See diverse scenery, thousands of birds and tame animals at De Hoop Nature Reserve. We first visited to run the Whale of Trail Race and loved it so much we went back a second time.

Overlooking the lagoon at de Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Summary

De Hoop is 3 hours drive from Cape Town and I would recommend spending at least two nights to enjoy all it has to offer. If you enjoy birdwatching or want to visit the Potberg section of the park I’d recommend another night or two. We went hiking, running, on a lagoon boat trip, swam at the beach and more. If you need a good road map for this trip, see our recommendations.

De Hoop was the first stop on our two-month road trip around South Africa which you can read more about and see photos here.

How to get to de Hoop

The route to de Hoop Nature Reserve from Cape Town is through beautiful scenery. The last 40 km, shortly after Bredasdorp, are on a gravel road so it might take longer than Google suggests, especially if you don’t have a 4×4, though the road is good enough for a normal sedan.

Coming from the Garden Route area to the east, the fastest route is to continue on the N2 past Swellendam before heading south to Ouplaas on a good gravel road just after the Bree Rivier.

Arrive before dark if you can to watch sunset over the lagoon.

Hay bales on the R316 in South Africa.
Hay bales and mountains en route
Gravel road on the way to De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Gravel Road near de Hoop
Canola fields on the R316 in South Africa.
On the R316

Campsite

The campsite is on a clifftop overlooking the lagoon. A few of the sites are set further back into the scrub and woodland area but some have great views to the water.

The ablutions are clean and well-maintained and there is a kitchen area which contains stoves, sinks and a huge freezer.

On the De Hoop collection website the campsites seem to be permanently marked as fully booked, but this is not the case. You cannot book them online but need to phone or email them (details on their own website).

Camping at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Lagoon and flamingoes in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Accommodation at De Hoop

Apart from camping (see above) all the other accommodation is quite pricy, though beautifully designed. See here for rates.

The rondavels are a fairly good deal and can accommodate up to two people. They are just next to the campsite and also have fantastic views over the lagoon.

Accommodation in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Cute cottages in main Opstal area

There are also some cute cottages and suites around the main area, some self-catering, that can accommodate up to six people.

Manor house in  De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Manor house
A sunbird and another bird.
Cottage across the lagoon

Across the lagoon you can rent out an entire cottage or a huge manor house for up to eight people.

Boat Trip on the Lagoon

Depending on the water level of the lagoon, 2 hour Eco Boat trips happen twice daily either early morning or early afternoon. We opted for an early morning cruise and saw thousands of birds plus a few dassies.

That afternoon we went on a medium-length flat hike along the top of the lagoon and back through the scrub. See the hike report for details.

Activities

See the de Hoop Collection website for a full list of activities. These include:

Spoonbill and giant kingfish in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Whale tail at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
  • Swimming at the Beach
  • Game Drives
  • Interpretative Marine Walks
  • Mountain Biking
  • Vulture Experience
  • Whale Watching

At the Beach

Vegetation and Koppie Alleen at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

You can access the beach at Koppie Alleen where there is a small parking lot. It’s about 12 km from the main area, look out for wildlife on the way.

If you head east (left) from the parking area you reach the coastline with cove after cove filled with white sand and the sparkling ocean.

Sandy cove at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sandy cove at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

You can hike out and back along the coastline here, go swimming, have a picnic and watch the birds.

Cormorant in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Seagulls in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Black oystercatcher in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

If you head west (right) from the parking area you enter an area of white dunes that fall directly into the ocean. You can walk along the coast for roughly 6 km and either return the same way or head around the road back to the car park.

Person on white sand dunes by ocean in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
White sand dunes by ocean in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
White sand dunes and ocean in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Around The Opstal Area

Mountain zebra in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Bontebok in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Eland in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Hare in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Ostrich in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Spurfowl in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

The Opstal Area is the main area where you find check-in, most of the accommodation and campsite, the Fig Tree Restaurant and swimming pool.

It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset and sunrise.

Infinity Pool in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Lagoon in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Sunset over lagoon in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sunset
Sunrise at De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Sunrise

Flora and Fauna

The vegetation at De Hoop Nature Reserve varies from csrub, to coastal sandveld plants and proteas.

Vygies in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Vygies near the beach
Protea in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Protea in the scrub

Many of the animals – ostriches, eland, mountain zebra, bontebok – are very tame and can be seen easily around the main Opstal area.

Ostrich family in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Visitors at the campsite
Eland herd in De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Eland among some old stone walls

The Potberg Area

Mountains of Potberg, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
From the top of Potberg Mountain

The Potberg section of De Hoop Nature Reserve is a 25 km drive from the main Opstal area.

The main reasons to visit this mountain area are for hiking or on a guided Cape Vulture experience. The vulture experience departs in the morning and lasts roughly 3 hours, including an hours hike to the vulture viewing deck.

Two hikes depart from here, the 6 km Klipspringer Trail or the more strenuous 10 km out and back climb to Potberg Peak.

The Whale Trail

The Whale Trail is a gorgeous 5 day, 55 km hike in de Hoop Nature Reserve. It starts in the Potberg section through scenic mountains before reaching the beautiful coastline. You need to book a permit online with Cape Nature.

If you’re short of time, another option is to enter the Whale of Trail race and run the route in one day, or as we did, run the shorter 35 km version.

It was a great experience and we ran through super-diverse landscape, from the mountainous Potberg section and to the incredible coastline.

Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Beach on Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Person and ocean on Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Two runners in Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Two runners in Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Two runners at the finish line in Whale of Trail Race, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.

Chasing Ostriches

De Hoop was the first stop on our two-month road trip around South Africa. Read more about it and see more photos here.

Bontebok, De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa.
Bontebok in the morning light

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