayaking and a beach buggy dune tour where you may be lucky enough to spot dolphins and/or whales.

Gonana Guesthouse, Paternoster
Swedish entrepreneur Jonas Sandström, drawn by the area’s natural beauty and community spirit, has launched an ‘Afro-Scandi’ sanctuary that allows for a comfortable retreat and conscious connection to the environment. Next to a beautiful beach (of course), Gonana offers panoramic views (of course) of the West Coast’s patented endless sunsets and serene landscapes. ‘Join us for a day and leave restored for a year,’ is the Gonana motto.

Maintaining a strong emphasis on sustainability and local engagement, Gonana and its self-catering units were renovated with the help of local builders and contractors. It employs staff who live in the Paternoster area and showcases domestically sourced interiors.

In the process of restoring and converting the seaside properties into premier beachfront lodgings, Gonana devoted a lot of attention to minimising environmental impact and enhancing harmony with the natural surroundings. Contemporary sustainability principles are implemented through solar energy greywater-recycling systems, rainwater-harvesting tanks, and water-efficient systems.

Mindful is the mantra; hence a yoga class on the beach or a meander along the coastline, with the hope of spotting a whale, are activities gently (of course) encouraged.

Villa Pescatori, Yzerfontein
Around 45 minutes in the car (if you’re driving up from Cape Town’s city centre) gets you to Villa Pescatori, a four-star guest house, on Yzerfontein’s beachfront. With four ensuite bedrooms, Villa Pescatori offers an intimate, homely experience of the West Coast. Dinner can be whipped up on request, by owner-manager Angelique. There are also braai facilities and a pool within the guest house, but as with any spot on the West Coast, the main drawcard is the surrounding environment; the beach, hiking and birdwatching spring to mind.

The West Coast National Park is a 19 km drive away, while Paternoster, Langebaan and the West Coast flower region are all easily accessible using the villa as a home base.

Kraalbaai Lifestyle Houseboats, Langebaan
At one end of the West Coast National Park (WCNP), about an hour from Cape Town, is Kraalbaai, which forms part of the great cyan expanse of the Langebaan lagoon. The park’s diverse ecosystems, from salt marshes to limestone hills, offer a haven of flora (with the odd bit of fauna thrown in). For examples of the latter, flamingos, pelicans and other bird species congregate in the lagoon and wetlands of the park while the occasional antelope looks on. The Postberg area of the park, only open in spring, is one of the best places to see the wild flowers.

The Kraalbaai Lifestyle Houseboats, on the crystal clear lagoon, offer an excellent way to experience this part of the West Coast. There are five houseboats to fit various accommodation needs, from the 20-person Nirvana Boat (more mansion-on-the-water than boat) to the quaint, four-sleeper Eden Houseboat.

The obvious activities are available; tanning on the deck of your house on the sea, swimming and visiting the beach. But there are also numerous things to do in and around the area while on the boats. Fishing charters and sunset cruises can be organised, while kayaks are offered for rental.

For the more daring, kite-surfing, waterskiing and wake-boarding lessons are available – and tubing remains an option for those less inclined to take lessons on their holiday. In contrast to these high-octane activities, the Lifestyle Houseboats now offer sunset massages on the deck.

The WCNP also has walking trails, to stretch those sea legs, and maybe spot a magriet (Ursinia anthemoides) or a soetuintjie (Moraea fugax). Not to mention the white rain daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis)…

By Oliver Keohane and Patrick Farrell
Images courtesy of Strandloper Boutique Hotel, Gonana Guesthouse, Kraalbaai Lifestyle Houseboats