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FFrom the bulb extravaganza of Nieuwoudtville to the flower fields of the Namaqua National Park, from the village blooms of Loeriesfontein to the succulent delights of Goegap Nature Reserve around Springbok and the historic copper sites in the district, this is a road trip to delight the senses.
The 270km trip between Nieuwoudtville and Springbok in Northern Cape province is best done over three nights in the spring months of August and September. First, though, you'll need to get to Niewoudtville – itself a remote little town in the southern part of the vast semi-desert province. It’s best to drive yourself from Cape Town, which is a journey of about 350km – it will take about four hours.
You’ll want to savour this Namaqualand journey for as long as possible, because you’ll be driving through a landscape carpeted in colourful blooms as the region comes alive with the first rains of the season.
Nieuwoudtville is more than a daisy town, however. This is where you find more than 300 species of geophytes: beautiful bulbs that have been lying dormant, which present themselves in great abundance as the spring rains fall.
You could spend your first night on one of the many guest farms in the Nieuwoudtville district. After a day of intense flower-watching and landscape photography at the nearby Hantam National Botanical Garden – a 6 000-hectare reserve containing 3 distinct types of floral kingdom and 9 trails on which to explore the varied habitats and soil types – you can go food shopping in the little town to enjoy a braai under the stars at your lodgings.
The next morning, drive south past the Hantam National Botanical Garden on the gravel Oorlogskloof Road towards the Pakhuis Pass. About 7 to 10km out of Nieuwoudtville you’ll come across a series of ancient glacial pavements – the rocks graded and grooved by moving ice back when South Africa was still part of the giant land mass known as Gondwana. It’s a sobering reminder of just how old these rocks are.
After that, head back through town and north on the R357 towards Loeriesfontein for about 25km until you reach the quiver-tree forest. Famous in this area, it is one of the largest in the world. And since you’re already on the road, after marvelling at the quiver trees zip up to Loeriesfontein (it’s 30km further on) and visit the massive display of windmills (in Afrikaans, ‘windpompe’ – literally, ‘wind pumps’) at the Fred Turner Museum.
After lunch back in Nieuwoudtville, venture west along the N7 over Vanrhyns Pass and into Vanrhynsdorp, the little Victorian-era town in the Knersvlakte (literally: ‘grinding flats’). As you pass through the area, you will see an intriguing mix of fynbos (a plant kingdom all on its own), succulents and wild flowers.
Vanrhynsdorp’s attractions include the Latsky Radio Museum (run by owner and collector George Latsky), Traut’s Tie Museum (housing more than 2 400 ties collected by late, legendary barman Cecil Traut over 60 years) and the Kokerboom (‘quiver tree’) Nursery, a nature reserve devoted to 3 local species of this ecologically important succulent
From Vanrhynsdorp, head north for 200km on the N7 to reach your second night’s lodgings in Kamieskroon, which bristles with exotic cameras and lenses during the flower season. Travellers come from all over the world to attend photographic workshops among the riot of spring blooms, and they leave with some of the finest natural images they have ever captured.
The prime attraction of the Kamieskroon area is the nearby Namaqua National Park, more than 100 000 hectares of pure flora. It’s quite a dizzying experience to move through such vivid colour, laid out in vast swathes all around you.
After a fun-filled night at the Kamieskroon Hotel and a morning visit to the park, drive less than an hour north on the N7 to the town of Springbok, in the heart of Namaqualand. First stop is lunch at the Springbok Lodge & Restaurant, where you can find out first-hand where the local flowers are blooming. Locals can give you the latest flower updates, so you know exactly where to go.
One of these places is the Goegap Nature Reserve, less than 10km out of Springbok on the R355. Take some picnic snacks and drive slowly through the reserve, stopping for flower sightings and a pop-in at the Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden, which features an amazing selection of succulents.
If there’s time, drive 30km north on the N7 and west on the R355 to Nababeep, to visit the mining museum celebrating the historic copper boom that once transformed this area. Or stay on the N7 instead, and 5 minutes after skipping the Nababeep/R355 turn-off you’ll find yourself in the little town of Okiep, another famous part of this area’s copper-mining history. Treat yourself to dinner, and maybe your final night’s stay, at the Okiep Country Hotel.
And there will probably be more flower stops on your return journey...
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)27 218 1336
Tel: +27 (0)27 672 1614
Namaqua National Park
Tel: +27 (0)27 672 1948
Springbok Lodge & Restaurant
Tel: +27 (0)27 712 1321
Okiep Country Hotel
Tel: +27 (0)27 744 1000
How to get here
Nieuwoudtville lies about 350km north-east of Cape Town, or four hours’ drive. Take the N7 to Vanrhynsdorp, turn east on the R27 and go over the Vanrhyns Pass to Nieuwoudtville.
Best time to visit
If you want to see the spring blooms, come out in August/September. However, this route also has its attractions in the autumn months of April and May.
Hire a vehicle in Cape Town or book for one of the many flower tours available.
Around the area
If time permits, visit the coastal villages of Strandfontein and Doringbaai – great beaches and an awesome lighthouse. If you have time, go even further north to the coastal town of Port Nolloth and in to the remote mountain desert of the Richtersveld, where you can stay in the Richtersveld National Park.
Tours to do
Book a photographic course run from the Kamieskroon Hotel – see listed website for details.
What will it cost?
Park fees and hotel accommodation rates in the Namaqualand region are very competitive. This is not an expensive journey.
Length of stay
You should set aside at least three days and nights for this trip – more, if possible.
What to pack
If you’re coming in spring for the flowers, remember that we still get cold spells during that period – bring something warm for the evenings and overcast days. Also, pack good outdoor gear for your flower safaris. If possible, bring a macro lens.
Where to stay
Nieuwoudtville has several farm-stay options and the Kamieskroon Hotel comes highly recommended, as does the Springbok Lodge & Restaurant and the Okiep Country Hotel.
What to eat
Hearty Namaqua fare includes lamb, skuinskoekies (aniseed cakes) and waterblommetjie bredie (delicious traditional South African stew, made with tender lamb and the unopened buds of the waterblommetjie, literally, ‘little water flower’).
Check the various listed websites for events scheduled during your visit. The best time to go to this area is in spring, when the flowers are blooming, which is usually in late August/early September.
Books and minerals available at the Springbok Lodge & Restaurant curio shop.
- Nieuwoudtville Tourism
- South African National Parks (SANParks)
- Northern Cape Tourism
- Namaqualand Tourism