The town of Somerset West is situated in the basin between the Helderberg and False Bay with the coastal towns Strand and Gordons Bay.
In northern direction towards the Helderberg mountain, Somerset West borders the town of Stellenbosch - the gateway to the wine regions of the Western Cape. Here starts the famous wine route with the areas around Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and the old french settlement of Franschhoek.
Towards the Hottentot Holland mountains in eastern direction lies a mountain plateau and the Steenbras dam. The impressive Sir Lowry's Pass winds from Somerset West up to the so-called "Fruit-Route", the heart of South Africa's fruit production.
The climatic conditions ensure a diverse and evergreen vegetation.
The mountain pass leads over the village of Elgin to the eastern end of the mountain plateau down into the Overberg region. Overberg region is known for varied nature reserve and it's coastline which is renowned for whale watching.
In the south of Somerset West, the False Bay coastline leads west towards the Cape of Good Hope and the Cape Peninsula with the coastal towns of Muizenberg, Fishhoek and Simons Town which hosts a famous penguin colony at the Boulder's Beach. In easterly direction along a breathtaking coast, the road leads through Gordon's Bay and Betty's Bay up the Whale Route to Hermanus.
In a westerly direction the N2 connects Somerset West with of Cape Town with its landmark Table Mountain. At the foot of Devil's Peak lies the Table Mountain Nature Reserve with the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Past the Devil's Peak a panoramic view becomes visible, including the city center with it's harbour and the historic waterfront of Cape Town.
In the 17th Century the area around Somerset West was developed as grazing land by the local farmers, later dutch troops set up a trading post. At the beginning of the 18th Century the area of Somerset West was inhabited between the Lourens River and the Vergelegen farm and winery.
The Governor of the Cape - Willem Adriaan van der Stel - built one of the first traditional mansions in typical Cape Holland architecture on the Vergelegen farm and winery.
As a result of colonization by England, the settlement at the Lourens River was named after the new governor, Lord Charles Henry Somerset. In the 19th Century the settlement was renamed in Somerset West to avoid confusion with Somerset East in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The coastal towns of Gordon's Bay and Strand are now part of the city area between the Helderberg Mountain and the False Bay.