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WWinding along the sparsely settled coast of Northern Cape province, you’ll find a place that has drawn adventurers and fortune hunters throughout history. You may not find your fortune here, but you’re sure to be romanced by its peaceful beauty.
The rugged Diamond Coast runs up South Africa’s north-western Atlantic seaboard from Port Nolloth to the mouth of the Orange River, on the international border with Namibia. This region is part of Namaqualand, so it’s renowned for its rich plant life – especially in early spring (August to October), when thousands of flowers bloom to transform the usual landscape of ochre, beige and brown into a riotous sea of colour.
On this route you will find charming locations like Alexander Bay. The town on the South African side of the Orange River mouth, across from Oranjemund in Namibia, was previously restricted as a diamond-mining area, but can now be visited on organised tours.
If dramatic shipwrecks are more your thing, organised tours and hikes can be arranged to view the many shipwrecks along the coast of Northern Cape as well, with a 4-wheel drive trip through the coastal dunes among the options.
If you’re feeling brave, you could even try a dip in the icy ocean. Or skip this step and head directly to the small town of Port Nolloth, where you can stay in a wide range of accommodation. It’s a sleepy fishing village these days, but the town and its harbour were once a bustling hub shipping out copper from Okiep and later, alluvial diamonds from the Richtersveld.
While most of the diamonds in the sands around Port Nolloth have now been gathered, you may still sea a diver or two in the bay trying their luck. The town makes a cosy base from which to explore the Diamond Coast on foot – perhaps on a 5-day hiking trail.
This part of South Africa’s coastline is assuredly off the beaten track, with its own wild stark beauty. It offers a perfect opportunity to recharge burnt-out batteries or even rekindle a romance.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Port Nolloth Tourism Office
Tel: +27 (0)27 851 1111
How to get here
From Cape Town, drive north up the N7, turning off onto the R382 at Steinkopf (just over 600km from Cape Town). The R382 will take you to Port Nolloth (at the southern end of the Diamond Coast) and through to Alexander Bay (the northernmost point of South Africa’s Atlantic coast, on the border with Namibia). Port Nolloth is 700km from Cape Town, and it’s a further 90km to Alexander Bay.
Best time to visit
August to October, for the spectacle of blooming Namaqualand spring flowers.
Self-drive. Sedan vehicles will get you most places, but a 4-wheel drive will enhance your adventure.
Length of stay
Give yourself at least a week, to see all there is to see and soak up the peace.
Where to stay
The Diamond Coast offers all kinds of accommodation – hotels, resorts, game and safari lodges, bush camps, bed & breakfasts, guesthouses, backpackers and self-catering facilities are all available. See the listed websites for options.
What to eat
Seafood, seafood and more seafood – this coast offers a seafood banquet. If you can’t abide the bounty of the deep, you’ll still find a variety of options, from steak to pizza.