MAPPED: A visual guide to the Namaqua Coastal Route of the Northern Cape

2018-10-08 14:00 - Ethan Van Diemen
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(Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

Take on the open road. Discover misty seaports and mining legends. Dance with the daisies. Feast with the First People. Shield your eyes and get out into the vast desert sands. The Northern Cape has much to offer travellers.

One of the greatest ways to see some of the best of the Northern Cape's offerings is to explore the Namaqua Coastal Route. The route includes hidden gems like Garies, Kamieskroon, Hondeklip Bay, Koiingnaas and Kleinzee and much more.  

With dozens of adventure and leisure options available, the Namaqua National Park, nature reserves, hidden coastal hamlets and some of the most remote hiking and 4x4 trails imaginable - there is something for everyone to enjoy.  

Go succulent sleuthing, hike the Springbok Klipkoppie for a dose of Anglo-Boer War history, find out about the history of mining in the area and explore the shipwrecks along the coastline. 

With breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, you can spot dolphins and whales at one time and enjoy beautiful vistas of mountains and veld with endemic wildlife at another.

SEE: Coast along SA's shores for your next road trip experience

These are some of the adventures and experiences you can enjoy on this route:

Garies and surrounds

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This, the heartbeat of Garies, beats incredibly slowly (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

The town of Garies is incredibly tiny and can truly be said to be in the middle of nowhere without offending anyone. It is entirely possible to drive through the town and not realise that you've been through a town at all as it seems to largely be a collection of small, quiet businesses and a few houses.

However, laying right on the N7 between rocky hills and nothingness, it's location is particularly well suited to travellers seeking a brief respite from the road or those who are looking to take a break before heading to the coastal section of the Namaqua National Park.

skilpad, flower camp, namaqualand coastal park, na(Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

The Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve is just north-west of Garies and forms part of the Namaqua National Park. The coastal section of the Namaqua National Park is a wondrous place to enjoy the unrefined natural beauty of the Northern Cape. 

skilpad, flower camp, namaqualand coastal park, naWhy not go glamping in the coastal section of the Namaqua National Park? (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

Make sure to check out the Beach Flower Camps. Located just north of the Groenrivier entrance to the Namaqua National Park, right on the beach, these luxury tents are the best way to enjoy the amazing scenery in the park. The tents all face the sea so visitors can enjoy a gorgeous sea view and accompanying sunset. The camp is the perfect place to settle down for a bit before heading out to explore the coastline and all the flowers and succulents in the area.

skilpad, flower camp, namaqualand coastal park, na(Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

Coastal flowers include gorgeous vygies and hardy succulents. Take some time to explore the area and see the flowers and succulents around the area or just have some sundowners on the rocks by the beach. It's all possible here.  

SEE: 5 Last-minute, beach breaks perfectly suited for South Africans pockets

skilpad, flower camp, namaqualand coastal park, naA flamboyance of flamingos (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

The Namaqua National Park is also home to a small flamboyance of flamingos that can be observed from a distance.  

Kamieskroon and surrounds

northern cape, south africa, travel, coastal routeThe view from the front of Die Kliphuis Kombuis (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

There is quite a bit to be done in the Kamieskroon area, whether heading off to the quiver tree forests or grabbing a bite to eat at one of the homely little restaurants serving up farm-style food - there exists a great variety of experiences for travellers to enjoy.

vintage,route,kleinzee,south africa,coastline,travA quiver tree forest (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

You may not believe it but the above picture is of a forest. A quiver tree forest to be exact. These trees are named for their historical use by the first peoples of this area that would use the hollowed out branches of the trees as a makeshift quiver wherein they would stow their arrows.

Today, visitors can take guided tours and explore the unique topography of the area. 

northern cape, south africa, travel, coastal route(Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

Another worthwhile addition to your Namaqua Coastal Route itinerary is the Namaqua National Park. It should come as no surprise that any guide to Namaqualand would have something that deals with flowers included in it - and for good reason. 

SEE: SA Road Trips Mapped: Exploring the Wild Flower route of the Northern Cape

northern cape, south africa, travel, coastal routeThe hills are alive with colour (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

When the winter rains cease and make way for the blossoms of spring, the sandy alluvial valleys and granite outcrops are punctuated by a blanket of colour transforming the landscape seemingly overnight.

Butterflies hover, birds dart about and dance in the wind with the rich floral splendour that characterises much of the Namaqua National Park in the springtime serving as a breathtaking backdrop.   

Diamond Coast and surrounds

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualandAnchor yourself at Noup Camp (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

Check out the towns of Hondeklip Bay and Koiingnaas for an authentic experience of the Northern Cape's coastal areas. Charming, former fishing villages hide intriguing stories and legends. 

Of these legends and stories can be found on the 4x4 Shipwreck Trail on the Diamond Coast.  

Through the years, the stormy Atlantic Ocean has often been an obstacle, preventing many ocean-going vessels from completing their voyages and sending them to a watery grave on the coastline between the Koingnaas and Kleinzee. The factual history of these shipwrecks has often been enriched by the whispers and speculations of local folklore. 

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualandThe Piratiny (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

The story of the Piratiny (above) harks back to the June of 1943. Inclement, tempestuous weather caused the Piratiny to run aground on the rocky coast at Schulp Point, 32 kilometres north of Hondeklipbaai. 

Weeks later, a heavy storm raged through the area and left the beach covered with wreckage, silks and a variety of other cargoes. The locals, not missing a beat, readily helped themselves to the fabrics, dress materials and whatever else seemed to be of use.

At the very next nagmaal (communion service), scores of churchgoers were 'coincidentally' decked out in brand new garments and outfits.

PICS: Legends and folklore on the 4x4 Shipwreck Trail sitting on the Diamond Coast, Northern Cape

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualandThe Border (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

From the beautiful, cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean littered as it once was with the glittering stones that are the lifeblood of Namaqualand to the local legends and stories told around fires, there is much to see, do and enjoy here.  

Kleinzee

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualandThe reverse side of the sign reads "topless photos only" which tells you a lot about the quirky character of this small town icon Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

A breezy 105 kilometres west of Springbok is the old mining town of Kleinzee. The closure of much of the diamond mining operations in the area has necessitated an emergence of creative, innovative ways to bring money into the tiny coastal town.

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualandThe entrance to the eclectically decorated Crazy Crayfish diner in Kleinzee (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

The Crazy Crayfish embodies this emergent spirit best with its eclectic decor and word-of-mouth popularity that sees people visit from all over the area.  

kleinzee, car, vintage, northern cape, namaqualand(Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)

If you're not convinced about this spot, read this review and see if it doesn't change your mind. The Namaqua Coastal Route and all its various unique spots make this well worth the trip.

SEE: Road tripping for the hops: Craft breweries of Free State and Northern Cape

As South Africa's largest province (slightly larger than Germany), whether you prefer the ocean, the desert, the bush, desert or off-the-wall towns deeply rich in history and culture, the Northern Cape is a must-see traveller's destination. This list is by no means a holistic accounting of all the experiences and attractions that is on offer for travellers. 

Make sure you take to the Namaqua Coastal Route and see the rest for yourself. 

Traveller24 Intern Ethan Van Diemen was hosted by Northern Cape Tourism Authority for the duration of his Namaqua Coastal Route trip. 

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