Surrounded by rugged beaches and peaceful De Mond Nature Reserve, the seaside villages of Cape Agulhas and Struisbaai seem to “melt into one another”. From Hermanus, it’s a two-hour drive east via R316 and R319 through rolling hills, sheep farms, and bright yellow fields of blooming canola! It’s hard keeping your eyes on the road, and I pulled over often.
Cape Agulhas headland is the southernmost tip of Africa – where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The point lies near Cape Agulhas lighthouse at the end of a wooden boardwalk, and it’s marked with a stone plaque where visitors snap selfies.
The exact location where the Agulhas and Benguela currents meet is said to “fluctuate seasonally” between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. But the official meeting place, decided by the International Hydrographical Organisation, is unquestionably Cape Agulhas.” In the past, I’ve visited and hiked Cape Point – another pristine coastal area.
“Historically, Cape Agulhas was known to sailors as particularly hazardous – notorious for winter storms and huge rogue waves that can reach a spectacular height of 30 metres (99 feet). It’s no surprise that the area is littered with shipwrecks. One of which – the Meisho Maru – lies in Agulhas National Park.”
Struisbaai is an old South African fishing village with a beautiful natural harbour. Although some development has taken place, “Struisbaai is relatively untouched by the rigours of over-development”.
Many fishermen live in Struisbaai, but it’s also becoming a popular place for tourists and leisure activities like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, paintball, quad biking, diving, and kiteboarding. Paintball and kiteboarding are new to me. At Struisbaai Harbour, I watched kiteboarders, in awe of their nimble moves!
Struisbaai has the longest beach in the Southern Hemisphere, reaching almost 8.5 miles along the coast.
Like Cape Agulhas, the waters off Struisbaai have traditionally been treacherous for shipping. More than 30 vessels have run aground since 1673. One of them was the Dutch ship “Meermin that stranded in 1766 after a mutiny by the Malagasy slaves she was carrying. Another, the French ship Jardinière, sank 28 years later”.
On the way to Cape Agulhas I stopped at Napier and Bredasdorp and took a few photographs. These small towns are rich in South African history and stories!
Napier is a rural village located under Soetmuisberg Mountain between Caledon and Bredasdorp. There wasn’t much happening when I passed through. It’s a “blend of century-old cottages and modern houses”. Historically, blacksmithing was Napier’s primary craft.
Routes 316 and 319 between Hermanus and Napier are a favorite gathering spot for flocks of the endangered Blue Crane, South Africa’s National Bird. Sadly, I didn’t see cranes.
“Napier was founded in 1838 through a dispute between two neighbors, Michiel van Breda and Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl, over the location of the community Dutch Reformed Church. Michiel van Breda wanted the church sited on his farm, Langefontein, while Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl wanted it built on his property, Klipdrift. Neither van Breda nor van der Byl gave way, so they built two churches.”
I stopped at Napier Farmstall for lunch. Farmstalls are popular and have delicious home-baked goods and fresh farm produce. The specialty at Napier Farmstall is a black pan breakfast served all day. It’s a mix of beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, herbs, and spices served in a black pan. Several locals were enjoying brunch and the warm, sunny spring weather.
Napier has interesting old buildings. During 1810 – 1820, the Feeshuis (Festival House) was used as slave quarters and later a wine cellar. It was restored in 1988 to celebrate Napier’s 150th anniversary. The Napier Dutch Reformed Church was built “in the form of a Greek cross with teak interior and a yellow copper pipe organ”.
Bredasdorp is said to be the first town or ‘dorp’ established in South Africa. It’s the economic hub of the region and lies on the slopes of a high hill known as the Preekstoel (pulpit), surrounded by giant proteas and wheat fields. The proteas grow on the ridges of the hill and are one of the main products of the district.
Bredasdorp was named after the first mayor of Cape Town, Michiel van Breda (1840 – 1844). Van Breda introduced the animals on his farm, Zoetendals Vallei, and is known as the father of the merino sheep industry in South Africa.
Bredasdorp is best known for its Shipwreck Museum, “the only one of its kind in the country”. The museum has a collection of artefacts from ships wrecked along the Overberg coast, including cannons, china, coins, buoys, and ships bells. Bredasdorp’s parsonage was restored with pieces salvaged from the shipwrecks. A room in the Museum pays tribute to a South African author I’d never heard of, Audrey Blignault, who was born in Bredasdorp.”
The Heuningberg Nature Reserve on Van Riebeeck Street in Bredasdorp is “a must for nature lovers and birders. The Reserve offers short hikes in nearby mountains”.