I love the West Coast National Park. If I’m staying somewhere in the West Coast (whether it’s Yzerfontein, Langebaan, Darling or Paternoster), best believe that I’ll be budgeting some time, cash and petrol to drive through the park.
The West Coast National Park is a 40 000 hectare national conservation area, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Yzerfontein and Langebaan [1 , 2]. The national park includes the Langebaan Lagoon and offshore islands of Saldanha Bay . The park is popular for bird-watching, swimming and mountain biking.
The ‘Yzerfontein’ entrance to the park is situated on the beautiful R27 and is about 80km outside of Cape Town. You can also enter the park from the Langebaan side. Please check their website for the entrance fee and times.
What to do when at the West Coast National Park?
I’ve never had the pleasure of actually staying overnight in the West Coast National Park (you can check out accommodation options here, the lagoon houses look amazing), so this is what I usually do as a day visitor:
Swim in the Langebaan Lagoon
I remember visiting the Langebaan Lagoon back in the day with my twin cousins who couldn’t really swim at the time. The lagoon is an ideal place for kids to swim as the water is very calm and tends to be slightly warm (in pockets!). The water disappears during low tide and you’ll witness millions of little holes in the sand where marine creatures take shelter.
There are braai spots close to the beach but do note that they’re a bit of a walk away from where you might actually sit. There is not much shade so do bring along an umbrella and everything you might need while you are there (there’s no shops in the reserve).
TIP – I wouldn’t really recommend going to this beach between Christmas & New Years, unless you really want too! Many families have an annual tradition of going there (undoubtedly trying to escape the madness of Cape Town beaches) and the beach /lagoon can get uncomfortably packed. You might find your little umbrella wedged between two massive gazebos. Everyone’s friendly and jovial but it can get a bit much. If you’re going to go, at least go early!
Drive really slowly & stop at the viewpoints
It’s such a beautiful, scenic drive! And if you’re lucky, you might spot some small wildlife. On some occasions, I’ve been lucky and seen ostrich babies, bokkies and huge birds. On other occasions, the park seemed to be bursting with tortoises.
The fynbos and flowers are so pretty! Make sure that you try to go during the flower season.
There are numerous spots where you can park your car and look at the Instagram-worthy views.
Lunch/ Dessert/ Wedding?? at the Geelbek Restaurant
The Geelbek Restaurant is situated in a Cape Dutch building which just happens to be a national monument. It’s surrounded by the ideal bird-watching space. The restaurant itself is pleasantly surprising as you wouldn’t expect such a nice place in the middle of nowhere. It’s a popular wedding venue (I know, I’ve actually seen one there!).
They serve traditional South African food. I admit that a lot of the time when I’m there, I go straight for dessert. Who doesn’t like a nice malva pudding after bird-watching? If you’re not hungry, at least grab a coffee there – it’s well worth it.
I struggle to see the difference between a seagull and an albatross. Despite this, you will find me taking the walk out to the bird-watching house. If you can’t appreciate the birds, at least you can appreciate the scenery.
The next time you need to get to Langebaan, why not take things at a slower pace and make some time to explore the West Coast National Park?
If you didn’t have enough malva pudding at The Geelbek, I’d also recommend making a stop at Khwattu which is not in the West Coast National Park but close enough.