While there are countless sites to see, places to eat and activities to enjoy in the award-winning city of Cape Town, visitors to the Mother City are also spoilt for choice when it comes to incredible destinations just a couple of hours beyond the city limits.
The seaside town of Langebaan is one of these destinations. Like many of the small towns sprinkled along the West Coast of South Africa, Langebaan was once a quiet fishing village; historically it was also a whaling station. The village expanded over time, while managing to retain its original coastal charm, and is now one of the preferred West Coast weekend-getaway spots for Capetonians.
One of its most attractive features is the mirror-like lagoon bordered by a stretch of white sand. Visitors can try their luck at catching a fish, relax on the beach with a good book, or, for the more energetic, enjoy any number of beach games or go kitesurfing when wind conditions are favourable. The restaurants located right on the sandy shore offer the ideal location from which to watch the sun set while sipping a refreshing cocktail. Indeed, for those who, like Alicia Bridges, “love the nightlife,” there are a number of bars that come alive once the sun goes down.
The main streets are lined with interesting shops, offering everything from beach paraphernalia to home décor, upmarket boutiques and quaint coffee shops. If you have a sweet tooth, you must treat yourself to a pancake or three at The Pancake Place – with the plethora of options on the menu, it’s nearly impossible to order only one. Seafood lovers are also spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants offering fine seafood.
If you are in Langebaan for the weekend, a visit to the West Coast Fossil Park is a must. This is a National Heritage Site that is on its way to becoming a World Heritage Site. Here visitors are able to see well-preserved fossils that date back over 5 million years, including fossils of the now extinct short-neck giraffe, African bear and saber-toothed cats. An expert guide meets you at the visitors centre and escorts you to the fossil site, where a larger and more contemporary visitors centre, restaurant and museum are currently being constructed. The guide talks you through the geological and climatological changes that took place in Southern Africa over millions of years while pointing out various fossils embedded in the excavation site. The tour ends back at the existing centre where visitors are given the opportunity to learn more about and interact with a number of bones and fossils.
The town of L’Agulhas is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Cape Town and is part of the larger area known as Cape Agulhas, the geographic southernmost tip of Africa and the point at which the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Cape Agulhas is often confused with Cape Point, which is a mountainous landformation that extends into the Atlantic at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, approximately 60 kilometres from Cape Town.
L’Agulhas has plenty of accommodation options, from hotels to self-catering apartments and even camp sites. One of the most popular attractions in L’Agulhas is the lighthouse. This red-and-white striped landmark, opened in 1848, stands proudly at 27 metres high and if you don’t have a fear of heights, you can climb the very steep wooden stairs (the final staircase is particularly nerve-wracking as there are no guard rails) to the top of the lighthouse for incomparable views of Cape Agulhas. From the lighthouse, it’s a pleasant and scenic walk to the monument that marks the meeting of the two oceans. Take a moment to stand on one of the many rocky outcrops along the walk and stare at the vast blue oceans: you really do feel as though you are standing on the edge of the world.
However, the town itself isn’t a sleepy hollow. The main road presents visitors with several restaurants, art galleries, gift and décor shops, all within walking distance of each other, though the focus of any visit to L’Agulhas is the magnificent scenery. As such, before leaving L’Agulhas, a stop in Struisbaai (a mere 4-kilometre drive away) is highly recommended. Charming white-washed, former fishermen’s cottages line this part of the coastline which boasts one of the longest uninterrupted white beaches in the southern hemisphere, while the beautiful turquoise water of the bay beckons you to walk right in. You cannot help but leave Cape Agulhas feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and in further awe of the natural beauty of the Western Cape.