After spending a few nights in Calitzdorp last year, it’s retained a special place in my heart. There’s something incredibly beautiful about this small farming town in the heart of the Klein Karoo, an oasis surrounded by a semi-arid landscape and breathtaking mountains all around.
Magnificent architectural buildings, an abundance of hot pink bougainvilleas, vineyards, spekboom, succulents and quirky Karoo charm are what speak to me.
Calitzdorp is situated on Route 62 which is a scenic alternative to the N2 highway, connecting Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The route meanders through a number of charming towns and is certainly well worth exploring.
Despite Calitzdorp’s small size, a quick drive through won’t be enough. There are number of unique places to discover and see, many of these establishments are not open daily and art studios are often by appointment only.
When exploring these smaller towns, the invitation is to slow down, take your time and savour the countryside stillness.
If history intrigues you, pop into the tiny local museum which was once the Standard Bank. The museum is run by volunteers who share a love for the local heritage. It’s also part 2nd hand book shop. Alongside the museum, you’ll find the local Tuisnywerheid and the tourism office.
Exploring the town on foot is easy to do and you’ll see that most of the architectural gems are dotted around the Dutch Reformed Church. From rustic Karoo cottages to Victorian beauties and grand Edwardian ladies, it really is a feast if you’re into architecture.
Be sure to take a drive through the valley on the other side of the main Voortrekker Street, it is on this side that you’ll discover a number of the local artists and galleries. I suggest taking Wesoewer Road (here you’ll discover Hylton Nel, The Accidental Baker & Under the Peppertree), continue past the Calitzdorp dam and along the scenic Groenfontein Road (for Kraaldoorn Gallows Gallery, Kraaldoring Studio and Gallery & Marcia’s Studio). From here you can continue into the valley and take a circular route back onto the R62, or return the same way.
WHERE TO EAT
Café at the Rose
Situated on the Main Road and has quickly become the go-to spot for locals to meet for coffee and a chat. Owners Retief and Louis have created a lovely relaxed space to gather and enjoy good food. They have a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu as well as a delicious selection of freshly baked goods and pastries and the best baked cheesecake!
21 Voortrekker St, 083 561 0131
The Accidental Baker
The place to go for artisanal sourdough breads. The bakery and café terrace is only open every Saturday from 9 AM to 2 PM at the moment due to COVID. Here you can enjoy their freshly baked sourdough bread and cakes, coffee and kombucha. The terrace has a lovely view over the valley, vineyards and mountains.
53 Wesoewer Road, 079 868 7478
Under the Peppertree
A small eatery and bookshop tucked away on a gravel road under a Peppertree.
Book your experience with Gary, Thursdays – Saturdays
From R62, 1km along Wesoewer Road, 083 999 0646
Brings a taste of India to the Klein Karoo. Enjoy Indian cuisine and flavours in a cosy courtyard setting or indoors on cooler weather.
Available over weekends, booking essential.
Church Street, 060 955 5708
De Krans Bistro & Deli Enjoy an al fresco lunch under the vines, their roosterkoek is a must.
Pop in for your supply of fresh home baked goods, sweet treats and deli items.
Open on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays.
Van Riebeeck Street, next to the museum
FOR WINE & PORT LOVERS
Calitzdorp is recognised as the port wine capital of South Africa and is well-known for its fortified wines, primarily Cape Port. There are three prominent wine cellars who each produce a fantastic variety of wines and ports. We popped in at Boplaas and were given a tour of their distillery and got to sample their brand new alcohol-free gin. Yes, you heard right, ginless gin is a thing and is incredibly delicious! To be launched soon, so keep your eyes open.
You’re in for a treat, Calitzdorp has a host of talented artists, painters, potters and photographers living and working in the town.
Hylton Nel’s working studio is a must visit. You’ll find his incredible work displayed here as well as work done by his apprentices.
Kraaldoring Studio and Gallery owned by Albie and Clementina van der Walt lies 11km into the Groenfontein Valley. This is where Clementina makes her one-off ceramic pieces and you’ll find these on display complemented by photographic works and fine art prints by other artists. Visits are by appointment only and need to be arranged in advance – [email protected]
Kraaldoorn Gallows Gallery is part home/part gallery space set in a stunning part of the valley. You’ll find works by textile artist, Lizel von Wiellig, who makes innovative pieces using repurposed textiles. We also spotted some of Rory Tait’s steampunk inspired creations,made from scrap metal, on display.
Generally open 7 days a week. There’s no cell reception in the valley, you can whatsapp Lizel for info: 0788 196 400
Karoo Zen is another spot to check out, although they weren’t open when I visited. They hand dye, hand print and make clothing, home ware and jewellery.
Gallery Route 62 & Penny’s Place Penny is one of the resident artists and has created a gallery space showcasing local art and ceramics. She also offers wonderful homemade cakes, coffees and light meals which she whips up in her kitchen.
16 Queen Street, 044 213 3227
WHERE TO STAY
For a luxurious farm stay, I highly recommend a few nights at Danielskraal Farm. Situated in a lush valley (and only a short drive from the centre of town), this is a wonderful haven where you can take time out, unwind and hit the reset button. The farmhouse sleeps 10 and is beautifully decorated, full of character and stylish flair.
A big thanks to Rosheen, owner of Danielskraal and unofficial ambassador of Calitzdorp, for introducing me to all of the town’s fabulous people and must-see places!
Photography: Lana Kenney