Journeys to the Past


Mossel Bay`s history dates back 162 000 years and the Town offers many opportunities for journeys to the past. Explore this page for all things historic with many museums and chances to expedience our origins.

Journey 1 | Point of Human Origin

162 000 years ago, the coolest home was a seaside cave outside Mossel Bay. The remains inside the Pinnacle Point grottos bear witness to what countless of generations thereafter have found to be true: few things beat a seaside holiday!
The Point of Human Origins caves boast not only a spectacular view, but are also so archeologically important as they have literally changed the way science contemplates mankind’s beginnings. Until the first cave was discovered in 1997, it was believed our ancestors first displayed ‘modern human behaviour’ – such as making tools with intricate stone blades and points, which represent major development in mental capacity – in Europe about 50 000 years ago. Evidence at Pinnacle proves such behaviour in fact dates back as far as 160 000 years – which in effect proves Mossel Bay is the birthplace of culture and advanced technology!

To find out more about what this means, and visit the cave where it all began, enjoy the Point of Human Origins Experience with one of its discoverers, archaeologist Dr. Peter Nilssen.  | Point of Human Origins

All humans alive today are descendants of a small, core population of perhaps only a few hundred individuals who survived an ice age by taking refuge here in South Africa more than 160,000 years ago.

  • How did they do this? What can we learn from them that will take us into an uncertain future of climate change and dwindling resources?
  • What can we learn about how we interact with our world?
  • What can we learn about ourselves as a species? About the similarities that bind us all?

Mossel Bay’s Point Discovery Centre – a planned multi-purpose building right next door to the site of South Africa’s first scientific archaeological excavations – hopes to answer these questions. And more.

OPENING DECEMBER 2018 | Point Discovery Centre 


Journey 2 | The first Europeans

Stone Age humans weren’t the only ones who thought Mossel Bay a treat. When intrepid Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias and his crew landed here by accident in 1488 (he was aiming for Cape Point but missed it due to bad weather), he discovered a spring and named it “Aguada de São Bras” (watering place of St Blaize), traded a little with the locals and then went home to tell (considered the first economic transaction in South Africa), others about his adventures.
In 1501, another Portuguese navigator, Pedro d’Ataide, sought shelter in Mossel Bay after losing much of his fleet in a storm. He left an account of the disaster, hidden in an old shoe suspended from a Milkwood tree, to his explorer buddy João da Nova, who found it. For decades thereafter, the tree served as a ‘post office’ (considered South Africa`s first post . office)In the letter Da Nova received was a timely warning of problems near Calcutta, for which he was so grateful that he built a small stone hermitage to be used for religious purposes – the . Today a cross stands where it is thought the chapel or first religious building in South Africahermitage was built.
Take a step back in time and post a letter from the tree, find the spring and explore the replica caravel (ship) at the Dias Museum Complex


Journey 3 | The Great Trek

The ATKV-Hartenbos Museum of the Great Trek documents the Voortrekkers – the Boers (Dutch farmers) who famously moved en-masse from the Cape in 1838 in search of land away from the stranglehold of Colonial rule. The Voortrekkers took everything they had, including cattle, oxen, furniture and horses – and moved over mountains and over rivers to new places of settlement.

The Museum commemorates the Symbolic Ox Wagon Trek of 1938 – the re-enactment of the event that took place in its centenary year. The ATKV Hartenbos Museum boasts a fine collection of historical artifacts, including ox wagons, weapons, household implements and clothing etc Preparing for the Great Trek:

• Outspan (camping and relaxing) at the end of a day`s journey: 
• Repairing the ox wagons; 
• Building a laager (the traditional camp in which the wagons were drawn onto a circle for protection against attack); 
• How the Boers relaxed during the Great Trek; 
• Daily activities (baking bread, candle making); 
• Settling in after the journey (featuring family worship in a Boer homestead); and 
• The Voortrekkers’ Freedom struggle.

The museum also documents the history of Hartenbos.


Journey 4 | The Dutch made it Home 

The Dutch arrived in the 1700s and turned Mossel Bay into a major port that remains active to this day. The first European building in town, the Granary, now houses the largest shell collection in the country, while stonemasons who emigrated from Cornwall in the late 19th century built the many beautiful stone buildings that can be found in the old quarter of Mossel Bay.

Collect or download our Mossel Bay on Foot brochure and re-trace the steps of our pioneers.


Journey 5 | Lighting the Way

Cape St Blaize Lighthouse, built in 1864, is the only lighthouse open to the public in the. The keeper will take you on a tour and, if you are not afraid to climb to the Southern Capetop, the view is breath-taking. Access is via Montagu Street Monday to Friday 10am-3pm. 


Journey 6 | Don’t forget the British

No former British colony would be without a very British building and first-time visitors to Santos Beach may be forgiven for thinking they are in Brighton in England. The twin of this world famous silver domed Victorian beach pavilion was built in 1906. While it may no longer attract royalty like the Prince of Wales, who visited in 1925, the impressive structure, which houses a restaurant, is worth at least a photo in your album. 
Jackal on the Beach 


Journey 7 | Great Brak River 

Visit the Great Brak River Museum for a great tour of the history of Great Brak River dating back to 1839

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