A road trip with your dog is always exciting, but can also be a little daunting.
Daunting as one is not sure what to expect from where you’re headed or the road taking you there.
We recently road tripped up the West Coast with our dogs to a few of our Holidawgs pet-friendly getaways to rate their pet-safety for ourselves. For us pet-safety means peace of mind: to know the listing is enclosed and safe for your dog so you can all have a good & relaxed time away.
The West Coast
The West Coast of South Africa offers quiet beach side towns with very little going on once you’re passed Paternoster. Most people travel this way for flower season, for which this area is predominantly known for.
We went up in October and were just on the back of the high-time for flowers (September/October) – but they were still out and pretty, just not as plentiful.
Doing this trip really got me wondering why this side of SA feels a little less travelled? It always feels to me that people prefer to travel up the East Coast (think Garden Route/Wilderness) and in-land more than up the West Coast when travelling in the Western Cape.
The West Coast added a quieter side to life and if you want to really get away from the hustle and bustle, these are all great destinations to choose.
West Coast Roads – Conditions & Pitstops
I was a little concerned about the conditions of the roads past Paternoster. I couldn’t really find anything online recent enough that could tell me whether the roads were tarred or not. I knew we would be fine up to Paternoster, but wasn’t sure what the road conditions were from there. Unless you take the N7, which is the main highway, all the way up to Namibia.
As we were road tripping, I was hoping to take the road less travelled – the coastal road, but decided against it as I couldn’t put my car through endless less-than-ideal-graded gravel for such a long journey.
As fate would have it though, for some reason Google maps chose the coastal road, even though I could’ve sworn I tapped the N7. Cest la vie as they say.
The views were pretty though.
A winding road that overlooked the vast ocean with white dunes and much fynbos along the way. Unfortunately we encountered road works along this route – the good news is that they were tarring the roads, but we didn’t feel like spending that much time between “stop & go’s”, so opted to exit the coastal road at around Lamberts Bay in direction of Clanwilliam and jump back onto the N7.
We made a quick pit-stop for the dogs in Clanwilliam and then continued further, stopping again at Klawer. Klawer had a nice petrol station stop with grassy outside areas and benches. We grabbed coffee and snacks and rested for 10 min. Gave the dogs a good leg stretch and sniffy-time, and pushed on.
The section between Klawer and Garies was boring and monotonous. Almost no cars were on the road, not even trucks. There wasn’t even much life to look at – just endless fields and a crow every half an hour or so.
The journey felt very long especially the last hour as there were no further stops. Garies is the last stop for petrol as you head into the mountain towards Hondeklip Bay. We recommend you fill up here as there is no petrol/diesel available past this point. Another quick stop and full tank and we pushed on.
This last stretch was meant to be 1-1.5 hour of gravel road.
We took the first turn-off that read “Hondeklip Bay”. Unless you have a super duper capable 4×4, don’t take this turn-off.
We struggled in our SUV. There is a second turn-off about 1.5km after this sign. Take that one (it is the only turn-off after this) as it will save you a lot of headaches & time. That road is tarred for half the distance, and cuts your trip in half! Sadly we only learned this once we arrived in Hondeklip Bay (very shaken). Apparently not even the locals drive that first road – unless they farm on that side!
We did a round trip of about 1,138km from where we live in Cape Town all the way up to Hondeklip Bay and back. That last stretch between Paternoster and Hondeklip Bay was a doozy! What should have been about 5.5 hours took us more like 7! Mostly because there were some roadworks and we also took the ‘wrong’ turn-off to Hondeklip Bay which is really meant for super capable 4x4s. We went up in the SUV – the Mazda CX5 – which did it justice, but the gravel was wet after the freak storm we had that week (earthquakes et al) – which just left mud – even the farm bakkie that came passed on that road was struggling. It was like driving more of a boat than a car – but good news, there is another route to get there that avoids that section completely and cuts that final stretch in half as it is mostly tar road.
We never really travel up the West Coast ourselves, and have never been as far north as Hondeklip Bay. It was an adventure!
Where We stayed
Our first stop was in Darling. We stayed at the quaint and cosy Aloe Cottage. Darling is only 1.5 hours from Cape Town, which makes this cottage super accessible. It sleeps up to 6 and has a lovely enclosed yard and undercover braai. Firewood is provided and inside there is also a fireplace for cooler evenings.
Darling itself is a tiny little town. There are a couple of great restaurants and even a brewery. As our trip was on the back of Covid restrictions lifting, we unfortunately didn’t do any sit-downs at restaurants or visit the brewery, but instead opted to stay home and braai.
For day trips, Darling is also very accessible to Yzerfontein which has a nice dog-friendly beach, and more dog-friendly restaurants to enjoy.
See our pet-safe rating, read our full review of Aloe Cottage Darling, and book to stay here.
Paternoster is only a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Darling. A short 1 hour drive has you at your next destination. Paternoster is a quaint fishing village turned upmarket holiday destination. Beautifully renovated cottages in the fisherman’s cottage architectural style line the streets. Fishermen are on every corner trying to sell the day’s catch. Restaurants abound, with the highlight of fresh seafood. You really can’t go wrong choosing any restaurant.
Our favourite restaurants in Paternoster are:
Blikkie Pizeria – had great wood-fired pizza as takeaway. The restaurant is large with an outside seated area if you wanted to bring your dogs.
Voorstrand Restaurant – we ordered seafood for takeaway. We had the combo calamari and hake which was a huge portion and super tasty.
The Noisy Oyster – we didn’t make it here for this trip, but have been before. The food and ambience are spectacular and the hidden, fairy-light garden is super romantic. Dogs are allowed to dine here, in the garden with you.
We stayed at Zula Beach Cottage in Paternoster.
Nothing could prepare us for how spectacular this little cottage was. The cottage is a 2-sleeper flatlet that is attached to a main house, but still private and with own enclosed yard. The cottage is very comfortable and luxuriously appointed with all the comforts a guest could want. Waiting for us on arrival was also fresh pastries from a local bakery, and biscuits for the dogs! The Cottage can be rented separately or together with the main house.
The bonus is that it is directly on the beach, and the courtyard has a gate that opens up to the (on-leash) dog-friendly beach so you and your dogs can run to your hearts content.
See our pet-safe rating, read our full review of Zula Beach Cottage, Paternoster, and book to stay here.
The drive between Paternoster and Hondeklip Bay was long, but when the village and adjacent ocean appears on the horizon, your relief will be palpable.
Hondeklip Bay is a tiny little village on the coast. Mostly comprised of holiday houses, a caravan park and a few locals who live here permanently. The only shop you will find here, is a tuck shop with only the basics – and at double the price you’d normally buy things for. So pack well, as forgetting something, costs a small fortune. Oh, and they only take cash – unless you want to drive back to Garies petrol station for cash/basic goodies. So once you’re there, you’re there.
All roads are gravel, but the roads within Hondeklip Bay are relatively good. There are so few cars driving around that you have the entire road to drive around any pot-holes.
As with Paternoster, there are some locals walking around flagging down holiday goers with their catch-of-the-day. As the village is tiny, it’s quick to see any new cars driving into it – there is only one road in and out.
We have 3 listings in Hondeklip Bay, but only stayed at one – which was available for our trip.
We stayed at De Swarte Mossel, Hondeklip Bay – a large 3 bedroom house located on the quieter and more private side of Hondeklip Bay. The plot of land is massive! With half of it cleared out and manicured, the other half full of fynbos. The entire stretch of land is enclosed with a type of bonnex fencing – but of course – our little Shakti (who should’ve been called Houdini) dug her way under the fence! We’re sure not all dogs will do this though – it was quite the feat. She was very proud.
The house is unpretentious, but offers a very comfortable stay. There is in indoor braai – which works really well and a great outdoor, undercover viewing deck as well as firepit. Plenty of space to unpack in the fridge with an additional large deep-freeze – especially if you’re planning on heading into Namibia from there.
See our pet-safe rating, read our full review of De Swarte Mossel, Hondeklip Bay, and book to stay here.
We really enjoyed our trip and would do it again – perhaps next time adding a few more coastal towns.
*Thinking about travelling in the week, but still need to work? We had great reception everywhere, including Hondeklip Bay.
Aloe Cottage & Zula Beach offer free wifi – but only cell reception is available in Hondeklip Bay.
Get in touch if you would like for us to help plan a pet-friendly trip up the West Coast for you and your dogs
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