There are few places along the Western Cape coastline that are quite as wild as Betty's Bay.
Despite the fact that a large provincial road cuts right through it, the town has managed to remain somewhat pristine, characterised by its white-sand and rocky-outcropped beaches, houses rising organically out of lush fynbos, rugged mountain faces, glassy lakes and, of course, the seeming open invitation for gale force winds to rush right through whenever they please.
Also, unlike other coastal hamlets that always seem to 'nestle,' Betty's Bay sprawls.
Covering a long, thin strip of land between the Kogelberg mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, it stretches, extends and unfurls for a full 13km, creating the distinct impression that no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to explore all of it.
But that doesn't mean you can't try! Here are some of the coolest activities and sights you will definitely be able to check out during a weekend stay.
7 things to do & see
One of Betty's Bay's distinguishing features is a large sand dune overlooking Silver Sands Beach that can be spotted from as far away as Gansbaai, way across the bay. Known as Blesberg, the dune attracts adventure junkies from far and wide who climb to the top and then speed down in whichever way they prefer - either in a galloping run, on an old piece of cardboard or even a proper sandboard.
A number of the local shops and cafes rent out sandboarding equipment or if you have your own gear, be sure to bring it along. However, if you're not that keen to attempt it on your own, book a guided tour with SA Forest Adventures, who have an office in Kleinmond. It will cost you about R350 per person.
Stony Point Eco Centre & Penguin colony
Along with Boulders Beach in Simon's Town, Stony Point is one of only two land-based penguin colonies in Southern Africa. Home to more than 1 000 breeding pairs of African Penguin, the little outcrop of land is extremely important in terms of conservation and has recently been incorporated by CapeNature, after being independently monitored for years. The cute little creatures first appeared here in the mid-1980s, when a breeding pair - presumably from nearby Dyer Island - started nesting among the scrubby fynbos.
While it started out as a rather rustic attraction, Stony Point has undergone major upgrades in the past few years, now boasting a gorgeous, wheelchair-friendly boardwalk, a community-run restaurant called 'On the Edge' and also a whale museum, giving a bit of insight into the spot's hairy history as a whaling station.
It is, however, still the adorable, tuxedo-wearing seabirds that are the main attraction as they clumsily hop along the rocks, waddle about the little patches of sand and bob about the bay. The best time of day to view them is early morning when they're just about to head out on a hunt, or late afternoon when they return. Be sure to put enough time aside to just observe them for a bit - you're bound to leave with a lifted spirited and some good giggles.
The colony is open to visitors between 09:00 and 17:00 and entry is R20 per adult and R10 per child.
READ: From whaling station to eco centre - Stony Point gets new life
Comb the hidden beaches
While there are two prominent beaches in Betty's Bay - Main and Silver Sands - that are popular for sunbathing, swimming, walking and surfing, the coastline is littered with intriguing coves and bays just waiting to be discovered.
Make your pick and spend an entire morning or afternoon clambering among the rocks, inspecting pools and sifting through the sand. The little beaches close to Stony Point are said to be a treasure trove for strange items washed up by the ocean, including - for some reason - shark teeth, locals say. Toward the other side of town, Jock's Bay provides a cozy and uncrowded alternative to Main beach for those looking to have a quiet swim.
Visit the Harold Porter Botanical Garden
Lying in the fertile fold where two kloofs meet, the Harold Porter Botanical garden is an absolute wonderland for nature-lovers. Forming part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, the garden has a rich diversity of fynbos, carefully curated to showcase different vegetation and climate regions. Beautifully tended grass walkways guide you along and pretty ponds make for perfect picnic spots.
There are also spectacular waterfalls rushing down both Disa and Luiperd's Kloof and during summer months, keep your eyes peeled for the delicate and rare red disa on mossy cliff faces.
The garden is open between 08:00 and 16:30 on weekdays and 08:00 and 17:00 on weekends.
Check out the Sanbi website for more information on Harold Porter Botanical Garden.
If you have a passion for exploring on foot, Betty's Bay has a huge array of trails to check out. In Harold Porter alone, there are three - the moderate and shady Disa Kloof trail is great for all fitness levels and ages, while Luiperd's Kloof is slightly more challenging, with wooden ladders and steep climbs. The Zigzag path is a lovely contour trail along a mountainside that offers spectacular views and just enough of a challenge to get your cheeks rosy and the blood pumping a little faster.
Rod's Trail is another enjoyable hike for any fitness level, that will take you along the foot of the Kogelberg mountain range for about 5km between the botanical garden and a point roughly across the road from the Centre Shop.
When the north west wind blows, Betty's Bay's Main Beach produces some of the sickest waves you will find in the south western Cape. Being a beach break, it does tend toward dumpers, but if you hit it on a good day, you may be rewarded with a memorable tube ride or two. It is suited to all experience levels, although when it gets heavy, it really does get HEAVY. Although it is a popular spot with surfers from all over the province, it never gets overcrowded and has managed to keep some of its wild charm.
Look out for elephant & rhino rock
When you drive out of Betty's Bay toward Kleinmond's side, keep your eyes fixed on the mountain-side of the car (not you, driver! Just keep looking at the road). As you round the bend, turn your gaze to the top of the mountain and look out for two of the Big 5. Yup, uncanny but true! Two rocks adjacent rocks take the shape of an elephant and a rhino... and they're not man-made.
Where to eat
If you're after hearty, delicious food, a bit of exclusivity, a warm fireplace and a crackling vibe, Tides is your go-to. Sea food is The restaurant is extremely popular with both locals and visitors, so if you know you're heading to Betty's Bay for an upcoming weekend, call right now to book your table! They're open for dinner between Tuesdays and Sundays, and also open for Sunday lunch.
Tel: (028) 272 9835
It's hard to miss Jack's, as it's big, bold and located right next to the Clarence Drive. They're open every day of the week, except Wednesdays, serving up breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. A cozy little library corner, a balcony with an amazing view and an affiliated art gallery make Jack's a great option for a leisurely morning or afternoon.
Tel: 083 554 7789
On the Edge
Located right by the Stony Point Penguin colony, On the Edge is run and owned by members of the local Mooiuitsig community. Their hours coincide with those of the colony, and they specialise in breakfast and lunch. It tends to get extremely busy in season, so if you know you'll be working this outing into your itinerary, be sure to book.
Tel: 060 720 7885
The Red Disa Restaurant
While we highly recommend enjoying the simplicity of a home-packed picnic in the botanical garden, Red Disa offers a welcome and convenient alternative. Open during garden hours they serve breakfast and lunch as well as a delicious array of teatime treats. They are also available for special events.
Tel: (028) 272 9946
For many years the Whaling Station was Betty's Bay's token restaurant and while it has changed hands a couple of times, the name has stayed the same. Nowadays, the family-run venue serves up traditional Greek cuisine as well as fresh seafood and more generic items like pizzas and burgers.
Tel: (028) 272 9238
Things to know
It gets a little windy
Where to stay
Disa Kloof campsite & chalets
Oudebosch Eco Cabins, Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve