This huge conservation area covering 88,900 acres of isolated coastal terrain as well as a marine reserve extending 5 km (3 miles) out to sea is a World Heritage Site and well deserving of this status. Massive white-sand dunes, mountains, and rare lowland fynbos are home to eland, bontebok, and Cape mountain zebra, as well as more than 250 bird species. Though the reserve is only three hours from Cape Town, it feels a lifetime away. Access is via the dirt road between Bredasdorp and Malgas. This is a fantastic place to watch whales from the shore—not quite as easy as in Hermanus but much less crowded. You can also hike the enormously popular Whale Trail, which runs through this reserve. A shuttle service takes your bags to each new stop, so all you have to carry is a small day pack and some water between overnight stops. You need to book up to a year in advance to enjoy the Whale Trail, or you might get lucky and snag a last-minute cancellation. In fact, this hike is now so
popular that it's beginning to appear in online auctions. Self-catering cottages sleep up to four people and range from basic to fully equipped. The trail costs R950 per person, but there's a minimum of six people each time, so you'll have to drum up other happy hikers. You can still enjoy De Hoop without doing the Whale Trail; they have lovely accommodation ranging from camping to luxurious rooms in the old manor house.