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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Awesome Yzerfontein

About 87 km-, or an hour’s drive- from Cape Town, a hidden jewel of the West Coast is laid out around a rocky peninsula, famous for its incredible beauty and year-round sunshine. If there was ever a town characterized by contradictions, it’s this little town with its big, big heart. 

The West Coast holiday town of Yzerfontein can be a buzzing hotspot, bursting out of its seams, or a sleepy little hamlet, depending on the time of year one visits. During the summer months, Yzerfontein comes alive. This is especially true during December when the town hosts its annual festival, renowned for showcasing the best local seafood. Accommodation is readily available out of season but if one is planning a visit during school holidays or between December to February, it is advisable to make a reservation. There are quite a few great restaurants such as Die Stal that one can visit to enjoy the best West Coast cuisine on offer, and for a fun evening out the local yacht club is always a good option. It also boasts fantastic activities for those who enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, and various water sports. A strong westerly wind is particularly welcomed by surfers, windsurfers and body boarding enthusiasts.

As with many other West Coast towns, Yzerfontein’s local inhabitants make their living from fishing the waters off the West Coast. In these parts it’s mostly about snoek and rock lobster but there is a big variety to be had as the region is rich in marine diversity. The annual fish runs are a definite highlight, and the town’s fish market is the place to get your share of the day’s catch, straight off the boat.

The bay, overlooked by Yzerfontein’s beacon Meeurots, or "Gull rock", is a favoured destination for whales who return each year to calve in its tranquil waters. It is therefore a great place for whale watching. Dolphins playing in the waves are also a common sight.

Sixteen mile beach stretches from just north of the main beach of Yzerfontein to the West Coast National Park, close to Langebaan. It is the longest uninterrupted pristine sandy beach on the coastline of South Africa. While it is still very much frequented by hikers, having once made up a section of Eve’s Trail, it was decided by the CWCB Trails to discontinue this due to the danger of disturbing oystercatcher nests along the high water line, as well as the danger of ignorant folk picking up seal pups, thus risking rejection by their mothers due to the human scent left in so doing.

Dassen island is situated a short distance off the coast, and has a resident light house keeper as will as intermittent stays by scientists. It is only accessible by boat. Although open to the public, not many operators go there due to the seasonality of large scale tourism. This, as it turns out, has been a blessing for its other inhabitants as it is a protected breeding site for threatened African penguins (around a third of the Western Cape population), Cape fur seals, white pelicans, black oystercatchers, Cape- and black backed gulls, as well as all three cormorant species. Helicopter flights to Dassen island are available from Cape Town but are quite expensive.

During the months of August and September, the Cape West Coast bursts forth into a kaleidoscope of colours as the annual wildflower season sees millions of flowers bloom. Yzerfontein definitely gets its fair share of this spectacle and is just one more reason to pay the town a visit. All said, Yzerfontein is the perfect place to "get away from it all" on a weekend, or to take the family on a holiday. The locals are hospitable to a fault, and the beauty, tranquillity, and uniqueness of this place will keep one coming back again and again. There is also the option to retire here as many South Africans have discovered. Most of the year-round inhabitants of Yzerfontein are retired folk.