Situated 52km west of Oudtshoorn on the R62, Calitzdorp is best known as being the ‘Port Capital of South Africa’. This is an enviable slogan by anyone’s standards, and well-deserved.
There are several cellars in and around the town, from the larger and better known Boplaas and De Krans cellars, to micro-producers such as Peter Bayley, Withoek and Axehill. While imbibing some of sweet and silky-smooth tipples from the smaller producers, visitors may take pleasure in the fact that the grapes were probably vinified in the traditional foot-squelching manner.
There are also good red and white wines aplenty, however this abundance of juices-from-the-vine is not all the town has to offer. It’s a suitable base from which to take exploratory drives into the valleys and folded slopes of the nearby Swartberg Mountains, or to neighbouring towns.
If this isn’t your idea of a day well spent and you’d rather relax on a front stoep with a beverage and tasty meal, there’s enough places to do that too, with many of the more popular restaurants located in Voortrekker street in the vicinity of the sandstone church.
Calitzdorp cemented its place in history by building the first cement dam wall in South Africa, and later the first cement road (connecting it to Oudtshoorn). The town suffered greatly after the collapse of the ostrich feather industry, but found new fortunes after the railway connected it to the world in 1924, and electrification accelerated its development in 1937.
Look out for
Port and wine tasting - visit De Krans, Boplaas and Calitzdorp cellars.
Take your camera to the lookout point, just past the Calitzdorp Wine Cellar, which overlooks the extensive vineyards and fruit orchards cloaking the Gamka River Valley.
Seweweekspoort - 24km west of Calitzdorp this spectacular poort lies beneath the 2 325m Seweweekspoort peak - the highest in the Swartberg. Steep cliffs of burnt orange, their bases choked with Aloes and Kiepersol trees, dwarf the narrow gravel road as it meanders through this more primitive version of Meiringspoort.
The Groenfontein Valley / Kruisrivier circular drive starts at the Groenfontein signboard near the graveyard in the main road. It then follows 50km of gravel road before joining the R62, 20km towards Oudtshoorn. The road curves alongside the Calitzdorp Dam and passes picturesque farms and cottages, the red stone hills unique to the Little Karoo, and slopes clad in fynbos. In the winter months the spear-like orange Aloe flowers are prominent on the slopes.
Zoar and Amalienstein - These small neighbouring settlements, which lie alongside the R62 midway between Ladismith and Calitzdorp, were started as mission stations in the first half of the 19th Century. In Amalienstein, spend time admiring the impressive Lutheran Church.