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Mossel Bay Snapshot

In 1487 a group of Portuguese mariners under one captain Bartholomeu Dias packed their bags and set sail from Portugal in search of a sea route to India. Several months (and a few less teeth) later they rounded the Cape of Good Hope and, much to the irritation of the local Khoikhoi, pulled in for fresh water at a picturesque inlet, which they promptly christened Aguado de Sao Bras (Watering Place of St Blaize). And so Mossel Bay eventually came to be. Thanks to an ugly industrial façade, punctuated by the billowing Apartheid-era Mossgas project, the town doesn't exactly say, 'take me baby!' However, once you've pierced the messy shell and worked your way to the historic centre overlooking the harbour, or spread a towel on the long adjacent beach, or strolled the rocky coastline at 'The Point', Mossel Bay isn't a bad place. Seriously. Top this with an interesting museum complex, a decent restaurant or two, and a fine golf course, you might linger a little longer than expected.

Things To Do

  • According to Mossel Bay's marketing department, the Guinness Book of Records lists the town as second only to Hawaii as having the world's mildest all year round climate. If this is true, it certainly bodes well for a beach holiday. Santos Beach, the main strand, is the only north-facing beach in South Africa, which translates into exceptionally long sunny afternoons and some of the best swimming along the Garden Route. Pity about the industrial backdrop.
  • Housed in a cluster of historic buildings in the centre of town, the Bartholomeu Dias Museum Complex is the main urban drawcard of note. Start your tour at the Maritime Museum, a spiral gallery illustrating the history of Portuguese, Dutch and British seafaring. Strolling outside, you'll find the Old Post Office Tree, claimed to be the same tree where mariners left their messages for passing ships in an old boot. Keeping to tradition you can mail your 'Mosselbaai is Bakgat' postcard in a boot-shaped letterbox and have it stamped with a special postmark. Also part of the pleasant Museum Complex experience are the original Spring, a Local Culture Museum, a Shell Museum and Aquarium, several restored cottages (circa 1830) and a Malay gravesite.
  • For a further dose of history head to The Point, where the Cape St Blaize Lighthouse has been guiding sailors since 1864 and is one of only two manned lighthouses still in operation along SA's coastline. From the Lighthouse, a wonderful view unfurls across the Bay.
  • The Point, at the tip of St Blaize, is also a popular hangout for spotting whales, dolphins and seals, enhanced with a sundowner at the Tidals Waterfront Tavern & Pub, set on the water's edge.  A natural tidal pool, the start of the 13.5km St Blaize Hiking Trail (map available from the Tourism Bureau) and the lighthouse are all in immediate proximity.  
  • Set around a relaxed patio near the harbour and serving creative dishes, Café Gannet Restaurant is reputed to be Mossel Bay's best restaurant - we would agree. There are are a couple of other options spread around the Point, suited to shorts and slops dining, while up the main artery cutting through town you'll find a range of franchised joints and coffee shops and pubs of mixed appeal. 
  • Adrenaline and adventure seems part and parcel of the Mossel Bay experience. Diving and snorkelling is popular, despite the proximity of Seal Island and its chubby residents - a known delicacy among great white sharks. If you want to meet the toothy mobsters of the deep, several outfits offer viewing from the safety of a cage or boat. The optimum months for this are March to November. Alternatively, take a relaxing cruise to Seal Island to see the penguin and seal colonies. 
  • If, for reasons other than depression, leaping off bridges is your thing, the old Gouritz River Bridge (about 40km west of Mossel Bay along the N2) is cheaper, shorter (useful if you're pressed for time!) and probably as equally terrifying as Bloukrans near Nature's Valley. Update the insurance policy, tie them shoelaces nice and tight, then contact Gouritz Bungy. Or simply pitch up at the bridge.
Getaways in and around Mossel Bay
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