Stretching east from the Elgin Valley, and spread between fynbos-covered mountains and a bewitching coast, the Overberg packs in a mix of just about every imaginable kind of natural environment. Lined with vast beaches, tall dunes and craggy tidal pools, its varied seaside destinations are made for play and discovery – whales famously gather here annually to calve. Head inland a bit, and those hills are ribbed with hiking routes and MTB trails, strung with ziplines and sprinkled with waterfalls, forests and rivers dotted with rock pools. And as it stretches towards the wave-pounded southernmost point of Africa, there’s a wildness here, too.
Kloofing in Suicide Gorge
Suicide Gorge possesses legendary status among Cape Town thrill-seekers; getting through it on a full-day kloofing (aka canyoning) expedition is a hardcore adventure requiring leaps of faith from rock ledges up to 14 metres above deep natural pools. Such jumps are part of the fun as you traverse a pristine pocket of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains – waterfalls, rock-hopping, moss-covered boulders that you slide down on your bum, and manoeuvring through narrow gaps between the canyon walls. You’ll finish the 16.2km route feeling like you’re ready to take on the world.
- Suicide Gorge must be tackled with a registered kloofing guide – contact CapeNature, which also issues hiking permits (30 per day) or book with an adventure tour company that offers Suicide Gorge trips.
- You need to start this route early, no later than 9am, and be fit (and courageous).
- No children under 12 permitted.
Good to know The nearby 15km Riviersonderend Trail offers a similar challenge on the same river but with lower drops – the highest being a more manageable seven metres.
Times Daily, 7am – 5pm (November – April)
Contact 028 841 4301/02 (reserve office)
CapeNature: 087 087 8250, email@example.com
Where to find it Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve, R321, Elgin-Grabouw
Fly along the Cape Canopy zipline
Elgin’s canopy tour is a thrilling zipline adventure of gravity-propelled, high-wire foefie slides strung above a deep ravine. A 4×4 transfers you into the heights of the Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve, where 11 slides (up to 320 metres long) connect 13 platforms – and off you go, waterfalls and craggy rockwalls flashing by as you go. There’s also a thrilling traverse of a rope suspension bridge, to add that extra dose of Indiana Jones-style swagger.
Good to know Maximum weight is 120-130kg (to fit the harness). Tandem rides are available for little children (5 – 9 years old) and the faint of heart.
Times Wednesday – Sunday, 8am – 2pm
Cost R995 (4-5 hour tour)
R1 495 (adult-and-child combo)
Contact 021 300 0501, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Cape Canopy Tour, off the R321, Elgin-Grabouw
Raft or tube the Palmiet River
This river in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is the nearest place to Cape Town to do white-water rafting (in winter). You’ll run it in two-person Crocs or four-person inflatable rafts, with professional guides, and negotiate rapids called Bubble and Squeak, Itchy and Scratchy and Judgement Day! In summer you can get your kicks on a more chilled tubing trip – there will be a few rocky scrambles, but in the water it’s pretty effortless, being pulled along by the current as you lie back on a one-person inflatable Geko under the hot Overberg sun. Being tossed into the water is half the fun.
Good to know Minimum age for rafting is 12 years and for tubing 8 years old. A reasonable level of fitness is required and there is a weight limit of 110kg for the boats. If water levels are too low for tubing, an alternative river can be used.
Times Flexible, weather- and water-level dependent
Tubing: October – June
Rafting: July – October
Cost R650 per person (group of 7 – 12); R550 (group of 13 – 24)
R60 (conservation fee per person)
Wetsuit hire: R100
Where to find it Kogelberg Nature Reserve, R44 between Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay
Ride Oak Valley’s legendary MTB trails
Oak Valley, Elgin’s oldest wine-producing estate, not only had the region’s first vineyards (1902) and cellar (1907), but– thanks to the late winemaker and MTB enthusiast Pieter Visser – pioneered the local mountain-biking scene with beautifully maintained trails that take you through orchards, vineyards, oak forests and mountain fynbos. There are three colour-coded routes full of twists, turns and tremendous views, through famous sections evocatively called Sounds of Silence, Raging Baboon and Wonderland, among others. A bike wash, showers and good food and wine await for afterwards.
Good to know The trails are closed during stormy weather and one day after rain.
Times Daily, from dawn to dusk
Cost R60 (daily rate); R550 (annual rate)
Contact 021 859 2510, email@example.com
Where to find it Oak Valley Wine Estate, 127 Oak Avenue, Grabouw
Go slackpacking in the mountains
The world-class Green Mountain Trails traverse private and public lands bordering and within the Elgin Valley’s magnificent Kogelberg Biosphere. Led by knowledgeable guides, you’re steeped in a visual and sensory spectacle of the Cape’s unique fynbos, with incredible biodiversity over the 10 to 18 kilometres hiked each day. You’ll enjoy picnic lunches in stunning spots and personalised wine-tastings at various farms. And then there’s the excellent country-style dinners and nights spent in a comfy bed in a fine four-star country inn, so you’re well-prepared for the day ahead.
Good to know There are two options, the Green Trail (4 days, 60km) and the Blue Trail (3 days, 50km), which traverse different sections of the same terrain.
Times Monday from 4pm – Friday 2pm (Thursday 2pm for the Blue Trail)
Cost Green Trail: R14 600 per person sharing
Blue Trail: R11 400 per person sharing
Single supplement: R5 300
Contact 028 284 9827, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Wildekrans Country House, N2, Houw Hoek
Sandboarding at Betty’s Bay
Snowboarding’s curious summertime lovechild, sandboarding is considerably easier than its alpine cousin. And some of the finest dunes for this gravity-assisted form of adventuring overlook the Atlantic from Betty’s Bay beach. The Dune, as it’s known, is around 230 metres high, but you can start lower and graduate up to longer, scarier descents as you get the hang of it – or simply opt to sit on the board. Not that it’s as frightening as it looks: the most difficult part is mastering the body movements required to accelerate. Guides are on hand to show you ropes.
Good to know Suitable for age 5 and up; a maximum of 10 sandboarders per group can be accommodated. An average level of fitness is required.
Times Daily, 4pm – 6pm
Cost R600 + entry fee R20 (cash) per person
Non-participating spectators: R40 entry fee
Waterside fun at Elgin River Lodge
If a laidback day beside a river sounds like your idea of perfection, head to this apple farm in the Elgin Valley. With 2.5km of Palmiet River frontage, it’s an amazing aquatic playground for the young and young-at-heart. There’s swimming, tubing, canoeing, a foefie slide into the water, barge cruises, a slip ’n slide, water-skiing and wakeboarding… plus hiking and biking trails over the 100-hectare property, and a games room with table tennis, darts and a pool table. The charming Toad on the River pub supplies refreshments, or enjoy a picnic.
Good to know Booking is essential for day visitors. There are chalets if you want to stay and play for longer.
Times Daily, 8am – 9pm
Cost R100 (day visitor entry fee)
R100 (barge cruise); R1 600 per hour (wakeboarding and water-skiing)
Contact 021 846 8345, email@example.com
Where to find it Mofam Farm, Appletiser Road, Elgin
Fatbiking on the beach
It’s an absolute blast zipping through the fynbos on a slender 6km trail that takes you down the hill to deposit you on the sparkling white sands of Walker Bay. First, it takes you up and down and across dunes before heading straight down the face of one – tall, steep and pretty intimidating – to the shoreline. But fatbikes, with their huge tyres, work against the sand to slow your descent, so it’s a controlled and comfortable downhill finish. And then there’s a beautiful ride along the water’s edge on stunning De Plaat beach to complete the two-hour adventure.
Good to know There are easier routes around the dunes for novices, and steeper options for adrenaline lovers. Your experience is captured on GoPro free of charge.
Times Daily, 9am – 12pm; 4pm – 7pm (summer)
Daily, 10am – 1pm; 3pm – 6pm (winter)
Cost R900 (adults); R650 (children 8 – 11 years)
Contact 079 514 8386, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it The Roundhouse, 61 Ingang Street, De Kelders, Gansbaai
Paddle the Klein River
As the Klein River makes its way to the sea at Grotto Beach, it forms a wide and gorgeous lagoon, a 10-kilometre stretch surrounded by nature reserves, fynbos-covered mountains and rural serenity – coastal birds and fish eagles overhead, and loads of fish below. It’s wonderful for paddling about in a kayak or canoe. Bring your own, or book a guided trip that focuses on birding from the water (you might spot otters, turtles and other fauna too). The two-hour excursion with professional river guide Adele Swart of Alpha Sierra Adventures includes safety gear, snacks and soft drinks enjoyed on the water.
Good to know Booking is essential (six paddlers maximum, sharing two-person kayaks). Moderate fitness required and the weight limit is 170kg.
Times Flexible and weather dependent; usually 9am, 12pm or 3pm
Contact 082 744 4229 (WhatsApp)
Where to find it River’s edge at end of King Street, Stanford
Discover an ancient dwelling
The Klipgat Cave, within Walker Bay Nature Reserve, can be reached via the boardwalk from the De Kelders entrance gate. There’s a bit of scrambling over rocks to reach this double-chambered seaside cave, a protected Middle Stone Age site, with its limestone formations and beach and ocean views… hinting at our early ancestors’ sense of what a great location entails! The name of the cave (meaning “stone hole”) refers to the window-like opening that yields those hypnotic vistas.
Good to know De Kelders is an excellent spot for whale watching in winter. The reserve has a 4×4 Fishing Trail that offers access to selected angling (with a permit) and picnic spots along this protected and otherwise inaccessible coastline.
Times Daily, 7am – 7pm
Cost R60 (adults), R40 (children)
Contact 028 314 0062, 087 087 3841 (CapeNature)
Where to find it accessible via the De Kelders gate at Walker Bay Nature Reserve
Explore the ancient Platbos Forest
A beautiful mix of indigenous milkwoods, white stinkwoods and hard pear trees, Platbos (near Gansbaai) is the last remaining patch of the most southerly indigenous forest in Africa. It’s privately owned by ecologists dedicated to preserving it. Day visitors are welcome to meander the Forest Trail and seashell labyrinth (after depositing their walking fee in the “honesty box” and picking up a map); it’s a magical, mysterious, cool place filled with birdsong, bushbuck and little creatures, and earthy scents of moss and foliage. It’s so enchanting you’ll want to linger longer – which you can, with a few low-key, off-grid glamping offerings where you can simply commune with nature and the trees.
Good to know No dogs allowed.
Times Daily, 8am – 5pm
Cost R50 (adults); R20 (children)
Contact 076 923 3349
Where to find it Platbos Forest Reserve, D4026 road, off Grootbos Road, Gansbaai
Ride a horse on Pearly Beach
This is the stuff of bucket-list romantic fantasy – but wait until your steed has taken you into the surf for a swim together, hooves no longer touching the sand. It’s an unforgettable way to experience the beauty of Pearly Beach, one of the Overberg’s many stretches of unspoilt strand (and can include bubbly, sundowner drinks and snacks). These water-loving horses can also take you on inland trails through mountain fynbos with breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the coast.
Good to know The outing is 2.5 to 3 hours long, and includes light refreshments and photo/drone/GoPro video footage. There is a weight restriction of 95kg.
Times Daily at low tide
Cost R900 (SA citizens); R1 150 (internationals)
Champagne or sunset + full moon trails: R1 250 (SA citizens); R1 400 (internationals)
Where to find it Kleyn Hagelkraal Farm, off the R43, Gansbaai
Cruise the Klein River
A more genteel, do-nothing option for experiencing the beauty of this river is on a Lady Stanford boat cruise. Soak up the sounds and scenery of the backwaters and estuary, and marvel at the pink flamingos, yellow-billed ducks and blue swallows, just three of the over 100 bird species you could spot. Lady Stanford is a double-decker pontoon that comfortably accommodates 26 passengers, with bench seating, tables (BYO picnic or drinks) and an eco-toilet. Drinking glasses and ice are available on board, as are binoculars. For private cruises, a gas braai can be fired up (BYO food).
Good to know There are five 2-hour cruises per day, including a sunset trip. Kayaks for self-guided paddling on the river are also available to rent.
Times Daily, 8am – 6pm
Private cruise: R3 800
Kayak rental: R350 (single); R500 (double); half-day
Contact 066 374 9386, email@example.com
Where to find it River’s edge, corner of Church and Du Toit Streets, Stanford
Take a walk in heaven (with wine)
Tim Lundy is a seasoned hiking expert who will lead you up and over the majestic Kleinrivier Mountains and across the wine estates of the renowned Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. It’s a mix of top-grade scenery and stops at cellars to revive with vino (notably chardonnays and pinot noirs). The longest trail starts at Fernkloof Reserve and heads to Hamilton Russell, where a tasting is followed by a short walk to neighbouring Bouchard Finlayson for a wine-and-food pairing. There is also the option of a shorter 3.5km hike that starts at Bouchard Finlayson with a wine-tasting and ends at Newton Johnson for lunch. A 6km circular route between Ataraxia and Creation includes a food-and-wine pairing at the latter; and a route on Bosman Wines’ De Bos Estate features a glamping-style picnic with wine-tasting.
Good to know Group size is limited to 6 – 16 people, so booking is essential. The hikes are moderate and paced according to the group. Tim can custom-design a trail on request.
Times Varies, depending on client
Cost From R1 200 per person
Where to find it Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, R320, Hermanus
Go on a sea safari
From Hermanus, a marine safari aboard the purpose-built catamaran MV Miroshca can get you to within 50 metres of a southern right whale – a fabulous (and respectful) way of communing with these cetaceans that gather annually in Walker Bay (from June to November). Apart from the whales, there will be Cape fur seals, dolphins, penguins, cormorants and other seabirds and marine mammals worthy of witnessing from the water at any time of year – not to mention fabulous views from the ocean of Hermanus and surroundings. There are also scenic and private cruises in summer.
Good to know The boat has no hull protrusions and noise reduction to minimise disturbance to marine life and the ecosystem. For passengers, there is comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, a sundeck for elevated views, refreshments and toilets on board.
Times Daily, 9am; 12pm; 3pm
Cost From R1 220 (adults)
From R1 120 (students/seniors)
From R610 (children under 12 years)
Where to find it Southern Right Charters, The Whale Shack, New Harbour, Hermanus
Sea kayaking in Walker Bay
This is probably the most thrilling way to see whales, dolphins, seals and other marine life. Hop into a two-person kayak at the Old Harbour and be guided around this beautiful bay for two hours. Glide on sparkling water, admire the rugged Hermanus cliffs and mountain views, breathe in the salty sea air and share the ocean with playful seals.
Good to know By law, the kayaks may not come closer than 300 metres to a whale. The kayaks are super-safe, sit-on-top type and suitable for novices.
Times Daily, 8am; 10.30am; 1pm (November – April)
Daily, 9am; 11.30am; 2pm (May – October)
Cost R500 per person
Where to find it 26 Marine Drive, Hermanus
Cruise + snorkel at the southern tip
On a beautiful day, the fishing village of Struisbaai will dazzle you with its white beach and stunning, almost tropical blue-green sea… To enjoy a bigger picture of this lesser-visited stretch of the ocean at the southern tip of Africa, head out on a cruise on a boat called Met Eish. Then enjoy a snorkelling lesson in the harbour (famously home to Parrie the stingray). Stephen Griffiths, who offers the activities, has recently relocated to Struisbaai after several years of running a five-star PADI dive centre in Mozambique – which means you can also go scuba diving (or learn how to).
Good to know The two-hour boat trip is for a maximum of 6 people (exclusive use).
Times Daily, depending on client
Cost Boat cruise: R3 500
Diving: R1 000 (single dive); R1 800 (double dive) + R600 gear rental
Where to find it 43 Geelstert Avenue, Struisbaai43
Learn to surf at the southern tip
If immersing yourself in the gorgeous green-blue water and riding the waves is more your speed, you can rent a board or take lessons from life-long surfer Robbie Moir – the waves at Struisbaai are perfect for beginners, and the water’s warmer than in Cape Town. You will be kitted out with a surfboard and wetsuit, and have an instructor to show you the moves with private one-on-one lessons or group lessons (maximum five people). For more advanced lessons, there are several other surf breaks around this coastline that you can discover with Robbie.
Good to know Minimum age is 6 years old and participants must know how to swim. Rentals are for use in Struisbaai only.
Times Daily, depending on client
Cost R350 (private 1-hour lesson)
R280 (1-hour lesson for 2 people)
R250 (1-hour group lesson)
Board + wetsuit rental: R250 (3 hours); R360 (full day)
Where to find it West Beach Road, Struisbaai
Take a hike at the southern tip
At Cape Agulhas, you’ll find a weather-beaten coast and wide-open landscapes. Drive through the tiny town of L’Agulhas to the second-oldest lighthouse in SA (negotiating the 71 steps on the ladders to get to the top will make most hearts beat faster – as will the views); snap a selfie at the official tip of Africa a short boardwalk stroll away (where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet). Then head out on the 5.5km circular Rasperpunt Trail, which starts at the picturesquely rusting Meisho Maru shipwreck and winds along the wild coastline through dune fynbos, past rock pools and Khoi fish traps (best seen at low tide).
Good to know Buy a self-guide booklet at the SANParks office (214 Main Road).
Times Daily, dawn to dusk
Lighthouse: Daily, 9am – 4pm
Cost Lighthouse entry fee: R15 (adults); R7.50 (children 2 – 11 years)
Contact 028 435 6225, sanparks.org
Where to find it On the R319 (Main Road, leading to Agulhas National Park), Agulhas
Go caving at Arniston
There’s a strange cacophony as the waves crash against the rocks and slosh about outside, like holding a shell to your ear – plus there’s a slightly cinematic charge as you slip inside the vast Waenhuiskrans Cave (it’s name refers to a “wagon house”, it’s that large). It’s easy to get there – a 1.5km walk (with some up-down on the dunes) from the parking area; not as simple is finding the entrance, but there are signs. Follow the stone steps to the water to get into the smaller cave, then through the hole at the back to enter the larger main cavern. It’s a scintillating adventure.
Good to know Entrance to the cave is only at low tide.
Times Daily, dawn to dusk
Where to find it Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserve, Harbour Street, Arniston
Hike to waterfalls
Those wanting an incredible forest-and-waterfall experience will find it at Marloth Nature Reserve, adjacent to Swellendam. Beneath the soaring Langeberg Mountains, it protects a few pockets of rare old-growth, indigenous forest reminiscent of the Knysna Forests. Within it is a moderate 1.8km hike through cool, shady trees alongside a river (with pools for dipping), which takes you to Duiwelsbos Waterfall and its magical pool. It’s mostly uphill, with the aid of log stairs. To make a day of it, you can combine the Duiwelsbos route with the longer Plaat Loop, which gives you access to additional mountain streams to swim in.
Good to know Watch out for baboons, and keep your picnic provisions hidden. You will need to get a permit for hiking – at the entrance gate or from CapeNature. Be properly equipped for hiking, with enough water, a map, medical kit and warm clothing.
Times Daily, sunrise to sunset
Cost Permits: R50 (adults); R30 (children)
Contact 028 514 1410 (reserve)
CapeNature: 087 087 8250, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Marloth Nature Reserve, R60 (off the N2), Swellendam
Explore the De Hoop Reserve
A few days at De Hoop will set you free – a scenic 34 000-hectare playground offering a variety of guided eco boat rides on the wetlands, mountain-biking, nature drives in an open safari vehicle, a vulture experience and bird walks, all while enjoying some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery anywhere in the world. The guided Marine Walk is unmissable – two hours spent exploring the shoreline’s rock pools, each a little alien world filled with secrets that will be decoded by a knowledgeable guide.
Good to know Guided activities need to be booked at reception. You can also explore on your own, along four hiking trails, and there are mountain bikes for hire and tidal pools to swim in. Picnic baskets can be booked at The Fig Tree Restaurant.
Times Daily, 7.30am – 6pm (7pm on Friday)
Cost Reserve entry: R50 cash (adults); R30 (child)
Vulture Experience: R550 (including picnic)
MTB hire: R350 (adults); R200 (child)
Contact 021 422 4522, email@example.com
Where to find it De Hoop Nature Reserve, R319, off the N2 from Bredasdorp or Swellendam
Experience the Whale Trail
This iconic five-day, 54-kilometre hiking trail traverses the stunning De Hoop Nature Reserve, combining wide-open space, sea spray, snow-white dunes and breathtaking ocean vistas, with the chance to spot cetaceans from the shore (in whale season) as well as visiting a rare Cape vulture colony. The route hugs the coast and goes through fynbos, over limestone formations and to caves. It’s a real bucket-list adventure, with bookings taken a year in advance (bookings for January 2024 open on 3 January 2023). There is also a guided and more luxurious 3-day bespoke De Hoop Trail Experience option
Good to know The trail is open all year round to groups of six or 12 hikers (no children under age 8); check in at 2pm, check out at 9am five days later.
Cost R 2 050 (January – June); R3 320 (July – December, whale season)
Portage: R560 per unit
Guided hike: R9 450 per person sharing (including accommodation and two meals)
Contact 087 087 8250, firstname.lastname@example.org
Guided hike: 021 422 4522, email@example.com
Where to find it De Hoop Nature Reserve, R319, off the N2 from Bredasdorp or Swellendam
River rafting on the Breede
Essentially a river rodeo, with “bucking bronco” moments as you ride your two-person inflatable Croc through the rapids (grade 1 and 2, so fun, not frightening), the Breede River offers wonderful and immersive paddling adventures. From Round the Bend River Camp near Swellendam, you’ll wend your way through emerald valleys and cast your eyes across enfolding mountains – it’s utterly invigorating, whether for a single day or a weekend. The river is at its highest in winter; in summer, it’s more about splashing about under the sun.
Good to know Contact them for day trip rates (dependent on other bookings). The river camp has accommodation for weekend group bookings.
Times Friday – Sunday or Monday
Cost From R2 480 (adults); R2 275 (teens); R2 020 (children under 12 years)
Family: from R7 920 (2 adults, 2 children/teens)
Where to find it Off the N2 near Swellendam