Yzerfontein is about an hour’s drive north of Cape Town along the R27. Nature is a strong draw card, from bird life and indigenous plants to 16 Mile Beach which stretches to the West Coast National Park. The town is also a hub for fishermen and sporty types going surfing, mountain biking or kite-surfing. But here are 10 things you may not know about Yzerfontein on South Africa's West Coast.
2. Urban Conservancy
Some of the conservancy’s current projects are eradicating aliens, rehabilitating dunes, an indigenous demo garden (with endemic and indigenous plants to inspire local gardeners and warn them how aliens can seed in green belt areas), toxic waste disposal (think electronic waste, batteries, light bulbs) and coastal/beach hygiene.
They also built a labyrinth on Atlantic Drive in Pearl Bay where you can go to chill and appreciate nature and sea views. ‘The challenge now is to create awareness and we’re working with the municipality to identify public access points where we can put up information posters,’ says Ben.
Archaeological digs in Yzerfontein have found remains of food and tools left by ancient people who lived here long, long ago. The history of Dutch settlement began in 1732 when Cornelius Heufke got permission to graze his livestock on a farm that was then called Eijzerfontein (the name deriving from the iron deposits in the drinking water). By 1915 it was owned by Nicolas Pienaar. In 1937 Pienaar kept one piece of his farm and sold off the rest to other families and to Yzerfontein Seaside Estates. It was declared a village in 1937 – so it celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2017.
In the 1920s there were only five houses at Yzerfontein. Back then it was a popular place for inland farmers to come for a camping holiday by the sea. ‘In fact, Schaap Island got its name because farmers who holidayed at the beach used to bring all their own supplies, like a cow for milk, hens for eggs, and so forth,’ says Leané Koegelenberg of Yzerfontein Tourism. To keep their sheep [schaap in Dutch] safe from jackals they’d put them on the island, which was cut off from the mainland at high tide.
4. Cement made from mussel shells
5. Salt pans, bokkoms and the oldest building
A couple called Pieters restored the building in the 1970s and used it as a holiday home. It became a municipal building in 1989 and the tourism office in 2002. So many stories these thick old walls could tell.
During World War II Yzerfontein had a radar station, erected in March 1943. It was run by six women whose job was to track enemy ship and air traffic and especially to look out for enemy submarines threatening the Allied shipping and troopship convoys. Air combat pilots from up north recuperated at an air school in Darling and occasionally used to visit for a swim or a party. Someone later built a house on the foundations of the radar station.
7. Penguin plunder at Dassen Island
Luckily Dassen Island was declared a nature reserve in 1987 and is now managed by CapeNature, mainly to protect its seabirds.
8. Tractor buried on the beach
9. Yzerfontein has a ghost
One of the five original houses in Yzerfontein, the Langhuisie, which belonged to the Schreuders, is the setting for a ghost story about a man who lost his head. A widower called Rosenleft, the story goes, used to visit Mrs Schreuder when her husband was away and concocted a plan to murder him. One of her daughters overheard the plan and told her father, who changed his will in her favour.
One day Schreuder went fishing with a buddy. He disappeared and the buddy’s body washed up with the telltale blue marks of strangulation around his neck. The murderous Rosenleft told Mrs Schreuder he’d killed her husband but she didn’t believe him. So he went back to the body, cut off the head and brought the grisly trophy to her. Some people think they later put the head in the outside loo, while others believe he burnt the body in the lime kiln. Langhuisie is said to be haunted by the ghost of the man who lost his head.
10. You can get almost anything here if you know who to ask
Yzerfontein Tourism’s Leané Koegelenberg is also a great source of information on the town, particularly its history and things to do.
Yzerfontein is on the West Coast Way’s Culture and Scenic routes.
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