To a newcomer, it’s not immediately evident that Port Beaufort and Witsand are two distinctly individual settlements situated at the mouth of the Breede River. Urban sprawl has merged them, but the former is where all the history lies and the latter has popular beaches. The combined settlements roll down to meet St Sebastian Bay.
It’s very popular during the summer school holidays and over long weekends, but out of season the atmosphere is very quiet and tranquil.
Witsand claims to have the largest concentration of southern right whales on the South African coast. It’s known as the Whale Nursery of South Africa, and each October an aerial survey is done by the Mammal Institute of South Africa. Visitors can see these very large creatures from along the shore, when they move into the bay, which is sheltered by Cape Infanta, to calve.
The beaches at Witsand have clean white sand, scattered with an intriguing assortment of shells washed ashore on the tides. These beaches are safe for walking and swimming.
If you have small children, there are the calmer waters of the river mouth to frolic in. There’s also a tidal pool in front of the coastal caravan park.
Winters are mild and on a windless day it’s idyllic to walk eastwards for several kilometres along the beach.
Look out for
Southern right whales – the best time to see the whales is between June and November.
Lower Breede River Conservancy - the Breede River is one of the country’s widest and deepest rivers, and the area around Port Beaufort / Witsand is part of the conservancy. This stretches from the mouth inland for about 35km to just past Malgas.
Estuary fishing - the Breede River, with its tidal action that reaches 60km upstream, offers some of the best estuary fishing in the country. The mouth is regarded as a top location. Enthusiasts can also rock fish and deep sea fish, and fly-fishing is done either from the river’s edge or from the sand banks of the estuary.
Birdwatching - this is spectacular along the river, with about 260 species to be seen.