Go to the Agulhas National Park and you can instantly accomplish a whole lot of must-dos. See the southernmost lighthouse in Africa. Explore the true wonder of fynbos in spring. Hear about strange shipwrecks. Watch whales slap their tails as you explore a talcum-white beach.

Did you know?

There are about 9000 species of fynbos, with new species discovered almost every year.

Most people drive through the Agulhas National Park on their way to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. There's a glamour, an explorer's thrill, that lies in visiting such a place.

The second oldest lighthouse in South Africa was built here in 1848, an exclamation mark at the continent's tip. (The oldest is the Green Point lighthouse in Cape Town, erected in 1824). The Agulhas lighthouse offers stunning views of this gently rounded coastal peninsula.

There is so much more to see. Even though this area is still in the process of being developed as a national park, it already attracts birders, beach-lovers, amateur botanists interested in the pristine fynbos, and anyone who loves a good shipwreck story. There's a shipwreck for every kilometre of coastline here.

Agulhas means 'needles' in Portuguese. The peninsula was named by navigators in 1500 because true north and magnetic north coincided here. The needle-sharp rocks may also have been a factor.

The weather at Cape Agulhas is quite mild, but every now and then mad winds whip up the sea, threatening ships with 30 metre-high waves. The dozens of ships that have foundered along this spectacular coastline are a source of tragic and comic tales of castaways, stowaways and, some say, ghosts.

Here you'll also find ancient Khoi middens and primitive stone fish traps, traces of life stretching back many thousands of years.

You may want to just succumb quietly to the rhythms of the sea. The Agulhas National Park protects a 56km coastline - white beaches from which to watch whales, giant dunes covered in strandveld, and fascinating tidal pools patrolled by black oystercatchers. Inland you'll walk through fragrant fynbos, fussed by long-tailed sugarbirds. It's ever so easy to imagine yourself a castaway in an untouched land.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

South African National Parks - Reservations
Tel: +27 (0) 12 428 9111
Email: reservations@sanparks.org

Shipwreck Hiking Trail: AfriTrack Tours
Louis Willemse
Tel: +27 (0) 83 540 4575
Email: louis@kingsley.co.za

Coastal Tours
Derick Burger
Tel: +27 (0) 82 774 4448

Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum
Tel: +27 (0) 28 424 1240

Morning Glory Horse Rides
Tel: +27 (0) 82 853 6732

How to get here

Cape Agulhas is about two hours' drive from Cape Town. From the N2 highway, turn off at Caledon and follow the road to Napier and Bredasdorp until Struisbaai and L'Agulhas.

Best time to visit

In late winter and spring the fynbos is alive with flowering proteas and tortoises freshly woken from hibernation. This is also a great time to see southern right whales.

Tours to do

There is an excellent shipwreck tour available which will also help you appreciate the extraordinary strandveld vegetation. Alternatively, you could do it at a canter on horseback.

Length of stay

This park is an excellent day-drive, especially if you're staying in nearby towns like Hermanus or Struisbaai. But to immerse yourself in the fynbos and shipwreck lore, stay at least a night or two.

Where to stay

A rest camp, built in late 2010, offers accommodation above a beautiful lagoon which is perfect for swimming. It is also well situated for long coastal walks, and is close to the historic lighthouse. In addition, there are four restored dwellings, some dating back more than two centuries There is also plenty of accommodation in nearby towns of Struisbaai and L'Agulhas.

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