It’s no mystery why visitors flock to the Cape Whale Coast – pristine natural scenery, quaint villages, ‘Champagne air’, mountains, fynbos, beaches, whales.
Whether it’s locals from bigger cities on a weekend breakaway, a family on vacation, international adventure seekers on tour, or our ‘swallows’ on their annual migration from the northern hemisphere, no one visits the Whale Coast without leaving a part of their heart behind. Maybe that is why so many return time and time again, and even end up buying property and relocating permanently or semi-permanently.
Our tourist offering has grown exponentially over the years, with a wide variety of accommodation options and a myriad attractions and activities, including exploring our towns and browsing unique speciality shops, hiking in our nature reserves, kayaking on our lagoons, sunbathing, swimming and surfing at our Blue Flag beaches, cycling through our wine valley, ziplining through the forest or exploring our ocean and getting up close and personal with our Big Five marine life.
And yet, none of these unique attractions would lure visitors back if their holidays did not include memorable wining and dining experiences. With daily activities planned around meals, a bad experience could ruin the entire day, while a good experience will be remembered as a highlight. There can be no doubt that our restaurants form an integral part of visitors’ experience of the Cape Whale Coast and that the industry plays a vital role on the tourism stage.
Nothing makes a visitor feel more at home than receiving a warm welcome, be it at a country market, coffee shop, eatery, restaurant or wine tasting venue, and enjoying an authentic meal made from quality local, seasonal produce, accompanied by a proudly-local wine or craft beer. Originality is key, as visitors want to experience tastes that are unique to our region and are not available anywhere else.
Restaurateurs and their staff also serve as ambassadors for our region. While interacting with guests they do much more than just take their orders – they tell the story of the dishes, ingredients and cooking methods used, they share tips and recommendations for an enjoyable stay, and forge relationships that turn strangers into friends.
Those are the experiences that will ensure visitors return to the same venue for more of the same magic, and recommending it to family and friends. So it’s not surprising that long-term relationships are established over time as local establishments welcome back the same faces over the years.
Achieving this kind of success does not come easy, as our restaurateurs and chefs not only have to stay on top of their game in terms of creativity and innovation but also have to maintain the consistently high quality of their offering – a tall order in a region that has been rocked by a downturn in the economy, by riots and road closures, load-shedding and, more recently, the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Through it all, our restaurant industry has fought for its survival and that of its staff members. With unwavering dedication and hard work, they have continued to innovate and improvise in order to keep their doors open and save jobs. Throughout the lockdown, they put pressure on the government to lift the alcohol ban and other restrictions on trade, culminating in the One Million Seats on the Streets protest. Now, with the country having moved to Level 1 and summer on its way, our restaurants are looking forward to welcoming patrons back, while ensuring that all hygiene protocols are followed to keep customers and staff safe.
If ever there was a time for all of us to reward our resilient restaurateurs by supporting this important sector of our tourism industry – and vital driver of our local economy – it is now. After all, what could be better than ending off a day on the beach with a lovely seafood meal and a bottle of bubbly at one of our seaside restaurants at sunset? Likewise, an MTB ride or trail run in the Valley is that much more enjoyable if you meet up with family and friends afterwards for a hearty brunch. Not to mention the pleasure of stopping off for a hearty country meal while out exploring one of our region’s wine routes.
From farm stalls and country markets, to modest bistros and quirky coffee shops, to seafront restaurants and fine dining establishments, the Cape Whale Coast has it all. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and support our local wine and restaurant industry so that they may continue to develop and thrive, and prove worthy of the UNESCO designation bestowed on the Overstrand last year as a City of Gastronomy.
To read more about Africa’s first UNESCO City of Gastronomy, visit www.overstrandcityofgastronomy.com