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The Namaqua West Coast region borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west and includes Sandveld, Knersvlakte and the Matzikama Mountain range.
As the region’s largest town, Vredendal is the go-to place for stocking up
whether you’re a visitor on a road-trip or a farmer on remote land. Its
economy is based on agriculture and mining of minerals from sand. As you explore, look out for the produce – grapes, potatoes, tomatoes,
onions, pumpkins, watermelons and sweet melons: all made possible by the
development of the water-transporting Olifants River Irrigation Scheme. Vredendal has one of the country’s largest co-operative wine cellars, a
modern grape juice concentrate plant, and thriving dried fruit and a food
canning industries. The town was originally known as Bakkeley Plaats, apparently due to an altercation between the Dutch and the Khoi in 1668. Once peace had been declared, the name was changed to Vreedensdaal – valley of peace. Places of interest include Namaqua Wines – one of the largest wineries in South Africa , and the old Roman Catholic Church.
The gateway to Namaqualand is Vanrhynsdorp. Here too, is the path to the
Hantam Karoo and the Cederberg. This is famous as flower-land, but there’s
so much more to see. Vanrhynsdorp is situated on the Troe-Troe River and was once an outspan for
travellers. The settlement became known as Troe-Troe, and was renamed
Vanrhynsdorp in 1881 in honour of local dignitary Petrus Benjamin van
Rhyn. The town is a commercial centre for the region and services a large
sheep farming district.
Places worth a visit include the town’s first church, called Het Gesticht;
Trutro House that was built in 1751; the old gaol, which incorporates a
succulent nursery; and, a former horse-powered mill. The Victor Smith Memorial outside the town is an important marker in South
Africa’s aviation history. Smith (1913-2001) played a pioneering role in
developing African air routes. In 1932 when he was only 19-years-old, Smith
attempted to break the Cape Town-to-London flying record of 8½ days. The
following year he tackled the London-to-Cape Town record, but crashlanded
some 27km from Vanrhynsdorp, on the farm Quaggaskop. He still
made history – his was the first successful forced landing on South African
Strandfontein has a population of less than 200 permanent residents, but
bursts at the seams come holiday time. Most of the houses are holiday
homes, B&Bs and guesthouses. Strandfontein isn’t just a summer destination though. During late winter and early spring the town’s sandy cliffs provide excellent lookout points for whale watchers. The Wandering Whale Labyrinth, just south of the town, is a place for solace and contemplation.
The area around Lutzville was originally known as Vlermuisklip, a reference to a rocky overhang near the town called Vleermuijsklip. The cave was often used by early travellers as a shelter, and was first named by Pieter Everaerts in 1661. Other visitors included Governor Simon van der Stel, and Pieter van Meerhof, who was the first European to reach the Troe-Troe River near Vanrhynsdorp. British soldiers also used the shelter during the SA War (1899-1902). The town Lutzville was established in 1923 and named after Johan Lutz, an irrigation engineer who worked on the Clanwilliam Dam and also surveyed the Lutzville area for agricultural development. The town has a population of just over 5 000 and services a farming community that produces wine and cultivates beans and tomatoes for the canning industry. Lutzville’s popular visitor sites includes: Vleermuijsklip Rock, and Golf Course. The Sishen-Saldanha railway bridge over the Olifants River is worth a brief stop on your journey too. Completed in 1975, supported by 22 pillars that each extend 45m into the river bed. Nearby lies the small village with the memorable name of Koekenaap. It was first settled in 1928. While various legends as to the source of its name exist, the truth has been lost in time.
The landscape surrounding the villages of Klawer & Trawal falls across low, undulating hills where farmland and fertile river banks adjoin arid scrubland. Likewise, slow accompanies fast in a place you can take it all in on a slow drive or join one of the seasonal river rafting expeditions down nearby Doring River. Nearby Klawer is home to amongst others the Klawer wine cellar. It developed around the railway station servicing the Olifants River Valley and got its name from the Afrikaans word for sorrel. Most of the surrounding farms, vineyards, orchards and fields are irrigated with water supplied by the Olifants River Irrigation Scheme. Their shared histories are tied by the gradual opening of trade routes. The coming of the railway in 1914 was one of the events that sparked intensive farming into life. For a decade, the station at Klawer was the end of the line in the rail connection between Cape Town and the Namaqua West Coast.
Doringbaai is a picturesque fishing hamlet that was once an anchorage from where provisions were transported to in-country towns by camel train. In 1925 the North Bay Canning Company built a crayfish packing factory in the town. The factory closed in the 1970s and has since been converted into a business hub that includes a restaurant, a winery with wine tasting facilities and a function venue. The Abalone Farm was created in 2011 & its 1st farming operations started in 2013. The farm is an initiative between The Doringbaai Development Trust & entrepreneurs of the area. Other prominent buildings include the Doringbaai lighthouse that was built in 1963 and the Roman Catholic Church.