The Berg River originates in the Jonkershoek and Franschhoek mountains and meanders down to St Helena Bay’s nippy Atlantic waters at Velddrif, about 145 kilometres from Cape Town.
Originally named for the drift at which farmers and cattle crossed the river, Veldrif is indivisible from its “twin”, Laaiplek. Port Owen and Bergrivier are close by. From its beaches, southern right whales can be seen from the shore in season and dolphins all year round.
The river’s vast estuary, which visitors drive over on the bridge en route to Vredenburg, is a “wader hotspot”, home to 30 000 birds including pelican, flamingo, and spoonbill. Boat trips upriver will delight bird-watchers, as will the Rocherpan Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary, 30 kilometres away.
Velddrif evolved around the fishing industry, with Laaiplek used as a port to transport produce to Cape Town. The breakwater and harbour entrance are enjoyable spots to sit and watch the comings and goings of boats and yachts in St Helena Bay. Fishing is still a major industry in Velddrif, with bokkoms, or dried fish, a ubiquitous sight, but the towns are also useful as a supply and refuelling spot for holiday-makers.
With winter rainfall and average summer temperatures of 16 to 30 degrees Celsius, this area has a moderate climate, making it a popular fishing, yachting and holiday destination, especially the marina complex at Port Owen and Dwarskersbos beach.
Look out for
The famously gruelling Berg River Canoe Marathon, held annually since 1962, ends in Velddrif.
Flowers – from August to September, the Cape floral kingdom blooms gloriously, with many endemic species showing their true colours.
Bird-Watching – Velddrif is an Important Bird Area and a proposed RAMSAR site. Blackwinged stilts, purple gallinule, flamingos, pelicans and Caspian tern can be seen on the river banks en route from Velddrif to Hopefield.
The West Coast Fossil Park near Velddrif yielded a fossilised skull dating back to the Stone Age and showcases the ancient prehistory of area, including extinct fossils of bears and tigers. Tours, mountain-bike trails, flower walks and coffee are available.
Boat Trips and Fishing - boat trips to the Berg River mouth are a relaxing way to bird-watch or enjoy the sunset.
Klein Tafelberg and Sandveld Eco-Trails offer 4x4 trails and a three-to-five-hour hiking trail. Camping is possible but there are no facilities.