Mossel Bay is an unexpected gem on the Garden Route, too often overlooked on the way to the trendy hotspots of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, or the alluring peace of Nature’s Valley.
But next time you’re driving up the N2, don’t keep left at the fork – go straight on to Mossel Bay, down the hill and into the old town. Chances are, you will not be disappointed.
Garden Route International Film Festival
And this week is going to be a corker – the Garden Route International Film Festival runs from 12 to 16 July, mostly at Diaz Hotel but also at Santos Beach Cinema and the Roadhouse Drive In at the Diaz parking lot. There is also a virtual offering from 4 – 17 July.
Featuring films such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Singleholic, Your Eyes Through Mine, Odala, Trumpets in the Sky and Volksvreemd, there is plenty of entertainment – book at Webtickets.
First stop, before the films: Betty’s Boutique Hotel on Duke Street. Check in with the affable Lewis Clayphan – Smith and drop your bags in your room. Betty’s is a quirky and extremely welcoming stay, run by Yorkshireman Lewis. The old stone house sits atop Mossel Bay, commanding a special view across the ocean.
The décor is quaint, and the bed and breakfast is chockful of antiques, from embroidered portraits to display cabinets filled with thimbles and other interesting bits and bobs. It’s a bit of England in Mossel Bay, Lewis says.
Do not expect matching cutlery or crockery, but do expect a very warm and friendly visit. Lewis is happy to recommend activities and restaurants, and will book a table for you downtown.
Rates are from R1 150 per room per night out of season. In November, they rise to R1 850 per room per night (073 663 1841).
Rock pools and surfers
Drop your bags and head straight for the point, where you can wade in the rock pools, watch the surfers and sip a sundowner at Delfinos Seaside Restaurant (tel 0 44 690 5247).
Dinner has got to be at Carola Ann’s on the main Marsh Street drag (tel: 064 154 6393). The menu is a delicious Middle Eastern feast, with a twist.
Early the next morning (after a tasty breakfast at Betty’s), the fit can head for St Blaize Trail Walk; it’s a 13.5km hike that takes about six hours, and follows the cliffs westwards, past Pinnacle Point to Dana Bay. But you will either need to make sure you’ve got a ride back from the other side, or do a return trek.
There are activities for the lazier, but no less adventurous too. At 1 150m, Mossel Bay Zipline is the longest over-ocean zipline in the world – 90m up. You’ll reach speeds of 80km/h, which is quite zippy.
Stop for lunch at Big Blu restaurant at the end of it (tel 044 691 2010). It’s so close to the ocean, you can taste the spray. The menu is mainly fish.
For those in a shopping frame of mind, local arts and crafts are on sale at The Townhouse. Leather goods are plentiful, with a thriving handmade leather works industry in Mossel Bay.
For the beach, head to Santos Beach, with its long white sandy stretch and calm blue waters. Lunch at Jackal on the Beach at The Pavilion (tel 044 690 4567), for pizzas, burgers and salads, and yes, more seafood.
Folk have been visiting the area for thousands of years. The cave at Cape St Blaize, below Mossel Bay’s lighthouse, is the site of some of South Africa’s first Middle Stone Age archaeological excavations. The view of the ocean from the cave is beautiful.
Across at the Point of Human Origins at Pinnacle Point, an international team of researchers has found some of the earliest evidence of modern human behaviour. Book a tour to Cave 13B – there are about 200 steps down to the cave, which you also need to climb back up. It is an easy enough walk, but there is no disabled access.
Tours last 60 t0 90 minutes and are R275 for adults; children 7-14 R100, and the tour is free for children under seven.
You can also book a tour with consultant archaeologist Dr Peter Nilssen for R1 800 with a maximum of five people. These tours are two hours.
End your day with a meal at Mossel Bay Oyster Bar for even more seafood, including the old staple, fish and chips (tel 044 333 0202)
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