Exploring South Africa’s lesser-known west coast

If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, chances are you’ve heard of the Garden Route: a well-trodden stretch of the south-eastern coastline, and high on many travellers’ hit lists. However, those looking for a different kind of South African road trip should consider rerouting off the beaten track to the wild and wind-swept west coast.

Paula's Cottage, Perfect Hideaways, photographer Henrique Wilding
(Image credit: Paula's Cottage, Perfect Hideaways, photographer Henrique Wilding)

Words by: Gabriella Patterson

Why go

Paternoster is something of a locals’ secret. Less than two hours’ drive from Cape Town, this peaceful fishing village fringes a wide sheltered bay with sand as white as icing sugar. Most people while away their time meandering along the beach, watching the whales and dolphins skimming the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, or having lazy lunches at beachside restaurants Gaaitjie and Voorstrandt. The pace of life is slow here; even the whitewashed cottages with their distinctive turquoise shutters exude a sense of tranquillity.

Paternoster beach
(Image credit: Paternoster beach)

Where to eat

One of the main reasons Capetonians escape to this part of the coast is the serious foodie credentials. Paternoster is famous for its seafood - particularly kreef (or crayfish) - and one of its local treasures, Wolfgat, won Time Magazine’s best restaurant in the world last year. The menu changes daily depending on what nature provides and can include seaweed from nearby rock pools, herbs foraged from the dunes or the morning’s catch.

Crayfish on the grill at Die Strandloper
(Image credit: Crayfish on the grill at Die Strandloper)

Another favourite, The Noisy Oyster is set in an open-air courtyard filled with rainbow-colored wooden furniture and pompom-trimmed seagrass baskets festooned from the trees. Salty oysters from neighbouring Saldanha Bay and grilled seafood are the order of the day, washed down with an obligatory glass of crisp chenin blanc.

Junk & Disorderly
(Image credit: Junk & Disorderly garden)

For a hearty home-cooked breakfast, head to the playfully named Junk & Disorderly and grab a table under the cabana-covered terrace. Don’t leave before buying a loaf of fresh bread or a few pastries from the bakery.

If you fancy venturing a little further down the coast, Die Strandloper in Langebaan is legendary for their 10-course beach barbecues, which feature a feast of freshly caught seafood, grilled sweet potatoes, roosterkoek bread and sweet koeksisters. This is sand-between-the-toes, sticky-fingered eating at its best. 

Where to shop

Die Winkel op Paternoster
(Image credit: Die Winkel op Paternoster)

Paternoster village has a number of independent art galleries and shops selling crafts, jewellery, spices, local treats and bric-a-brac. Make a beeline for Die Winkel op Paternoster to pick up some of their homemade jams and buttermilk rusks – traditional slow-baked biscuits that’ll break your teeth unless you dunk them in rooibos tea.

Where to stay 

Blue Lagoon villa, Perfect Hideaways, photographer David Ross
(Image credit: Blue Lagoon villa, Perfect Hideaways, photographer David Ross)

Most weekenders opt to stay in one of the many refurbished fisherman’s houses which have been lovingly restored and tastefully redecorated to reflect the surrounding landscape – think driftwood beams, soft, muted colours and natural textiles.

Perfect Hideaways has a range of great options, while Gelukkie offers a pair of cosy self-catering cottages for two. The four-bed Silver Bay Villa is a design lover’s dream and a gem of a find in St Helena Bay. Its dramatic position on the craggy dunes and unending views of the ocean are truly spine-tingling. If you prefer the hassle-free nature of a hotel, De Linden in the heart of Paternoster village is a stone’s throw from the beach and has seven light and airy rooms. Alternatively, Strandloper Ocean has a lovely seafront restaurant, as well as a spa and pool for those who simply want to kick off their shoes and relax. 

Silver Bay villa
(Image credit: Silver Bay Villa)

How to get there 

Direct flights from London Gatwick and London Heathrow to Cape Town are available every day with British Airways. The drive to Paternoster is roughly two hours (around 160km), and you can hire a car at the airport through Hertz, Avis or Europcar. 

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