The rooibos capital of the world, Clanwilliam is reached via the N7 highway from Cape Town. Depending on the time of year, the route is marvellously scenic and as you near Clanwilliam, the scent of thousands of orange blossoms hits the nose and colourful groves flanking the highway, with the snow-capped Cederberg Mountains in the background, is your visual panorama. Brightly painted farm stalls line the road, selling their fresh fruit and locally-made crafts.
Aside from the town’s beauty, a compelling reason to visit Clanwilliam is the dam that stretches for 18km along the road. During the rainy season, water spews from the dam wall in an impressive show of rainbow-tinted spray.
Clanwilliam town is one of the oldest in the country, neatly maintained by its citizens and with many restored historical buildings. The craggy Cederberg Mountains lie to the east of the town where visitors can marvel at the rock formations and have an opportunity to see the scarce Clanwilliam cedar tree miraculously growing through rock fissures.
Top 6 reasons to visit Clanwilliam
1. Visit the Rooibos Ltd Factory in Clanwilliam for a tour and to sample caffeine-free rooibos tea, regarded as a superfood with anti-oxidant properties and loaded with vital minerals. For those who don’t drink herbal tea in the traditional way, the factory manufactures iced teas.
2. The Clanwilliam dam is enjoyed for its water sports, fishing and swimming. Opt for a sunset booze cruise to appreciate the calm waters while the sun sets over the mountains.
3. Clanwilliam is the favoured destination for visitors arriving for the wild flower season. Masses of flowers appear after the first spring rains and drab field are transformed into a profusion of colours. The Clanwilliam Wildflower Show is held in an old church with most flower varieties on display.
4. Travel over the Pakhuis Pass to reach Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat. This upmarket reserve boasts over 130 rock art sites, some perfectly preserved. Also in the reserve are several mammal species, including the secretive Cape leopard, and Cactus Canyon, an area filled with over 4000 cacti.
5. The Wolfberg Mountain Bike Trail in the Cederberg requires some technical ability and the trail passes crystal clear rock pools along the river, over steep hills and through challenging rocky tracks. The trail takes roughly 45 minutes to complete and a permit is required.
6. Looking for a pair of shoes to last you a lifetime? Strassberger Skoene is one of the oldest shoe manufacturers in South Africa, visit their factory in Clanwilliam to purchase a beautiful handcrafted pair of leather shoes, able to withstand all conditions.
Cape Town International is 230km from Clanwilliam. There is a private airfield outside Clanwilliam called Nooitgedagt that could possibly be used for chartered flights, if required, ask your host to arrange. Another charter airstrip in the area is the Saldanha/Vredenburg airfield 170km away. There are many rental agencies in Cape Town city centre, Cape Town International airport and Saldanha to hire a vehicle, or you could order a rental online. Several shuttle service companies operate out of Cape Town, however, you would need a hired vehicle to best enjoy your visit to Clanwilliam.
Did you know?
A plant common in the Clanwilliam area (other than rooibos) is sutherlandia or the cancer bush. This pretty bush has medicinal properties that appear to treat various ailments from respiratory infections to cancer but is used mostly as a mild sedative. During the 1918 flu pandemic, sutherlandia was offered as a cure.
The oldest orange tree in South Africa is located in the Citrusdal Valley. The tree is over a quarter of a century old and is still producing fruit.