Some little towns in the mountains appear out of thick mist, other long-forgotten seaports give up their shipwrecks, while in the flower season everything takes on bright colours – that’s the essence of this Namaqua back-roads route, with a surprise and a local delight around every corner.

Did you know?

One of the prized sightings along the Kleinzee Shipwreck Trail is that of the oystercatcher bird.

Just getting to the village of Leliefontein to begin your Shipwrecks and Daisies Route, which ends in Kleinzee, is an adventurous road trip in itself.

This is the lesser-travelled part of the Northern Cape’s Namaqualand and you are in for a route full of surprises and delights.

Leliefontein is a historic Methodist mission village set among the rocky hills and outcrops not far from the central ‘flower town’ of Kamieskroon on the N7. There are no franchise burger joints here, no strip malls or shopping centres within hundreds of kilometres. It’s back-roads travel at its finest.

We stay over here at the Leliefontein Lodge and, because we’re after an authentic experience, tonight we sleep over in matjieshuise, traditional reed-mat igloos that have been used in the area for centuries.

We dine Nama-style in an open-air boma and are entertained by young Nama dancers, who weave their culture and stories into movement, backed by traditional music. We chat to the locals about their lives here in the back country and, next morning, leave this place knowing a lot more about the history and traditions of this area than we did before.

We could have headed straight for Kamieskroon today, but we’re spinning out this trip and going south to Garies. We visit the famous Letterklip (letter stone) bearing the inscriptions of old-time Namaqualand travellers, before setting our sights for the coast, and the little seaside town of Hondeklip (dog stone) Bay.

Our hosts for tonight are the Hough family, who run the famous Honnehok (dog kennel) chalets and serve wickedly delicious meals at their nearby restaurant-bar. One of the delights of visiting Hondeklip Bay is a walk along its beaches to admire the beached boats and occasional shipwreck looming out of the mist.

This village was once the shipping centre of copper ore from Namaqualand to the United Kingdom. It resurfaced as a crayfish town in the 1920s until the mid-1990s. Nowadays, Hondeklip Bay is best known for the alluvial diamonds that lie in the sea sands just off the coast.

The next day we drive up to Kleinzee. We have organised overnight permits well in advance, because this is officially still a diamond-restricted area. But we’re not here to hunt down diamonds. We’re going to look for shipwrecks and dune flowers.

We start off with a visit to the Kleinzee Museum, where you can see how the old-timers used to mine for diamonds out here. More importantly, you learn about their lifestyles and the reasonably harsh conditions they endured in this unforgiving part of the country.

Right next to the museum are the offices of Kleinzee Tourism, where we book for a day out on a shipwreck tour, on which we see the remains of a vessel sunk by German torpedoes in World War II, a Cypriot freighter that ran aground in foul weather, and a British motor coaster that also came to grief here in the late 1940s.

At the end of this trip we have seen the ‘backstage’ of Namaqualand and learnt a lot more of her secrets...

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Leliefontein Lodge and tourism information
Tel: +27 (0)27 672 1972
Cell: +27 (0)82 386 5386

Die Honnehok chalets
Tel: +27 (0)27 692 3041

Kleinzee Tourism
Tel +27 (0)27 877 0028

How to get here

Drive north on the N7 from Cape Town for approx. 450km, and then turn east at Garies for approx. 40km on the Leliefontein road.

Best time to visit

The area looks best in spring, when the Namaqualand flowers are in bloom: August to September.

Around the area

Ask the locals at Kleinzee about their secret seaside places – and go there.

Tours to do

Kleinzee Tourism runs shipwreck and 4X4 dune tours in the area. You'll need a permit to enter Kleinzee. Contact Kleinzee Tourism five days in advance of your planned trip.

Get around

This is an easy voyage of discovery, so hire a car in Cape Town and take to the road.

What will it cost

Accommodation costs along the way are relatively inexpensive. Expect to pay a few hundred rands per person per night.

Length of stay

Set aside three nights for this trip if possible.

What to pack

Pack for the outdoors and pack informally. Don’t forget your camera and extra memory cards.

Where to stay

Recommended are the Leliefontein Lodge, the Honnehok chalets in Hondeklip Bay, and Die Houthoop just outside Kleinzee.

What to eat

Meals are provided at all listed accommodation options, but this is a great time to stage impromptu picnics along the way. Shop in one of major N7 centres en route.

What's happening

Check the listed Northern Cape Tourism website for information about the area during your visit.