To reach these West Coast gems, stay on the R27 past West Coast National Park and Langebaan, and then take the R45 west to Vredenburg. Drive straight through this ugly town and take the 16km (10-mile) road to Paternoster, a tiny fishing village that -- due to strict development guidelines -- retains a classic West Coast feel, with almost all of the 2,000-odd residents living in picturesque whitewashed fisherman-style cottages. Paternoster, which means "Our Father" in Latin, is suddenly the place to stay on the West Coast, with new B&Bs and guesthouses cropping up every year, most within easy walking distance of dazzling white beaches, dotted with colorful fishing boats. Paternoster also boasts a handful of surprisingly good restaurants and a growing community of artists, designers, and chefs from up-country who, having sampled the village's delights, promptly packed up and moved in. But there are more than enough salty long-term locals to keep things real (to meet some, brave a visit to the bar at the Paternoster Hotel; you'll be deep in conversation within minutes). Decor consists of undergarments collected from honeymooners over the years.

The 263-hectare (650-acre) Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (tel. 022/752-2718; daily 7am-7pm; day visitors R10) is home to a wide variety of flowers; the best time to visit is obviously spring, but the reserve's superb location is a relief from the coastline's degradation by developers. The campsites (R87) are right on the sea, and the hikes are beautiful. Try to avoid visiting during school holidays and weekends.