Yzerfontein is known as the Gateway to the West Coast. Driving away from Cape Town, this is where you start to realise you are entering a new world: the sea is different, the fish are different, the fynbos are different; the flowers are different, the people are different…
The farm Yzerfontein – so named because of iron deposits found in the river – was used as coastal grazing for livestock since the time of Jan van Riebeeck. The Katz family, who owned the farm, also used it for holidays during the summer. In 1936 Abraham Katz founded the company Yzerfontein Seaside Estates, whereafter the farm was gradually developed into a town. The owners, however, wanted to keep it as untouched as possible, and in the founding deed specified that no commercialisation would be allowed. Today there is not even a hotel in this small town, only a handful of businesses. The residents did not even want electricity in their town – they only got Eskom electricity in 1979!
The village is a declared conservation area. The natural fynbos are conserved, and pathways were laid out to allow people the opportunity to enjoy the abundance of colour during flower season. You might also encounter dassies, tortoises, mongoose and the rare black oystercatcher.
This results in a tranquil atmosphere where you feel safe and relaxed, no rushing around or press of people. Here you can catch fish from the rocks, watch whales and dolphins, dive for crayfish, walk among thousands of flowers, surf, or just relax on the beach – and tonight you can enjoy your barbequed snoek while watching the sun set over the horizon.
About 9km south-west
of Yzerfontein is Dassen Island – South Africa’s second largest
island next to Robben Island, and a declared nature reserve managed by
There are large breeding colonies on the island – African penguins, white pelicans, black oystercatchers, blackbacked gulls and three cormorant species. Since there are no natural predators on the island, a large number of chicks are raised.
There are also a colony of seals and a number of rabbits and tortoises. The sea around the island is known for its crayfish, snoek, yellowtail and other fish.
Although Dassen Island is open to the public, it is limited to helicopter rides from the Cape Waterfront, which is so expensive that not many people can afford to visit the island. A lighthouse-keeper and some research scientists reside on the island.
What to do …
Because of the cold water, the best quality snoek are caught at Yzerfontein. The season for snoek is October to March, and during winter. On very good days, a boat can catch between four and five hundred snoek.
About 60% of all line fish (including snoek) caught on the West Coast, are landed at the Yzerfontein harbour. It is sold at the fish market just outside town (trust commerce to always find a way).
Fishing from the rocks/beach
There are many rocky places along the coast at Yzerfontein where you can catch hotnosvis throughout the year and galjoen during the winter, and harders from the beach.
Crayfish are found on the rocky coastline and at Dassen Island. You can either scuba dive to look for crayfish among the rocks, or use a small boat to catch them a bit deeper into the sea.
It may only be caught during crayfish season, and a recreational licence is mandatory. The licence allows you a maximum of four crayfish per day, no smaller than 80mm length across the carapace (backside). Crayfish season usually runs from middle November until end of April.
Southern Right, Humpback whales and dolphins are often spotted during spring. Yzerfontein is ideal for whale watching since it is one of only two elevated towns on the West Coast. Sometimes they even come into the harbour area where you can inspect them up close.
On calm days, the sea is ideal for kayaking, and the more windy days are ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The onslaught of the winter’s westerly winds produces a very good wave for surfing.
The West Coast are known for its wealth of flowers during spring, and its abundance can be experienced at Yzerfontein and its surroundings.
There are two hiking routes:
From “Rooipunt se Klippe” you walk on the main beach along the edge of town all the way to Schaap Island. It is a distance of 2,5km and during the whale and flower seasons it is an especially enjoyable route to take.
16 Mile Beach is a
much longer hiking trail. Starting at “Rooipunt se Klippe”
you walk along the unspoilt beach past the lower part of the West Coast
National Park until you reach Tsars Bank at the Postberg Nature Reserve.
A distance of 25km.
The ancient lime kilns on the R315 to Yzerfontein are worth a visit. The two white, dome-shaped structures can be seen from the road. These kilns were erected during the Second World War to produce lime for the building industry. Black mussel shells were collected in enormous quantities from the Yzerfontein beaches. It was then burned and pulverised to produce a good quality lime.