A local winter break often poses a dilemma for me: a change of scene is always welcome (particularly during a cold snap when my family is struck down with cabin fever and the associated symptoms of grumpiness), but it comes with the risk of ending up somewhere colder and bleaker than home.
So the immediate tingle of warm tiles underfoot and the sight of a lit fire in the grate was a welcome reassurance when we arrived at a gorgeous beach house called Not Forgotten for a West Coast weekend away.
Yzerfontein is certainly one of the handiest West Coast destinations for Cape Town, being 85km north of the city, and an ideal base from which to explore the area’s numerous attractions.
We were staying in one of the nicest looking properties in the sprawling village’s “mulligan stew” of holiday homes, which occupies a prime spot slap bang on Yzerfontein’s famous 25km rocky and sandy beach. Originally laid out and developed in the 1930s, Yzerfontein – named after its spring which rises on an ironstone formation – is blessed with a protected, north-west facing bay that is spared the south-easter that pounds much of the West Coast in summer. The little harbour, next to the main beach, bristles with fishing boats – snoek and crayfish are plentiful in the bay, which attracts surfers and paddlers all year round.
Luckily our arrival coincided with a break in almost a week of on-and-off rain and our children – aged five and six – soon found the confidence to make frequent forays off on their own, returning regularly with shells, bits of driftwood and other salty treasures. A jungle gym in the small garden was an unexpected bonus and blisters were soon rubbed up in the excitement of playing once again in the fresh air.
The double-storey house itself, which would not look out of place in America’s exclusive Cape Cod resort, has a practical open plan layout with the kitchen area at the heart of the ground floor. Large shuttered sash windows provide exquisite and endless light late into the day; the covered stoep became the obvious spot for us grown-ups to devour the papers while keeping an eye on the treasure hunters. Four bedrooms upstairs each have their own quirky decorating touches, and the main bedroom suite with its double shower, massive tub and balcony is a haven in itself.
We arrived with good intentions to take the boat trip to Dassen Island, just 10km off the coast, to see the large breeding ground of Cape penguins, but in the end it was almost 24 hours into our stay before we could muster any enthusiasm to leave our cosy clapboard sanctuary for anything more exerting than a walk on the beach.
Keen England supporters, we craved some company to watch our team taking on South Africa in a rugby Test. After a few local enquiries, we headed for the Yzerfontein Sport & Recreational Club – where the large, dark, stale beer-smelling lounge felt a world away from our rented beach house. While the children played in the garden, we suffered the good-humoured mocking of the Bok-shirted locals as our team sank to defeat, before we gladly returned to the pale, designer embrace of Not Forgotten. After the Sports club, it felt almost like walking on to a film set.
After two long nights’ sleep against the restorative soundtrack of the ocean, we summoned sufficient energy to explore further afield and headed for a very spoiling lunch at Groote Post wine estate, just 15 minutes away in the car. As our eyes adjusted from endless sea views to the rolling vineyards, our break from the city began to feel more like a week than a weekend. Disappointingly for the children, we had arrived too late to join the game drive through the 2 000ha estate, where antelope, including eland, kudu and gemsbok roam alongside black wildebeest, ostriches and even quagga. Though not a huge fan of game drives, the prospect of a wine tasting en route and a view of Table Mountain from the top of the vineyards made it an appealing plan for another time.
And we might not be able to wait too long: the spring flower season is around the corner when Yzerfontein’s veld, dunes and Schaap Island will be ablaze with the most vivid colours. The Postberg Nature Reserve within the West Coast National Park, which is only open during the flower season, is right next door, and a newish flower trail, called Bokbaaivygie, has been created outside Yzerfontein.
Yzerfontein and Not Forgotten have emerged as one of the most comfortable and convenient places I can think of to savour the miracles of Spring in the Western Cape. - Saturday Star