Experience the wild beauty of Agulhas National Park at the southern tip of Africa. We went on a weekend trip from Cape Town to do exactly that and more.

The historic Cape Agulhas Lighthouse at the southern tip of Africa in South Africa.
The historic lighthouse at Agulhas National Park.

Summary

We went on this weekend trip from Cape Town in May 2019, staying in Napier on Friday night and visiting Agulhas National Park on Saturday and Sunday with an overnight stay in the park. On the way back we visited the nearby fishing village of Arniston. If you need a good road map for this trip, see our recommendations.

Church in Napier, South Africa.

Friday Night in Napier

We set off on Friday evening, and stayed at Pacal’s of Napier, in Napier, roughly 2 hours from Cape Town. We also had dinner there, which was yum. Napier isn’t a very big town, so there wasn’t a lot to see, but there was a church in town, with a big piece of petrified wood standing outside! See the geology section for more details.

It was quite nice just to wander around, a peaceful little town.

Geology

Wavy rocks.

Wavy lines in the rocks above (sandstone) show that they have undergone some deformation, or squishing. Rocks are normally laid down horizontally, but when they get squished, they crumple up just like other materials. And the lines that were originally horizontal become wavy.

In Napier, there is a large piece of petrified wood outside the church. If you look closely, you can see the annual growth rings of the tree, and also the texture of the bark. Shortly after this tree died, it must have got covered in mud, or waterlogged, and when it decayed the wood was exactly replaced by minerals, making it rock today.

Petrified wood at the church in Napier, South Africa.
Rock with cross-bedding.

Cross-bedding in this boulder shows evidence that this rock was formed when a fluid was flowing – either air or water. This flow creates dunes – think of sand dunes, or even smaller ripples at the beach. The layers of sand then do not get deposited horizontally, but at an angle, like the steep sides of a sand dune, and these individual layers get preserved. After a time, the sand dune migrates, and layers get deposited in a new direction.

Agulhas National Park

The next morning, we set off to Agulhus National Park. We stopped off at the SAN Parks reception, just outside the park, and got a map of the park and some mediocre hiking maps, but couldn’t check in to our accommodation until 2 pm.

Light of the historic lighthouse in Agulhas National Park.

We then went to park at the lighthouse inside Agulhas National Park, where we started our first hike from. From the lighthouse, this hike went to the most southerly point, then along the coast to a shipwreck, then further along, and back inland, taking roughly 3 to 4 hours. See the hike report for all details. However, it is possible to drive to both the southerly point and the shipwreck if you are short on time.

You can walk up the lighthouse – lots of ladders! And there is also a small museum on the ground floor, with lots of information about – surprise surprise – lighthouses.

View from the top of the lighthouse in Agulhas National Park, South Africa.
On top of the lighthouse.
Stairs to the top of the historic Cape Agulhas lighthouse.
Stairs to the top of the lighthouse.

After the lighthouse, on to the most southerly point. Where there is a super cool quasi-3D topographic map of Africa. You can see the Drakensberg sticking out in the photo below. There is also a sign about how it is the southernmost point, as well as the dividing point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

3D relief map of Africa at Agulhas National Park.
A 3D relief map of Africa at Cape Agulhas.
Vicky at the southern tip of Africa.

And then we hiked on to the shipwreck, the Meisho Maro No. 38, a Japanese fishing boat that ran aground here in 1982. The crew of 17 all managed to swim safely to the shore.

The shipwreck and a bin at Agulhas National Park, South Africa.
Put your rubbish in the bin.

Agulhas National Park Rest Camp

After the hike we were hungry and headed to Suidpunt Potpourri, which was an ok restaurant very near to the lighthouse, and then we checked into our accommodation at the Agulhas rest camp. To get there was a 15-minute drive along a good dirt road. It was super nice at the rest camp, and it felt quite remote and wild, with views from the deck over the crashing waves of the ocean. The cabin itself was beautifully made and smelt of roof thatch which was a treat.

View of the rest camp and ocean in Agulhas National Park.
View of the ocean.
Chalet in the morning sunshine.
Chalet in the morning sunshine.

In the afternoon, we went on half of the 11km Two Oceans hiking trail through the indigenous fynbos. We ran the second half the next morning. See our trail report for more details, where it is included as one hike.

After getting back from the hike in the later afternoon, we had our standard Simba chips and Windhoek beer. Yum yum. Later, we started a cosy fire inside, and made use of the cute Agulhas National Park tea set.

Views from the deck of one of the chalets in Agulhas National Park.
View from the chalet deck.
Classic pre-dinner snack and drink.
Classic pre-dinner crisps and beer.
Tea and a lovely fire in an Agulhas National Park chalet.
Classic post-dinner tea and fire.

For dinner we had a braai. The chalets are equipped with everything you need for that, except wood, which you can buy at the reception. While cooking dinner, we watched the beautiful sunset.

Sunset from the chalet deck in the Agulhas SANParks.
Sunset from the deck.
Calm lagoon near the rest camp of Agulhas National Park.
Calm blue waters of the lagoon.

The next morning we ran the second half of the hike (see the hike report for details) and then went for a quick cold dip in the lagoon. A bit chilly, but super beautiful – so calm in the lagoon, protected by rocks from the stormy waves outside. The lagoon is just a short walk to the sea from the chalets.

Rough seas outside of the lagoon at Agulhas National Park.
Stormy seas outside the lagoon.

Arniston Fishing Village

After our swim we left Agulhas, and drove to the fishing village of Arniston. First stop was lunch at Mien’s Tea Garden. If you want to avoid dirt roads, you have to head into Bredasdorp on the R319, then back out to Arniston on the R316, rather than taking directions from Google or your navigation.

Mien's Tea Garden in Arniston.
Mien’s Tea Garden.
Chalet in the morning sunshine.
Views of Arniston’s fishing cottages.

The restaurant was small and cute, with nice views of little fishing cottages. It is an ideal place to eat some locally caught and very fresh fish in the rural atmosphere of the fishing village. And we could park our car right by the place.

After lunch, we went to park near the cliffs, in front of the Arniston Spa Hotel. We left our car here, and had a little wander around the town. We saw fishing boats, lovely fishing cottages, beach and sand dunes, see our trail report for more details.

Arniston and a bench overlooking the sea.
Starting point of the hike.

If you don’t feel like a hike, you can sit on one of these benches and admire the splendid view. The fishing boats below are also very close and worth a peek.

The colourful fishing boats in Arniston, South Africa.
Boats at the harbour

After this hike, we drove through the village to go on another short hike – this time full of birds, including rare African Black Oystercatcher. There is a semi-famous cave here, Waenhuiskrans Cave (wagon house cliff), but the tide was too high for us to visit. This cave is famous because apparently it is big enough for a wagon with its full span of oxen to turn around in. But to get here the tide needs to be low, so check before you go.

Single oystercatcher and many other sea birds in Waenhuiskrans Nature Reserve.
An oystercatcher and many bird friends on our short walk.

After this short hike, we made the 2hr30 drive back to Cape Town, and got an amazing sunset on the near the end!

Sunset through power lines.
Last sunlight on Simonsberg through the back window.
Sunset with Lions Head and Signal Hill.

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