This sprawling town on the Atlantic Ocean is known for its vast salt-water lagoon, which stretches for about 17 kilometres from Saldanha Bay to Geelbek and is four kilometres wide in places.
Its azure waters and beaches are breathtaking, whether the skies are bright and sunny or roiling with iron-grey clouds. The Mediterranean climate is popular with retirees and holiday-makers, especially birders, seafarers and beach-lovers.
Situated about 125 kilometres from Cape Town in the centre of the west coast, Langebaan is one of South Africa’s oldest towns. Originally a meeting place for Khoi leaders, it became a safe haven for seafarers. French seal-hunters stored their skins and whale oil on Schaapen Island (where the Dutch eventually reared sheep).
Later, the guano and whaling industries attracted fortune-seekers. Whale oil was in demand during the Second World War, when Catalina flying boats tracked German submarines and delivered supplies at the lagoon. Whaling operations ended in 1967 and are commemorated by a sculpture of a harpoon gun outside the municipal offices.
The region is rich in fossils. Langebaan has the largest oyster shell deposits in the world and plenty of oyster catchers, along with a rich array of other birds, including bar-tailed godwit, terek sandpiper and chestnut-banded plover.
Rain falls mostly in winter, when night-time temperatures average 8 degrees Celsius. With good rains come exceptional spring flowers (from August to September), with daisies blossoming in white, yellow and pink on the beaches. Summer days average 25 degrees Celsius with cool winds.
Langebaan offers a wide choice of water sports (angling, diving, swimming windsurfing and kite-surfing), a Mediterranean-styled casino (Club Mykonos) overlooking Saldanha Bay, restaurants, golf, tennis, bowling facilities, shops and a range of accommodation, including floating houseboats at Kraal Bay.
Look out for
Langebaan Lagoon is the central feature of the West Coast National Park, known for its abundant birdlife, isolated beaches, the Postberg Flower Reserve (open from August to September) and Buffelsfontein Game Reserve with its resident black and blue wildebeest, bontebok and eland.
The Elizabeth Harding Bird Hide on the Lagoon near Geelbek affords views of the 35 000 visiting water birds in summer.
Near Kraal Bay are the famous “footprints of Eve” - early hominid footprints preserved in the sandstone.
With turquoise waters and excellent sailing conditions, Langebaan is a yachting mecca, with moorings available at Langebaan, Oupos, Kraalbaai and Perlemoen Point.
Langebaan Country Estate’s 18-hole golf course,designed by Gary Player, has some amazing natural rock formations.
The West Coast Fossil Park on the farm Elandsfontein, 12 kilometres from Langebaan, yielded a fossilised skull dating back to the Stone Age. Other findings suggest Langebaan’s origins date back millions of years.
Open-air restaurants such as Boesmanland Plaaskombuis and Die Strandloper serve mussels, potjiekos and crayfish to visitors, who can watch the lapping turquoise waters of the lagoon while they eat and take a stroll between courses.