The Best Little Towns around Cape Town to Visit 2017

The Best Little Towns around Cape Town to Visit 2017

Rediscover the Cape’s less well-known towns.

Why follow the hordes to Hermanus? The Cape has some less famous historic towns brimming with character, quaint guesthouses, and interesting places to eat. You might want to start planning your spring holiday now…

1. Matjiesfontein

Matjiesfontein - Little Town near Cape Town

Why we love it This tiny colonial resort town on the fringe of the Karoo is characterised by exquisite Victorian buildings and lamp posts, and the railway track passing through it (a stop-over point for the Blue Train and Rovos Rail). Founded in 1884, Matjiesfontein was declared a national heritage site in 1975.
Don’t miss The Futtom Fluffy bus tour, courtesy of Johnnie, the tophat- and bowtie-bedecked tourguide/piano player/general entertainer. The 10-minute ride (“the shortest in SA”) passes all the major landmarks – the transport museum, courthouse and jail, coffee shop, post office and fire station, with its vintage fire engine – after which Johnnie declares the tour over, and the pub open!
Fun fact Olive Schreiner wrote The Story of An African Farm while she was living in Matjiesfontein.
Where to stay The inimitably charming Lord Milner Hotel. Time has stood still at this bastion of Victoriana that opened in 1899. And despite a caring refurbishment by the McGrath group in 2011, her (faded) colonial grandeur remains in tact – which might have something to do with staff’s fantastically eccentric Victorian-era kit (think bonnets and bellhop hats). The pool feels like a scene straight out of The Grand Budapest Hotel meets Bagdad Café, with its vintage wrought-iron furniture, a lone windmill and overgrown (Karoo) garden in the background.
Where to eat The food in the hotel’s Dining Room is superb; the fishcakes are particularly delicious, and so is the Karoo lamb. The coffee shop down the main drag serves locally produced sandwiches and salads, and its adjoining farmstall stocks homemade treats such as pomegranate syrup, kweperkonfyt and rusks.
Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours 35 minutes
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar

2. Montagu

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Montagu
Image credit: Southafrica.to

Why we love it This quaint Klein Karoo town on Route 62 is best known for its fruit and wine farms, muscadel, dried fruit, charming Cape Dutch buildings and museums, the Cogmanskloof Pass and, of course, its enviable hot springs. Enjoy tractor trips, garden and mountain walks, rock climbing at Legoland and even bird-watching at Leiwater Dam.
Don’t miss Montagu Avalon Springs and the Saturday Park Market.
Fun fact Montagu was founded on the farm, Uitvlugt, after which many of its cellars and buildings are named.
Where to stay Kingna Lodge, a luxury four-star guesthouse invites visitors to experience its wonderfully restored 1898 Victorian splendour. It has proudly hosted Nobel Peace Prize winners and former Presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.
Where to eat Die Kloof Padstal is a popular farmstall and country restaurant that’s become a favourite food destination for travellers and locals alike. Recommended dishes include peri-peri chicken livers, savoury pancakes and Dutch apple tart.
Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours 30 mins
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

3. Struisbaai

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Struisbaai
Image credit: phototalk.co.za

Why we love it This small Overberg fishing town possesses warm, aquamarine waters and the longest natural beach in the southern hemisphere. It’s a stone’s throw from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa where the two Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Enjoy the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, shipwrecks, seasonal whale-watching, horse rides along the beach, swimming and diving.
Don’t miss Struisbaai’s colourful harbour and the Cape Agulhas Nature Reserve.
Fun fact The Two Oceans Aquarium once tried to remove Parrie, one of several resident stingrays, but locals demanded his return.
Where to stay Recharge your batteries at Zuidste Huisie Fisherman’s Cottage. This charming self-catering fisherman’s cottage, built in the area’s unique architectural style, is situated 150m away from 24km of pristine, uninterrupted beach.
Where to eat Zuidste Kaap Pub & Restaurant is a traditional South African restaurant that offers a bistro-style menu complete with grilled meat and fresh seafood options. Did we mention it’s situated at the gateway to Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost tip?
Distance from Cape Town: Around  2 hours 38 minutes
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

4. De Doorns

Little Towns in the Western Cape, De Doorns
Image credit: Francois Swart

Why we love it Relatively close to Ceres (aka the deciduous fruit and snowfall epicentre), De Doorns is blessed to exist in the breathtakingly beautiful Hex River Valley, surrounded by the impressive Matroosberg. It’s well-known for its export-quality grapes, picture-postcard autumn colours and, in winter, snow-capped mountains, which even allow for skiing and snowboarding.
Don’t miss The Hex River Pass and Ski Resort Matroosberg.
Fun fact De Doorns was once known as the “thorns of the upper Hex River”.
Where to stay Relax at the tranquil Aan De Doorns Guest House. Surrounded by majestic Cape mountains and vineyards, it offers heritage hospitality and lovely farm accommodation in a truly beautiful setting.
Where to eat With its wide assortment of tasty preserves and fresh produce, Die Veldskoen Country Store and Restaurant is a popular stopover spot. Try its signature toasted ciabatta with pan-fried chicken breast, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil pesto and a cheesy mushroom sauce.
Distance from Cape Town Around 1 hour 36 minutes
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

5. Swellendam

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Swellendam
Image credit: Xplorio

Why we love it This lush Langeberg town, South Africa’s third oldest, has over 50 provincial heritage sites, including historic Cape Dutch buildings such as the Drostdy Museum. There are also some great places to explore, such as Marloth Nature Reserve, Bontebok National Park and even the Sulina Fairy Sanctuary. Enjoy hikes and mountain-bike trails, horse rides through forests, berry picking in Hermitage Valley and even stargazing.
Don’t miss Berry, canola and dairy farms and the Bukkenburg Pottery Studio.
Fun fact Swellendam’s Rooiklip Nursery is home to around 20,000 aloes.
Where to stay For a relaxing and discreet getaway, the four-star Bloom Estate ticks all the boxes. Its modern-Dutch design aesthetic will appeal to style savants, while the rambling treed gardens, Jacuzzi deck and hammock make it the perfect get-away-from-it-all destination (or stopover en route to Sanbona or the Garden Route). Looking for something more stately? The posh Schoone Oordt Country House, dating back to 1853, offers antique-filled rooms, complete with four-poster beds and fireplaces. 
Where to eat Opposite the Dutch Reformed Church, The Old Gaol Coffee Shop and Restaurant will allow you to immerse yourself in the town’s historic Old Quarter as you sample traditional Cape cuisine – including their roosterkoek and melktert specialities.
Distance from Cape Town: Around 2 hours 25 mins
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan & Nikki Benatar

6. Stanford

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Stanford
Image credit: Vincent Mounier Photography

Why we love it With a peaceful lagoon, the Klein River and a burgeoning foodie scene, picturesque Stanford has it all… Its close proximity to Hermanus and Gansbaai means whale-watching and shark-cage diving are accessible. There’s good outdoor fun, such as kayaking, canoeing, bird watching and river cruises to enjoy in Stanford itself. Foodies might enjoy wine, cheese and beer tasting at Stanford Hills, Klein River Cheese and the Birkenhead Brewery.
Don’t miss Over 200 different bird species (30 of which are native to South Africa).
Fun fact The Klein River has the world’s shortest distance from origin to mouth.
Where to stay The blissfully secluded Blue Gum Country Estate, with its gabled farm house, dreamy lake and ancient gum trees, is a rural getaway with a difference. The 12 guest bedrooms are utterly relaxing, and the food is superb. The games room and outdoor play area make it a wonderful option for family getaways.
Where to eat Housed in a beautifully restored converted farmstead, The Manor House Restaurant serves contemporary country cuisine prepared by renowned chef Madré Malan and her team. Madrés comfort food is echoed in the homely restaurant that boasts beautiful views of the Akkedisberg mountains.
Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours
TIG reviewers Tamlyn Ryan & Nikki Benatar

7. Paternoster

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Paternoster
Why we love it This authentic fishing village, with rows of whitewashed fishermen’s cottages, and an old dock where boats still pull up everyday to deliver fresh hauls, is a West Coast gem. With such easy access to quality seafood, it’s no wonder Paternoster is fast becoming a favoured destination for top chefs looking to start new projects. But there’s more to this place than fresh kreef (that’s crayfish for the non-locals). A wealth of bird life abounds, and whales and dolphins can be sighted from the shore.
Don’t miss Paternoster’s main attractions include beach walks by day (if the wind’s not howling) and dining on fresh seafood at night. Browse for bric-a-brac at Die Winkel op Paternoster, behind which you’ll find Oep ve Koep, chef Kobus van der Merwe’s award-winning restaurant. Nature lovers should definitely spend a day or two exploring the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, a vast stretch of beautiful coastline with plenty of secluded beaches and hidden coves.
Fun fact The Cape Columbine lighthouse was built in 1936, and is still manned to this day, the last of its kind in the country. Its light is a welcome sign to ships approaching from Europe.
Where to stay The Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel boasts five-star luxury accommodation and splendid ocean views. Alternatively, La Baleine Beach House Collection is the perfect secluded getaway, providing self-catering accommodation and braai facilities. Then there’s the warm hospitality of the Farr Out Guesthouse, which is immersed in West Coast wilderness a few minutes drive from Paternoster.
Where to eat Try the Noisy Oyster or Gaaitjie for some of that quality seafood the village is so famous for. If fish ain’t your thing, there are other options, such as Blikkie Pizzeria, an old fisherman’s cottage by the sea serving wood-fired pizza.
Distance from Cape Town Around 1 hour 45 minutes
TIG reviewer Matthew Flax

8. Citrusdal

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Citrusdal
Why we love it Nestled at the foot of the Cederberg mountains in the Olifants River Valley, this town is famous for the citrus fruit grown here, and natural hot springs. It’s also part of the West Coast Flower and Rock Art Route, which means amazing flower and ancient rock-art displays. Wine tasting, hiking, mountain biking, paintballing, horseriding, bird watching and paragliding are other activities to enjoy.
Don’t miss Citrusdal Organic Market, held every Saturday, for some fresh Citrusdal produce and local cuisine.
Fun fact SA’s oldest orange tree – over 160 years old and still bearing fruit – is found on Hex Rivier Farm. It’s even been declared a national monument – the tree, not the farm!
Where to stay Situated on a local citrus farm, the Baths Natural Hot Springs Resort has been a self-catering resort since 1739 and, although it has evolved over the years, it has never lost its Victorian charm and still promotes peaceful outdoor living with its relaxed atmosphere.
Where to eat Hebron Guesthouse and Restaurant is a quality eatery that believes in serving fine food, prepared using fresh ingredients and homemade, organic produce. Don’t miss their gourmet pizzas, delicious breakfasts/lunches or Tant Dollie farm stall offerings.
Distance from Cape Town: Around 2 hours
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan

9. Elands Bay

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Elands Bay
Image credit: Adriaan Louw

Why we love it This sleepy fishing village, surrounded by pristine white-sand beaches and inhabited by diverse wildlife, is a surfer’s paradise. Despite offering some of the best swimming in the Cape, it’s not on any tourists’ to-do lists. (Fist pump!) Further inland you’ll find caves with enchanting rock art, the work of the Bushmen who wandered this land for thousands of years.
Don’t miss Baboon Point, recently declared a provincial heritage site, is distinctive for the way in which the mountain cuts into the ocean. It’s the only place in Africa where rock art has been discovered so close to the coast. Bird-watching enthusiasts will want to explore the Verlorenvlei wetlands, home to over 189 bird species including around 75 waterbirds.
Fun fact The San people weren’t the only ones to recognise the geographical value of Baboon Point. The coastal cliff was also the location of a secret World War II radar station, the remains of which can still be found at the foot of the cliff face.
Where to stay There’s only one hotel in this town, the Elands Bay Hotel, but we can’t vouch for its accommodation. There’s no shortage of holiday apartments and self-catering cottages near the beach.
Where to eat Witmosselpot Restaurant is a classic beach bar, and a popular spot for surfers looking for a cold beer after a day in the waves. The mussel pot is its signature dish but it also does hamburgers, salads and fish and chips. A bit further, on the road between Dwarskersbos and Elands Bay, you’ll find Draaihoek Restaurant and Lodge, where you can enjoy satisfying dishes and fine wines.
Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours 20 mins
TIG reviewer Matthew Flax

10. Elim

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Elim
Why we love it Chimney smoke rises from neat rows of whitewashed thatched cottages, built by German missionaries in the 1800s. Still governed by the Moravian Church, the town has not changed much since its days as a religious refuge (“Elim” means “place of God”). The missionaries chose the spot for its potential as a self-sustaining farm community, and while the original intention of the vineyards was to produce wine for communion, Elim has since evolved into a premier exporter of fine vintages – its proximity to the ocean making it one of South Africa’s coldest grape-growing regions, which in turn grants its wines a unique flavour.
Don’t miss Wherever you wander in Elim, there’s history to be found, whether it’s the abolition of slavery monument, or the old wooden water wheel (the largest in South Africa), still grinding away at that wheat. But all roads lead to the church, where a 240-year-old clock still strikes the correct time. As the town is a rising star on the Cape Wine Route, a visit to nearby wineries such as the Strandveld Vineyards is also in order.
Fun fact Elim’s monument to slave emancipation signifies its powerful heritage. Freed slaves came here seeking refuge, where the mission station provided them with homes and education. Their descendents make up the majority of the town’s population.
Where to stay Cottages are available for rent at the nearby Black Oystercatcher Wines and Strandveld Vineyards. The Agulhas Country Lodge offers comfortable accommodation and great views of Cape Agulhas, though it is around 40 minutes drive from Elim. Hotel Victoria is a less pricey option.
Where to eat The Black Oystercatcher restaurant provides a varied menu with seafood, meat and curry dishes to go with its selection of fine wines.
Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours 24 minutes
TIG reviewer Matthew Flax

11. Riebeek-Kasteel

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Riebeek Kasteel
Image credit: Flickr

Why we love it It’s not hard to see why intrepid explorer Jan van Riebeeck was so taken with this scenic vista in the shadow of the Kasteelberg Mountain, where vineyards and olive groves thrive.
Don’t miss A trip to the Olive Boutique where you can sample a range of products, and be entertained by owners Derek and Sue’s knowledge and passion for olive growing.
Fun fact South African statesman Jan Smuts was born in a cottage on Ongegund Farm in Riebeek-Kasteel in 1870. His birthplace has been converted into a museum that includes photographs of his family.
Where to stay Try the Royal Hotel for a taste of the colonial gentleman’s life, or the Victorian Cow for a more romantic setting.
Where to eat Mama Cucina for some traditional Italian food, including some of the best pizza around. Beans About Coffee is a charming breakfast spot serving freshly roasted java, and The Royal Hotel restaurant offers fine dining and some great specials, including half-price on G&Ts. Also try Olive et Chocolat for decadent ice cream and chocolate.
Distance from Cape Town Around 1 hour 15 mins
TIG reviewer Matthew Flax

12. Greyton

Little Towns in the Western Cape, Greyton
Image credit: Paul Bruins Photography

Why we love it This peaceful village has changed little since its construction in 1854, but it has evolved into a prominent tourist spot, as travellers from all over are drawn to its country charm. So strong is the old-world feel, you almost expect to see a blacksmith hammering away at the forge that stands next to the Greyton Post Office. The town manages to preserve this authenticity while still offering facilities and attractions you’d expect of a popular holiday destination.
Don’t miss For more of that countryside atmosphere, you’ll want to visit the Saturday morning Greyton Market, where you’ll find a wide selection of farm-fresh produce. The funds raised by the market go towards environmental conservation efforts, such as the beautiful Greyton Nature Reserve. On the subject of outdoors, hiking enthusiasts are probably aware that Greyton provides easy access to the Boesmanskloof trail, a popular overnight hike.
Fun fact The region was once home to a tribe of Khoi, whose chief became so rich from trading with the Castle of Good Hope that he built a collection of mud-brick houses for his people, the remains of which can still be seen on Vigne Lane.
Where to stay Situated on Vigne Lane, De Hoop Victorian Farm House offers comfortable country lodgings and easy access to Greyton’s main attractions. There’s also the cozy De Hoop Cottage, which comes with an outdoor wood-fired hot tub. For a wellness retreat, try High Hopes of Greyton, which offers spa facilities and a serene garden setting.
Where to eat The Hungry Monk, “The World’s First Anglo-Indian-Polish Restaurant & Tapas Bar”, does delicious gourmet dishes and a selection of vegetarian options. The restaurant at the Post House is another great foodie option – it’s always packed with locals, which is a good sign. And family-run Abbey Rose offers an array of pasta, curry, seafood and meat dishes, including specialities such as oxtail-and-kudu pie.
Distance from Cape Town Around 1 hour 45 minutes
TIG reviewer Matthew Flax

13. McGregor

Little Towns in the Western Cape, McGregor
Why we love it This rugged mountain village has become somewhat of an artist’s haven. Perhaps the sense of isolation and fresh mountain air fuels creativity… Though the town was originally intended to be a gateway to the north (an advertising poster in 1905 claimed that the main road to Cape Town would pass through McGregor), its remote location has enabled the preservation of its 19th-century architecture, and its rising popularity as a secluded getaway.
Don’t miss A visit to the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary is sure to tug at the heartstrings, especially enjoyable for children to interact with these creatures, many of whom have been rescued from abuse. McGregor’s reputation for arts and crafts is on display at Millstone Pottery, where talented couple Paul de Jongh and Nina Shand produce wood-fired stoneware and handmade porcelain.
Fun fact The town was originally founded under the name Lady Grey, after the wife of the Governor of the Cape, but a village in the Eastern Cape already bore that name. In order to avoid confusion among officials, the town was renamed McGregor in 1906, after Dutch Reformed Church minister Reverend Andrew McGregor.
Where to stay Cottages can be rented on the beautiful Tanagra Wine Farm, a short distance from McGregor. The farm’s boutique distillery and wine cellar are well worth a visit. We’d also recommend a stay at The Kite House, a peaceful pet-friendly guest lodge with a swimming pool and wi-fi facilities. For a relaxing (and spiritual) break, Temenos comes highly recommended.
Where to eat Tebaldi’s set in the tranquil gardens at Temenos serves healthful dishes made with passion. At Karoux Restaurant, a rising star on the Western Cape culinary scene, you’ll find hearty dishes such as the slow-braised lamb shank, and springbok-and-Guinness pie with salad. The Villagers Art Café and Farm Stall serves a wide range of olive tapas, soups and sandwiches, along with its signature Carnivore Burger. And the Old Post Office is a charming English-style pub with a widescreen TV and an impressive range of whiskeys.
Distance from Cape Town Around 2 hours
TIG reviewer Matthew Flax

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Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 23 December 2016

9 Responses to “The Best Little Towns around Cape Town to Visit 2017”

  1. B Dawes

    Forge next to Post Office?

    Reply
  2. Jean Sverdlov

    Saw this just in time as coming on a family holiday to sa in august. Thanks for the caluable info.

    Reply
  3. Melanie Esterhuyse

    Re: De Doorns. Please note that Aan de Doorns Guest House is situated in the Scherpenheuwel area (south east of Worcester, towards Villiersdorp). We have a wide variety of accommodation establishments in the Hex. For more details contact us at Tel: +27 23 356 2041.

    Reply
  4. moyra

    Good to see Montagu is included, a few others to consider…Barrydale, DeRus, Prince Albert, Stillbaai…

    Reply
    • Alex Bond-Smith

      Darling as well. Nice article but subjective as always. I have been to all these towns many times over the years as I traveled on business in my working days. Love some of them and really do not like some of the others mention.

      Reply
  5. Zaidah

    Cape Towns surrounding areas are so beautiful. I’ve been to or driven by a lot of these places and can vouch for it’s magnificence. Eildands bay is a real gem, the hotel looks dreary from the outside but it has some very nice newly renovated rooms.

    Reply
  6. Colleen G v Pittius

    Porterville needs to be added to the list – produce route, craft brewery, museum and beautiful situation against Groot Winterhoek Mts, near world renowned skydiving spot on Dasklip Pass, with plenty of country accomodation and eating spots in vicinity!

    Reply
  7. Jez

    Great article! Definitely good choices, and great to see Elands Bay on the list. An unusual but inspired choice. Hidden gem indeed. Recommend Vensterklip as a place to stay.

    Reply

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