A family escape to Saldanha Bay

Posted by Nidha Narrandes on 26 March 2019

Of all the reasons to venture along the Cape’s West Coast, Saldanha wouldn’t typically be at the top of the list, but you’d be wrong to skip the industrious town, which has the best oysters on the coastline.

Saldanha competes with Langebaan, St Helena Bay and Paternoster for the travellers that choose to make their way up to arguably one of the most beautiful coastlines in Southern Africa. It’s a competitive market and tourists now have more choice than ever.

The sunset in Saldanha Bay.

But Saldanha has steadily gone about its business of enriching the West Coast experience with its quiet charm and genuine hospitality.

Although not independently confirmed, word around town in that much of the oysters at the Knysna Oyster Festival are imported from Saldanha Bay. It may just be a tall tale the locals tell, but you’ll be convinced if you’re ever lucky enough to try a plate of the locally-farmed oysters. They’re so fresh and oozing with flavour that you’ll be forgiven for slurping louder than is acceptable at the Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay by Marriott, our hosts for the weekend.

The rooms are spacious and open out onto the water.

The grand hotel has occupied a prime spot on the bay for over 100 years. Its glass lounge area offers uninterrupted views of the turquoise waterfront and the pristine harbour – you’re practically outdoors.

In the distance, colourful buoys mark the farmed origins of our delicious oysters. The West Coast Oyster Growers farms around three million oysters per year.

Across the bay, we spot the giant cranes that belong to the nearby Saldanha steel plant, a reminder that sometimes it’s not only tourism and pretty things that keep a town alive: it is its industrious nature and hardworking people who ply their trades in the fishing and steel industries.

Still, Saldanha Bay is picturesque, in keeping with the aesthetic quality of the West Coast.

The hotel is surrounded by lush lawns.

The rooms at Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay open out onto a spectacular view of the bay – an inspirational sight to wake up to in the morning. The hotel grounds are perfect for a stroll and have ample place for the children to play. They’ve recently introduced family fun activities like tug-o-war and an egg-and-spoon race to treat the little ones – and make a fool of the big ones.

In a game of tug-o-war, everyone inevitably gets swept off their feet, falling into fits of laughter. We also tested the strength of the local eggs, too. Fortunately, no eggs were harmed in the making of quality family time. The hotel’s manicured lawns are the perfect backdrop for an intimate wedding reception, a pool party or even a stylish birthday party.

In-house, the Mussel Cracker restaurant serves locals and visitors alike, with the same picturesque view. And the food, the best the bay can offer of course. Fresh mussels, succulent fish and mouth-watering calamari make up the seafood platter for 4, served family-style, with chips, savoury rice and a salad.

The Mussel Cracker Restaurant.

After an afternoon of fun in the sun, the platter didn’t last too long. The crumbs told the tale of a meal well-prepared and devoured with appreciation.

If the town is too sleepy for you, Saldanha Bay forms part of the West Coast National Park, and is close to other attractions that are also worth a visit, like the West Coast Fossil Park and Simply Bee, a bee farm. Or you could check out the mysterious Doc’s Cave.

With a population of just over 21,000, the seaside town is home to an important naval training base and the nature reserve is a must-see for its display of wildflowers in late winter, and the presence of the Southern Right Whales during migration.

Saldanha is at peace with itself as an understated destination on the West Coast, yet it offers as many delights as a visitor would expect, like kitesurfing and other water sports. It is what you make of it. And a perfect family getaway.

Find out more here.

 

Image: Supplied

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