Clanwilliam is about three hours from Cape Town on the N7. The approach to the town is spectacular, with the vast Clanwilliam Dam reflecting the gorgeous colours of the surrounding bush. Add delicious spring air, fragranced with orange blossom and buchu and the result is travelling euphoria.
Clanwilliam is one of the 10 oldest towns in South Africa and has many attractive historical buildings. The town is quaint and cheerful, with a deep pride in its natural resources (especially its flowers). Locals are all too aware of how lucky they are to call Clanwilliam home.
Named town of the year in 2009, there is plenty of comfortable and attractive accommodation and a large, spacious, well-stocked supermarket.
Clanwilliam is internationally known as one of the prime bouldering destinations in the world and is famous for rooibos tea, veldskoens and its endangered cedars.
Whether staying in town or around the dam, the area is peaceful, full of character, instantly likeable and brimming with natural beauty, especially in spring, when fynbos and aloes bloom blue, mauve, yellow, orange, white and pink and sprinkle the roadsides with blossoms and the town opens its arms to flower-lovers.
Look out for
Flowers – Clanwilliam falls within the Cape Fynbos Biome, with more than 6000 endemic plant species. The flowers’ brilliance depends on winter rainfall - consult the Clanwilliam Information Office for flower predictions from July onwards to get it "just right". Flower-viewing is best in sunny weather from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Ramskop Nature Reserve at the Clanwilliam Dam Resort has a Wild Flower Garden with more than 250 indigenous species of cultivated wild flowers and a short hiking trail to the dam wall.
Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show – this week-long spring festival is presented in the old Dutch Reformed Church, a national monument now called the “Flower Church”. About 360 flower species are presented, with concerts, art, food stalls and a carnival.
Cederberg Wilderness Area – loved by hikers, birders, mountaineers, mountain-bikers and 4x4 adventurers, this world heritage site, extending from Middelburg Pass at Citrusdal to north of Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam, protects the threatened Clanwilliam cedar. Local farmers have started the Pakhuis Conservancy, converting farm land into conservation areas. The world-class Bushmanskloof Wilderness Hotel (with beautiful rock art sites) is accessible via the Pakhuis Pass.
Rock art - Clanwilliam Tourism’s booklet details the best sites. Warmhoek Rock Art trail, 10 minutes from Clanwilliam, is run by the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project, a community-based heritage project. Trained guides start tours at the Living Landscape Craft Shop (18 Park Street). Booking is essential. The four-kilometre Sevilla Rock Art Trail is 33 kilometres from Clanwilliam. Permits are available from Traveller’s Rest farm stall.
Historical buildings – visit Jan Disselsvalleij’s farmhouse (2 Park Street); the 200-year-old Old Goal (now a Museum); the Old Dutch Reformed Church/”Flower Church” (1864); the St. John's Anglican Church (1866); and the Slave Bell.
Angling - the Olifants River system is home to endemic, protected fish, such as Clanwilliam yellow fish and Clanwilliam sand fish. Anglers can remove exotic species (rainbow trout, carp and black bass). Permits - Cape Nature Conservation office, Porterville.
Water sports are popular at the Clanwilliam and Bulshoek dams.