Thinking of travelling to South Africa? Summer (December to February) is the perfect time to visit, with long, sunny days, road trips, afternoon wine tastings, and seaside getaways to look forward to! Last year my husband and I spent a long weekend in Arniston, a tiny fishing town located about 3 hours drive from Cape Town. We enjoyed outdoorsy activities such as walking, hiking, bird watching, and swimming in the ocean, and indulged in local seafood and wine. Read on to see why we absolutely love this hidden corner of the Western Cape!
Road-tripping from Cape Town to Arniston
Arniston is easiest to get to by car, as the area is rural and public transport is fragmentary and unreliable. The roads are mostly good, but some are simple dirt roads, so bear this in mind when choosing a rental car. A 4×4 isn’t necessary, but a tiny vehicle may struggle quite a bit. There are many places to see along the way, depending on the route you take. The more scenic route (which will take you the best part of a day, including time for stopping and exploring) goes through Franschoek, Paarl, and Robertson, all great places for lunch, and a bit of wine tasting (for the non-drivers!).
The more direct route goes along the coast and passes through Grabouw, Caledon, and Napier, small agricultural towns surrounded by rolling fields dotted with sheep. The roads here disappear into the horizon, and the landscape is often dramatic. My favourite way to travel to Arniston is to take a leisurely drive, stopping spontaneously along the way at farm stalls like Peregrine Farm Stall and Dassiesfontein. There are beautiful views of the platteland (“flat land”, or remote rural countryside) and the distant mountains along the way. We met some friendly donkeys on our trip there – you never quite know what you’ll find!
Sleepy Seaside Scenes
Once you reach Arniston, you’ll soon realise how small the town really is! There are no supermarkets in the town, but nearby Bredasdorp has everything you’ll need. The Arniston Hotel has a lovely restaurant with great sushi and local wines, and there are also a few local seafood places if you’re in the mood for a picnic or an affordable lunch.
We stayed at the Arniston Lodge, which is located within 5 minutes walk to the beach and has a lovely view from the first storey rooms. The closer you stay to the shoreline, the louder the waves are, which I love hearing as I fall sleep. Bliss.
Kassiesbaai Fishing Village
The local fishing village features characteristic white-washed cottages with thatched roofs, and the nearby harbour is extremely busy when the brightly-painted fishing boats return from their days fishing. You can buy fresh fish for a fish braai, or simply check out the activity as the fishing boats are hauled in and the fish are cleaned and readied for transport.
You should also pop into Willeen’s Art, Craft and Restaurant for fish and chips, pies, bobotie or pickled fish, and sit outside for a lazy lunch with a sea view. Seaside life is slow-paced, so take your time and enjoy your surroundings.
Things to Do in and Around Arniston
Arniston is ideal both for relaxing and doing fun outdoor activities. You can stay put and do as little as possible, or if you’re keen to get out and exercise and explore, there are many fun things to do nearby. There’s an abundance of beautiful walks, swimming beaches, fishing spots, bird-watching trails, and other tiny towns nearby to visit. There are also large sand dunes if you fancy sand boarding!
White Sand Beaches!
Soft white sand, refreshing sea water that isn’t too cold, and gorgeous sunshine. Need I say more? Pack your sunscreen and water, and spend the day soaking up the sun. (The sun is strongest between 11 am and 3 pm, so take a long lunch indoors or cover up whilst outside). There are also many rock pools along the rugged bits of the coastline for little intrepid explorers and ocean-creature-seekers.
Walking to Waenhuiskrans (“wagon house cliff”)
A must-see in Arniston is the huge sea cave, or Waenhuiskrans. It’s accessible through a moderately difficult walk at low-tide, and I’d recommend some good “swimming shoes” or waterproof shoes for walking on sharp rocks, and those pesky barnacles!
The cave itself has several interesting rock pools and makes for a unique photo location. Be sure to check the tidal timetables before you visit, as the cave is inaccessible during high tide. The entrance to the cave is quite small, but you’ll usually see other cave-visitors along the way, so it’s hard to miss the entrance.
Visit De Mond Nature Reserve
De Mond nature reserve is a lovely place for walking, swimming, fishing (with a fishing permit), and bird watching. Cape Agulhus (the Southernmost point of the continent of Africa!) is not far from Arniston either, and it makes a great day trip. You can’t pass up the opportunity to stand between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans!
Arniston has been a favourite holiday destination of mine since I was a kid, and I hope you will find it just as refreshing and beautiful as I have.
Questions? Recommendations? Leave a comment below!