Spring is in the air and Mother Nature is bursting with pride. The normally dry, dusty landscapes of the Western Cape has now exploded in a tapestry of colour – transformed into a floral wonderland that attracts photographers, artists, botanists and sightseers from around the globe. Whether you’ve never seen it before or you go visit every year, the magnificence of seeing 30,000 hectares of veld covered in a blanket of colourful flowers, is well worth the drive it takes to get there.
Here are our 10 favourite spots.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden – Cape Town
Spring is the most colourful time of year at Kirstenbosch. The Namaqualand daisies and vygies carpet large areas of the garden, and the spring bulbs and many fynbos plants are in flower at this time of the year. Kids will love taking a walk on the 130 m long “Boomslang’, the curved steel and timber walkway that winds and dips its way through and over the trees.
The Kirstenbosch Tea Room offers a selection of snack and sandwich platters, as well as a picnic menu to be enjoyed on the lawns and benches in the gardens. moyo Kirstenbosch also has a special children’s menu and special children’s picnic baskets. For more info, visit SANBI.
Silvermine – Cape Town
The Silvermine reserve offers some of the best hikes around. With beautiful fynbos landscapes, there is plenty to take in – including a short and wheelchair-friendly boardwalk around the dam, a beautiful river walk, a light walk to the Silvermine waterfall, bird spotting, dog walking and mountain biking. Situated on the banks of the reservoir with spectacular views of the Fynbos clad mountains, the Silvermine picnic/braai site is definitely one of the best lunch venues in the Park. For more info, visit SANParks.
Koeberg Private Nature Reserve
Just north of Melkbosstrand the Koeberg Private Nature Reserve boasts beautiful wildflower fields. Go for a cycle on one of their family-friendly routes and enjoy viewing the majestic indigenous plants and wildlife (including eland, springbok and zebra). If biking isn’t your thing, there are also two hiking trails. The Dikkop Trail is a 13 km circular walk which includes pristine strandveld, dune veld and a 2km walk along the beach. The Grysbok Trail is a two-hour walk that includes a stretch along the beach and passes a salt marsh which is rich in birdlife in the winter months. Either way, pack a picnic lunch and stop at the bird hide where you’re likely to spot great white Pelican, greater Flamingo, African fish eagle as well as various Gulls, Herons and Egrets. For more info, call +27 21 550 4021 during office hours, or visit Eskom Nature Reserves.
The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden – Worcester
The 154-hectare garden at the foot of the Hex River Mountain range, is truly unique in that it is the only true succulent garden in the southern hemisphere. The garden offers a spectacular floral experience, displaying a wide variety of desert and semi-desert plants. The nature reserve part of the gardens features many hiking trails, including the Shale trail and Grysbokkie trail. The garden is also home to 70 species of birds and a wide range of small mammals such as the Cape grey duiker. For more info, visit SANBI.
West Coast National Park
The Postberg section of the park, where 80 species of flowering plants are endemic to the region and found nowhere else in the world, is open only during flower season. There are a number of activities that the whole family can enjoy, including nature walks, cycling routes, watersports on the Langebaan Lagoon and bird watching. Explore the park from the comfort of your vehicle and view game in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins, bat-eared foxes, honey badgers and mongooses. Picnic areas include Kraalbaai, Preekstoel (with braai facilities) and Uitkyk. The park’s lovely Geelbek restaurant sells ready-made picnic baskets to order. For more info, visit SANParks.
Clanwilliam is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and is the only place in the world where Rooibos tea is cultivated. During the flower season, the area is transformed into a spectacular showcase of wild flowers. Various fynbos species can be found here, most notably the critically endangered snow protea, which grows only in the Cederberg Wilderness area. Situated at the top of Clanwilliam’s main road, the Ramskop Nature Reserve boasts 350 indigenous species of wild flowers. A real sight during flower season, the garden offers a few walking options, including a short hiking trail from the flower garden to the Clanwilliam Dam wall. There are several spots that will give you some great views of the mountains, the town itself and the dam. For more info, visit Clanwilliam Tourism.
Namaqua National Park
Located in Namaqualand, the Park is home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world and most of its plant species are found nowhere else on earth. After the winter rains, daisies, lilies, aloes, and the famous vygies bloom in a spectacular fashion over hundreds of square kilometres. Many insect species are attracted to the flowers and the Speckled Padloper, the smallest tortoise in the world, can also be found in the park.
The popular Skilpad Walking Trail is a 5km circular route that takes you through the well-known flower fields. The 3km Korhaan Walking Trail meanders through bushy areas, enabling you to see a greater variety of flowers. There are no formal cycling trails, but visitors can cycle on any road or track open to the public, and there are various places to picnic.
There is self-catering accommodation at the Skilpad Rest Camp and various camp sites along the coast. The Skilpad area of the park can only be visited by tourists during the flower season in the spring. For more info, visit SANParks.
Harold Porter National Botanical Garden – Betty’s Bay
Set between mountain and sea, this beautiful garden is well-known for its waterfalls and amber pools. It consists of 10 hectares of cultivated fynbos garden and 190.5 hectares of natural fynbos. Several kilometres of nature trails provide scenic views of forests, mountains and the coastline. Betty’s Bay is on the Whale Route, so not only will you enjoy the many floral gems of the area but you may also be lucky enough to see whales out in the bay! The Red Disa Restaurant offers delicious refreshments and meals. For more info, visit SANBI.
Hermanus Botanical Society Flower Festival
22 – 25 September: 9am – 5pm
Fernkloof Nature Reserve
Over 300 labelled specimens will be on display at the Hermanus Botanical Society Hall and the Fynbos Café will serve a selection of delicious teas and lunches in the gardens. The Marquee opposite the Botanical Society Hall will house environmental exhibits and the Hermanus Botanical Society stand will be selling a variety of great items, from botanical books and magnifying lenses to needlework items and scented soaps. Fun activities for children will include quizzes, treasure hunts and fun runs, as well as Francois and his slithering fynbos snakes! The Fernkloof Nursery will also be selling a large variety of colourful indigenous plants. For more info, visit Fernkloof.
Elgin Open Gardens
29 – 30 October and 5 – 6 November: 10am – 5pm
Over the two weekends, there will be 20 open gardens in the Elgin and Bot River districts. These range from large established country gardens (some over 50 years old) to recently planted gardens in villages and on smallholdings, all situated in an area of sheer natural beauty. A number of gardens will have plants for sale and many are also offering teas and light meals. Various venues will be offering activities for kids. They can have fun and eat hotdogs at Almenkerk or enjoy the playground and tractor rides at Beaumont Wines in Bot River. Glenbrae will be hosting a kids’ art competition and families can also enjoy croquet and the playground at Lothian. For more info, visit Elgin Open Gardens.
Flower Viewing Tips
- Don’t go bloom hunting on a cloudy day. The flowers are sensitive to sunlight and many will only open when there is bright sunshine. The flowers face the sun, and they generally open completely from about 10am to 4pm.
- The flower season is dependent on the winter rains, the wind and other weather factors, and the displays vary from place to place each season. For up-to-date information and directions, contact the tourism information offices in each town.
- Maps of the flower routes are available from the tourism offices.
- Enquire about guided tours that are also available during flower season.
Get your kids in the car, go and explore these regions and witness one of the great natural wonders of the world.