Situated in the Western Cape, on a stretch of coastline that is renowned for its rugged beauty, the West Coast National Park is a scenic South African national park and nature reserve with a diverse range of plant, bird, and animal life. The park was established in 1985 and spans around 32 000 hectares between Yzerfontein and Langebaan, two of the most popular West Coast towns. Spectacular landscapes, secret beaches and pristine hiking trails are just some of the reasons to visit this national treasure.
We visited the park on a day trip from Cape Town, which took about an hour each way. It’s small compared to some of the other national parks and can easily be explored in a day. The roads are well-marked and most of them are tarred, except for the Postberg section and a small section near Tsaarsbank, which are gravel.
The centrepiece of the park, the Langebaan Lagoon, is a large saltwater lagoon which has been designated as a Ramsar wetland of international importance. One of only three lagoons in the world which are not fed by fresh water, it is divided into three zones: A, B and C. Sail boats and board sailing are allowed in zone B, while swimming, fishing and water sports, including power boating, kayaking and kite surfing are allowed only in Zone A, near the town of Langebaan.
Two of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa, the Kraalbaai and Preekstoel beaches, are great places to spend the day relaxing, swimming and picnicking. The white sandy beaches overlook the turquoise waters of the lagoon, making you feel as though you’re on a tropical island.
Together with Namaqua National Park, the West Coast National Park is the best place to see South Africa’s colourful wildflower displays in spring. The Postberg Flower Reserve in the park is where most of the wildflowers can be found and is only open during flower season in August and September.
There are designated viewpoints around the park which are worth stopping at for the magnificent views they offer. The Seeberg and Atlantic viewpoints are the highest viewpoints, and on a clear day you can see Table Mountain from them. An old shepherd’s hut at Seeberg, has some fascinating information about the history of the area.
At the Geelbek Visitor’s Centre, you can see a replica of Eve’s footprints. These are 117 000-year-old footprints which belonged to a young woman who lived near the lagoon. The original footprints are at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town.
Also at Geelbek, is a restored Cape Dutch building built in 1860, which now houses the Geelbek Restaurant.
There are several hiking trails in the park, ranging from easy walks to strenuous one- and-two-day hikes, that will take you through stunning scenery. One of the shortest and most popular hikes is the 4.6 km Bakoor trail, which goes from the Laangebaan Gate to the Seeberg viewpoint. Cycling and mountain biking routes are also available.
The West Coast National Park is a haven for birding enthusiasts, with over 250 species of birds, including lesser flamingos, ostriches and eagles. Some of them migrate annually from Russia to their breeding grounds in the park. There are four bird hides around the park which provide a great vantage point to observe them from. We saw a flamboyance of flamingos, as well as ostriches, rare black oystercatchers and other species.
The park is home to mammals such as Cape mountain zebras, gemsboks, elands and caracals, and several types of snakes. The largest concentration of mammals can be found in the Postberg section, which is unfortunately only open during the flower season, although they can be seen in other parts of the park too. We didn’t see any of the larger mammals although we saw numerous tortoises, dassies and mongooses.
This rougher, more rugged side of the park overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Here you can have a seaside braai as you watch the waves. If you’re lucky, you may see dolphins here. During August and September, whales pass by too.
A 1.8 km trail along the beach at Tsaarsbank will take you to the rusty remains of the Pantelis A. Lemos shipwreck, which ran aground in thick fog back in 1978.
There are 4 houseboats of different sizes in Kraalbaai, where you can stay on the lagoon. No boating experience is necessary as the houseboats are permanently moored.
When is the best time to visit the West Coast National Park?
The best time to visit the park is in August and September, when the wildflowers are in bloom and the weather is warm but not too hot. Whales can also be seen during this period. However, it is still a beautiful park all-year-round.
We visited in October. Although we didn’t get to see the wildflower carpets, we still saw some of the last flowers.
Good to know
Apart from the houseboats, there are self-catering cottages in the park that can be booked with Sanparks.
The park can get quite windy, even in summer, so have a jacket handy if you plan to get out of your car.
There are no fuel stations in the park so fill up before you go.
There is one restaurant but no shops where you can stop for snacks.
For more information and entrance fees, visit West Coast National Park.
Things you must do in South Africa
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