Western Cape festivals you can’t miss

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 24 January 2014

A list of some of my favourite Western Cape festivals that I think everyone should try at least once (I can almost guarantee you’ll be back for more).


My job allows me to get out to many festivals and parties, much to the envy of my friends and family. I have generally enjoyed them all, but there are a few that have really stood out. So here’s a list of some of my favourite festivals that I think everyone should try at least once (I can almost guarantee you’ll be back for more).

Up the Creek Music Festival in Swellendam (February)

Without a doubt my all-time favourite music festival and it’s the one I go to every year. Why? Because there’s a slightly older crowd (I am slightly older these days), there’s only one act on at a time (no manically running between stages to catch a piece of your favourite band), there’s limited tickets so no squashing tents on top of each other, you can park your car next to your tent (no lugging of bags and tents) and of course there’s the Breede River. Days are spent with sun-and-fun-loving festivalgoers on the water with a myriad of interesting floating devices (including a giant inflatable crocodiles and pirate boats) while nights are spent enjoying South African bands and comedians, munching on affordable festival food and drinking cold beer. It may be in Swellendam, but you’ll think you’re at Woodstock. www.getaway.co.za/event-blogs/music-festival-rocking-the-creek

Up the Creek, music festivals

Spend your days on the Breede River and nights watching bands at Up The Creek in Swellendam.


Hands on Harvest in Robertson (February)

Robertson is probably most famous for its Wacky Wine Festival, but if you fancy a more sedate and intimate affair without jousting with students trying to get as much “tasting” done as physically possible in a day, then the Hands on Harvest is the one to go to. Each wine farm has a program of events, from wine-stomping and river cruises to luncheons by the river and dinners in manor houses. You’ll get to meet the winemakers, eat until your belly bursts and drink lots of wine. Heck, you can even bottle and label your own champagne! The toughest part of this festival is choosing what to do and the journey home. www.winemag.co.za/blogs/hands-on-harvest-robertson-wine-valley/

Robertson Hands on Harvest, wine festivals

There’s plenty to do at the Hands on Harvest in Robertson from wine tasting to river cruises and grape stomping.


AfrikaBurn (April)

I went to the second edition of this festival a few years ago and it became a game of survival in the desert. The road to get there almost ripped up my tyres, the wind came up and almost destroyed my tent (I still have sand from the Tankwa Karoo in it today) and we almost ran out of water. Doesn’t sound appealing does it? Well things have come a long way since then and if you go prepared (unlike us novices), you will have the time of your life. It’s South Africa’s version of Burning Man so you can expect people in outlandish outfits, creative and thought-provoking installations on the Binnekring and of course lots of fire. You can’t purchase anything there apart from ice, so take plenty of water and food and something to share  (there is a gifting economy). A camera and a bicycle would be good too. And remember to take all your trash home with you as this is not a festival where a crew comes in and cleans up after you! Be warned though, it’s become so popular that tickets sell out in seconds. www.getaway.co.za/event-blogs/festivals-events/archetypes-dust-storms-afrikaburn-2013/

Barrels & Beards in Bot River (April)

I was very honoured to be asked to be a beard judge at this annual Bot River shindig last year and am definitely going back this year. The idea behind it is that the wine farmers in the valley are too busy during harvest season to be dealing with shaving their faces so they cultivate a beard instead, culminating in a beard competition. These men are not only great winemakers, they are downright creative too, so you’ll be highly entertained with all the antics and interesting beards! But it’s not all about facial hair – the evening encompasses tasting of wines from Bot River farms and a delicious buffet dinner prepared by the winemakers’ long-suffering wives, using produce from the area. It’s a farming community at their best so make sure you go this year. You’d better be quick though, tickets are limited and sell out faster than you can say “shaving cream”. www.winemag.co.za/explore-winelands/things-to-do/barrels-beards-bot-river

festivals, barrels and beards

Bearded winemakers, wine tasting and a delicious dinner are all part of the festivities at Barrels & Beards in Bot River.


Hermanus Whale Festival (September)

Hermanus is no longer the sleepy little seaside town that it used to be and when the whales arrive in the bay it gets even busier. That said, it is all very festive and well-organised. There are plenty of places to eat, markets selling all sorts of wares, whale watching cruises, informative displays by various ocean institutions and live bands. Of course the whales put on a good show for everyone too. It’s almost as if they know that people have come from far and wide to see them and they don’t disappoint with plenty of whale tales, blowhole action and breaching. Take binoculars just in case, but you probably won’t need them as they come in close. You will definitely need to take a lot of patience with you, as the traffic in the town can get a bit manic. It’s all worth it though when you get a wave from a Southern Right whale. www.whalefestival.co.za

Darling Voorkamerfest (September)

It works like this: You purchase a ticket and depending on the colour of the ticket you get is the route you go on. However, you have no choice in which ticket you get and you’ll have no idea of where you are going or what you will see, but you can be assured of a very interesting evening out on the town. A minbus taxi (driven by a local taxi driver) will take you to three or four stops where you’ll be entertained by a local band, a comedian, dancers or actors. The venues could be a manor house, a flat in town or a shack in the township. All the hosts are charming and friendly and go out of their way to show you a good time in their home. Sometimes there are snacks and wine, but there’s also a market selling food and beverages. You can also pop into Tannie Evita’s spot while you are there. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have in Darling, darling. www.voorkamerfest-darling.co.za

Darling Voorkamerfest

A minibus taxi takes you on a selected route for an interesting and varied evening’s entertainment at the Darling Voorkamerfest.


Wine on the River in Robertson (October)

Another goodie brought to you by the Robertson Valley. The best part about this festival is that it is generally affordable. Your ticket includes tastings from over 40 wine farms (approximately 300 wines!) and when your tummy starts growling, you can choose from pancakes to burgers, calamari to prawns and everything inbetween depending on your budget (eating is not cheating). There’s also live bands and cruises on the river. Take a free shuttle from Robertson, Montagu or Bonnievale and spend the day wandering from tent to tent alongside the sparkling Breede River and end the day with a sunset wine cruise. It ‘s truly a beautiful and fun way to spend a day in the winelands. www.winemag.co.za/explore-winelands/things-to-do/robertson-wine-on-the-river/

Robertson Wine on the River, wine festivals

Spend the day tasting wines from over 40 wine farms alongside the Breede River at Robertson Wine on the River.


Banff Movie Festival at Nu Metro Cinemas (October)

This is a movie festival that I never fail to attend and over the years have managed to get a few friends hooked on it too. For approximately two hours you’ll be enthralled by people doing things you wish you were doing instead of sitting behind a desk every day. Paired with some of the most awe-inspiring scenery you’ll be taken into the world of rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, tight-rope walking and more. These short films will have you itching for adventure and you may find yourself exploring your own neighbourhood on a bike instead of driving everywhere. Or you may end up going big and packing it all in and heading to the Himalayas. Either way, these films will change the way you look at life. The festival is only on for a few days at various Nu Metro cinemas and tickets are limited, so keep an eye out for it and buy your tickets immediately. www.getaway.co.za/event-blogs/festivals-events/2013-banff-mountain-film-festival/

Cape Town Bierfest at Newlands Brewery (November)

If your idea of a good time out involves giant glasses of German bier, plates groaning with bratworst and eisbein and being waited on by attentive and attractive frauleins, then this is one for you! Every November, Newlands Brewery turns into a German Bierfest where you’ll find all of the above without having to book a flight to Germany (although you can win a trip to the real thing). When I was there I drank my way through litres of bier and took home enough eisbein bones for my dogs to gnaw on for months. To top it off, GoodFella’s took us home safely, for free! Cheers to SA Breweries for a great initiative! Make sure you sign up if you go this year because while gulping your way through litres of bier may be cool to you and your buddies, drinking and driving is not cool for anyone. www.getaway.co.za/event-blogs/festivals-events/tops-at-spar-bierfest/

Bierfest Cape Town, beer festivals

Enjoy an evening of bier, bratworst and frauleins at the Bierfest Cape Town, held at Newlands Brewery.


Rockabilly Festival at the Ostrich Farm (November)

The first Rockabilly Festival was held last year and this year it’ll only be bigger and better. Expect vintage cars, hotrods, tattoos and rockabilly girls with lots of red lipstick. There’s also cool bands, plenty of food stalls and a well-stocked bar. During the day there are car races and roller-derbies with bands and burlesque dancers taking over in the evening. Ladies can even get their make-up done rockabilly styles, so if the fifties look is your thing, then give it a go. There is also camping available. Checked shirts and polka dot dresses aren’t mandatory, but you’ll fit in a whole lot better if you don one. www.dustyrebelsandthebombshells.co.za

Rockabilly Festival, cars, festivals

Vintage cars, hotrods, tattoos, rockabilly girls and rockabilly bands can be found at the Rockabilly Festival in Cape Town.


Festival of Beer at Hamilton’s Rugby Club (November)

Slightly different to the Bierfest, but still involving a lot of beer! This festival focuses mainly on the world of craft beer-making and you get to taste your way through a myriad of craft beers lovingly brewed by local beer makers. Being a girl however, I was more fascinated by all the different names of the beers rather than the taste! The evening saw me getting through beers called Blind Mole, Dead Guy Ale and Punk IPA, while the Banana Bread Beer tasted just like Banana Bread! I also discovered a few breweries that are definitely going to be visited this year. All the while bands played, people took part in games of giant beer pong and vendors with baskets of large salty brezels from Raith mingled with the crowds. There was also a food tent with plenty of food options to line tummies or fill tummies after a bout of beer drinking. Another fun aspect were the festively decorated tuk-tuks that took you from the parking area to the venue. Pity there were no options for getting home safely. Perhaps this year they will look into that, but I would make a plan in case. www.capetownfestivalofbeer.co.za

Cape Town Festival of Beer, beer festivals

Taste your way through a myriad of craft beers lovingly brewed by local beer makers at the Cape Town Festival of Beer.


Unity Music Festival at Bay Harbour Market (December)

The Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay is fast becoming one of the most popular markets out there. Apart from an array of interesting stalls. delicious food and beer on tap, they frequently have live bands and comedy nights. Last year was their first ever Unity Music Festival which saw the likes of Hotel Iris and Trenton and Free Radical, with Jesse Clegg as the headline act. It was a fairly low-key affair (there’s always too much going on in December for everyone to be everywhere), but we had a great time! I reckon this year is really going to be a rocking festival so keep an eye out for it. www.bayharbour.co.za

Unity Festival, Bay Harbour Market, Jesse Clegg

Watch top South African artists while enjoying tasty food, beer and wine at the Bay Harbour Market’s Unity Music Festival.


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