Have you ever felt like taking an impromptu weekend trip? Whether it is to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life or to explore your surroundings a little more – this is the guide for you! Cape Town is a stunning city to visit and an even better place to live but sometimes we need that little escape and as luck would have it, the Western Cape is full of little hidden gems just waiting to be experienced. Below you’ll find a complete guide to our top must-see small towns, or as we call them in the Cape – Dorpies – you won’t want to miss on your next car hire Cape Town adventure with AroundAboutCars!
Why You Should Explore the Western Cape’s Hidden Gems
Chances are, if you’re a Cape Town local or even just a tourist, you have most likely explored the Mother City and the surrounding larger towns like Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek – all renowned for their wines, food and other delicacies! You may have also done the whole sea-side-town-thing, visiting some of the bigger names like Knysna or Hermanus, all of which are also at the top of our recommendations. However, something you might want to consider, if you have the time or desire to venture out a little further, is the stunning hidden gems that are the Western Cape’s small and quirky towns, all of which offer a unique and unforgettable experience you won’t find anywhere else!
The kinds of hidden gems we are talking about at those small towns you might pass through on your way to the next big thing, the kinds of places you might stop to fill up your car hire Cape Town rental, or to grab a bite to eat. However, these are often the places with the most character and the most unique experiences on offer – these small towns are often home to some of South Africa’s richest historical landmarks and museums, or even some of the best restaurants that are yet to be discovered! Here’s our top selection of 10 of the Western Cape’s plethora of small town’s you need to see if you’re looking for an adventure unlike anything you’ll come across in the main peninsula!
The little town of Montagu is one we would consider to be quite an exquisite aspect of the Cape’s famous Klein Karoo – Montagu is a hidden gem we’d say is filled with little hidden gems of its own! If you find yourself in Montagu on your next car hire Cape Town adventure, we would recommend stopping at Joubert House – a small museum which dates back all the way to 1853, a little spot that’s perfect for learning about South Africa’s rich history (particularly the voortrekker era). Montagu will give you a little glimpse into 19th-century farm life with its plethora of indigenous medicinal plants scattered all over the area.
This little ‘pit-stop’ that’s situated on the Route 62 should be at the top of your list for exploring some of the best farm-style food and beers you’ll ever have, Cape-Dutch style monuments and of course, orchards and mountains that seem like they go on forever!
Tulbagh, a serene little village that is huddled in the valley between Winterhoek and Witzenberg mountains of the Cape Winelands, finds itself at one of the top spots on our list because of its endearing atmosphere and historical legacy. The most outstanding feature of Tulbagh is arguably Church Street which is lined with old buildings dating back to the 1700’s, all of which were restored to their original glory after a heart-breaking earthquake which devastated the town and surrounding areas in 1969, making the entirety of Church Street a national monument today! The blue-grey mountains and abundance of old oak trees and vineyards which stretch into an infinite distance, is what makes Tulbagh such a treat to visit.
When in Tulbagh, you should be sure to go wine and olive tasting, enjoy a meal at one of the number of lovely local restaurants as well as cruise through the art route in your car hire Cape Town rental! You can make the most of the stunning scenery by doing one of the many activities available, like horse riding or hiking into the surrounding mountains.
As one of the oldest towns in all of South Africa, we can only imagine you won’t have any trouble finding a few interesting spots in Riebeek-Kasteel on your next car hire Cape Town adventure! This little hidden gem boasts the 160-year old De Oude Kerch (church) which is home to the Riebeek-Valley Museum. The town also hosts a micro-brewery – Flagship Brew; perfect for any adventurous beer lovers or enthusiasts – as well as Kloovenburg wine estate for the wine lovers! Riebeek-Kasteel is known for its abundance of delicious wine, figs and olives as well as its tranquil atmosphere making you almost forget about the existing world around you.
May is the perfect time to visit this Western Cape small town as that is when its annual Olive Festival takes place and the town is usually abuzz with visitors from the city!
Further inland on the edge of the great Karoo, lies the precious Dorpie (town) of Prince Albert – famous for its restored Victorian and Cape-Dutch architecture (most of which have been transformed into modern eateries and shops), here you are bound to find an abundance of eye-catching and curious sights. Famously, Prince Albert boasts a dazzling 70+ bed-and-breakfasts, so you’ll never struggle to find accommodation, in fact it gives you all the more reason to visit this hidden gem multiple times! If you find yourself in this quaint little town, be sure to visit the Fransie Pienaar Museum which is known for its fossil display, and pop in at a few of the local café’s, restaurants and pubs to listen to the town’s infamous ghost stories dating back to the 18th century.
This little town, named after Queen Victoria’s husband, is an unmissable stop in our eyes, it makes for the perfect day-stop or sleep-over spot for your next car hire Cape Town adventure through the stunning Great Karoo.
A little farther along the route 62 from Montagu, and quite slap-bang in the middle of the Tradouw Valley in the Overberg of the Western Cape, you will find none other than Barrydale. This little hidden gem is small in size but huge in personality, there’s no other quirky town quite like this one – scattered with the succulent Karoo vegetation and famous for its abundant production of peaches, apricots and plums, Barrydale is far from quaint and quiet. Cruise along the main road in your car hire Cape Town rental to peep into all the small shops and restaurants, or jump out to explore the rest of the town where you will find a labyrinth, hot springs and hand weavers producing stunning cotton rugs.
Barrydale is also a great spot for avid hikers and lovers of eclectic interior design, we recommend checking out the country hotel which is famous for its use of recycled décor and vibrant colours!
Between the wheat fields and vineyards of the West Coast, lies the unmissable treasure of the Cape Coastline – the tiny town of Darling. Known almost exclusively these days for the brewery which put this pearl on the map, Darling Brew, Darling has far more to offer than craft beer (though the beer is pretty darn good). As part of the Cape Floral Region, Darling is overrun with hundreds of species of flowering plants, making for stunning photos and a beautiful scenic drive in your car hire Cape Town rental both into and out of the town.
When in Darling, be sure to check out the home of South African celebrity Pieter Dirk Uys and his famous alter ego – Tannie Evita Bezuidenout – who took the country by storm in the late 1970’s and remains a comedic icon to this day. At the landmark – Evita se Perron, you can get the full Evita experience with a theatre dinner at the old station or have a laugh at the Boere-kitch: Boerrassic Park behind it!
This little Overberg gem makes for the perfect weekend getaway – waking up here on an autumn morning will make you feel like you’ve just stepped into a little village in the English countryside! Greyton was established at the foot of the Riviersonderend mountains in 1854, but today it boasts an array of laid-back country village architecture with old-timey gravel roads and a few sophisticated shops and restaurants waiting to be perused. On your early morning drive, in your car hire Cape Town rental, to the nature reserve on the edge of town, be sure to pack a coffee flask and a chair or blanket to that you might take in the beauty of the scenery which envelops this little town.
When in Greyton, be sure to walk or cycle along the main streets so as to appreciate the architecture and rich history of the town, or wine or beer tasting and partake in a horse or carriage ride along the country lanes to get into the vibe of this quaint little town!
Just on the other side of the Riviersonderend mountains, lies the hidden gem of McGregor – yet another charming wine and weekend-away town with a little twist. One of the biggest fascinations of McGregor is that it literally lies on the Road to Nowhere – 15km beyond the small town, the road abruptly ends with no landmark or building at its end. The town itself hosts an array of lovely thatched cottages making up the village, as well as pretty and whimsical gardens with quite roads where you hear a stream trickling by to enchant and passers-by.
Be sure to add McGregor as a stop on your next car hire Cape Town adventure to hear the peacocks call intermittently between the clangs of the church bells – scour the little cafes and curio-shops for antiques and homey meals like you won’t find anywhere else, or simply cruise through in your car hire Cape Town rental and take in the peace and tranquillity that McGregor has to offer before moving onto the next stop.
If you’re looking to step into a time portal and travel back to the Victorian era then Matjiesfontein is the place for you – this small town is a pocket of rich South African history as it was a British army stronghold during the Anglo-Boer War which man would argue shaped modern-day South Africa! At the Marie Rawdon Museum, you’ll be sure to find plenty of Anglo-Boer War items on display as well as guided tours for those looking for more detailed accounts of historical experiences. Another great way to uncover more of the monumental town’s history is to hop on an old London-style bun and to take a tour around all the main attractions – but be sure to hop off at the Laird’s Arms Pub for a drink!
If you are so inclined, be sure to pay the most notable old Lord Milner Hotel a visit, or make it an overnight stop on your next car hire Cape Town road trip if you dare – with its notorious haunted history, you should be in for an exciting stay!
The stunning riverside town of Stanford, famous for being the foodie-capital of the Overberg, is situated about a half-hour drive in your car hire Cape Town rental from Hermanus on the Cape Whale Coast. This hidden gem packs quite the nature punch with a river that runs through the town and plenty of mountains, lagoons and nature reserves to explore – this is the ideal spot for nature-loving travellers. Although the town itself is endearing enough on its own, you will also find a couple of lovely wine farms and nature reserves on the way in or out of the town.
When in Stanford, be sure to pay the famous weekend village markets a visit, pop into the antique shops, or have a picnic along the river for a serene and incomparable getaway!