Overberg Insider: 5 Lesser-known dorpies to love

2016-10-02 08:30 - Louzel Lombard
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I hate the word 'nook'. But if ever there was a little a corner offering seclusion - the official definition of the word 'nook' in SA - the  Overberg would be it. It's a collection of a whole lot of nooks and crannies, really. Small towns each with their own flavour and identity knitted together to create a tapestry of canola, vineyards, apple orchards, artist hideaways and sleepy seaside villages. 

One of my favourite things about the Overberg, actually, is the secluded beaches it offers. Just an hours drive from the mass-crowd havoc that is Camps Bay and Clifton in summer, beaches like Rooi Els, Koppie Alleen and Kleinbaai lie hidden away - often with up-close and personal views to Southern Right Whales frolicking close by. 

SEE: 7 Secret beaches in the Overberg

The Overberg also serves as the gateway to Cape Town or the Garden Route or the Cape Winelands, depending from which way you're coming or going. Due the popularity of these aforementioned places, the Overberg is often only a drive-through destination - somewhere to buy a pie before heading on.

This is a crime, really. 

Although the many farm stalls are definitely worth a road trip in themselves, the Overberg is also a place to linger and relax. 

Here are 5 of our absolute favourite and entirely unique Overberg dorpies to escape to...

Greyton

There are few towns in South Africa blessed with both the beauty and tranquility that characterizes Greyton. 
 
There's more than enough weekend activities to keep you intrigued: a wide array of delightful eateries, intriguing shops and all sorts of interesting people. 

Located about 140km from Cape Town, it's perfect for a day outing, however, once you get there you may just want to stay! Firstly, the iconic Saturday morning market is a must. 

Every Saturday morning at 10:00 Greyton's town square, a shady patch of grass and gravel right across from the stately NG church, bursts into a buzz of activity. Delectable aromas of baked goods and freshly brewed coffee permeate the bustle of country-tinged transactions and hearty greetings.

The town is also a find for thrifty, second-hand shop lovers, and adventurers alike. The Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail from McGregor to Greyton, for example, is a perfect way to explore the magical surrounds. 

And if all the adventure makes you hungry, check into Abbey Rose with its dainty Victorian-looking garden furniture, large outside area and broekie-lace awnings for a scrumptious meal.

SEE: Where to eat in the Overberg


 



Gansbaai 

It's a small town, with only a few shops and small harbour. But this seaside village on the tip of the continent makes big waves in terms of global conservation - and rightfully so. 

Gansbaai Tourism, with its spectacular Grootbos Nature Reserve and numerous eco-projects including those run by Marine Dynamics have made a significant impact in the area of eco-tourism. Together with the Dyer Island Conservation trust, founded by Wilfred Chivell, these marine biologists are involved in some profound conservation and research programmes. 

It's really an exemplary tourism establishment in terms of balancing commercial operations with scientific research. The programmes are all aimed at protected the fragile and critically important marine eco-system sitting right at the southern-most tip of Africa. 

These include the largest surviving colonies of the endangered African Penguin whose numbers are at an all-time low, the breeding and calving grounds of the Southern Right Whale, the breeding place of over 60 000 Cape Fur Seals on Geyser Rock, as well as the vulnerable Great White Shark that flourish in the Shark Alley due to the undisturbed seal colony. 

We went shark-caging in Gansbaai and learnt that Great White Sharks, for one, aren't always the deadly creatures they're made out to be. 

SEE: Your ultimate Overberg road trip guide



Betty’s Bay 

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," seasoned travel writer and Betty's Bay local Nadia Krige says. 

"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..."

Read the local's insider guide on a breakaway in Betty's Bay here: Betty's Bay - a little slice of paradise between mountains and sea


Arniston 

Arniston may be a million miles from Santorini, but it offers warm water, fresh fish and an escape from the hustle and bustle.

If you're dreaming of a Greek escape, why not settle for an SA-flavoured Greek getaway to Arniston in the meantime? This quiet town lies along the southernmost shore of the African continent - a romantic fisherman's village embedded in fynbos and rugged limestone cliffs. 

It's the perfect place to go if you're after a breakaway from the Big Smoke. Plus, it's a real treasure hunter's dream... 

Legend has it that the cave on Arniston's beach was once large enough for a wagon and a full span of oxen to turn around inside. This is where the Afrikaans name Waenhuiskrans - or Oxwagon Cave if you're being literal - for Arniston came about. 

You can either enter the cave at low tide from the beach's side, or through the small hole at the top of the cave. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding seas, and the odd freak-wave to create a bit of hysterical laughter... 

Read more about Arniston's cave and what to get up to in town here:  Arniston – Find your Greek escape in SA


Baardskeerdersbos 

Few towns in South Africa are as arty and secluded as Baardskeerdersbos. 

The hide falls into the same category as Nieu Bethesda or Hogsback in the Eastern Cape, Greyton in the Overberg, Pilgrim's Rest in Mpumalanga and Nottingham Road in the KZN Midlands. 

But it's even smaller, quieter and artier.  And it comprises almost 100% of practising artists - whether it be painting, sketching, sculpting or artisanal baking. 

The town also hosts the Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, an initiative which started by the reclusive artists' community to bring attention to their work, especially from outside visitors. 

They exhibit twice a year during Autumn and Spring when the Strandveld landscape is at its most striking, veld flowers have begun to bloom and the iridescent green fields of pre-industrial farmlands glow with life. 

The weekends draw between 200-300 visitors per day, with most starting at the B'bos Art Gallery on the Main Road, and then dispersing to the various artists on the route.

Check out our guide on how to spend an arty breakaway in Baardskeerdersbos here: An artists' escape in Baardskeerdersbos


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