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WESTERN CAPE: Our insider’s guide to Darling

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Buyers and visitors come from everywhere to this town with its steady property market, situated up the West Coast about an hour from Cape Town, and accessible with recent arterial upgrades.

Home to one of South Africa greatest characters – Evita Bezuidenhout – Darling is slightly more than an hour’s drive from Cape Town up the West Coast. 

While originally seen as a retirement village, it is fast becoming a bustling town with many residents making the daily commute to the northern fringes of the city. The West Coast is benefiting from a comprehensive arterial road upgrade programme, making it easier for residents to find employment out of the area and facilitate visitors to take part in a variety activities in the region year-round.

For retirees Pam and Mick King, the laid-back ambience and range of activities lured them to the town. “There is an incredible community spirit here,” enthuses Pam.

“The Voorkamerfest is a perfect example of how the community benefits from incoming visitors. “Many shows take place in the so-called townships and the shuttle service uses local taxis; all feel included and reap the rewards.”

Don’t be misled by the smalltown feel. There are some terrific restaurants, wine farms and shops to visit. In fact, the Darling Brewery has gone on to become one of South Africa’s most significant craft brewers.

In the 19th century, Darling and the surrounding area was recognised for butter production, and a museum has a display of the equipment used in that period. Taking its cue from that heritage, Darling Sweet has created an artisanal toffee range using real butter as one of its main ingredients.

Artisanal toffee-making is at its best in the community-centred town. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

From humble beginnings in 2014 the business has grown to have 21 full and 11 part-time employees working from an Edwardian building. It has become a tourist attraction.

Undoubtedly the most recognisable destination is Evita se Perron theatre complex. Home to Evita – the alter ego of the incorrigible, talented impresario Pieter-Dirk Uys – the theatre regularly hosts shows featuring his characters; visitors can be assured of a great outing.

There’s also good local cooking on offer in its restaurant. Nearby is the Khwa ttu San Culture and Education centre, a must for those wishing to learn more about the area’s indigenous people and their language which incorporates a variety of click sounds.

The Granary Petite Hotel in Darling is just one of the appealing places for visitors to stay
when visiting wine farms and taking part in the many activities on offer. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

“The Darling property market has been steady over the years, with prices on a gradual rise,” says broker/owner Dot Haddad of Cape Country Properties. “Buyers come from all over. People see Darling as offering a more relaxed lifestyle without sacrificing city benefits.

“Technology has also assisted in this migration: many work from home and go to the city only for required face-to-face meetings with clients.” The market is dominated by freehold homes, with about 3% in estates, but this is about to change, says Haddad.

“There is a development on the market of 139 erven ranging from 875m² to 1ha contained within a 550ha property. Secure access, environmentally-friendly properties at attractive prices make this venture popular for those looking to move to the country.”

Depending on position and size, homes range from around R1.1 million. More spacious Victorian houses go from R2.5m. Vacant land prices range from R300 000 to R950 000. The demand for rental properties has increased. Bedsitter or one-bedroom cottages start around R3 500, with three-bedroom homes between R6 000 to R9 000 a month.

Its property market is steady with vacant land available and the demand for rental
properties has also grown. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

The town offers a comprehensive range of basic services; there’s a clinic and primary schools – including a private school that is adding additional classrooms to cope with growing demand. High school pupils have several options out of town, with many opting to board at some of the well-known schools.

“Darling is definitely on the map,” says Haddad. “If you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle – with amenities a vibrant community brings – put Darling on your list of options.”

Pam King’s favourite things to do

The Voorkamerfest underlines how the community benefits from visitors. Many shows take place in the homes of people living in so-called townships and the shuttle service uses local taxis. Everyone feels included and reaps the rewards. – Residents Pam and Nick King Picture: Supplied

1 Outdoors

Lawn bowls is fast gaining a younger audience and the Darling Sports Club has around 30 active members. It’s also home to the golf club, so no matter your choice you are well looked after; 022 492 3587.

For those looking to work up more of a sweat, the Wolwefontein mountain bike trails will do it. There’s a challenging 21km route for the more experienced and an 11km green version for beginners and casual riders; 079 544 4326

2 Eat

The Old Forge, housed in a renovated barn, is owner/operator run and offers a range of surf and turf options. There’s often live music and it can get busy, so book; 022 492 2120.

The Marmalade Cat has a selection of locally inspired choices – lamb curry and waterblommetjie bredie are worth a try; 022 492 2515

3 Drink

Ormonde Wines benefits from the unique terroir applicable to the West Coast – granite-type soils, altitude around 200m above sea level and proximity to the cold Atlantic Ocean. Tastings available on the estate Monday to Saturday; 022 492 3540

Artisanal chocolate and wine pairings are so popular they must be pre-booked at Ormonde Wine Estate. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

4 Shop

There’s a wonderful country market on the last Sunday of the month at Groote Post wine estate. The market offers a selection of locally produced goods and foods, facilities to keep the childrenhappy, and lots of home-grown wines; 022 492 2825.

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