What to do in Witsand

Feel like running away to the middle of nowhere? We recently took a trip to Witsand, a tiny coastal town about 3 hours drive from Cape Town, which still offers all the charms of a remote getaway.

Witsand was once bustling with steamboats loaded with goods destined for the Cape Town market. Today the town is a quiet haven for wildlife at sea and on land. They still have a handful of landmarks like the Barry Memorial Church, built in 1849, and ruptured remains of steamships in the little harbour, but mostly you’ll find expansive farmlands and a unspoilt shoreline surrounding a tiny collection of houses.

We stayed over at the new Breedezicht Estate, a residential development overlooking the river. While this isn’t really open accommodation for visitors, they have a few houses to rent at arouhnd R2000 per night. These show houses offer a lovely self-catering option, especially if you are going as a group of friends.

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Witsand is ideal if you want to escape into nature. The area is home to the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra and Cape Vulture, over 260 bird species, the largest concentration of the endangered right whale, and 3,000 hectares of undisturbed fynbos. The Breede River itself also supports an abundance of fish from spotted grunter, steenbras, white and red stumpnose, leervis, and red roman to cob.

Keen to visit the area? Here are a few ways to make the most of your trip.

Canola fields forever

August / September is my favourite time of the year to visit the Overberg region, when the canola fields are in full bloom, turning the rolling landscape into a patchwork of vivid yellow and lush green. We were treated to the most incredible views from Caledon to Witand, and obviously stopped along the way to get a few shots frolicking in the fields (just don’t let the farmers catch you).

If you are travelling from Cape Town, pop in at Peregrine farm stall along the way to stock up on snacks for the road. You have to try their pies, and they have an amazing selection of local produce to choose from.

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Whale Watching

Witsand is widely considered the whale nursery of the South African coastline. Neighbouring the De Hoop conservation area, it provides a safe haven for Southern Right Whales during the calving season.

We spotted a massive pod of whales while strolling along the beach. They played close to the coastline for a good half-hour, putting on a spectacular show for us.

The Southern Right Whales visit South African shores between June and November to mate and calf.

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Go hiking

De Mond Nature Reserve lies at the mouth of the Heuningnes River. This 954ha reserve is managed as a satellite of the De Hoop Nature Reserve and supports several species of small animals and bird life.

Bird watchers can look forward to viewing the threatened Damara and Caspien terns (South Africa’s most endangered coastal bird) and the rare African Black Oystercatcher (South Africa’s second most threatened coastal bird), which have breeding colonies on the reserve.

You can explore the area via the Breede River Mouth Walk along the the river’s eastern bank. Or try Moodies Well Walk at low tide, which follows the sandy eastern sweep of San Sebastian Bay for 4km to a well that was dug by a Scotsman in the 19th century.

Aside from these you can choose between various hiking routes, ranging from 12km to 22km, taking you through the grain lands, sheep paddocks and ostrich breeding camps, and continuing along the cliffs of the Slang River.

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Take a boat ride

We were treated to a boat ride from the Breede River Lodge, which is a great way to see the natural surrounds. You can also arrange boat rides to the neighbouring reserves, or out to sea.

After our boat ride we popped in at the Lodge for some fish and chips – made just right with light, crispy batter and served with slap chips.

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Visit Rain Spa in Swellendam

Need to unwind? The Rain Forest Day Spa in Swellendam offers a range of options using Rain’s very own 100% natural Biologie product range. You can als stock up your beauty supply with locally-made, natural goodies!

For more info, visit rainafrica.com/spa

While you’re in Swellendam, it’s worth popping in at Tradici. They do a really yummy lunch and they have a lovely selection of decor, wines and treats to take home.

Go wine tasting

Head to Sijnn in Malgas or Baleia Wines in Riversdal for a spot of winetasting.

Baleia Wines is situated at Dassieklip farm. Their focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but their collection includes Rosé, Temparanillo, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and their Sebastian red blend. They also make olive oil and olives on the farm that are worth tasting, and fitness enthusiasts can tackle one of their MTB or Train Running routes.

Sijnn makes the most of their cool climate, dry land and complex soils, which delivers concentrated berries and bold flavours. They believe in natural farming and natural winemaking as far as possible, and have received top marks for their wines. Their main focus is their Sijnn Red Blend, Sijnn White and Sijnn Saignee, but they also make  variety of other wines for you to try.

Witsand Explorers Festival : 29 Sept – 2 Oct 2017

Witsand will be celebrating its 200 year Bicentennial celebrations from Friday, 29 September to Monday, 2 October. 

The Festival will celebrate history, culture, outdoors and adventure with a programme of unique events. Kick off with Pub Quiz at River Breeze Restaurant on Friday night.

On Saturday you can join a River Trip, visit the Food & Craft Market at The Woolshed, join an Amazing Race of History & Culure, or take part in the annual SUP Whale of a Race. There’s also a Witsand Trail Run, Kid’s Crafting Workshop, League Bowls Tournament and a NSRI Spritbraai in the evening.

Activities continue on Sunday with an MTB Race, Dune Dash, Sheepdog Demo and The Whale Induna.

For more information, visit: https://web.facebook.com/ExplorersFestivalWitsand/

For more information on the area, visit witsand.com

2 Comments

  1. Sarah Halse September 27, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Hi Liezel,
    Great article – one small edit though, the estuary is not home to the red stumpnose or red roman, those are reef associated fish species which can be found at sea. Very occasionally will you find the white stumpnose. Estuaries are important nursery habitats for many species like you rightly mentioned the white steenbras, spotted grunter and dusky kob (not the silver kob).

    Reply
    1. Malherbe Liezel September 27, 2017 at 7:38 am

      Thanks Sarah. Strange, this is the information that Witsand’s own site provides.

      Reply

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