A salt-of-the-earth kinda place

Velddrif, West Coast

When farmer Theunis Smit took his stock through a drift in the veld to find grazing some 2 km upstream from where the Berg River flows into the sea at the Bay of St Helena, the name Velddrif came to be.

Fondly nicknamed ‘Bokkom town’, it’s hard to resist the pull of real down-home West Coast culture where fishermen, artists and straight shooters comprise a large percentage of the 11 017 inhabitants.

After the initial impression of a windswept, salty landscape, one soon discovers Velddrif’s attraction: an air of tradition, unpretentious architecture, rickety wooden jetties with bokkoms hung up to dry while seagulls and pelicans jealously stand guard, colourful old wooden boats creaking in the wind, plus the more than 30 000 birds belonging to 350 different species in the 24 000-hectare wetland. All this waiting to be captured on canvas, digitally or in print. It comes as no surprise then that the West Coast Gallery in town displays art from more than 100 regional artists.

Two large salt works in town provide much of the salt in the Western Cape. And thanks to growing tourist numbers, a choice of hotels, caravan parks, guest houses and restaurants are scattered throughout the area.

There’s something restorative about this town on the estuary – maybe it’s the fresh breeze, authenticity or lack of skyscrapers. But even though it’s custom-designed for soaking in the sights, Velddrif retains a certain salty grit and proudly allows its working-class roots to show.