Self Drive the Cape Flower Route, West Coast and Namaqualand
The Cape Wild Flowers are one of the natural wonders of the world. The arid areas of the Cape West Coast and the semi desert of Namaqualand, transform into a floral wonderland that attracts photographers, artists, botanists and sightseers from around the globe.
The wild flowers begin flowering first in the north in Namqualand in late July/early August and then roll out southwards, through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg towards the West Coast, at the beginning of September. The best way to approach the flowers is from the north, as in spring, the sun is in the north. The flowers only come out in the sun, and always face the sun. So, if you are going right up north, drive there first, and then wend your way slowly down south.
If you plan to visit this spectacle in mid-September, then enjoy the south around the West Coast National Park, Yzerfontein and Darling as it is too late for the north.
The flower season is dependent on the winter rains, the wind and other weather factors, and the displays vary from place to place each season. For up-to-date information and directions, visit the tourism offices in each town. The towns are all small, so finding your way around is very easy and the locals are really hospitable.
The best way to have a well-rounded trip would be to include the West Coast National Park for its Postberg flowers, wildlife and birding, some of the quaint West Coast Towns like Paternoster, Yzerfontein and Saldanha, for their laid-back atmosphere and fresh seafood, the Cederberg for its rock art and mountain beauty, Wuppertal for its interesting history and Citrusdal for the beautiful orange orchards.
Darling is also well known as a cultural experience, with the Eva Perron theatre and culinary delights. The entire flower area has become well-known for its vineyards and boutique wine cellars, and the ShowMe West Coast Wine Route will give you options, whichever route you take. If time allows, the flowers in the north, though further away, around Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok are glorious and well worth the trip.
Cape Town to Richtersveld 850km: Johannesburg to Springbok 1160km: Springbok to Richtersveld 297km. We did this trip in spring after good rains. It was one of our most memorable travel experiences!
Richtersveld, a world heritage site, has the most amazing scenery in a desert environment, with a remoteness that stills the soul. Set in a great loop of the Orange River, the deep canyons and jagged mountains, unusual rock colours, the rare kokerboom or quiver tree, the strange halfmens tree, unique succulents and isolation make for a lifetime experience. In spring, the desert can bring forth a host of wild flowers. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces. Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed in the park. For detailed park information, booking and how to get there visit the park’s website. There are no shops in the park, but fuel and cold drinks can be purchased at a small general store at Sendelingsdrift. The shop is open on weekdays only. Tel: 012 428 9111 for central booking or 027 831 1506 at the park itself.
The trip to Springbok is 568km from Cape Town and 1160km from Johannesburg.
Springbok is close to the famous Goegap Nature Reserve, also known for its birding. Springbok is a great springboard from the north, with the top flower destinations of the Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon (visit the Skilpad Flower Reserve – named for its tortoises), Garies and Bitterfontein, all en-route to Vanrhynsdorp and Clanwilliam.
To reach Vanrhynsdorp from Cape Town is a 308km trip and Springbok to Vanrhynsdorp is a 260km drive.
If you are camping, the Vanrhynsdorp private caravan park is close to town on the Main Gifburg Road. The Caravan Park has a quiet, well managed, farm like atmosphere and also offers guests the option of staying in self-catering units. Camping sites have power points and ablution with hot water. There’s a restaurant with a great a la carte menu. Tel: +27(0)27 219 1287: +27(0)76 293 2578. Website.
Vanrhynsdorp itself has flowers on various farms and it is best to contact tourism for the best places to go, both in town and in other areas. T:027 219 1552: Van Riebeeck Street, Vanrhynsdorp.
Vanrhynsdorp is home to Kokerboom, the biggest succulent nursery in the world (Tel: 027 219 1062: Cell: 082 811 5474) and to the Latsky Radio Museum with its interesting displays: Monday – Saturday 9am – 12pm and 2pm – 5pm: Tel: +27-27-2191032: 4 Church Street.
From Vanrhynsdorp you can do the following awesome day trips:
Take the 182km circular route from Vanrhynsdorp to the coast and back. From Vanrhynsdorp take the N7 to Klawer, and visit the Klawer wine cellar. From Klawer, drive to Vredendal, famous for its flowers and wine. Continue to Lutzville with more wine cellars and then on to the flowers at Standfontein and Doringbaai, on the coast. Not only do you go through the beautiful Olifants River Vallery, a rich wine, fruit and vegetable farming area, but get to enjoy the quiet beaches along the coast. See our article on the West Coast Wine Route. Or you can go to Nieuwoudtville …
Drive 52km over the awe inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets. Visit the Hantam Botanical Gardens that boasts an incredible 1350 plant species, and is found on the Oorlogskloof Road and the Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve, close to town .
A great day trip from Nieuwoudtville, is to take the R357 north out of town, and visit the Nieuwoudtville Falls, the Quiver Tree Forest at Gannabos, a private farm, where trees grow to 400 years old and produce vivid yellow flowers in May, June and July, as they have been doing for many thousands of years. This forest is spectacular at sunset. Further on, Loeriesfontein has a rather interesting windmill museum. Other flower areas on private farms are also accessible for a small fee, so pop in at the local tourism office for directions.
If you are en-route to Clanwilliam, take the 2 hour trip on the R364, just the other side of Nieuwoudtville, and drive this gravel, back road for 150km, over Botterkloof and Pakhuis passes, for an unforgettable experience. The road is fine for sedans, so don’t miss out.
An excellent flower experience can be enjoyed by driving south from Clanwilliam. It is only 228km from Cape Town and 80km from Vanrhynsdorp on the N7. You will pass the Klawer Cellars en-route from Vanrhynsdorp, so make a stop.
Clanwilliam offers the magnificent Ramskop Wildflower Reserve, next to the Clanwilliam Dam. A wonderful day trip from Clanwilliam is the 140km round trip to the Biedouw Valley and Wuppertal. Not only are the flowers awesome, but Wuppertal is a village lost in time and an experience itself. You can enjoy something to eat at the little shop in Wuppertal. To get there, take the R364 from Clanwilliam over the Pakhuis Pass and turn right onto the Biedouw Valley/Wuppertal road.
If you are interested in Bushman Rock Art, take a really professional guided tour with the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project.
If you can time your arrival during the last week of August the Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show is another essential port of call.
Citrusdal is situated on the Olifants River and is famous for its citrus orchards. It is 170km from Cape Town and 58km from Clanwilliam along the N7. However, there is a wonderful gravel route from Clanwilliam along the dam, towards Algeria.
After approximately 30km, you will access the N7 again. No traffic, pure bliss (this is the same road you took to visit the Ramskop Wildflower Reserve).
The Cape West Coast
The Postberg area of the West Coast National Park that is only open in flower season is a brilliant spot and the park itself is also a sight to behold, where wildlife on the plains mingle with the flowers. There are also bird hides in the park. The towns of Yzerfontein and Darling are also good flower spots.
From Citrusdal, an interesting route can be taken over the Piekernierskloof Pass and onto the R399 to Velddrif, which is also well known for its birding and fishing. From Veldrif, experience the quaint West Coast Villages of St Helena Bay, Britannia Bay, Paternoster (very popular village with great seafood) and Tietiesbaai. Drive though Vredenburg en-route to the West Coast National Park and Postberg. In Postberg you can can enjoy a picnic at the Uitkyk picnic spot. An interesting attraction, 13km from Vredenburg on the R45, is the Fossil Park. On the same road, 37km from Vredenburg, is Hopefield.
The veld around Hopefield provides its own natural display of springtime flowers, when the green winter wonderland is transformed to an overnight spectacle of bright indigenous daisies and fynbos. There are four botanical zones: renosterveld, sandveld, reed veld and vlei areas. At the Hopefield Show, these regions are displayed in the exhibition hall to reflect Fynbos in their natural habitat. This very popular show takes place at the Hopefield Sports grounds on the last weekend of August each year.
In Langebaan visit the Strandloper Seafood Restaurant for a fresh seafood indulgence.
From the WCNP drive to Yzerfontein and enjoy a meal at the Strandkombuis Seafood Restaurant on the beach or participate in an authentic Bushman cultural experience.
Drive to Darling on the R315 and visit the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Garden, the Renosterveld Reserve, Wayland Farm, Contreberg Farm on R307 Darling-Mamre road and Oudepost Farm where the Duckitt Orchid Show runs concurrently with The Darling Flower show in mid-September. Wayland and Oudepost are only open for flowers during August and September. Here millions of these exotic flowers are cultivated for local and export markets. The Groote Post wine farm also offers long walks in its beautiful natural surroundings.
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