If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, Labor Day has just passed and summer is officially over. Time to queue all things pumpkin spice. But down here in South Africa, September means the beginning of spring, and the peak blooming season for flowers all over the country. One of the best places in the entire world (yes, I said WORLD) is West Coast National Park. While there is one park in South Africa with even better flower-viewing, West Coast National Park is just over an hour from Cape Town and is easily accessible for a day trip, or a quick overnight camping sesh.
Camping Near West Coast National Park
Since Hudson and I loooove camping, we opted for the latter. We found a spot just outside the north entrance to the park called Leentjiesklip Caravan Park right on Saldanha Bay. For just R183 (~$14) per night you can grab a sea-front site, or any other site for R153 (~$12). All of the sites come with a fire pit, but you’ll need to bring your own braai grid. Or just be like us and put some sausages on a poker stick like a couple of hobos.
If you don’t have your own tent, you can stay at the nearby Buffelsfontein Wildlife Reserve for R135 per person per night.
After setting up camp, we headed straight into the park. The fees here can get a little pricey during the flower season (mid-August to mid-September) but luckily we just purchased our Wild Card which cost R845 (~$65) for a couple card that will get us into every national park in the country plus all nature reserves as well. If you’re just visiting here, unfortunately the Wild Card for international visitors is significantly more expensive, at R2,210 for an individual or R3,455 for a couple. To get the local rate you’ll need to show proof of a a working visa or other long term visitor visa.
OK, enough with the details. We planned this trip to see the flowers, which I had heard were incredible and had maybe seen an Instagram post or two. But OH MY GOD. It was a hundred times more than anything I’d ever seen before or anything I expected.
I would like to take this moment to officially retract any other time in history I have used the verb “blanket” to describe what flowers are doing to a hill. This is the only time. All previous blankets are null and void. Before we even entered the park, I already had to stop for a photo.
Literally not even in the park yet…
Best Flower Viewing in the Park
While the flowers blanket (I promise I’ll try to find another verb) scattered patches and corners of the entire park, there are two places where they are truly at their best. The first is the Seeberg View Point, which also offers the most spectacular views you’ll find in the park. The second is called the Postberg Section and it is only open during flower season in August and September. I have to imagine that at one point people were tramping all over the flowers when they weren’t in bloom and almost ruining it for everyone. So now there are rules.
The Postberg Section is all the way at the northern point of the peninsula that creates the protected lagoon of the park. There is some great birding to be done here in the winter, and we even saw some lesser flamingos chilling near the beach. There are a couple of 14km hikes around the dunes you can do, which I imagine involve more wildlife viewing than you’ll see on the road. Since we only had the day, we opted to just drive the park, getting out occasionally to revel in the beauty of more flowers.
The first dunes become visible as you curve around the inside of the inlet and start driving northward up the peninsula. And then even more dunes appear. Eland, ostriches, bontebok, and other antlered mammals can be seen scampering or lazing about the park, though I highly recommend binoculars if you really want to get a good look. In our one afternoon we saw a few eland, a handful of other mammals that were too far away to identify, a bunch of flamingos, and more ostriches than you can count. If you’re really here for the wildlife, there is plenty to be found but let’s face it–I was there for the flowers.
As we were driving, the grasslands looked dusted with snow or even covered in sandy patches from a distance, but each and every time we grew closer, it was just thousands upon thousands of more white daisies in bloom decorated with purple or orange or the rare magenta spray.
Seeberg Viewpoint Flowers
Postberg Section Flower Viewing
If you keep driving through the park, SURPRISE! More flowers! As you enter the Postberg Section you will be warned not to get out of your car unless you’re stopping at a designated area or just taking pictures from the road. But then everyone will be out of their cars walking down paths and you won’t know that area wasn’t designated until some park rangers come yell at you. Maybe. Or maybe you will just stay on the road like they told you in the first place.
Lastly, at the very tip of the peninsula you will find Plankiesbaai: a stunning beach where waves crash careless into smooth, granite boulders and southern right whales and all kinds of dolphins can often be seen. We didn’t see any on this particular day, but there is a lovely little hill to climb that offers even better views of the coast and, you guessed it, even more flowers.
Also, did you know if you take a bunch of photos real fast on your phone, Google will make a GIF for you? Google Auto Awesome is pretty, well, awesome when you’re just snapping casual shots with your phone. My DSLR broke before we left Texas so I am sadly relegated to phone photos for the time being. But hey, GIFs are fun!
As the day wore on, I couldn’t stop saying how pretty everything was. Literally every time we stopped, the word left my mouth again and I felt as though I should get a better adjective. But then I realized that maybe I was really understanding what pretty means more than I ever had before. I think we often associate pretty with “less than beautiful” as though it’s all on a spectrum of objective beauty. But while these flowers and vistas and bays were certainly beautiful, pretty was the right word. They were cheery and dainty and delicate and colorful and made me want to giggle with glee. I didn’t stop smiling the entire afternoon. They were pretty like a flowy summer dress and pretty like a flirtatious smile. Maybe beauty implies more depth, more seriousness, more expanse. But on this day, everything was just perfectly pretty from start to finish.
And here are a couple more very pretty photos in case you haven’t seen enough flowers yet.
Stay tuned for next week when I release my very first “Weekend Guide to Cape Town.” I’m sure this will evolve over time as we visit more and more places, but we’ve already discovered how you can pack the best of Cape Town into just a few days (if you absolutely must).