The best thing about the last months of winter in the Western and Northern Cape isn’t the knowledge that spring and summer are imminent, it’s that millions of flowers start blooming with the last of the rains. The arid landscape of the Northern Cape, in particular, transforms completely as carpets of blooms turn the landscape into a sea of rainbow colours.
South Africa’s spring flower displays are well worth a journey, even if you’re not an avid botanist. Here’s our guide to the spring flower season in South Africa – when to go, where to visit, what do and where to stay.
Happy flower spotting!
When to see the spring flowers
The spring flower season in South Africa starts in July and ends in September – although the blooms are rain-dependent, so it differs from year to year. The best time is usually mid—August to mid-September.
Where to see the spring flowers
The best place to see spring flowers in South Africa is in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape. Here you’ll find Namaqua National Park, which is home to more than 1000 unique plants and spring flowers of every hue. Part of the Namaqua National Park is the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve which has an amazing concentration of flowers and a famous panoramic vista.
Known as the “bulb capital of the world”, the area around Niewoudtville in the Northern Cape is also a bloom-spotting hot spot, with local farms covered in colour, as well as the Nieuwoudtville Wildflower Reserve and the Hantam National Botanical Garden
Closer to Cape Town, the Cederberg region in the Western Cape doesn’t have the spread of flowers of the Namaqualand, but it does have some beautiful displays in a beautiful mountain setting with much-photographed unusual sandstone formations and thousands of ancient rock art sites. The charming little town of Clanwilliam has an annual wild flower show to display the best of the region’s blooms.
Further south towards Cape Town is the West Coast National Park which has a northern section called the Postberg Flower Reserve, which is only open during flower season. While you explore the reserve’s blooms you might spot zebra, wildebeest and whales too.
The closest place to see the spring flowers from Cape Town is Darling, a country town just over an hour’s drive from the city, which is part of the West Coast flower region, which has more than 1200 species of flowering plants and 80 endemic species found nowhere else. Drive around the fields outside of Darling to see the flowers, or attend the annual Darling Wildflower Show, where you can see rare blooms.
Spring flower activities
While seeing the spring flowers doesn’t have to involve anything more than a drive and a short walk, the best way to see the blooms is to get more active on a hiking or mountain biking trail.
In there Skilpad Wildflower Reserve there are 4×4, hiking and mountain biking trails, while the Goegap Nature Reserve to the north offers multi-day horseback riding trips through the flower carpets. In the Cederberg there’s three-kilometre Sevilla Rock Art Trail, which takes you to spring flower areas as well as to ten rock art sites. In the Postberg Flower Reserve you can do the 14-kilometre Steenbok Trail in August and September, which takes you on a spectacular route through flowers and fynbos (it’s very popular so book far in advance).
Best spring flower accommodation
Just outside of Niewoudtville, Papkuilsfontein is a family-run sheep, rooibos and olive farm that has lovely displays of flowers and charming accommodation in restored farm cottages as well as a restaurant that offers a taste of Karoo farm cooking.
The Kamieskroon Hotel in Kamieskroon offers basic budget-friendly accommodation in spartan (but clean) rooms and a great location in the Namaqualand. The hotel also organises flower photographer workshops.
For something a bit different, stay at in dome-shaped rooms set on top of boulders at the Naries Namakwa Retreat in the Northern Cape between Springbok and Kleinzee.
In the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve there are two choices of accommodation: self-catering chalets at the Skilpad Rest Camp and a luxury tented camp – Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp – which is only open during the flower season.
Want to explore South Africa beyond the spring flowers? We offer a range of short and long budget overlanding tours through South Africa: check them all out here.
Hi I am wondering if you could help. Could you advise as to the best book for identifying spring flowers. We are travelling from the Cape up the west coas visiting the cederburg and beyond. But not as far as Namaqualand.
With pleasure. The most popular book is the Field guide to wild flowers of South Africa by John Manning. It has 1000’s of images to help in identifying. Hope that helps!