Cities of South Africa

George, the ‘capital’ of the Garden Route

Garden Route that takes explorers along the coastline roughly between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The spectacular Outeniqua mountain range frames this coastal establishment.

George lies within the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is World Heritage site because it is one of the richest in flora and fauna species in the world for its size – a delight for birders and nature lovers.

While today the small town of George is the commercial hub of the Garden Route, back in the late 1700s it was a timber outpost for the Dutch East India Company. George is located in the most densely forested area of South Africa, and there was a surge of development that saw a desperate need for a continuous feed of high quality timber for construction, as well as woodcrafts such as furniture-making and building wagons. Many woodcutters and their families flocked to the forest settlements in the area, where stinkwood, ironwood and yellowwood still grow.



Port Elizabeth – sitting on the dock of the bay

It’s one of the biggest cities in South Africa, a laid-back seaport that stretches down Algoa Bay, its harbour crowned by the iconic architecture of the new Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.

Known as the ‘Friendly City’ to outsiders, grumblingly as the ‘Windy City’ by residents and simply as ‘PE’ to almost everyone, Port Elizabeth started out as a 1820s British settlers’ town. (It must be said that the sheltered bay was actually marked as early as the late 1400s by both Bartholomew Dias and Vasco da Game, the famous Portuguese explorers who navigated the coastlines of Africa.)



Where Two Oceans Meet: Exploring Cape Agulhas

Most people know Cape Agulhas as the official dividing line between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, but the southernmost tip of Africa is more than a place of geographical extremes... It is a place rich in stories, many involving shipwrecks, castaways and ghosts. In the 15th century, seafaring Portuguese vessels would round the Cape and discover that their compass needles would swing, unable to determine true north from magnetic north. It is for this reason that Bartholomew Dias named this ocean site ‘Capo das Agulhas’ (Cape of Needles). For its mystery and adventure, Cape Agulhas still captures the imagination of contemporary explorers.



Bloemfontein, the city of roses

The expression ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’ is fitting for Bloemfontein, as it is both the judicial capital of South Africa and home to the Supreme Court of Appeals, but is also popularly known as the ‘city of roses’.

 Bloemfontein is the sixth-largest city in the country and is the capital of the Free State province. While it does indeed have many lavish gardens and flowers (like the 4000 rose bushes planted in Kings Park), and is made more unusual for the fact that it is in an arid part of South Africa characterised by grasslands and the encroaching Karoo desert, the true origins of its poetic name are a mystery. Translated directly from Dutch, Bloemfontein means ‘fountain of flowers’ or more accurately ‘flower spring’.



Picture Perfect Paternoster

Capetonians are lucky for several reasons... scenic splendour, rich history and vibrant culture. Personally I would include the variety of quick day-trip escapes to the list. With a little petrol and whole day ahead of you, the world of the West Coast begs to be discovered.

Top of my list is Paternoster. One of South Africa’s last remaining traditional fishing villages, Paternoster is quaint without being cutesy and romantic, without trying too hard. Paternoster, although much changed in the modern world, remains closely associated with fishing and the sea. Brightly painted fishing boats line the beach and fishermen sell crayfish, or kreef as it’s known, from roadside intersections.



Hello Darling! The flower of the West Coast...

The charming little village of Darling has a big reputation for spectacular wildflowers, and it’s for this reason that it’s known as The Flower of the West Coast. In fact, the wealth of flora and natural flowers is undeniably its biggest asset. Summertime sees the town nestled between golden fields of wheat and perspiring vineyards, and winter’s rolling green pastoral hills are dotted with arum lilies and grazing cows. It’s spring time though, that sees Darling blossom into fiery, flowering brilliance and bloom into a must-see stopover along the West Coast Road.



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