The December holidays are around the corner, a time when families traditionally pack up and jet off for a nice long getaway.
However, budgets are tight for most these days and many families are possibly planning a staycation this year.
There is so much to see and hidden gems that not too many people are aware of and most of the time right on our doorstep.
If you’re looking to get away this holiday season or simply looking to get out for the day and are based in Cape Town, you don’t have to look much further than the Bergriver region - which is just a short trip away - to discover a multitude of fabulous and affordable things to see and do.
“The Bergrivier region, and the beautiful towns situated within it, offer something for everyone this December, and all close enough for day-trippers to enjoy,” said Nomonde Ndlangisa, CEO of Bergrivier Tourism.
Here are three little towns to visit that can be done as a day trip, and things to see and do as well as some budget-friendly accommodation options for those who can manage a night or two away.
The much-loved West Coast village of Velddrif offers a huge amount of water sports to be enjoyed, including skiing, sailing, canoeing, boating, and stand-up paddling – the list goes on.
Fishing enthusiasts are in for a treat as the river holds an abundance of fish species (the Fisheries Museum is also well worth a visit to find out about the colourful history of the fishing industry along this coast).
A boat cruise up the river is a must-do experience, and Bokkomlaan - the oldest road in the town that snakes up the edge of the Berg River - is a great place to relax and watch the tide come in while sipping artisanal coffee or a cocktail - and keeping an eye on the abundant bird life.
Also visit the eclectic shops dotted along this quaint dirt road which is named after “Bokkoms”, the salted mullet strung into bunches and hung to dry like biltong (it’s the local delicacy in this area).
Velddrif and the nearby surrounds of Laaiplek, Dwarskersbos and Aurora offer some great budget-friendly camping sites for a short break from your staycation plans.
Options on the banks of the Berg River include the Kliphoek River Resort, which has camping sites and chalets; Knorvarkie with campsites, caravans, and two glamping tents; and Kuifkopvisvanger, a working farm with cottages and campsites.
In Laaiplek the Stywelyne Beach Resort offers chalets and camping facilities right next to the beach; as does the Dwarskersbos Beach Resort in Dwarskersbos.
Moving inland a bit is Daniels Hoogte, with beautiful views of the Aurora Valley. This private reserve, which offers camping (with an option to camp in a cave) and self-catering accommodation, hosts a myriad of fauna and flora to be appreciated.
And if you enjoy a scenic walk or a more rigorous hike, you can look forward to exploring the natural surroundings, many rocky outcrops, and rock art paintings. You can then cool off in one of the dams.
Kapteinskloof Guest Cottage is another highly recommended stay - situated on a smallholding between Piketberg and Velddrif, in the beautiful valley of Kapteinskloof, it is one of the oldest original homesteads in the area which dates back to 1831.
Further inland from Velddrif and Aurora is the town of Piketberg. This historic village offers abundant outdoor activities, good food, good wine, attractive architecture, warm country hospitality and rich heritage.
The self-guided Piketberg Historical Route (which can be done on foot) is the best way to experience the town.
For wine lovers, a visit to the local winery, Org-de-Rac, is highly recommended.
There is a wealth of activities to enjoy while visiting Piketberg – amongst these is horse riding, as well as hiking in stunning terrain overlooking the valley.
The Retreat Guest Farm, which offers a range of accommodation options - has a scenic 1.5km hiking trail which ambles through a lush indigenous Yellowwood and Kliphout forest, as well as past some awe-inspiring rock formations with centuries-old rock paintings.
Other things to do include mountain biking, trail running, bouldering and rock climbing, bird-watching, swimming, kayaking, star-gazing and relaxing.
More top recommended spots to stay in and near Piketberg that won’t break the budget include Dunn’s Castle, which presents a selection of cosy rooms adorned with charming Victorian touches; Die Ark Camping near Koringberg which offers a fabulous farm stay with fishing, canoeing, swimming, tractor rides, 4x4ing and more; the Sandveld Dorpshuys in Redelinghuys, which has a mini animal farm and kiddie’s playground and pool.
Kardoesie on the N7 just outside Piketberg is a farm stay with a restaurant, shop, swimming pool and paintball; Kruistementvlei in Piket-Bo-Berg, which is situated in the mountains above Piketberg; Pomona is also in Piket-Bo-Berg; Kleine Paradys in Piketberg has campsites, glamping and cottages, with guests able to enjoy fishing, a heated pool, kids play area, and farm animals.
Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort is also a much-loved venue for families looking to relax and have fun – with its top-notch restaurant, stunning views, swimming pools, zip-lining and more.
The third in the trio of highly recommended towns to visit this holiday is Porterville, a quaint village nestled at the base of the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area.
This beautiful town has now been dubbed one of the most desirable and popular country towns in the Western Cape.
For foodies, there are a range of coffee shops, restaurants, and eateries.
Outdoor enthusiasts are in for a treat with a visit to Porterville, which offers a variety of hiking trails to fascinating destinations like De Hel (the hell) and De Tronk (the jail).
There is also an uphill waterfall trail dotted with 22 waterfalls snaking their way down the mountainside, interspersed with crystal-clear pools for a cooling dip.
Mountain bikers will love the many trails that wind their way through the surrounding countryside.
For those keen to test their adrenalin levels, there are companies which offer tandem paragliding and hang-gliding experiences.
Bird watchers can also expect to find an abundance of feathered friends. Anglers can throw in a line in the area, and for golfers, Porterville offers a scenic golf course with a beautiful mountain backdrop.
There is also an artisanal gin distillery in the mountains above the town, and Porterville is home to a myriad of artists, so visitors can view and purchase paintings, ceramics, sculptures and much more.
Some of the top camping spots in and around Porterville include Cedarpeak, which boasts fabulous secluded glamping pods in the mountains above the town; popular Beaverlac with camping sites as well as timber or stone cottages near mountain streams and rockpools; the Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve with spectacular hiking trails and rock formations; and 22 Waterfalls with caravan and tent sites as well as cottages.