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Nestled between the immense vineyards of Stellenbosch and the lengthy Strand Beach lies Somerset West. This leafy and attractive town is on most South African’s wish list to either transfer to, or retire. Somerset West has in the past won international awards for prestigious property developments, landscaped gardens, green living spaces at retirement centres, even supermarket design awards!
Some of the finest wine farms are situated in Somerset West as is Erinvale, a leading Gary Player designed golf course. The town is a short distance too from the warm waters of the False Bay coast. And the Somerset Mall fills several blocks, a retail hub for the entire region.
The area is well watered and the climate temperate throughout the year.
Many residents of Somerset West are willing to commute to Cape Town daily (a 90km round trip) for the excellent quality of life that this town offers.
Top 10 reasons to visit Somerset West
1. Top up your wallet and go large at the Somerset Mall. With close to 200 retail shops, a busy food court and movie theatres, other outlets at the mall extend to hardware, furniture and sports warehouses. Somerset has 4 other smaller shopping centres scattered around the suburb for convenient shopping.
2. Several magnificent wine farms are located here. Enjoy wine tastings, cellar tours and exceptional meals (including upmarket picnic baskets) offered at the historic Vergelegen wine estate or at neighbouring Lourensford.
3. The Erinvale Golf Club once hosted the World Cup of Golf and is an exciting 18-hole course with the final few holes played up against the mountain slopes. A second course, the Somerset West Golf Club is less challenging but as scenic.
4. The popular Country Craft Market happens every fortnight during the summer months and stall owners offer African goods, ceramics, clothing, jewellery and various other unique products. Street food vendors offer a variety of food types in a relaxed garden-like atmosphere.
5. Hire a bike and cycle to Strand Beach, a 3km stretch of flat, white sandy beach. The waves are uniform and perfect for swimming and surfing newbies. Fishermen sell their fresh daily catch on the east side of the beachfront.
6. The cheetahs (and other species) at Cheetah Outreach are there to educate visitors on the plight of these animals. Cheetahs are regularly killed for their tendency to prey on sheep, however, this organisation trains Anatolian shepherd dogs for farmers to guard their livestock. Visitors are given an opportunity to enter the cheetah cages for up close encounters.
7. Catch a local production at the Somerset West Playhouse Theatre that includes comedy, family entertainment, a night of dancing and other staged events.
8. Get down to Triggerfish Brewing, a micro-brewery in Somerset West, to sample their innovative and unique craft beers that are seriously challenging the mainstream breweries for market share.
9. Visit the Skin Renewal Clinic that is managed and operated by doctors, for advice on skin treatment recommended after experiencing the hot African sun. Feel a whole lot younger following a 3D skin rejuvenation session.
10. Take a 1 hour tour of Monkey Town, a wildlife centre consisting mostly of monkeys and apes, along with a few Madagascan lemurs and a reptile park.
Somerset West is a 32km drive to the nearest airport, Cape Town International. The town has several car rental agencies or you could book your rental online. Rikki's Taxi's and Uber are your best options for a fast and reliable taxi service to or from Somerset West. There are a few shuttle service operators stationed in Somerset West.
Did you know?
Travel up to Spook Hill, then leave the car running – handbrake off – and watch as it rolls up a downhill! The road gives the illusion that the vehicle is defying gravity but this is obviously not the case. Make sure the road is clear before experimenting.
The nearby Hollands-Hottentot Mountains have some unusual names for the peaks. One is called Moordenaarskop (Dutch meaning murderer’s peak) after one member of a commando was killed by renegades. Another peak is called Pic Sans Nom (French for peak without a name).
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.