For many, the West Coast is an acquired taste--kilometers of empty, often windswept beaches and hardy coastal scrub, low horizons and big skies, lonely tree-lined dirt roads, and distant mountains behind which lie lush pockets carpeted in vineyards make this a truly off-the-beaten-track experience. Most visitors venture up here to catch the spring flower displays that occur in West Coast National Park anytime from the end of July to early September (the park is also a world-famous birding site). But there are plenty more gems to uncover -- such as eating fresh crayfish, with your feet in the sand; living like the lauded gentry at the Melck homestead at Kersefontein; or visiting some charming rural villages such as Riebeek Kasteel and Darling. If you like your windswept beaches pounded by magnificent turquoise seas, it's worth spending a night in the tiny fishing village of Paternoster: quiet and unspoiled but crammed with small-town character, it's bound to grow rapidly -- visit now before it changes. Inland and parallel to the coast, the spectacular sandstone Cederberg mountains, home to citrus and rooibos farmers, march north, affording fabulous hiking among weathered crags.

Flower Viewing -- To find out where the best flower displays are, call the Flower Line (tel. 083/910-1028).