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The Overberg region in the Western Cape of South Africa begins after cresting the Hollands-Hottentot Mountains in the west and extends along the southern coast to reach the Riversdale area in the east. It’s a vast area consisting of pristine fynbos, wheat fields, livestock farms, apple orchards and spectacular coastline flanked by the Langeberg range of mountains and the warm Indian Ocean.
The word Overberg means Over the Mountain in Dutch and was for many years an obstacle in the path of Dutch expansion. Negotiating the Hollands-Hottentot Mountains was a major problem and it was only after the Sir Lowry’s Pass was established in 1830 that the area began to flourish.
Travellers to the Overberg are greeted to rambling green fields with a vast mountain range ever present in the north. Charming towns and interesting road stalls are dotted along the way and the coast is only a short detour off the main highway.
The area lends itself to outdoor recreation, with activities ranging from shark cage diving to hiking, cycling, water sports and lazy beach days. Set aside at least a week to truly enjoy the fabulous attractions this region has to offer.
Top 10 reasons to visit the Overberg
1. The town of Elgin is best known for its apple orchards, however, it has a cosy wine route and is a popular mountain biking destination. Cape Canopy Tours offers a thrilling series of zip line slides, 13 in total and some over 300m in length, through the dramatic Elgin valley.
2. Enjoy a wine tasting on a river boat cruise in Robertson. Aside from the town’s popular wine route, Robertson is also a renowned racehorse breeding centre.
3. The De Hoop Nature Reserve gives the visitor an opportunity to explore fynbos through the various hiking trails in the reserve. Highlights are the bat-occupied Windhoek cave, the Cape vulture breeding grounds, animal sightings, remote beaches and swimming in delightful rock pools.
4. Picturesque Bonnievale is popular for its brandy, peaches and cheeses. The town has several interesting road stalls and restaurants to sample the goods. Visit the tiny Myrtle Riggs church, built by her father at her behest before she died at age 7.
5. The Genadendal Moravian Mission Station is the oldest in South Africa and has been beautifully restored. Nelson Mandela visited the station in 1995 and was so affected by its amazing history that he changed the name of the presidential residence in Cape Town to Genadendal.
6. Hermanus is regarded as the world’s best land-based whale watching site. Walk the 12km cliff path to view the Southern Right, Bryde’s and Humpback whales that regularly frequent the bay.
7. The fishing village of Gansbaai is the country’s shark cage diving hub. Daily boat trips take the adventurous to Dyer Island where the great white shark feeds on the resident seal colony.
8. Lovers of architecture and history will appreciate Swellendam, once considered the last outpost of civilisation. The town is the country’s 3rd oldest and a sheep farming district. Stop in at the Drostdy, a museum complex depicting life in the 18th and 19th century. The Bontebok National Park is nearby, a reserve that has successfully ensured the continuation of the threatened Bontebok antelope.
9. Named after an 1815 shipwreck, the quaint town of Arniston with its bright fisherman’s cottages and craft centre is a worthwhile stop. Check out Waenhuiskrans cave, a large cavern accessible at low tide and capable of housing a wagon and span of oxen, thus the name.
10. Visitors flock to Cape Agulhas to stand at the most southerly point of Africa and where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Many a ship has come to grief here on the shallow bank stretching 250km out to sea. Visit the lighthouse and an old wreck, still visible on the beach.
If based on the western half of the Overberg region, the Cape Town International Airport is anything between 55km and 255km away. If in the eastern section, George Airport is between 100km and 190km for domestic flights to Cape Town International. Car rental agencies are located in all major towns and cities, otherwise order a vehicle online and collect at a convenient location. The area is best travelled using a hired vehicle.
Did you know?
The Langeberg range of mountains runs parallel with the coastline for approximately 250km and divides the Overberg from the open plains of the interior. Four passes cross the mountains at various points, the most scenic being the Tradouws Pass near Barrydale.
Cape Agulhas was possibly given the name by early Portuguese mariners who found that their compass needles (agulhas in Portuguese) showed no magnetic deviation from true north.
The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve extending from Rooi Els to Kleinmond is a UNESCO heritage site.