Discover the wonders of holidaying in these areas
The picturesque coast road from Gordon’s Bay winding round to Hermanus passes through a Unesco world heritage site, Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve: a pristine stretch of mountain and coastline with an incredible diversity of plants and wildlife. Many visitors explore the area as a day trip from Cape Town, or for whale-watching in winter and spring, barely pausing at the three small towns en route, but residents and holiday-makers who stay longer fall in love with the peace and the variety of nature to be found here.
“We’re a conservancy village, keeping our footprint light,” says Karen Usmar-Blake of Moonstruck Guesthouse. “We live alongside wild animals, particularly baboons. Mongoose, porcupines, tortoises and a large spotted genet regularly visit our garden. The birdlife is wonderful.”
The Unesco status keeps the village small and development in check, the only commercial activity a sprinkling of coffee shops and restaurants – which are reputed to be the best in the area – an excellent deli and a few stores.
Most visitors come for the natural surroundings and the tranquillity, and the permanent residents look out for each other, Karen says. “If you have a problem, people will rally around and offer their support.”
Long sandy beaches, gorgeous views from False Bay to Cape Point, hiking the trails within the reserve, cycling, bird-watching and surfing are the main attractions. Sightings of dolphins year-round and whales in season are the icing on the cake.
A peaceful holiday town spread along the shore, Betty’s Bay only ever really gets busy in the December holiday season, when it fills with people from all over the country who return every year for summer seaside relaxation. A regular visitor says, “Betty’s Bay is a place for quiet pleasures – reading, bird-watching and catching up with old friends.”
Lucky sightings of the Cape clawless otter on the beach, disas flowering in the kloofs, fynbos and beach walks are all part of the allure, as well as swimming. “There are lots of beautiful beaches and the water can get quite warm, so there’s plenty of choice for swimming,” says Louise Ellis of John the Potter Ceramics.
Their family favourites are Betty’s Bay main beach or Kleinmond, if it’s too windy their side, and the small secluded beach at Jocks Bay. “The Pringle Bay lagoon is shallow and perfect for kids,” she says, “and Bass Lake is lovely for swimming in freshwater, or Palmiet River, also sheltered from the wind.”
On the must-visit list is Harold Porter Botanical Gardens for strolls among fynbos gardens or hikes along trails that explore coastal dunes, wetlands, waterfalls and mountains with a rich variety of indigenous plants in a pristine natural setting.
Sharing the same Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve setting as Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay is the small the fishing town of Kleinmond. “It’s so close to nature that I’m now totally in love with the fynbos culture. I can walk out of my house and up the mountain and find a new plant every time,” says artist and ceramicist Belinda Leontsinis, who moved to the area a year ago.
Unlike its neighbours, which are predominantly holiday towns, Kleinmond has a long history as a working fishing harbour, which has shaped it into a varied community.
“There’s a real village feel, people live here year-round.”
“We have a fantastic GP, a clinic, an amazing library, hiking clubs, even a shell-collecting club,” says Belinda. She recommends the fish and chips from Ocean’s Fisheries and local produce and charcuterie from Pickle and Smoke.
Her studio is on Harbour Road, the hub of Kleinmond’s tourist traffic, where visitors often stop and linger on the way to Hermanus, strolling between galleries, cafes and second-hand bookshops, watching fishing boats offload their catch, or enjoy an informal evening’s entertainment at The Cinema in the Shed.
“Children still ride their bicycles and walk with friends and dogs down the road unsupervised by adults. We’re surrounded by mountains and fynbos and the wild Cape weather. It’s good for my soul and affords me a sense of calmness and tranquillity that city life never could.”
Karen Usmar-Blake, Moonstruck Guesthouse, Pringle Bay