Travellers along the Garden Route rarely leave the N2 to visit Mossel Bay. Turns out it’s well worth the short detour
There’s an excellent chance that any declaration stating one’s intention to spend the weekend in Mossel Bay will result in a fairly consistent response: “What?” swiftly followed by “Why?”.
For many South Africans, road trips along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Knysna inevitably saw Mossel Bay as no more than road sign to mark a point in the journey.
Why on earth would anyone actually turn off the N2 and go there? If that describes you as well, it turns out we’ve all been missing out.
Mossel Bay has a rich history, from 164 000 years ago and archaeological deposits at the Point of Human Origins – some of the earliest evidence of modern human behavior – to being the place where the first Europeans landed on Southern African soil. Bartolomeu Dias and his crew landed here on 3 February 1488 after which, legend has it, they were swiftly sent on their way by a hail of stones from the local inhabitants.
Fast forward to the present, and you will find a town that revels in its heritage and the tales of its past, while retaining a certain charm not found in big cities, and providing the visitor with a diverse array of activities and attractions. It’s also a lot bigger than just the town itself, encompassing Klein Brak, Groot Brak, and all the way inland to Herbertsdale. It’s also a good departure point for excursions by road to Wilderness, Sedgefield and Knysna.
Mossel Bay is blessed with a temperate climate all year round, more than 60km of beaches, and a warm-ish ocean (certainly warmer than chilly Cape Town’s) in which to swim, sail, and surf.
No matter where in the world you are, the best way to explore any place is on foot. I clocked up more than 20km in three days, which doesn’t sound like a lot but trust me, it is – especially when it includes a crack-of-dawn stroll and many, many stairs from the car park up to the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse and along the cliffs. The reward was worth it though, as we dunked our rusks into our coffee at the summit and turned our faces in an eastward direction where the sun was gamely fighting its way through the clouds (which, it has to be said, are not an everyday occurrence here).
Coffee & Wine
Along with an abundance of art galleries and antique shops, Mossel Bay is a caffeine hot bed and, given its size, has an astonishing six roasteries. We visited half of them – which could also explain the high energy levels that had me whizzing around, taking in the sights, cramming in as much as possible.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that the region has its own wine route. We visited Jakkalsvlei Private Cellar where I bravely agreed to a wine pairing not encountered before – snails. If that’s not to your taste, there are plenty of others, including candy floss. Later, we went horse riding at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, which is remarkable not only for the beautiful scenery but because you get to ride between the antelope, zebra and wildebeest. The lions and elephants are sensibly kept in a separate part of the reserve, which was something of a relief.
Food & Shopping
Being at the seaside, feasting on the fruits of the ocean is a must – whether it’s fish ‘n chips in the harbour, sushi and shellfish at Café Gannet, or a kick-your-shoes-off all-you-can-eat multiple-course banquet at De Vette Mossel in Groot Brak, where the pot bread alone is worth the price of admission. If you have a sweet tooth, with a side order of quirkiness, high tea at Déjà Vu is a must. Oom De Waal and Tannie Joan are there to welcome you, and to find you the perfect bonnet and accessories required to step into a bygone era where you will sip vanilla tea from bone china decorated with roses, and nibble on cucumber sandwiches and Tannie Joan’s heart-shaped rosemary shortbreads.
From ground level up to the sweltering attic, Déjà Vu is crammed with vintage clothing and memorabilia favouring James Dean, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. The blonde bombshell lends her name to the tiny theatre stage where cabaret is performed and old black and white films are shown.
From the tip of the highest sandstone steeple of St Peter’s church in the centre of town, to
the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach, Mossel Bay is full of wonderful surprises and good old fashioned warm hospitality.
Fly direct to George from Cape Town and Durban with SAA’s connecting partner, Airlink (From George, Mossel Bay is a 45 km drive to along the N2 highway) Visit: flysaa.com
MOSSEL BAY TOURISM
+27 (0) 44 691 2202
Local celebrity GERRIE PRETORIUS is many things. A successful singer and TV host (“Leef Jou Reis met Gerrie Pretorius” on kykNET), as well as an ardent traveller who now has his own travel agency. Here are some of his favourite spots…
I’m born and bred in CBS! That’s the vehicle registration number for Mossel Bay, which we say means “Come Back Soon”. There are a lot of places I love and my favourite spots are:
Dolphin Café They have been in business for ages and I love the fish and calamari.
Gannet Restaurant Overlooking Santos beach and our famous Pavilion, whenever I have guests I’ll take them here for a nice cocktail and some sushi.
Pack a pair of good walking shoes Begin at the old Post Office tree and visit the museum, then walk down Bland street and enjoy coffee at the Blue Shed. On your way, stop at all the antique shops and look a bit closer at all the beautiful old sandstone buildings.
Walk around the point and visit the old Point cemetery where it is rumoured there’s even a buried pirate.
WORDS Bianca Coleman