The Cape Overberg – also known as the Whale Coast – occupies the southernmost region of South Africa, with the Cape Winelands to the north and the Cape Garden Route and Klein Karoo to the east.
“Overberg” literally means “over the mountain”, from where the road descends into the main apple-growing regions of Elgin and Grabouw.
Many visitors (wrongly) assume that the southernmost point on the African continent lies at the tip of Cape Point near Cape Town. This privilege has been rightfully claimed by Cape Agulhas, which also marks the meeting place of two mighty oceans, the cold Atlantic and warm Indian.
The Cape Overberg earned its Whale Coast moniker for its unsurpassed whale watching, which attracts thousands of visitors between July and November each year.
This is the time of year when the gentle giants of the ocean, southern right whales, migrate along the coast from the cold South Atlantic Ocean to the warmer waters off the Western Cape. View these majestic creatures in close proximity as they frolic in the bay of the quaint seaside town of Hermanus, where there’s also a small museum dedicated to the oceanic giants.
With its endemic fynbos vegetation, the Overberg, along with other parts of the Cape, forms part of the tiny Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage Site.
The unique fynbos environment is a delight for hikers and a paradise for bird watchers. You might also like to pack a picnic basket and go hiking in the dune fields of De Hoop Nature Reserve.
South Africa´s oldest mission station, Genadendal, located in the timeless Overberg town of the same name, was established in 1738 by the Moravian Church to preach Christianity to the Khoi people.
The rich history of the Cape Overberg is echoed in the region’s many (somewhat unusual) museums. Museums in these parts are not solely dedicated to manuscripts and relics. There’s a fishing museum, a shipwreck museum, an apple museum (in Elgin) and mission museums (Elim and Genadendal).
Gansbaai offers tourists the opportunity to interact with two denizens of the deep, the gentle whale and the fearsome great white shark. Whale viewing is a popular pastime for more mellow folk, while shark cage diving caters to thrill seekers.
A winning combination of magnificent mountains, the Theewaterskloof Dam watersport paradise and award-winning wine farms has landed Villiersdorp the title of “Pearl of the Cape Overberg”. It is here that one may indulge in culinary experiences of note, accompanied, of course, by fine local wines. In fact the entire Overberg is dotted with restaurants, bistros, harbour restaurants and cafés catering for a variety of palates.
At Malgas, take a drive to view the last manually operated punt that ferries visitors across the mighty Breede River.
Looking for a place to stay? Accommodation ranges from luxurious hotels to comfortable guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, self-catering destinations and farm stays.
The Cape Overberg has much to offer the tourist, from sharks and whales, to flowers, museums, wine, nature and history.
The choices can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together our favourites.
Spend two or three days meandering through the towns and countryside of the Overberg, drinking in the area’s scenic beauty from a mountain bike or horseback, or simply enjoying the caring hospitality, fresh air and uncrowded vistas of fynbos, sea and mountains.
Six of the best
Wild flowers and hot springs
September’s the time to visit Caledon, the capital of the Overberg, for its Wild Flower Show. Take a stroll through the town’s stunning flower garden, which forms part of the 214ha nature reserve granted to the town by Queen Victoria in 1899. The town is also renowned for the health benefits of its hot springs.
Where mighty oceans meet
Visit the southernmost tip of Africa in the Agulhas National Park, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. The coastline is perfect for hiking and many shipwrecks and fynbos, wetland and coastal birds are found here. Pop into the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, home to the only lighthouse museum in Africa.
Whales and wine
Witness firsthand the largest concentration of southern right whales along the South African coast from July to November each year. Take a picnic basket filled with Overberg delicacies and wine to Koppie Alleen, one of the best land-based whale watching sites in the world. To capture the whale ambience at its best, plan this trip to coincide with the Hermanus Whale Festival at the end of September.
Fishermen and folklore
Turn back time with a visit to the quaint fishing village of Kassiesbaai at Arniston and discover a bygone era. The entire village is a national monument, so every building is protected by law. While there, take a walk down to Waenhuiskrans Cave, which is only accessible at low tide.
History and heritage
Get to know more about the Overberg by exploring some of the region’s fascinating and unique museums. The Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp, Heritage Centre in Elim and Lighthouse Museum in L’Agulhas are a few worth adding to your itinerary.
Soothe away your stress
Regenerate body, mind and spirit at the Arabella Hotel & Spa, where a mix of nature and spa therapies are guaranteed to soothe away your stress. Spend a few hours, or an entire day, in the tranquil spa environment, experiencing a full complement of spa services.
Image credits for Six of the Best. From top to bottom: 1. Wild Flowers. Photo courtesy Martin Heigan 2. Where two oceans meet. Photo courtesy kjd 3. Whale diving. Photo courtesy benzpics63 4. Waenhuiskrans. Photo courtesy BigBlackBox 5. History and heritage. Photo courtesy mallix 6. Thai massage. Photo courtesy thomaswanhoff
From Cape Town, the Cape Overberg is a scenic 90-minute drive along the N2 via Sir Lowry’s Pass, or a more leisurely drive along the R44 coastal route via Gordon’s Bay. The Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl winelands are an hour’s, or so, drive away.
Fly into Cape Town International airport and follow the road link as mentioned above.
Temperate weather conditions make this region a year-round destination, but those who prefer to keep their feet dry should avoid the rainy season between June and August. Summers are hot and glorious and the autumn months of March and April are arguably the nicest – not too hot, not too cold.
- Cape Aghulas
Cape Overberg Tourism T: +27 (0) 28 425 11 57 F: +27 (0) 28 425 1014 E: firstname.lastname@example.org