“Mossel Bay? No thanks, not for me,” used
to be my reaction to this seaside industrial-looking town on the N2, halfway
between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
Set so far on the tippy end of the Garden
Route and regularly unmentioned that one might think it has been put in the
naughty corner since the beginning of time. From the outside, regardless of the
season, I always picked up the presumptive smell of December traffic as hordes
pull in for their annual Vitamin D and sea; busy, loud and too much.
I shook my
head every time I got news of another acquaintance or family member taking the
leap of retirement to Mossel Bay, or the surrounding areas of Hartenbos and
even Groot Break. Maybe I could understand finding peace and quiet after a few
decades on earth in smaller areas like Reebok or Tergniet, but the rest
smelling like sunscreen and holiday doof-doof music? No way. No thank you.
Goodbye. What did they see in these places?
Well in a nut – err – seashell, turns out
they saw everything.
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It took less than a day of exploring to
realise it is time to swallow my pride and preconceived assumptions and admit
that a few quick visits in the past – over the peak period – could not justify my
“no, thanks not for me”.
As I made my way through the town, and
especially the surrounding places from Albertinia to Ruitersbos, I got served
with a jelly bean variety of layers and flavours from the area; a pinch of
history, a scoop of nature, a dash of adventure, a few plates of good wholesome
food, a cup of they-know-their-stuff coffee and a dollop of surprises. The more
I explored, the more layers and flavours unfolded before my eyes and seeped
into my to do list for the next visit and Mossel Bay became the Pinterest
postcard epitome for Marcel Proust’s quote, “The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
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for everyone: WATCH: Mossel Bay has more
It is no lie, Mossel Bay really has more.
When you talk about Mossel Bay and take into account that seaside villages and
tiny dot towns like Herbertsdale, Friemersheim, Vleesbaai, Boggomsbaai,
Ruitersbos and Tergniet all for under the Mossel Bay municipality, a myriad of
experiences awaits; Mossel Bay is your oyster.
for the wildlife seekers:
Botlierskop Private Game
Reserve, on the foothills of the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains, is all about
luxury and home to lions, elephants, hippos as well as other game.
is open to day visitors and as a day visitor you can go on a 3 hour guided game
drive, a horse safari, a guided bush trail on foot, sit down for a meal and
relax in the Botlierskop Bush Spa.
For the Birdwatchers, reach for your
binoculars when visiting estuaries from the Blinde River at Dana Bay to Great
for the mountain bikers:
Pack your bicycles and
keep those wheels pumped, not only is Mossel Bay perfect to be explored on two
wheels, there are trails – from technical to family-friendly - at Eight Bells
Mountain Inn and Bonniedale Holiday Farm and you can ride through the vineyards
at Jakkalsvlei Private Cellar.
You can also go on a phat bike adventure on the
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for the backroad explorers:
Take the back road and
see where you end up. From Groot Brak head out towards Friemersheim and explore
what is called the Fragrance Route which, amongst others, includes a visit to a
protea farm and a Shweshwe Stop Project where you can purchase many shweshwe
pieces like the famous PROEbag, aprons and oven gloves made by women in the
Another backroad drive to take is from Botlierskop to Ruiterbos via a
dirt road and back to Mossel Bay via the R328; during this drive, apart from
the scenery, you can visit Outeniqua Moon, home to the biggest horses (Heavy
Draft Percheron Studs) in South Africa, Boerqi Bistro Farm Stall, a bonsai
nursery and Robinson Pass. The area of Herbertsdale (where Jakkalsvlei is
situated) and Albertinia also has lots of dirt roads for eager explorers.
for the off-road bundu bashers:
Farm is situated in Attaquaskloof (between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn) and forms
part of the historic ox wagon trail traversing from Heidelberg to De Vlugd
through multiple passes and nail-biting twists and turns; it takes 4 days to
complete in a 4x4, however, there are diversions if you want to do it in a 4x2
Day visitors are welcome if they just want to enjoy a short bundu-bash break and switch off in nature, have a braai and a swim in the dam.
overnight facilities, tent sites and permanent caravans are available. Signal
and electricity is a foreign concept here.
for the beach bums:
Blue Flag Beaches meet a
standard of excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness,
environmental information and environmental management and there are four blue
flag beaches - De Bakkes, Santos, Klein Brak and Hartenbos – just waiting for
your bum to hit the sand or the water.
Boat trips to Seal Island is a popular
activity and, if you want to travel by sea at the speed of light there are some
thrill rides that will have you at the edge of your seat. There is also a tidal
pool if you head towards The Point and another one, which is deeper, called
Blougat. Whether you want to go surfing, sailing, snorkeling or swimming, the
salty waters is your playground.
for the hikers:
If you are an avid hiker then you
better pack something sturdier than flip flops for beach days. There are off
the beaten path trails on Bonniedale Holiday and at Eight Bells Mountain Inn,
also in Robinson Pass and closer to Mossel Bay you can do the 13.5 km Cape St Blaize Hiking Trail or opt for something longer and do the Oystercatcher Trail,
a 4 or 5 night luxury accommodation overnight trail.
for the art lovers:
Groot Brak and Mossel Bay is
home to a number of art galleries, arts and crafts shops, a flea market and
unique scrap metal art (by Boshoff Botha) which features a 5m tall statue of
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for antique hunters:
If you have a nose for
antiques then come with an empty car and a full wallet because Mossel Bay must
hold some kind of record for the town with the most antique shops.
something different stop by Déjà vu Vintage House and Monroe Theatre for a high
tea (where you can dress up), or enjoy a screening of a yesteryear movie.
if beetles and kombis pique your interest, you’ll see something that resembles
a beetle graveyard on the R328 out of Hartenbos; in reality it is more of a
Beetle hospital and Beetle Odds and Ends repairs these classics and also offer
for something different:
Albertinia, known for its
production of aloe products and ochre mining, is just 50 km from Mossel Bay and
definitely worth a day trip or pit stop if you are travelling on the N2.
for aloe products, grab a bite to eat at Die Pienk Stoep, and visit Tuinplaas
where you can see the world’s largest knitted jersey in the colours and pattern
of the South African flag; it weighs 25 kg and took 250 balls of yarn to
complete and is holds the title of a Guinness World Record.
Albertinia is also
home to one of South Africa’s champion trees recognised by the Department of
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the wild fig tree is known as the
Whispering Tree and is one of the ten thickest trees in South Africa.
for the foodies:
If your taste buds are in for the
adventure then you are in for a surprise, whether you are a vegan, coffee snob,
budget eater or gourmet galloper.
Dine for 3 hours at De Vette Mossel on fresh
seafood prepared right in front of you, you will not walk out, you will swim
out. Munch on vegan, gluten free and meaty pizzas at Jackal on the Beach, for
paper-thin crust pizza head for the colourful Boerqi Bistro in Ruitersbos.
vegan at Stars Restaurant, Carola Ann’s and Botlierskop after a game drive, or
do a vegan (and non-vegan) high tea at Déjà vu Vintage House & Monroe
Theatre. Put on your fancy shoes and wine and dine at The Gannet, head for
Eight Bells Mountain Inn for a good ol’ fashioned Sunday lunch, have a braai
with your feet in the sand at Kaai 4 (without doing the actual braai) and a
boma breakfast or dinner experience at Portao Diaz Hotel (a hotel with a rich
history as it was the only hotel to accept black and coloured guests during the
years of Apartheid).
Experience a candy floss wine tasting at Jakkalsvlei,
visit a chocolatier in Groot Brak and have a coffeegasm at one of the many
local roasters such as Baruch’s Coffee and Stars Restaurant or do an
informative cupping session at Brothers Coffee. Whatever you do, just come
hungry. Very hungry.
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That was a mouthful of Mossel Bay and the truth
is, besides the restaurants, sights, stop and things to do, this is by no means
an exhaustive list… there is more to area than one can ever imagine.
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