We have been visiting Jacobsbaai for a good couple of years now, and 2018 was no different, with us spending a short but sweet weekend with Chantelle’s folks at the always comfortable Artist’s Retreat guest house.
The weekend itself was punctuated with plenty of strolls around the lovely little village, a trip through to Velddrif and Laaiplek, a visit to the surprise church bazaar that popped up, plenty of socializing, and of course LOTS of rest and relaxation.
Oh, and there was even a little fun run (of all things) that took place on the Saturday morning. I don’t know why I mention it. None of us were there to jog.
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The West Coast National Park is not the best SANParks national park to recommend visiting if you are looking for some big game to spot. However, with the idyllic Langebaan lagoon as its focal point, the 27,500 hectare large West Coast National Park is certainly more public friendly than most, with it being one of the few national parks where you can cycle, jog, braai, suntan, swim in the sea, picnic, swim in a lagoon, or even camp out on houseboat!
(Plus, there are actually antelope and smaller creatures to be spotted, and of course plenty of diverse bird life for the enthusiast).
Spring however is when the park really comes to life, where the annual carpets of colourful wild flowers show their faces and turn the area into an amazing sprawl of delight.
Naturally, SANParks immediately hikes the entry fee to take advantage of this surge of interest in the area, but it is money well spent, believe you me (unless of course you own a Wild Card, because well then entry is free) – if you haven’t yet witnessed the incredible carpeted fields of colour that the private Postberg Flower Reserve unveils come Spring, then you simply have to make a plan for next year.
Capetonians (i.e. people from Cape Town) descend on the park in their hordes, with lengthy queues at the entrance gate quite the norm. (Tip: If you don’t enjoy waiting in queues, you can go the long way around and enter via the Langebaan gate – usually a much less busy gateway into the park!)
Apart from these few weeks in Spring, the Postberg Flower Reserve section of the park is closed to the public, meaning that it remains unspoiled for much of the year. Every year this then pays dividends when the hills literally start exploding with colour as the flower season begins.
Chantelle and I had seen this spectacle for ourselves for the first time last year (we even overnighted in Hopefield of all places!), and this year we were quite eager for the girls to also see this wonderful sight of nature at her best.
Having enjoyed a big family bash in celebration of Cheryl’s birthday the day before, Sunday saw us head out down the N7 and then R27 to Langebaan, where we met up with my Mom and Dad for a day of flower watching.
This turned out to actually be a great plan, because we knew that the girls would probably become bored quite quickly (and thus start annoying each other in the back), so we split them up, with Jessica riding in Mom and Dad’s car while Emily stayed with us (on Chantelle’s lap).
We spent the next couple of hours driving through the park, admiring all the colours and of course getting slightly flustered with all the traffic. As you would imagine, cars were parked everywhere, with pretty much anyone with even the slightest inkling of calling themselves a photographer spilling out to capture as much of the flower covered landscape as possible.
We were treated to some amazing sights, and explored a bit more of the area than what we did last time around (this time I made sure I had enough petrol before going in!), and after our visual senses were properly sated, we headed down back to the lagoon for a bite to eat at the park’s Geelbek Restaurant.
At least, that was the plan until we quickly realized that perhaps they were simply too busy to actually give good service, and so opted to abandon our table and rather exit the park to grab a now very late lunch from the nearby Beulah Farm Deli instead.
So in the end it was a day well spent, and I therefore suspect that next year we will probably be back again. Though perhaps this time even more prepared to make an even fuller day out of it! (In other words, remembering to pack a picnic basket for a change…)
Oh, and once again, taking pictures of fields of flowers doesn’t really work all that well when all you have is your Huawei cellphone for the job. Nevertheless, I tried my best:
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(Oh, and sadly we did see less animals than what we did last time around. Not a big train smash though, so long as you go into the park knowing that animal spotting is not the big drawcard here!)
Having spent a lovely Sunday chasing wild flowers in the Postberg section of the West Coast National Park with Chantelle, the kids, and my folks, we decided to end off a successful day with a bite to eat. Unfortunately, the Geelbek Restaurant inside the park was a little too busy for our liking, and so we exited the park, put in some petrol at Yzerfontein, and then popped into Beulah Farm Deli for a (very) late lunch.
Interestingly enough, this visit to Beulah came almost exactly a year after we had first discovered it, and there have been some subsequent changes to this quaint eatery that Chantelle so immediately had fallen in love with the first time around.
Most noticeable is of course the fact that the pork charcuterie specialists Eighteen94 CureSmiths have moved out, rebranding themselves as The Flying Pig cureSmiths and setting up shop in Darling instead – though their cured meat is still available in the deli section of Beulah. In their place is now a bakery operated by Brett and Anli Nortier of Rosemead Artisan, meaning that all of a sudden Beulah Farm Deli now sports a lot more baked goods on the menu!
Honestly, I’m a little less excited about the place than the first time we experienced them. To me they’ve lost a bit of that sense of being hip, a sort of place that would sit perfectly in somewhere trendy like say Obs (Observatory) in Cape Town, and have instead embraced a more practical, West Coast farm stall eatery approach. Nevertheless, the interior remains ‘interesting’, and the food and coffee were perfectly good.
(Of course, I could be talking rubbish because Chantelle still seems to like it very much. Plus, the place seems to be very popular with both the locals and travelers alike!)
Anyway, after a pleasant sit down bite to eat, refreshed and ready for the road (it had after all been a very long day of driving), we said our goodbyes and headed back down the R27 – because if you live in Gordon’s Bay like we do, then you still have quite a long road ahead of you in order to get back home! :)
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The deli itself is essentially right next to the more well known West Coast Farm Stall. I’ve submitted the location to Google Maps, but it might not be showing up for everyone just yet. Nevertheless, here is the map as it currently stands:
In the middle of the small Columbine Nature Reserve along the West Coast of South Africa, stands the strikingly rugged Cape Columbine Lighthouse.
The stretch of coastline which the lighthouse, usually the first lighthouse sighted by shipping coming from South America and Europe, now protects claimed a number of victims over the years, including the Columbine (1829), the Heleric (1932), the Haddon Hall (1913), the Lisboa (1910), the SS Saint Lawrence (1876) and the SS Columbine (1944 – death by torpedo in this instance though) – however, the lighthouse only saw the light of day in 1936, when it was finally commissioned and given to the famed, Scottish-trained, lighthouse architect Harry Claude Cooper as one of his last projects (in total, Cooper was involved in the building of more than 30 South African lighthouses).
To reach the lighthouse, you need to head out to the small fishing hamlet of Paternoster, and once there, drive out a further 5 km along a dirt road to reach the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (which also houses Tietiesbaai, a popular fishing spot for the locals).
In the middle of the nature reserve stands the lighthouse, perched on top of a boulder-strewn outcrop called Castle Rock.
The lighthouse towers above a small complex of houses, some of which are now available for rent by the public as overnight accommodation. The Cape Columbine Lighthouse holds the honour of being the last manned lighthouse built on the South African coast (hence the houses).
Note, all lighthouses are automated. “Manned” implies that the ports authority have a presence at the lighthouse, either to accommodate visitors or to optimise maintenance and travelling.
The lighthouse was the first South African lighthouse to be installed with three simultaneous navigational aids, namely optics (light), a fog signal, as well as a radio beacon.
It was also the first South African lighthouse lens system designed for use with a 4 kW incandescent electric lamp.
The lighthouse is open to the public from Monday to Friday, and tours of the facility are on offer. The large grounds and picturesque surrounding also make it a popular picnic spot and wedding photo backdrop.
Sunday (a few weeks ago mind you) was the culmination of our little jaunt to Hopefield – a viewing of the magnificent Spring wild flowers at the Postberg Flower Reserve within the West Coast National Park.
Having spared the kids the torture of sitting in a car the whole day by leaving them back in Bellville with the grandparents, we followed up our evening of good rest in Hopefield with a pleasant breakfast at the Merry Widow, and then packed our bags and made our way to the Langebaan gate of the West Coast National Park.
It was still pretty early, so getting in wasn’t an issue in terms of what we hear can be quite lengthy queues at this time of the year, and pretty soon we were cruising along the tarred road, admiring the view of the vegetation, sea and of course, azure blue Langebaan lagoon!
Truthfully, the West Coast National Park on the whole isn’t the best of parks for viewing animals given the combination of thick, shrub-like vegetation and tarred roads, but nevertheless, we spotted a fair number of snakes, tortoises and even some Eland on our way towards the Postberg Flower Reserve entrance.
The privately owned (but managed by SANParks) Postberg Flower Reserve is closed to the public except for a short period during Spring (i.e. flower viewing season), meaning that this secluded piece of land is literally covered from head to toe in a brilliant explosion of pink, orange, purple, yellow and white wild flowers – making for an absolutely jaw-dropping beautiful spectacle to behold.
(Also, its secluded nature means that the antelope haven’t yet learned to shy away from the roads, making sighting of gemsbok, eland, steenbok, bontebok, kudu and red hartebeest an almost surety – and indeed, we were thoroughly rewarded in terms of herd sightings!)
Also – I thought it a particularly special sighting – we stumbled across an owl sitting out in the open, just happily perched there on a branch, allowing the cars to pass by without a seeming care in the world!
As expected, the Postberg was literally crawling with people out to see the flowers, and despite the multitude of signs posted all around, as is human nature I guess, these were completely ignored and people were stopped all over the place, out of their vehicles, trampling flowers, and stomping about- all to get the best shot possible of course.
Despite this though, the flowers really were something amazing to behold and I’m very pleased that Chantelle and I made the trip through to see this – highly recommended indeed!
Sadly though, a lack of petrol and a need to save both set of grandparents from our kids meant that we couldn’t exactly spend the whole day wandering about the park (which by the way boasts some fantastic facilities and is one of the few parks that encourages you to ride bike, braai, etc.), meaning back home we had to turn.
Which was a nervous drive out the park mind you – that petrol gauge was looking suspiciously low!
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(We did stop on the way back at the colourful West Coast Farm Stall for a quick coffee and bite to eat – which in hindsight was a bad move because without the kids to enjoy its silly ‘artistic’ eccentricities, the place comes across as more than just a little rundown/tacky.)
Anyway, we arrived back in Bellville safely, picked up Jessica and Emily (who were over the moon to see Mommy and Daddy again), and headed back home to Gordon’s Bay, having enjoyed a thoroughly good whirlwind weekend of out and about! :)
A couple of weeks ago we found ourselves overnighting at the Merry Widow in Hopefield as part of our whirlwind flowers in the West Coast National Park adventure.
Needless to say, these days Hopefield is but a fraction of its former size (and glory), and in terms of things to see – well there isn’t all that much.
However, two sights do stand out. The one being the very informative Simply Bee bee farming/product business and the old Dutch Reformed church that dominates the town (it is after all, the very reason that the town originally exists in the first place!).
Simply Bee is in the beeswax products business, specializing in all manner of natural skin and fragrance products, actively managing thousands of bee hives.
Their base of operations happens to be in Hopefield and their public premises are split into two parts, namely the shopfront which caters to all manner of bee-related products (Chantelle was in heaven), and the bee observation centre which hosts a gigantic amount of bee information, features a glass observation bee hive that allows you to view the bees going about their normal everyday business, and also a small museum room that features all manner of historic items from the surrounding farms on a display.
Informative, interesting and well worth a visit!
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The Hopefield Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk) was built in 1879, and is home to one of only 10 Forster and Andrews Organs imported into South Africa. The organ, which was installed in 1911, is still used every Sunday, and can be viewed by appointment.
Because I was wandering about Hopefield on a Saturday, I couldn’t exactly stroll inside, but as expected from these farmland towns, the church is a beautiful and imposing structure, surrounded by a beautiful garden and featuring some gorgeous stained glass artwork.
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As I mentioned earlier, a couple of weekends ago we posted the kids off to the grandparents and following a not so great Friday evening date night, hit the R27 to travel along the West Coast for a quick spot of flower viewing in the West Coast National Park.
Itching to stay somewhere other than our usual haunt of Jacobsbaai (purely in the interest of trying something else), Chantelle found us a spot at The Merry Widow Country Retreat, one of Hopefield’s possibly only two advertised guest houses.
Whilst an important and bustling hub of the West Coast in days gone by (the only access to the towns of Vredenburg, Langebaan and Saldanha was through Hopefield), the construction of the big national roads, the re-routing of the R27 and the R45 in particular, meant that the church town of Hopefield has subsequently shrunk – and in truth, has been relegated to little more than a one horse town these days.
It has a couple of tiny shops, a small hotel and… pretty much nothing else.
(The Air Force Base Langebaanweg, as well as the West Coast Fossil park – 22km and 25km west from town respectively – falls within town limits though, so that’s something. Oh, it does however have excellent Internet connectivity – always nice in our modern connected era.)
Anyway, The Merry Widow also actively facilitates Hopefield’s popular Saturday market, The Mill Country Fair, held in the old Hopefield flour mill, adjacent to the Merry Widow property – itself a restored 1880-built homestead.
Sadly though, an encounter with a long gravel road on the outskirts of Darling caused us to do a u-turn and backtrack, meaning that thanks to our Beulah breakfast and this unscheduled extra drive time (saw some beautiful fields of flowers along the way though), we made it to Hopefield and its tiny bustling market a little on the late side – so late in fact that most of the people had already packed up and gone home!
(Thankfully though, not everyone had yet left, meaning we could still grab a couple of delicious baked goodies that went down super well with the superb coffee courtesy of The Merry Widow.)
All the Merry Widow’s rooms are particularly good looking and well decorated, but pleasingly we got the awesome Stone Cottage, a stone built, spacious room, which I instantly fell in love with – despite Chantelle’s shivering given the naturally cool air as a result of the stone walls!
Given the location, the atmosphere is pretty laid back, we took in the evening bird life, slept like kings, and enjoyed a fantastic breakfast the next morning on the outdoor stoep, taking in a refreshing, tranquil West Coast Sunday morning!
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(Of course, that isn’t all we did there – after the Saturday market goodies, we visited the Simply Bee shop and education center, marveled at the beautiful church, Chantelle napped, and I strolled and drove about Hopefield, taking in a good look at what once was obviously a thriving town but is now very evidently not.
I also found a pretty cool spot that gave me a good view of flowers and Hopefield’s wind turbine farm – a view that my cellphone camera naturally completely failed to adequately capture.)
Oh, and seeing as there aren’t any restaurants in Hopefield, Saturday evening saw us drive through to Langebaan and end up having supper at the institution that is Pearly’s. (Sadly, Mykonos was a little too deserted for our liking, and that cool looking German restaurant we spotted the last time that we stayed in Langebaan appears to no longer be in existence.)
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Although Hopefield itself has very little to offer someone looking for things to do, if you are looking for a tranquil getaway with little noise, clean air and lots of bird life, then this space might just be right for you.
A couple of weekends ago, we split the kids (one went to Granny, one went to Ouma), and after not the best of date night ever (couldn’t locate the restaurant we wanted to try, settled for mediocre, in the middle of a renovation, Spur, and then watched a mediocre Charlize Theron drama/thriller at Ster Kinekor), we headed out bright and early on the Saturday morning, embarking on our whirlwind flowers on the West Coast adventure!
To start things off though, we needed breakfast, and following some good advice from Chantelle’s baking friends, we hunted down Beulah’s Farm Deli, which stands alongside the R27 at the Yzerfontein/Darling crossing.
The exterior is… ‘charming’ in a rundown farm stall kind of way, but inside is where the real magic lies.
The tiny deli section of this vintage (but trendy modern) decorated farm stall is stocked with some exquisite farm products, a lot of these being meat (pork) related because Beulah also plays host Eighteen94 CureSmiths, experts in the age old charcuterie style of food preservation.
(This of course then translates to a lot of delicious pork/bacon making it onto Beulah’s delectable menu.)
The coffee is good, but believe me, the breakfast is even better. Well presented, full of flavour, and with a feel of being prepared by someone who loves food and is well trained/watches a lot of fancy cooking shows.
Needless to say, Chantelle and I left there in absolute heaven, hunger sated and ready for the next step of our little breakaway journey!
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Back in February last year, Chantelle, the kids and I were invited to join both the Montgomery and Holmes clans for a weekend away in Jacobsbaai, which we of course gleefully accepted. On our way up, Chantelle insisted that we pull over at the famed Weskus Padstal, a place she was dying to introduce me to.
And I have to say, it’s just as well that she did. What an interesting little stop. Padstal, nursery, aviary, restaurant, this little place has it all, not to mention some fantastically eccentric props, art installations and just general interior design.
A feast for the eyes and senses, and even better, a great little stop spot for the little ones! :)