Founded in 1853 and named after Sir Charles Henry Darling (Lieutenant Governor of the Cape in 1851), this village is 75 kilometres from Cape Town and is rich in natural bounty, history, culture and art.
Once the site of a Second World War South African Air Force airfield, Darling is a thriving farming district known for its dairy production and surrounded by vineyards, olive and wheat fields. Birders should look out for blue cranes.
The drive on the R315 through its pastoral hills is always pretty, but in spring its rolling green pastures are sprinkled with arum lilies.
Shortly after the R27 turn-off, the fields of blooms at the 20-hectare Harold “Tienie” VersfeldWildflower Reserve inspire wonder at the exquisite intricacy and variety of species.
Four experimental wind-generated mills crest the hills like sentinel aliens testing the viability of South Africa’s wind-energy industry.
The village’s restored Victorian homes and air of simplicity make it a charming place to walk and cycle. The old Darling railway station has been converted into Evita se Perron (Evita’s Platform) - an intimate cabaret theatre brimming with the inimitable character of another “flower of the nation” - South Africa’s favourite drag queen, Evita Bezuidenhout (satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys).
Darling is aptly named - pretty, delightful, fun, quaint, colourful and unforgettable.
Look out for
Evita se Perron offers great entertainment, excellent “boerekos”, arts and crafts, “Boerassic Park” and the Museum Nauseum, with tongue-in-cheek political commentary and “Evitaphernalia”.
The three-day Voorkamerfest involves diverse arts happenings (music recitals, theatre and poetry) occurring in various living rooms all over town.
The Darling Museum, Pastorie Street, in the old town hall (est. 1899) has interesting displays about Darling’s butter and community history. The Signal Cannon at the municipal offices was used in the 1700s to notify local farmers of ships visiting the Cape.
Flowers - More than 1 000 species of flowering plants bloom here in spring. The “Tienie” Versfeld Reserve preserves flowers, Sandveld and rare bulbous plants. It is open all year round, but is most spectacular in spring. Parts of the Waylands and Oudepost farms are open during spring. Oudepost houses the biggest orchid nursery in South Africa.
The Darling Bird Route follows the flower path and tracks the birds supported by the fynbos.
The annual three-day Darling Wildflower Show, held since 1917 by the Darling Wildflower Society, is now held at Darling Golf Course and Sports Club in late September. It includes an orchid show.
Nature Reserves - The West Coast National Park, Grotto Bay Coastal and Buffelsfontein Nature Reserves, and Jakkalsfontein and Rondeberg Private Nature Reserves are all within 30 minutes of Darling and offer trails, bird-watching, seasonal whale-sightings and spring wild flowers.
The !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre on the R27 between Yzerfontein and Darling offers insights into the kinship, culture, heritage, knowledge and modern life of the southern African San.
The Darling Wine Route incorporates five wine cellars that all produce excellent wines. Groote Post farm, which produces the local favourite, Old Man’s Blend, is also one of 12 quagga breeding sites.