The West Coast is where time moves slowly and days are spent combing windswept beaches and enjoying bountiful feasts of seafood. Its irresistible allure – of ocean and salt, whitewashed walls and the scent of woodsmoke – is what keeps people coming back year after year.
It’s a coastline that captures the imagination: from the first glimpse of the Aegean-blue Langebaan Lagoon from the R27 highway to Velddrif’s flamingo-flecked saltpans and the colourful fishing boats returning with their catch in Paternoster. It’s also not a place of citified convenience, nor is there a concern for the opinions of outsiders – the West Coast is unapologetically real, unpretentious and unfiltered. For the visitor, the area opens up a series of evocative experiences that will spark an unshakeable desire to return.
Follow the R27 highway to its end and you’ll find Velddrif. Flanked by pastel-pink saltpans and the mighty Berg River, this is the home of the bokkom – the West Coast’s infamous (and eye-wateringly salty and smelly) dried fish delicacy. Part industrial town, part holiday destination, Velddrif is a mecca for everyone from anglers to artists. For many, it epitomises the warmth and energy of the West Coast.
The historical heart of Velddrif, this street running beside the river is instantly recognisable by its quaint fishing huts and spindly wooden jetties. Once the fishing hub of the town, the Laan is now a heritage area, protected from development. While only a few of the fish-drying huts are still operational, the rest contain a quirky mixture of eateries, shops and cafés – the most popular of which is Columbine Co. Here you can choose from a selection of teas and coffees – owner Albert Junior Cornelissen roasts his own beans – and take up residence on the stoep to chat with the locals or perhaps spot the Laan’s resident pelicans.
Contact Columbine Co: 084 879 7006
Where to find it Off Voortrekker Road (R399), Velddrif
Craving an oozy camembert or rich blue cheese? Look no further. Made by David and Carolyn Malan, the Kokerboom Kaas range consists of hard and soft cheeses and yoghurt using Guernsey cow milk from nearby Langrietvlei Farm. The artisanal cheeses and charcuterie are sold all over the West Coast and in Cape Town. An avid cook himself, booking a bespoke tasting with David at his home (one road back from Bokkomlaan) is a must-do when in the area.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 4pm – 5.30pm
Alternate stockist: Bokmakierie Nursery, Tuesday – Saturday, 9am – 2pm
Contact 082 563 4640, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 5 Waterkant Street, Velddrif
Bokmakierie: De Plaat, off the R399 (as you’re leaving town)
AVOO Health Café
Operating out of her Bokkomlaan café, Danica Mackie offers delicious salads, sandwiches, burgers and smoothies to a devout client base. Bringing a fresher side to the array of fried foods generally sold on the lane, AVOO caters to hunters of healthy, tasty food – the homemade bokkom bread and spekboom cake are particularly noteworthy. The platters are a great option if you’re going for a picnic or river cruise.
Tuesday – Saturday, 9am – 3pm
Contact 061 077 2110, email@example.com
Where to find it Bokkomlaan, Velddrif
Cracklin’ Rosie River ToursAt the end of one of the wooden piers on Bokkomlaan, you’ll find this 23-seater boat. Hop on board for a gentle meander upriver, with fantastic scenery, interesting stories from skipper Nico and guide Wendy, and a lot of birdlife (flamingos, sandpipers, larks, spoonbills, kingfishers and more). The sunset cruise is a beauty. You can book a cheese platter or Saldanha oysters and bubbly to enjoy on board.
Good to know A minimum of four passengers is required. Specialist photography trips are run from time to time, as well as fishing trips and braai trips on request.
Times 8am – 10am; 10am – 12pm; 1.30pm – 2.30pm; 6pm – 8pm
Cost R125 (1 hour); R250 (2 hours)
Contact 071 897 9611, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Bokkomlaan, Velddrif
Meaning “loading place”, the neighbouring port’s character is as colourful as the fishing trawlers lining its dock. Home to numerous little cafés and shops in between the warehouses, it makes for a lovely visit – especially when the cormorants are flying upriver after a day’s fishing. Make a turn at The Lighthouse Deli for pancakes and ice cream, the Harbour Pop-up Shop Market for gifts and collectables, and Doepie’s for the best fried snoek and chips on the West Coast… just be sure to order prudently as their portions are enormous!
Lighthouse: 082 070 8651
Where to find it Mossel Street and River Street, Laaiplek
Hopefield is a short drive from Velddrif and hosts a wonderful farmers’ market every Saturday morning. Stocking a wealth of gorgeous produce from artisans from across the region, this is the best place to source seasonal fruit and vegetables, organic eggs, breads, chilli sauce, preserves, pickles and more. Make a morning of it and grab a breakfast of freshly made roosterkoek(bread grilled over coals) or pannekoek (pancakes) just outside the market’s doors and bask in the sunshine. The market is reopening in April 2023.
Good to know While in Hopefield, pop in at Simply Bee in Church Street, which has a hive observation centre and a range of lovely bee-produced products.
Opening times Market: Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Simply Bee: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm; Saturday, 9am – 4pm
Contact 022 723 0569, email@example.com
Where to find it Market: 38 River Street, Hopefield
WHERE TO STAY
Rocherpan Nature Reserve
Settled in the coastal scrub between Dwarskersbos and Aurora, 25km north of Velddriff, this reserve is almost entirely off-grid. Home to many bird species around its seasonal wetlands, and offering private beach access, it’s the ideal getaway for those looking to rest and recharge. Eight smart eco-cabins provide pleasingly rustic finishes, an open-plan living space, a deck with braai facilities and a bathroom with a big shower.
Cost From R970 – R2 020 per night, depending on cabin and season
Where to find it On the R27 Dwarskersbos Road
Wamakersvlei Beach Farm
Just north of Dwarskersbos, and neighbouring on Rocherpan, this former fishing hamlet (the name means “wagonmaker’s lake”) is now a dreamy, picturesque destination offering 400 hectares of unspoilt nature and 7km of private beach. There are five restored, rustic-chic fisherman’s cottages behind the dunes that place you in the midst of the beauty, with a firepit made for stargazing and the sounds of the ocean a constant lullaby.
Good to know The cottages sleep 2, 4 or 8 people and are dog-friendly.
Cost From R705.50 per person sharing (2-night minimum stay)
Where to find it Hoef Street, Dwarskersbos