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During the 17th century, the Dutch settlers saw the jagged Hottentots Holland mountain range as the Cape Colony's natural border, beyond which lay what they called Overberg (literally, "Over the Mountain"). Today this coastal area -- wedged between the Cape Peninsula and the Garden Route, with mountains lining its northern border and the ocean on its south -- encompasses a vast patchwork of grain fields, fruit orchards, and fynbos-covered hills.

There are two main routes through it: the N2, which traverses its northern half and is the quickest way to reach the Garden Route; and the slightly more circuitous and scenic Coastal Route, which is highly recommended, particularly during the whale-watching months.

Known as "the graveyard of ships," this rugged coastline is pounded by both the Atlantic and Indian oceans, which meet at L'Agulhus, Africa's most southerly point. East of this point is Arniston (Waenhuiskrans, to locals), a bleak fishing village overlooking a magnificent turquoise bay; and De Hoop Nature Reserve, which vies with the Garden Route's Tsitsikamma as the most beautiful coastal reserve in South Africa. The Overberg gives visitors the opportunity to view a wealth of rare fynbos, as well as sightings of South Africa's national bird, the endangered blue crane.

Another sanctuary-seeker is the Southern Right whale; these return in increasing numbers every spring to mate and nurse their young off the Whale Coast. The towns of Hermanus and De Kelders, which overlook Walker Bay and Koppie Alleen in De Hoop Nature Reserve, are considered the best locations for viewing these oddly elegant 60-ton, callus-encrusted cetaceans.