Three hundred days of sunshine are not enough to do all the things that Mossel Bay offers. This town, which is renowned for its exceptional weather, will keep everybody happy and entertained for as long as you can stay.
It’s not even eight weeks into 2018 and I’m knackered. The kids still have summer holiday tans but I feel pale and flat, and seriously in need of a break.
An article I picked up recommends: “Mossel Bay is so cool the original humans camped here. So did the first Europeans and thousands of seafarers since then. Today, visitors come to see pirates singing, dive with sharks and drink tea dressed in fur. And up the stairs of the region’s only public lighthouse, on a clear day you can see forever.”
There’s a chance my over-stimulated, screen-crazy teens may be distracted by real-life sharks and a chance to be photographed at the top of a lighthouse, the husband likes historical stuff and hiking, and tea in fur sounds bliss – so I organise some time for us in Mossel Bay.
After school, I bundle the kids in the car, put the hubby behind the wheel and get comfy in the passenger’s seat with a book and a pillow. We make the Storms River Bridge Steers-and-pee stop and arrive in the breathtakingly beautiful blue bay in time for sunset.
Seaside accommodation and eateries in all price categories are aplenty, which can be said for surprisingly few towns on the Garden Route. The weather is mellow and the breeze off the sea just right.
Layers of mountains encircle the bay in blues and pinks as the sky turns deep blue and sparkly.
Our activity plan takes shape as we consider our options:
Unique Mossel Bay
There are at least 10 things in Mossel Bay you can do almost nowhere else.
Mossel Bay boasts two of the most significant historical pointers in South Africa. It’s home to seaside caves so archeologically important it changed the way science contemplates the origin of humans.
The first Europeans also set foot here in 1488 when Portuguese sailor Bartholomeu Dias and his crew missed the tip of Africa and came ashore at Munro Bay.
Both events are celebrated with tourism experiences. : The Point of Human Origins Experience at Pinnacle Point is led by one of its discoverers, archaeologist Dr Peter Nilssen, and includes a spectacular 200 steps down the rugged seaside cliffs to the best cave campsite you will ever see.
Links to Dias and adventurers who followed are unique. The natural spring from which Dias replenished his water supply still runs today.
The Milkwood tree, believed to be South Africa’s first “post office” in which passing sailors left letters in a shoe since 1500, is still there and you can still post a snail mail letter from the shoe-shaped post box.
The Dias Museum complex houses a life-size replica of Dias’s caravel on which you can play pirate, several unusual exhibits and the largest shell collection in the southern hemisphere. The dry dock hall has exceptional acoustics, is a regular venue for classical concerts and the caravel has served as an impressive “stage” for a production of Pirates of Pennzance.
Other rarities include St Blaize, the only lighthouse open to the public in the Southern Cape, a replica of Brighton Pavilion (as in England, yes, built in 1906), a railway trolley trip on the Diaz Express between Mossel Bay and Great Brak River, accommodation and a restaurant in old railway coaches on the beach, shark cage diving, boat trips to Seal Island, sandboarding down the longest dune in the country and a helicopter flight simulator.
Family Mossel Bay
There’s a plethora of things to do for every member of the family and none of it is mediocre. The beaches are long, clean and pretty. There are tidal pools, lagoons and fishing holes. Some are vibey with live entertainment and restaurants, others are unadulterated memory makers.
Every watersport you can think of, every racquet or stick you can swing, every wheel or drone you can manoeuvre has a place here. There is a perfect wave, a world-class green, a blue sky and a brilliant cup of coffee around every corner.
I sneak off to local treasure, the Déjà Vu vintage shop, tea room and theatre. It’s got a bit of everything, but is a must for collectors of vintage clothing, jewellery and accessories.
There is always tea and cake, but with a little bit of forewarning, the vintage-besotted Carsten family will organise high tea for you and some friends. You can dress up in the clothes, borrow a vintage fur coat and watch a silver screen classic in the boutique movie house.
Should you be in Mossel Bay on a Thursday, the weekly old movie night at Monroe Theatre showcases old, mostly black and white, movies and includes a light meal.
Our spur-of-the-moment long weekend comes to an end too soon. Despite the jam-packed activities, the family is revived, reconnected and determined: we will be back; a weekend is not enough.
Bucket list to do
- The oldest campsite in the world: Point of Human Origin. www.humanorigin.co.za
- Black-and-white movies at Monroe Theatre, 7 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay. 082-415-9588
- Jump from a plane and fly: www.skydivemosselbay.com
- Sand-board the longest dune in the country: www.billeon.com
- Flight simulation at Starlight Aviation. (044) 692-0006 or 074-933-0570
- Cliff-side golf at Pinnacle Point http://pinnaclepointestate.co.za/golf-club
Where to eat
- A la carte: Café Gannet opposite Dias Museum Complex. www.oldposttree.co.za/cafe-gannet
- Seafood: De Vette Mossel, Great Brak River http://devettemosselgrootbrak.co.za
- Traditional: Transkaroo in the old Great Brak train station. (044) 620-4163
- Original: Carola Ann’s, 12 Church Street. www.carolaann.com
- On the beach: Fork & Train at Santos Express Train Lodge
- Farmstall: Klipheuwel Padstal, Little Brak River. www.klipheuwelpadstal.co.za
- Proper coffee and a view: The Blue Shed, 33 Bland Street www.blueshedroasters.co.za
- Deli-style: Coffee@Work, 66 March Street. www.coffeeatwork.co.za
- Handcrafted chocolate: at La Chocolaterie Rococo, 79 Long Street, Great Brak River
- Unique: Déjà Vu Vintage Clothing and Monroe Theatre, 7 Marsh Street, Mossel Bay. 082-415-9588
Mossel Bay Tourism is at the corner of Market and Church Streets in Mossel Bay’s CBD. Contact (044) 691-2202, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.visitmosselbay.co.za.
The tourism office is open seven days a week from 8am to 6pm on weekdays and from 9am to 4pm on weekends and public holidays.