Western Cape is a province of South Africa, situated on the south-western coast of the country. It is the fourth largest of the nine provinces with an area of 129,449 square kilometres (49,981 sq mi), and the third most populous, with an estimated 7 million inhabitants in 2020. About two-thirds of these inhabitants live in the metropolitan area of Cape Town, which is also the provincial capital. The Western Cape was created in 1994 from part of the former Cape Province. The two largest cities are Cape Town and George.
Topography of the Western Cape. The Roggeveld and Nuweveld mountains are part of the Great Escarpment (see diagrams below). The other mountain ranges belong to the Cape Fold Belt, also shown in the diagrams below. The Western Cape’s inland boundary lies for the most part at the foot of the Great Escarpment.
The Western Cape Province is roughly L-shaped, extending north and east from the Cape of Good Hope, in the southwestern corner of South Africa. It stretches about 400 kilometres (250 mi) northwards along the Atlantic coast and about 500 kilometres (300 mi) eastwards along the South African south coast (Southern Indian Ocean). It is bordered on the north by the Northern Cape and on the east by the Eastern Cape. The total land area of the province is 129,462 square kilometres (49,986 sq mi), about 10.6% of the country’s total. It is roughly the size of England or the State of Louisiana. Its capital city and largest city is Cape Town, and some other major cities include Stellenbosch, Worcester, Paarl, and George. The Garden Route and the Overberg are popular coastal tourism areas.
The Western Cape is the southernmost region of the African continent with Cape Agulhas as its southernmost point, only 3800 km from the Antarctic coastline. The coastline varies from sandy between capes, to rocky to steep and mountainous in places. The only natural harbour is Saldanha Bay on the west coast, about 140 km north of Cape Town. However a lack of fresh water in the region meant that it has only recently been used as a harbour. The province’s main harbour was built in Table Bay, which in its natural state was fully exposed to the northwesterly storms that bring rain to the province in winter, as well as the almost uninterrupted dry southeasterly winds in summer. But fresh water coming off Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak allowed the early European settlers to build Cape Town on the shores of this less than satisfactory anchorage.
The province is topographically exceptionally diverse. Most of the province falls within the Cape Fold Belt, a set of nearly parallel ranges of sandstone folded mountains of Cambrian-Ordovician age (the age of the rocks is from 510 to about 330 million years ago; their folding into mountains occurred about 350 to about 270 million years ago).The height of the mountain peaks in the different ranges varies from 1000 m to 2300 m. The valleys between ranges are generally very fertile, as they contain the weathered loamy soils of the Bokkeveld mudstones (see the diagrams below).
The far interior forms part of the Karoo. This region of the province is generally arid and hilly, with a prominent escarpment that runs close to the Province’s most inland boundary.