With winter reluctantly giving way to spring, the Cape wildflowers are right in the middle of their annual symphonic performance of colour. On roadsides, meadows, and pockets of wilderness throughout the Western Cape, hoards of flowers have emerged from the previously cracked soil to paint the landscape a kalaeidescopic palette of colours; the kind of dress that only Mother Nature can pull off. But as most Capetonians know, the show is short-lived, lasting a paltry six weeks before the landscape returns to its former duller shades. With only a few weeks left of floral splendour, there’s absolutely no time to waste! Here are the 10 best places to view the Cape wildflowers in all their glory.
Tip: The best time of day to view the wildflowers is between 11:00 and 15:00, when the sun is highest, and the flowers are open.
Postberg Flower Reserve at the West Coast National Park
Drifting in midst of the West Coast National Park is the Postberg Flower Reserve, an unspoilt landscape that is closed at all times of the year, except for Spring. With the emergence of the wildflowers in August and September, the park opens this reserve to visitors to come and admire the spectacular display of Blue Flax or “sporries”, Kaapse magriet, and other daisies.
Other Activities: Wildlife viewing, bird watching, mountain biking, walks, beach, swimming, picnicking, and hiking. The West Coast National Park is also an area of anthropological significance, with a 2.5 day hiking trail that follows the footsteps of a young woman who lived in the area around 117,000 years ago.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 125 km / approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
Current Cost of Entry: R38 to R76 for SA children/adults and residents with ID; R85 to R170 (international children/adults; standard conservation fee); R55 to R110 (SADC children/adult nationals with valid passports)
More Information: Phone 022 772 2144 or visit the West Coast National Park website.
Namaqualand National Park
If you want to make a real weekend trip out of the annual blooming of the wildflowers, you could drive as far north as Namaqualand National Park to see the famed Namaqualand daisies. The landscape here undergoes an incredible transformation every spring from semi-arid scrubland to rich, vibrant carpets of wildflowers. Here, visitors can admire more than 3,000 different species of plants, a third of which are totally endemic to the region.
Other Activities: Walking, hiking, mountain biking, and bird watching. And look out for the Namaqualand speckled “padloper”, the world’s smallest species of tortoise!
Distance from Cape Town: ± 530 km / approximately 6 hours 45 minutes
Current Cost of Entry: R21 to R41 (South African children/adults and residents with ID); R41 to R81 (SADC children/adults with valid passports); R41 to R81 (international children/adults; standard conservation fee).
More Information: Phone 027 672 1948 or visit the Namaqua National Park website
Known as a centre for South Africa’s fruit farming industry, the aptly named Citrusdal is a rural town with great outskirts of verdant citrus orchards. Thanks to its hot water springs, rock art, zip-lining activities, and location on the Cape Flower Route, it’s also a popular family holiday destination, particularly at this time of year. With so much to do and see, the psychedelic colours of the surrounding fields add a fabulously beautiful aspect to any weekend getaway.
Other Activities: Hiking, family holidays, camping, rock climbing, zip-lining, bird watching, fishing, hot springs, rock art, culture and historical attractions.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 180 km / approximately 2 hours
More Information: Phone 022 921 3210 or visit the Citrusdal Tourism Office website
Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens
The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden is a 154-hectare reserve that sprawls across the foothills of Worcester’s rocky and majestic Hex River Mountain range. The garden is entirely dedicated to indigenous vegetation such as succulents, annuals, and vygies, which, at this time of year, are bursting into a spectrum of vibrant colours. Deserts may be dry but there is something extraordinarily beautiful about a desert landscapes and the Karoo is no exception, especially with a fresh carpet of spring flowers!
Other Activities: Tours around the garden, hiking trails, bird watching, and picnicking.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 120 km / approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
Current Cost of Entry: R22 (adults), R15 (students), R12 (pensioners), R10 (children under 18), free for BOTSOC members and disabled persons.
More Information: Phone 023 347 0785 or visit the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden website
Darling Renosterveld Local Nature Reserve
The small town of Darling is regarded as a primary epicentre for the annual blooming of the wildflowers, although it is really just one stop along the Cape Flower Route. The best place to see the show is at the 20-hectare Renosterveld Local Nature Reserve, which was established specifically for the preservation of local, endemic flowers, such as renosterbos, bellendini, kapokbos and vygies. Renosterveld, so named for the steel grey colour of the region’s indigenous vegetation, describes one of the major plant communities of the Cape Floristic Region.
Other Activities: Walking, hiking, bird watching, picnicking, and, in the greater Darling area, wine tasting. Also, every year, usually the third week of September, the town hosts an epic festival and celebration of the annual blooming of the wildflowers: the Darling Wild Flower Show. This year, the dates are set for the 14th to 16th September 2018
Distance from Cape Town: ± 75 km / approximately 1 hour 15 minutes
More Information: Phone 022 492 3361 or visit the Darling Tourism website.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
All Capetonians and most visitors to Cape Town will be familiar with the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Located on the lush eastern slopes of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve, Kirstenbosch is a breathtakingly beautiful 36-hectare preservation of indigenous gardens, forests, and flowers, which include the full spectrum of fynbos blooms, proteas, and wild daisies. It’s also a bird watchers paradise with several species of sunbirds, canaries, raptors, the endemic Cape Sugarbird, and resident breeding pairs of Spotted Eagle Owls to be seen.
Other Activities: Walking, hiking, arts and culture, and, in the summer months, live music concerts. Kirstenbosch is also an exceptional destination for families and picnicking.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 10 km / approximately 20 minutes from city centre
Current Cost of Entry: R65 (adults), R35 (students), R15 (children, 6 to 17 years), Free (children under 6, BOTSOC members, and RSA pensioners on Tuesdays, except public holidays).
More Information: Phone 021 799 8783 or visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden website.
Ramskop Nature Reserve
Ramskop Nature Reserve lies adjacent to the town Clanwilliam, with the dramatic Cederberg Mountains, fields of rooibos tea, and orange groves serving as a stunning backdrop. The 66-hectare reserve is home to some 350 species of wildflowers, including daisies, sporries, sugarbos, and proteas, all of which burst into vivacious life and colour around this time of year. There are abundant pathways criss-crossing the reserve, offering visitors incredible views over the surrounding landscapes, its flowers, Clanwilliam’s dam, and the mountains.
Other Activities: Bird watching, wildlife viewing, viewpoints, walking, hiking, picnicking, rest, and relaxation.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 230 km / approximately 2 hours 40 minutes
Current Cost of Entry: R26 (adults), R19 (pensioners), R9 (children)
More Information: 027 482 8012 or visit the Ramskop Nature Reserve website.
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
Covering 263 hectares of wild, rocky coastline and peninsula right near Paternoster, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is a spectacular coastal habitat that’s home to a variety of Karoo succulents and fynbos. The Cape wildflowers put on just as enthusiastic a show here as they do inland, with sightings of marine life – such as whales, dolphins, and seals – thrown into the equation for visitors. The area is also rich in birdlife.
Other Activities: Hiking, kayaking, beach camping, nature walks, diving, cycling, wildlife viewing, bird watching, whale spotting, and dining out. Also, the country’s very last manned lighthouse (built in 1936) can be found in Cape Columbine.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 155 km / approximately 2 hours
Current Cost of Entry: R25.30 (adult), R17.30 (child), R12.65 (tour groups, per adult).
More Information: 022 752 2323 or visit the Saldanha Bay Tourism website.
Harold Porter Botanical Garden
The lovely Harold Porter Botanical Garden encompasses an area of coastal fynbos, where the flora is at its richest and densest. Here, in a place renowned for its waterfalls and amber pools, visitors will find a stunning variety of landscapes from mountain slopes with wind-clipped heathlands to deep gorges with relict forests. During spring, the reserve becomes a botanical wonderland of indigenous flowers such as orchids, daisies, proteas, and more.
Other Activities: Walks, picnicking, whale watching, and bird watching. The gardens are also quite close to a penguin colony, which is always highly entertaining to observe.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 95 km / approximately 1 hours 20 minutes
Current Cost of Entry: R25 (adults), R15 (seniors and students), R10 (children, 7 to 17 years), free (children under 6 and BOTSOC members)
More Information: 028 272 9311 or visit the Harold Porter Botanical Garden website.
Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve
A stone’s throw from Darling (and en route to Yzerfontein) lies the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Reserve, which was originally part of a farm that was donated by Marthinus Versveld (hence the name “Tienie Versfeld”) to the National Botanical Society of South Africa. This location is a unique remnant of fynbos, grassland, and seasonal wetland that transforms into a miraculous display of springtime colour with the annual blooming of wildflowers that include butterfly lilies, lachenalia, chincherinchee, and bulbs. What makes this reserve so special is the fact that it supports a staggering diversity of flower species: 10% of the Cape Floral Kingdom to be precise!
Other Activities: Bird watching, game viewing, walking, and picnicking.
Distance from Cape Town: ± 80 km / approximately 1 hours 10 minutes
More Information: Phone 022 492 3361 or visit the Darling Tourism website