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Tourist Attractions of the Western Cape


Tourist Attractions of South Africa

South Africa is a vast and extremely fascinating country that packs a powerful tourist punch. Few countries can match it for variety and diversity in attractions, activities and cultural groups. From art and history to food and wine, wildlife and nature, nightlife, shopping and even places of worship – there is so much on offer to attract, entice and entertain.

The Western Cape with its mountains and oceans offers scenery that has inspired thousands of descriptions. It has great beaches, World Heritage sites, romantic winelands and museums that celebrate a rich cultural heritage. You can’t talk about a trip to Cape Town without discussing the fabulous cuisine and shopping options that draw tourists time and time again.

Gauteng’s brash exterior belies its depth, uncovered at numerous cultural and historical attractions. Places like Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum and Soweto feature alongside chi-chi restaurants, funky galleries, shopping malls and fascinating visits to the Cradle of Humankind, where all our stories began.

In Mpumalanga you’ll find a host of nature-related attractions, arts and crafts outlets, country towns, cultural villages and stupendous scenery along the well-known Panorama route. Of course one of the major attractions is the world-famous Kruger National Park.

Limpopo shares this wildlife sanctuary - the size of a small country - and has many of its own nature reserves. It also boasts the fascinating Mapungubwe, where once an ancient kingdom developed a field of influence that spread beyond the continent. Intriguing groups such as the Venda and the Balobedu still practise culturally-rich traditions in the far north of this region.

The North West is all about Sun City, and the Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves, but don’t forget the mampoer farms and the idiosyncrasies of the Marico, the cultural mélange at Lesedi on the shores of the Hartebeespoort Dam or the little town of Taung where the famous skull of the same name was discovered. From the Margaret Roberts Herbal Farm (De Wildt) to Sol Plaaitje’s house in Mafikeng, there’s much to explore.

Immense skies and enormous spaces characterise the Northern Cape, along with attractions such as the Big Hole in Kimberley, the Loeriesfontein Windmill Museum and the myths and legends as taught by the ancient San. The Augrabies Falls National Park, the Ais/Ais Richtersveld National Park and the Riemvasmaak community all offer interesting experiences and insights.

KwaZulu-Natal has its own brand of uniqueness when it comes to tourist attractions. Here you can visit a Hare Krishna temple in Durban, pay your respects at the Battlefields in the Midlands, come face to face with Zulu culture and celebrate some of the finest beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline. Sunny year-round, the province has great places to shop, eat, and discover.

The Eastern Cape is a place of rich heritage and struggle sites. Here historic monuments find their place alongside fun aquariums and beachside establishments. Malaria-free game sanctuaries and numerous nature reserves thrill adventure-seekers and nature-lovers.

Small towns and homegrown hospitality are the distinctive attributes of the Free State. Visit the Basotho Cultural Village on the way to the spectacular Golden Gate National Park, visit the Choet Visser Rugby Museum in Bloemfontein or the Fertility Caves (outside Clarens). Make your way to the fun galleries of Clarens, feast visually on the sandstone sights of Ficksburg and drink in the fascinating history of the provincial capital, Bloemfontein.

Wherever you go around the country, you’re bound to find a fun attraction, a moving museum, a great place to enjoy the local vibes. Enjoy surfing the Nightjar site for the best attractions on offer in each of the provinces.

Articles & Blogs

Two Oceans Aquarium Trash Bash

Valda 3:49pm 4 Dec

Pics by Ingrid Sinclair, Amina Hoosain, Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium

Join the final Two Oceans Aquarium Trash Bash of the year on Saturday 8 December 2018 at Sunset Beach – the next of our regular beach cleanup events in Cape Town. This year we’ve decided that we want to do more to combat coastal plastic pollution… And we want YOU to join us.

Keep your morning of 8 December open - join us at Cape Town's Sunset Beach!

In 2019 a new Trash Bash location...

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Cat Heaven

Valda 2:54pm 6 Nov

“Time spent with cats is never wasted!” - Sigmund Freud. This quote finds new meaning when you step into Cat Heaven in Somerset West, a Cat Gift Shop and Rescue Cat Café - the first of its kind in South Africa.

Local resident and retired academic, Valerie Steinmann, spent the best part of the last 20 years travelling the world and it was in Thun, Switzerland that she came across “a true cat lover’s shop”. Totally enchanted by her discovery, Valerie’s passion for ‘all things cat’ was ignited and thus began her cat crusade, collecting unique cat gifts from around the globe. To...

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B is for Beautiful

Valda 11:28am 4 Nov

By Riaan Vermeulen

The base of operation: Jo Anne’s B cottage in the West Coast National Park. 
The mission: To see how many animals and birds in the visitor’s guide we could tick. 
The team: Two adults and two kids.

Jo Anne’s Beach cottage, a hideaway for eight people near Churchhaven, now has a baby version. The B cottage sleeps four and is also only a few minutes’ walk from the lagoon. We got our first quick tick within minutes of arriving, a pair of African black oystercatchers. 

From the...

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Camp Daisy

Valda 3:54pm 25 Sep

Words Magriet Kruger, pics Alessandro Bonora

I was meant to be in Namaqualand for the daisies, the masses of annuals that carpet the dry west of South Africa following the winter rains. It’s a natural spectacle known for its abundance as seemingly every pocket of earth is covered in wildflowers. So why was I hunched over a single plant, beaming as if I’d struck a diamond? 

“Well spotted,” said Carina Becker, flower guide at Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp as she came closer to look at the slender plant with its dainty petals in pale pink. “That’s a geophyte, a bulb. It’s called...

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Drones Transform Seabird Counting

Valda 4:39pm 12 Aug

CapeNature manages conservation efforts on Dyer Island, where the manual counting of birds is an essential process which provides the baseline data that enables CapeNature to map the population fluctuations of all the bird species on the island. This is especially significant during breeding season as managing authorities are able to track the number of birds that are breeding, and thus contributing to the growth of their populations.

The bird counting which takes place every month can be a tedious and gruelling process and requires CapeNature staff on the ground walking around the...

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CapeNature Partners with SAPS on Lizard Case

Valda 12:56pm 26 Jun

CapeNature, in partnership with the Malmesbury office of the South African Police Service(SAPS) Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit, recently dealt a major blow to wild animal traffickers through the successful prosecution of four foreign nationals in three separate cases in the Bellville Regional Priority Court on May 22nd, 2018.

On November 24th, 2017, Mr Koji Ikoma of Japan was arrested after he tried to evade a SAPS roadblock outside Bitterfontein. During the pursuit, Mr Ikoma threw a cooler bag out of his car’s window. When the bag was retrieved after the dust had settled,...

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5 Little Known Facts about the African Penguin

Valda 4:10pm 24 Jun

In honour of World Penguin Day, brush up on your African Penguin knowledge with five facts you may not know about everyone’s favourite flightless bird.

1) They were once considered ‘fish’

When Bartholomew Diaz and his crew first landed in southern Africa they became the first Europeans to see African Penguins. The Portuguese settlers were devout Catholics, and thus not allowed to eat meat on Fridays.

They were, however, allowed to eat fish, and made the decision to classify the flightless penguin as a fish, due to it’s love of swimming. This meant they...

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Clanwilliam Cedar Tree Planting Ceremony

Valda 3:32pm 17 Jun

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat (Bushmans Kloof), in association with The TreadRight Foundation, CapeNature and the local Heuningvlei community, once again pulled out all the stops to host the 16th Annual Clanwilliam Cedar Tree Planting Ceremony. 

At the event held on 19 May 2018, 380 trees were planted in the rural village of Heuningvlei. Around 200 conservationists, school children and families from all over the Western Cape, joined this unique conservation initiative aimed at preserving the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar Tree (Widdringtonia...

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Linger Longer

Valda 9:55pm 1 May

Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey

A Cape bulbul hops along the balcony rail eyeing me as I lie in bed. It’s clearly an admonishment. The sky is pink, there’s no wind. I should be up to experience daybreak. But I feel disinclined to rush. I’ve been appreciating the dawn chorus and the crash of the breaking waves from my comfy bed. There’s an uninterrupted view through the open flaps of my tent across coastal thicket to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s been a long time since I slept so soundly.

I’m staying at Slangkop tented camp in Kommetjie, in one of six tented dwellings hidden in...

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Quenching Thirst in Kammanassie

Valda 9:55pm 24 Apr

CapeNature’s Kammanassie Nature Reserve(KNR) in the Klein Karoo, between Uniondale and Oudtshoorn have been very concerned about the possibility of animals dying of thirst. Fountains, rivers and streams have dried up due to the severe drought caused inter alia by climate change. 

Many farmers have been left with no other choice but to accept water from neighbouring farms to assist.

Amongst the animals in dire need is the precious herd of 42 Cape mountain zebras in the reserve. The small population in Kammanassie Nature Reserve is one of three relict Cape mountain zebra...

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CapeNature Waterwise

Valda 3:02pm 17 Apr

CapeNature is committed to using as little water as possible in all its existing tourism offerings. Over the last 5 years the Public institution implemented preventative measures on its reserves through innovative water saving technologies. 

As guardians of the Western Cape’s precious natural resources, CapeNature focuses on developing nature-based recreational tourism products by leveraging natural assets in such a way that protected areas become sought after tourist destinations and balanced conservation spaces. 

CapeNature’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Razeena Omar says “The...

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Hope for Hottentot Buttonquail

Valda 6:36pm 17 Oct

By Dale Wright 

It seems Agulhas National Park may be a stronghold for the enigmatic Hottentot buttonquail, an endangered species hardly ever seen by anyone.

The Hottentot buttonquail Turnix hottentottus is one of the least frequently recorded resident and breeding terrestrial birds in the country. Birders will likely know very well how difficult it is to find this species, which prefers skulking through the undergrowth rather than flitting around for all to see.  

A range-...

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Hanging with Penguins

Valda 3:03pm 25 Dec

Words Rebekah Funk, pic Eileen Vermeulen

Braying penguins lined the rocky crags in their hundreds, spilling over onto unfenced lands not yet contained within CapeNature’s newly inducted conservation reserve, Stony Point. They are all too happy to photobomb tourist selfies and strut confidently across “Do not pass” signs. Within 1,5 hours of Cape Town, near the Overberg coastal town of Betty’s Bay, you too can be at the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world.

Amble along suspended boardwalks over penguin turf, take in the sights and smells of the sea, read the...

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Cederberg Sojourn

Valda 6:41pm 29 May

Words Magriet Kruger, pics Alessandro Bonora

There’s a tribe of people for whom the name Algeria calls up the very best memories. Swimming in the soft, clear water of the Rondegat River. Hiking in the burnt orange mountains with their fragrant fynbos and curious rock formations. Looking up at a velvet sky dusted with stars at night. 

For years this paradise was the almost exclusive playground of campers. Now six modern and superbly comfortable cottages have been built a little uphill from the campsite. Conveniently close to the swimming hole and Algeria’s wonderful walks,...

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Back to the Big Blue

Valda 7:09pm 29 Mar

Words Renee Leeuwner and Ingrid Sinclair, Pics Jacques Marais

In December 2015, the Two Oceans Aquarium’s turtle rehab-and-release team along with a number of photographers, filmmakers and ocean ambassadors travelled south from Hout Bay to release 57 turtles, big and small, into the warmer waters of the ocean off Cape Point.

Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Maryke Musson, Senior Aquarists Kevin Spiby and Nicholas Nicolle, Aquarist Pinda Dlodlo, Digital Content Coordinator Ingrid...

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Rising from the Ashes

Valda 9:22pm 17 Nov

Words and pics Sean Privett

In March this year the Cape Peninsula was ablaze. Newspaper headlines read death, destruction and barren post-fire landscapes. Yet it is through fire that our amazing fynbos landscapes are revitalised, rejuvenated and explode back into life.

During the first week of March 2015 a huge wild-fire burnt across the southern Cape Peninsula. An area of some 5,000 hectares was burnt, stretching from the slopes of Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean side of the Peninsula across and down to the Atlantic coastline near Hout Bay. Immediately...

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Rock Your Socks Off

Valda 7:10pm 29 Sep

Words & pics Shaen Adey

Tomorrow 150 walkers will start their 53km hike to the annual Rocking the Daisies festival. Shaen Adey reflects on this journey, designed to highlight sustainable practices and reduce the festival’s carbon footprint.

There was a buzz of excitement in the air when I arrived at Blouberg, just north of Cape Town. And despite being double their average age, I soon fitted in with the happy youngsters. The dress sense was creative with skimpy clothing, flowers, balloons and a dab of face paint adding to the already sunny scene. We could...

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Meerkats in the Mist

Valda 8:03pm 2 Aug

Words Hilary Prendini Toffoli, pics Hetty Zantman

‘They might look cute but they’re vicious little creatures. Take no nonsense from nobody. Did you ever see the movie, Gremlins? That’s these chaps’  

The British TV documentary series Meerkat Manor was a wildlife soap opera. A best seller. I loved it. The four series depicting the family life and tribal battles of a band of Kalahari meerkats ran over three years, won a host of awards, and entranced viewers in 160 countries. 

At the heart of it was a meerkat family known as the Whiskers. It had...

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Constantiaberg Conflagration

Nightjar Travel 9:30am 11 Mar

Fires have ravaged Cape Town this last week, starting from Boyes Drive (where a cigarette tossed from a car apparently started the problem) and spreading with the help of the strong South Easterly winds to Clovelly, Noordhoek and Hout Bay through Muizenberg and Constantiaberg. This is a photograph taken on 3rd March after sunset, of the Constantiaberg conflagration. The Groot/Klein Constantia wine farms are on the right-hand side, the Tokai plantations in the middle and Zwaanswyk on the left.  f/9, ISO-500, 10 sec exposure with a 24mm wide-angle lens and a tripod. The Cape Town...

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Rare Red-footed Booby spotted on Lambert’s Bay Bird Island

Valda 6:12pm 17 Feb

Pics CapeNature

Lambert’s Bay Bird Island welcomed a rare visitor to its shores late last year when a Red-footed Booby was spotted on the island, largely inhabited by up to 17,000 Cape gannets.

The Red-footed Booby is usually restricted to the open ocean with a Pantropical distribution, meaning it occurs in a band between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn right around the earth. 

CapeNature Ornithologist, Kevin Shaw, observed: “This is a very rare sighting in the Western Cape. It is possibly only the second recorded individual of this species ever...

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