The towns within the Bergrivier region have rich and fascinating histories, and culture buffs are in for a treat when exploring places such as Velddrif, Piketberg and Porterville.
FROM bustling rural village life to wide-open spaces, nature, and wildlife to culture, breath-taking scenery to sun-soaked coasts – the Bergrivier region, situated right on Cape Town’s doorstep.
The area is renowned for its varied landscape and unique biodiversity, natural beauty as well as the many wonderful places to visit and things to see and do – all of which have made the Bergrivier area, and the towns within it, a favoured destination for travellers looking for adventure.
Below are some unique cultural adventures in Bergrivier’s towns that you can explore as day trips or longer.
Over the years the fishing industry in Velddrif has grown, with factories for fish canning and the making of fish meal products being the main industries. Along the river are a number of salt pans where salt is collected by a local company. One of the oldest industries in the area is the bokkoms industry where mullet or “harders” are caught in the sea and river and are salted and hung out to dry on the banks of the Berg River.
Iconic Bokkom Laan, the oldest road in the town which snakes up the edge of the Berg River and is, to this day, the hub of the fish drying industry, is now a heritage site and a must-visit for anyone to the area.
This quaint dirt road is dotted with jetties on the water’s edge and historic fish-drying sheds – many of which have been converted into eclectic coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries and gift shops.
Visit the ‘’Bokkomhuise’’ and taste bokkoms, pop in at the Riverstudio to see the work of local artist Marina Clunie, or Die Vishoekie art studio to see Saralize Tolken’s art. Enjoy a meal at the Avoo Health Café which specialises in locally produced produce.
The Fisheries Museum, near the Laaiplek harbour, is also well worth a visit to find out about the colourful history of the fishing industry along this coast. The harbour, which was the site of the first fish factory in the area, is a colourful collection of fishing vessels, most of them old-fashioned, brightly painted wooden boats.
For the hungry, the Laaiplek Hotel offers a wide variety of meals served indoors on al-fresco, looking out over the river. You may even spot ostriches swimming on the other side of the river.
Piketberg, just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, lies at the foot of the Piketberg mountain range, surrounded by fields of wheat, vineyards, fruit farms and beautiful indigenous fynbos.
The old town of Piketberg, now boasting a myriad of beautifully restored cottages, was established around the church, an imposing neo-gothic style cathedral with beautiful window patterns, plastered panels and interesting towers. The church, which was built in 1881, still stands and is an icon in the town.
A must-do activity is the unique and fascinating self-guided tour called the Piketberg Historical Route which takes visitors on a journey back in time to experience the rich history and historic buildings of this beautiful village.
Included on the historic route is the Piketberg Museum, which houses an award-winning display of historic items from a bygone era – highlighting the lifestyles of the early inhabitants of the town. The Piketberg Historical Route stops in at a variety of other locations, including the historic cemetery, the original police station, the bioscope and more.
Another fun activity in Piketberg for culture buffs includes Last Friday – a food and art festival that takes place across the village on the last Friday of every month. Visitors can expect a celebration of arts, culture, live music and delicious artisanal foods and drinks.
There is also rock art to be seen in the mountains above Piketberg, and the Moravian Mission station at nearby Wittewater is a fascinating excursion.
Porterville is a mecca for artists and art lovers and hosts an annual, increasingly-popular, art festival weekend in October called Proudly Porterville which allows visitors the chance to browse the many local artist studios to view and purchase a myriad of art works.
Galleries spring up across the town and the local businesses pulls out all the stops to warmly welcome visitors.
Because of the popularity of this event, which sees accommodation fully booked well in advance, Porterville has launched a brand-new off-shoot event, taking place over the weekend of July 7 to 9, called Proudly Porterville Art: Winter Series, which sees a collaboration of Porterville artisans hosting fun workshops open to the public.
You can choose from over 25 workshops over three days hosted by local creatives and supported by selected visiting artists. Jenny Morris will be offering a live cooking show, and selected local artists will open their studios.
And for those who enjoy gin as a drink, there will also be a Bergrivier Gin Experience – a chance to experience and savour locally produced gins paired with cheese, tapas, and nougat.
Over the course of the weekend there will be kiddies activities galore, including daily kids art workshops. Porterville also offers a fascinating glimpse back in time to early days in the village and surrounds at the Jan Dankaert Museum.
“As can be seen, there is so much to see, do and experience in the Bergrivier region that visitors who enjoy their history, arts and cultural pursuits are promised a memorable and enjoyable adventure,” concludes Nomonde Ndlangisa, CEO of Bergrivier Tourism.