Cape Overberg

Cape Overberg

Introduction:

The Overberg is a region in South Africa to the east of Cape Town beyond the Hottentots-Holland mountains. It lies along the Cape Province's south coast between the Cape Peninsula and the region known as the Garden Route in the east. The Overberg area from Cape Town in the West to Barrydale in the East. The boundaries of the Overberg are the Hottentots-Holland mountains in the West; the Riviersonderend Mountains, part of the Cape Fold Belt, in the North; the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the South and the Breede River in the East.


The Cape Overberg is known as The Whale Coast. Pristine beaches are ideal for swimming and surfing, but more than just sun, sea and sand, delightful culinary experiences accompanied by fine local wines await you. Scenic hikes or just lazing by the pool. As part of the World Heritage Site Cape Floral Kingdom, the region is rich in fynbos, which in turn offers many walking and hiking experiences and turns it into a bird-watchers’ paradise.

The Weather:

The climate is typically Mediterranean with cool wet winters and pleasant summers. For a five day weather forecast for the Overberg region,

Financial Facts:

The unit of currency is the South African Rand (R), consisting of 100 cents (c). Bank notes are issued in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. Coins are in denominations of 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5.

Most credit cards are accepted at points of sale and service, as are traveller's cheques in major currencies.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at any commercial bank represented in the region.

Driving hints:

The rule of the road in South Africa is to keep to the left of the road as opposed to many other countries where drivers keep to the right. Please keep this in mind at ALL times if new to our roads. On freeways, a 120 km per hour speed limit is strictly enforced and in urban ares the speed limit is 60 km per hour. This speed limit is also strictly enforced as is a ban on drinking and driving. Penalties for driving over the legal alcohol limit are severe (0.08%). Use of seat belts and carrying your driver's license at all times (when the car is in motion) are compulsory. Failure to comply will result in a fine and/or prosecution.

What to see:

The mountains, kloofs and coastal plains of the southwestern Cape are the natural realm of the most varied assembly of plant species on earth - the Cape Floral Kingdom. The greatest variety of fynbos species occurs in the Cape Overberg region.

In the country seasonal changes are distinct, and each season has its own enchantment. Midsummer with its ripening orchards and vineyards occur in December and January. Late summer (February and March) is the sheep shearing and lambing season. Wine grapes are harvested from January to March. April and May (autumn) are the months for ploughing, cultivating and planting. Winter, although generally mild, is the time for snow-capped mountains, winter waterfalls, log fires, onion broth, duck down and feathers. In June and July (midwinter) unsurpassed rural splendour, green tranquility and blooming proteas surround you. Spring, occurring from August to October, sees the advent of apple, pear, plum and youngberry blossoms and spectacular wild and crop flowers. November is the month for reaping, cut flowers and roses. A wealth of seed eating birds, including large flocks of the endangered Blue Crane, frequent farmlands and between September and December breeding pairs may be spotted.

Bontebok National Park near Swellendam and De Hoop Nature Reserve near Waenhuiskrans/Arniston provide a refuge for one of the rarest antelope species in southern Africa; the bontebok. Cape mountain zebra, red hartebeest, eland and smaller antelope species are also found here. Shy, nocturnal leopard are rare, but individuals are still found in mountainous areas.

Southern Right whales frequent the sheltered bays along the Overberg coast between June and November each year to mate, calve and nurse their young.

The open ocean habitat attracts many deep-sea birds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels. The tiny Damara tern and black oystercatcher are endemic to South Africa and are the Overberg's rarest breeding coastal birds.

Great White Shark Adventures

Great Whites are surface feeders. Watching these magnificent animals feeding in their natural environment is an adrenaline-pumping experience. Knowing where, how and why they attack is interesting, informative and educational. A trip to "Shark Alley" is simply sensational. Gansbaai boasts one of the most unique areas in the world for Great White sightings - Dyer Island. The best months for viewing are February to November. White sharks ranging from 2,5m to 6m in length may be observed. As many as 10 Great Whites may be encountered per occasion. If you have an open water 1 qualification you may get into a wet suit for a close-up view of them from the safety of a cage. Diving equipment is provided by most operators. Your dive number is required.

Escape to Dyer Island

Dyer island is situated 5,2 nautical miles offshore from Gansbaai and is a home to a breeding colony of African (jackass) penguins, whilst Geyser Island a short distance away, is a breeding place for Cape fur seals. People used to live on Dyer island once, but that was a long time ago. The narrative of their isolated existence is fascinating, the entire ocean experience - sounds, smells, views, the spray on ones arms and face and hair thrown back in a breeze, rejuvenating. For full details on Dyer Island and Geyser Island, as well as the many attractions and trips that are available.

Whale Sensations

Guided whale tours normally include a visit to the Old Harbour in Hermanus - an excursion not to be missed. The setting is beatiful, the people friendly - the whole holiday vibe just great! You may even run into the Hermanus Whalecrier - the only whalecrier armed with a kelp horn, sandwich board and cell phone in the world. The Old Harbour Museum depicts the history of whaling and fishing in the area and sections of whale skeleton are on display. A telescope is stategically placed above the Old Harbour allowing a close-up view of the magnificent animals in the bay. A view from the cliff tops is equally sensational . A sonar buoy allows one to listen to the sounds they make. Whale watching from a plane is also great. Even more sensational is whale watching by boat.

For full details on Dyer Island and Geyser Island, as well as the many attractions and trips that are available.

Perlemoen Tours and Mother of Pearl Creations

Perlemoen (abalone) is a local delicacy that fetches high prices in the local and overseas market - Walker Bay gold. In 1952 one Brian McFarlane started the perlemoen (abalone) industry in Hermanus. He found exporters in Cape Town who handled all that he could supply and even asked for more. He encouraged students to dive for him. The money was good and perlemoen diving became a way of life for lots of them. Today there are 6 perlemoen (abalone) hatcheries in Walker Bay; one at Kleinmond, two at Hermanus and three at Gansbaai. Guided perlemoen tours are offered and exquisite mother of pearl (shell) jewelry is for sale. Perlemoen poaching (diving without a permit or exceeding the quantities allowed) is an offence. Special perlemoen measuring tools are for sale.

Bird watching, Fynbos Excursions

Nature Reserves in the Overberg offer excellent bird watching and fynbos viewing opportunities. They all have established walking and hiking trails and summer evening concerts are offered by some. All Nature Reserves in the area keep a record of recorded species and plant and bird lists are made available on request.

There is a complete module dealing with Fynbos in detail, click here to visit this module
All nature reserves in the Overberg together with maps and useful information are available if you click here.

Rural Expeditions

Fruit, wheat, sheep, cattle, vegetables, flowers, horses, ostriches and even ducks are farmed in the area. A number of historical farmsteads are also worthy of a visit. An ancient milkwood tree, declared a National Monument, may be viewed on the farm Rhenosterfontein and near the historical farm Nacht Wacht, on the road to Arniston, one finds the first protective fence, put up by farmers in 1837 to save the bontebok from extinction. The Four Passes Fruit Tour is popular with visitors to the region. Most farms welcome visitors and excursions to farms in the region are arranged.

The Overberg offers a wide range of activities and scenic pleasures, museums, monuments, nature reserves and hiking trails. Each town on the map above, contains useful information. If you click on a town that interests you, information specific to that town will be displayed in this area

Local Delicacies:

One of the leading events in the Overberg in terms of local wares, is undisputedly the Hermanus Food and Wine Fair, which takes place in July/August each year. Leading wine estates, food producers and suppliers display their wares by way of tasting and promotional sales - an event not to be missed by connoisseurs. Local delicacies such as abalone (perlemoen), yellowtail, waterblommetjies, bobotie, mussels, crayfish and oysters are prepared in traditional style and may be savoured. The Caledon Beer and Bread Festival and Struisbaai Yellowtail Festival are held in March each year. In April Hermanus hosts the Old Harbour Museum Seafood Festival and in September the Struisbaai Calamari Festival and the Napier Sweet Potato Festival get the taste buds going. Black cast iron pots simmering over hot coals and traditional "Boeremusiek" set the scene for the Kleinmond Potjiekos Festival which is held in October each year. Culinary delights ranging from seafood concoctions to Cape Malay Mutton Curry, bread on a stick to the most divine puddings and cakes are prepared. Bokkoms (dried fish), shark biltong, shark's fin and smoked snoek are available at fisheries in the Gansbaai harbour.

Vines and Wines:

The first vines were brought to the Cape in 1659. In 1972, official recognition was accorded the Overberg area of origin. Today robust vineyards grace the valleys of the region. The unique climate, combined with the skills, talents and fine instinct of award winning wine makers in the region, yield wines of great complexity and finesse. Visitors can look forward to the finest Cabernet, Pinotage, Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Fine Restaurants:

The Overberg offers a wide range of fine restaurants. Seafood restaurants are of course the local speciality. Enjoy a plate of perlemoen (abalone) our local delicacy. Crayfish, prawns, yellowtail and Kabeljou are also very popular. Galjoen is delicious eating as well as our fine calamari steaks. For those with cosmopolitan tastes there are fine Italian, Greek, French, German and Mexican establishments scattered throughout the Overberg. You must also try our local dessert, malva pudding - delicious (but fattening!). Good steak houses and pizza parlours are also widely available as well as value for money tasty fast-food outlets. The making of reservations in advance during peak season is strongly advised as most restaurants are packed to the rafters during holiday season.

Farm Produce:

The Overberg is prime agricultural land, consequently fresh vegetables are in abundance. The taste of freshly picked tomatoes, carrots and onions that have never been refrigerated is a taste sensation. There are a wide variety of shops and road side stalls which sell freshly picked delicious vegetables berries and fruit at really cheap prices. Visits to the surrounding farms are easily arranged. Speak to the local tourist information office to book a trip and a guide.

Local Liqueurs:

Swellendam is the largest producer of youngberries in the world. The recipe for Wildebraam (Youngberry) liqueur has been handed down and refined through generations and today the Overberg has a unique South African liqueur of exceptional quality and flavour.

Local Maltsters:

Southern Associated Maltsters (Caledon) is the only malt producer for South Africa's lager beer industry and is the largest in the southern hemisphere. The classically designed Birkenhead Brewery, Africa's first craft brewery estate, is located on 21 hectares of open land in Stanford near Hermanus. Only the finest malted barley, spring water and brewing hops are used in beer production. The beers are unique and refreshing, be sure to order one at the local watering hole or take some home, you can have a batch couriered to your home destination.

Arts and Crafts:

The Overberg area is blessed with a large number of master craftsmen from various disciplines, artists, potters and sculptors. Consequently, most of the delightful gift shops and character-filled village open air markets have a variety of lovingly made handcrafted products for sale. You will find items from the distinctly quirky, through to real works of art at very reasonable prices. Many of these delightful pieces are inspired by the magnificent whales that frequent our coastline, so not only is the work unique in execution but also in terms of theme and motif.

Major Malls:

The Overberg can best be encapsulated as the last natural preserve of the Cape, that is to say, regionally speaking. Therefore, whilst major towns like Hermanus and Caledon for example, will have the presence of national retailers and retail groups, most towns have owner run shops and thus the range of goods tends to be smaller and more selective. If you require special foods (for example sugar free or lactose free products for allergic reasons) it is advisable to purchase these types of goods in the major centers before departing for the villages and hamlets that constitute the Overberg's vacation belt.

Speciality:

You will be delighted by the huge number of speciality stores and stalls that stock health orientated foods, herbs, spices and home-made local breads of all sizes and descriptions. Delicious home-made cheeses, pickled fruits, fruit in brandy and fiery sauces unique to the Overberg are to be found in abundance. Horns fashioned from dried kelp, hand-painted rocks, perfectly smooth and oval, depicting delightful seaside scenes, paintings, oils, pastels and watercolours of remarkable technical skill and beauty are also widely available. Rare and beautiful shells, ancient coins recovered from shipwrecks and handmade jewelry in precious metals are also to be found. If you like shopping for the unusual then the Overberg is the ideal venue for this pursuit.

Gifts and Curios:

A wide range of shops specialise in local gifts and curios. You will find the quality of craftsmanship to be high and the prices very reasonable. It is impossible to list all of these establishments, but a quick and accurate way of finding the local gift shops in the area you are visiting is to visit the local tourist information office located in almost every town in the Overberg. You will find the staff to be knowledgeable, helpful, friendly and enthusiastic.

Clothing:

There are a wide variety of clothing stores selling items from formal evening wear through to local dress styles and beachwear. Fear not if you find you forgot to pack that essential item before your departure, you are sure to find an item that is stylish, well made and reasonably priced. For our foreign visitors you will find the prices to be exceptional value due to the favourable exchange rates.

Sporting Gear:

There are a variety of marine orientated sporting goods shops in the Overberg. They cater for recreational activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, angling, surfing and so on. Stores also cater for more exotic sports such as paragliding, parasailing and kiting. Golf is also a big favourite and there are a large number of golf courses and golfing shops. Click on a town on the map to see if they have a local golf course.

Best time to visit

Whale-watching is between July and November when whales migrate from the South Atlantic to the warmer waters off the Western Cape. Mild weather conditions make the region a year-round destination, but the rainy season is between June and August.

Getting around:

A well laid out road network links major towns and villages in the region. The pale blue line indicates the N2 highway. From Cape Town the Overberg is a scenic 90-minute drive along the N2 via Sir Lowry’s Pass or along the R44 coastal route via Gordon’s Bay.

Contact Cape Overberg Tourism

T: +27 28 425 11 57
F: +27 28 425 1014
E: tour...@odm.org.za
Overberg Tourism Official Web


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