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 dirt roads, and distant mountains make this a truly off-the-beaten track experience – no crowds, no rush and plenty to look at.
Those not interested in putting on the glitz venture up here knowing there are more gems to uncover, for the West Coast is an area unbelievably rich in history and natural resources, and communities with a warm and hospitable trait. The harvest from the sea, isolated, pristine beaches, the unrivalled fauna (especially the world renowned fields of spring flowers), migrating birds from as far as Siberia, ancient rock art dotted across the mountain ranges – are just the beginnings of what you’ll find in and around coastal towns, if you take the trouble to look.
Two Ways to Access the West Coast
You can access the West Coast via two very different routes. If it’s sand, sea, wheeling seabirds and the intoxicating smell of the ocean you’re after, take the coastal route – the R27 – which affords you a very particular sense of the area. But if it’s soft rolling hills and vistas of sheep, vineyards and windmills you heart craves, then take the N7 inland and you’ll drive trough quaint country towns with charms of their own.
The drive there is both remarkable, or not – when the wheat fields are winter green, or the light of the setting sun is burnished and golden, it’s breathtaking. But, at the end of summer the landscape has a hard, barren edge to it, which makes the traveller desperate to see the blue of the sea – a unique seasonal contradiction that keeps drawing visitors back to the West Coast.