Go West by Matthew Freemantle For decades, local holiday makers have been routinely trekking up the East Coast in search of a quiet campsite and bit of beach to lay their towel on. And for years, they've found it. Places like Hermanus, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Nature's Valley, the Transkei, the Wild Coast, Durban and Umhlanga are all beloved destinations. But are we not also getting a bit tired of watching wave after wave of squealing six-year-olds on their Styrofoam boogie boards surf into our shins? Is anyone else getting peeved at having to fork out R100 for a starter of calamari and a sparkling water on a posh new deck overlooking a row of yachts?

If your answer is yes to even one the above questions, consider going to the other side. Literally. South Africa's West Coast offers a quieter alternative, if one that will make ice-creams and tarred roads somewhat harder to come by. Certainly, the West Coast is not for everyone. If the lack of supertubes, beachfront restaurants and stalls selling Rhinos whittled from nearby branches frightens you, you're better off staying East. The West can get quiet. In the mostly unbothered West Coast town of Lambert's Bay, for example, one has two alternatives at lunch time: One is to get a table at the open-air Bosduifklip Restaurant. The other is to buy a bag of rolls at the café and eat them on the beach. Just down the road, however, is Muisboskerm, which serves a feast of seafood straight out of the water for a pinch. It is also an ideal spot for dolphin and whale watching, as is nearby Eland's Bay, which – wait for it – even has a hotel, though it is one that looks more like a school hostel and has a bar staffed by morose locals who serve warm beer under a decorative fishnet ceiling that for some or other reason has in it a collection of women's panties. Yes, I thought it was creepy too. But with the growing interest in the coastline, investors have begun to arrive and, these days, there are decidedly less creepy places in which to drink.

About 20 minutes inland from Eland's Bay and on the north bank of the Verlorenvlei, is one such place. The relatively new Vensterklip offers guests the whole shebang. There's a bar, a restaurant, a row of luxury campsites, and an office from which one can hire all the paraphernalia that is useful in the area: binoculars to view the birds (Verlorenvlei is world-famous), kayaks for the vlei, maps to the various bushman paintings and surfboards (the nearby Crayfish Factory has one of the country's best breaks) and fishing rods for both salt and clearwater fishing. Google 'Vensterkip' for more, and when you do, it's worth remembering that, in August, September and October every year, the West Coast is covered in the most breathtaking flowers. There are, of course, some drawbacks; cold water presumably being the major snag for families. But look at it this way: The water is too cold for sharks, and, if nothing else, it will keep the six-year-old boogie boarders away from your shins.

Check out:
www.south-north.co.za/cray_rt.html
www.lambertsbay.co.za/todo-more-activities.htm
www.safarinow.com/destinations/west-coast/travel-guide.aspx
www.cape-town.net/html/westcoa.htm