A brand-new year brings fresh new opportunities, and you may well be feeling a yearning for adventure this time around, to get out there and make memories, to gather experiences, and to satisfy your wanderlust.
The good news is that seekers of local adventures in off-the-beaten-track destinations can find all they are looking for right on Cape Town’s doorstep in the Bergrivier region – a beautiful area known for its open spaces and dramatic landscapes, which is peppered with small towns that offer a huge array of activities and adventures. The Bergrivier region offers incredible outdoor, water sport and camping options,” says Nomonde Ndlangisa, CEO of Bergrivier Tourism. “Adventure comes in so many different shapes and sizes, and the area also offers unique culinary and cultural adventures – something for every taste, interest and fitness level.”
The West Coast village of Velddrif hugs the banks of the Berg River, just a few kilometres from where the river enters the ocean at St Helena Bay. This lovely town is one of the most popular birdwatching sites in South Africa and top birdwatching spots in the area include Rocher Pan, Rooibaai, and Laaiplek harbour. Take a cruise up the Berg River for the best birdwatching experience.
Velddrif offers a range of activities for water-sport enthusiasts, such as canoeing and kayaking; boat trips on the Crackling Rosie, Knot Xtreme and Tollie’s River Cruises; sailing with Port Owen Sailing Charters; surfing; skiing; kite-boarding and stand-up paddling. The Berg River is also a fishing hotspot. And for surf fishing try the Dwarskersbos beach by the Soverby Lapa.
When it comes to camping, options include the Kliphoek Rivier Oord, Kuifkopvisvanger campsite, Knor Varkie, Happy Campers, and the campsite in Dwarskersbos. For a culinary adventure be sure to try Bokkoms (salted and dried fish – a unique West Coast delicacy) in Bokkom Laan or visit the Kokerboom Kaas Creamery to sample their range of artisanal cheeses. There are many options for fresh seafood, from the Riviera Hotel to the fine dining at Russells On The Port in Port Owen.
Those looking for a cultural experience will love a visit to the historic Bokkom Laan, which is the oldest road in the town, and a heritage site, that snakes up the edge of the Berg River. Visit the art gallery and eclectic shops dotted along this quaint dirt road – all businesses are run out of historic old fishing sheds. The Fisheries Museum near the Laaiplek harbour is also worth a visit to find out about the colourful history of the fishing industry along this coast.
Piketberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Piketberg Mountain range, draws visitors looking to enjoy the stunning natural surrounds and the abundant outdoor activities. Among these is the newly developed hiking trail from Goedverwacht to Piket-Bo-Berg. For mountain bike enthusiasts there is an excellent trail on the Retreat Guest Farm, which can be arranged for day visitors.
Kleine Paradys offers camping, canoeing, and fishing on a catch-and-release basis. Another recommended campsite is Kruistementvlei in Piket- Bo-Berg. For bird lovers, the nearby Verlorenvlei at Redelinghuys is an incredible spot. The Jakkalskloof 4×4 route in Redelinghuys is a great outing for 4×4 enthusiasts and game viewing is available at the Goudkop Bush & Detox Camp. There is also a unique and fascinating self-guided tour which takes visitors on a journey back in time to experience the rich history and historic buildings of this beautiful village. The Piketberg Historical Route is the best way to experience the heritage of this town, with its gorgeously restored cottages and the imposing neo-gothic style Dutch Reformed Church. Good news for visitors is that the town, and nearby surrounds have a wide selection of eateries. A visit to Org-de-Rac, the local organic winery, is a must to sample their wine and cheese pairing, as well as the fresh oysters served with Methode Cap Classique.
Last on the list of highly recommended towns to visit for your adventure is Porterville, a lovely village nestled on the slopes of the Olifant’s River Mountains at the base of the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area. Long known as a paragliding and hang-gliding capital, Porterville offers a variety of hiking trails to fascinating destinations like De Hel (the hell) and De Tronk (the jail) in the Groot Winterhoek, where impressive rock formations can be found. There is also an uphill waterfall trail at Waterval (a hugely popular camping spot), which is dotted with 22 waterfalls snaking their way down the mountainside, interspersed with crystal clear pools for a cooling dip. For those keen to truly test their adrenalin levels, there are companies that offer tandem-paragliding and hang-gliding experiences off the Dasklip Pass and at Pampoenfontein. Birdwatchers can also expect to find an abundance of feathered friends at Pampoenfontein, Beaverlac (another great camping site) and in the Groot Winterhoek. Or opt for some fishing at the local municipal dam in Porterville and the privately owned dam on the Houdconstant Farm. Every Saturday, visitors can also pop in at the Houdconstant Country Market, which offers something for everyone, from delicious food to tractor and pony rides for the children. There is an artisanal gin distillery in the mountains above the town. Tygerkloof Distillery is the home of Ginsmith Gins, and visitors can enjoy a tapas and gin tasting experience at this beautiful mountain distillery.