Yzerfontein is best described as a beach paradise, where warm, lazy days stretch into long, pleasurable evenings. It is here that R&R and adventure abound in equal proportions. It is known equally well for its natural beauty, vast stretches of beach and tranquility, and its tradition of warmth and hospitality. Leisure Boating’s journalist Anton Pretorius visits this pearl on the West Coast.
After travelling 80 km along the scenic R27 West Coast Road from Cape Town, and taking the Yzerfontein turnoff, this seaside town dips into view on reaching the rise in the road – inky sea with a sketch of white coast and a scattering of houses. The beauty of this unassuming town is that it remains an unspoilt hideaway offering visitors a variety of outdoor activities in a peaceful setting.
As its backbone, Yzerfontein has a beach that is perfection – 25 km of unbroken shore that translates into a sweep of sand and spray as far as the eye can see, or more specifically, the Postberg Nature Reserve within the West Coast National Park. Originally laid out and developed by Abraham Katz in 1936, the village of Yzerfontein has remained a popular holiday resort. Over the years, it has gradually grown into a sleepy parish, but is a bustling hive of activity during summer season. The writer, Lawrence Green, observed that the beach is “like a land before God made man”. “The Ozone is so thick, it’s like breathing pure oxygen,” he wrote. Apart from this kind of obvious beauty, there are countless, more subtle features to be discovered over time that will entice you to return. It’s easy to enjoy the novelties of being in this small town with its restful, quiet character. Life is transformed by its simplicity – children slip out to fish as the sun comes up and return only once it’s dark.
But while the pace of Yzerfontein is slow, it belies what is at its heart which is a strong pulse that gives rise to an abundance of life – birds and wildflowers flourish, whales come in to calf and crayfish and mussels thrive in the bay. If you open your eyes, you’ll find there is plenty to occupy your day, from bird-watching and walking, to swimming, surfing, fishing, horse riding, kreefing and boating. The small boat harbour supports a bustle of activity if the snoek are running – the boats come teeming in laden with their catch. While visiting Yzerfontein, we attended the Yzerfontein Snoek Classic – a prestigious angling competition that has the harbour buzzing with excitement.
Fishing is a well-rewarded pastime in Yzerfontein’s waters. In fact, according to the Yzerfontein Tourism website, a greater volume of linefish is brought into this buzzing harbour than anywhere else. In winter, there is Mullet and Galjoen, while throughout the year, there is Hottentot for the taking. A trip to Dassen Island makes a very interesting outing. Situated 11 km off the coast, Dassen Island is South Africa’s second largest continental island measuring 2.5 km in length. This nature reserve is one of the most important breeding sites for numerous seabirds, including the African Penguin and the White Pelican.
If you prefer to be on dry land, but still enjoy the fresh sea air, a gentle 3 km walk from 16 mile beach, along the coast to Skaapeiland should satisfy your senses. Here you can amble about the rocks and collect white mussels. A hidden rockpool or ‘swemgat’ will delight the children. You may even catch sight of the rare Oyster Catcher wading out the vlei to get at the mussels. Birdlife is prolific with over 240 species, some of which are red-listed, inhabiting the area. Greater and Lesser Flamingos and Chestnutbanded Plovers inhabit the pan and sightings of the Blue Crane and Ludwig’s Bustard have also been made in this area. The West Coast is renowned for its spring flowers that transform the landscape into a palette of colours that would’ve made Van Gogh smile. But throughout the year, the fynbos has smatterings of pink and orange and boasts over 240 species of plants, many of which are endemic to the region.
During flower season and during the Christmas holidays, the population swells, many of whom are day visitors, with the rest finding refuge in the caravan park, rented out resident’s homes and an abundance of guesthouses. Although construction and development has increased rapidly over the last decade, the growth is not concentrated, preserving the sense of space and freedom that makes Yzerfontein special. In addition to the ribbon development, the natural rise of the land means most places have an unbroken view of the ocean. Our two-night stay was at the Blombosch Hideaway Lodge, a rustic range of farm bungalows situated on the outskirts of Yzerfontein. Although no panoramic ocean views, Blombosch offer visitors a different experience of Yzerfontein.
Situated in the bush, Blombosch offer visitors exciting 4×4 trails, conference, wedding and team-building facilities. The accommodation is basic, but with a snoek on the kole, we could gaze at the star-filled sky and listen to the reverberation of night creatures all around. One is mesmerized by the tranquility of Yzerfontein, and luxuries are immediately meaningless. One particular gem that perfectly embodies the relaxed vibe and natural bounty of the land is Die Strandkombuis. Set aside an afternoon to visit this open-air restaurant situated on the vast stretch of beach. The crayfish soup, seafood potjie and line fish will make your mouth water.
In addition to all of this, there is the Darling wine route and the West Coast National Park making you spoilt for choice as to how to spend your days in Yzerfontein. However, it’s more than likely that a few days will turn into a few more as time slows and perspective changes, allowing you to appreciate that rich weave of life around you, and how truly beautiful this planet is.
TRAVEL TIPS AND PLANNING:
How to get there:
From Cape Town travel northwards along the R27 West Coast Road, and about 85 km from Cape Town take the R315 turnoff to Yzerfontein. Airplane arrival from Cape Town International Airport, take the N2 to the Goodwood turnoff and at the traffic light, turn right. Pass the Grand West Casino to where the road becomes the N7. Take the Melkbosstrand turnoff, and continue until you reach the R27 crossing. Turn right onto the R27 and again right onto the R315 to Yzerfontein. GPS co-ordinates: 33° 21’ 44.55”S 18° 16’ 14.12”E
Best time to visit:
The region enjoys fine weather throughout most of the year. The best time for whale viewing is between August and November when the Southern Right and Humpback Whales frolic in the bay. You might be lucky enough to see a calf being born and raised up into the air by the attending “nurses” in order for it to gulp down its first breath of fresh air.
Where to stay:
Blombosch Hideaway Lodge is a secluded venue on the outskirts of Yzerfontein providing an exclusive and unique venue for weddings, receptions, conference, 4×4 trail, break-away and Cape West Coast tour groups. Blombosch has eight fully-kitted, self-catering twin rooms on the edge of a vlei with prolific bird life, while offering a rustic and affordable means of accommodation. Contact (022) 451 2790 for more information.
Who to contact:
Contact Yzerfontein Tourism on (022) 451 2366 or email email@example.com. Alternatively, their physical address is 46 Main Road, Yzerfontein, 7351