Is Mossel Bay just another petrol-and-pie stop en route to your final destination? Or are you perhaps picturing it as an industrial town, a place too crowded?
I get where you are coming from. I thought the exact same; sometimes (or rather usually) I even skipped Mossel Bay as a pit stop and flirted with other Garden Route towns instead for a gulp of fuel and a sip of coffee.
But then the stars and the calamari aligned and I spent a few days in Mossel Bay and the town – as well as the surrounding areas – got me hook, line and sinker like a *galjoen chasing a mud prawn. And oh my snoek, was I wrong about this place. I felt bad and had to apologise (read here: Dear Mossel Bay & Kie) because Mossel Bay had everything I look for in a getaway; quirky coffee shops (with insightful behind-the-cup experiences), wildlife, no crowds, people with unique stories, views, affordable accommodation, back roads, dirt roads, smaller-than-small towns and interesting finds around unexpected corners.
As a matter of fact, the hook, line and sinker got me munching on that mud prawn so good that upon return from Mossel Bay I headed back to the town 48 hours later with an Isuzu X-rider; all that back-and-forth just because of a sign next to the road that piqued my interest and led me to an off-road experience on one of South Africa’s top 10 4×4 trails in Attaquaskloof.
And before I get to the what, where, how, who and when of Mossel Bay, have a look at the video – a summary of my experiences in the area (all within a 50 km radius from town).
I went to Mossel Bay and ended up at these places
Let’s talk about the things to do, sights to see, places to be and people to meet in Mossel Bay (as always, this is some of my own experiences and in no way an indication of the top spots or the only spots).
Make sure you pop into the offices of Mossel Bay Tourism (Market Street) and pick up a few brochures and maps; the maps are very handy if you want to experience the arty and the historic side of Mossel Bay on foot.
Visit oom Ernest Clark’s Bushveld Crafts (situated within a market featuring other artists as well) in Market Street (next to Mossel Bay Tourism), he is an incredible artist and source of information and blew my mind with the following fact: A whip doesn’t make a sound because it touches the ground or another part of the whip. A whip cracks because the little piece in the front travels between 1200 and 1700km/h and BREAKS the sound barrier! The speed it has to travel before it cracks depends on the temperature; when it is 15°C it is 1370 km/h.
Scrap metal art
Down by the old railway station of is a 5m tall statue of Nelson Mandela (in celebration of Madiba’s century) meticulously put together, piece by piece, by Boshoff Botha. Other sculptures made by Botha can be seen all around Mossel Bay, from an elephant to an ox wagon; the longer you stare at these statues the more nuts, bolts and other bits you see that turned an idea into a metal sculpture and into a masterpiece of note.
You can go gallery hopping and arts-and-crafts shopping to your heart’s content in Mossel Bay, park your car somewhere and explore the area on foot. Pop into the indoor flea market, The Goods Shed, Township Angels have various upcycled items and colourful paper-mache crafts and art classes are also available in Mossel Bay.
If you have a soft spot for antiques you have one of two options: save your moola for your Mossel Bay trip or, leave your wallet at home if you don’t trust your spending limit. You’ll be sure to find something, be it an old cupboard or a cookie tin. If your heart is after a true vintage experience, De Ja Vu Vintage House is for you (they also do a vintage high tea and screen old movies).
The Point and St. Blaize Lighthouse
No visit is complete without a trip to The Point, ducking and diving waves, getting an ice cream, having a staring contest with a dassie, admiring the Indian Ocean views and walking up to Cape St Blaize lighthouse, the only rock lighthouse on the South African coast which was built in 1864. RPRX – Real People, Real Experience – does aDawn Walk which starts at the cave at The Point and follows a short distance of the St. Blaize Hiking Trail; during the 2 hour tour you will be treated to a jaw-dropping sunrise, the unparalleled beauty of South Africa’s coastline and a historic stroll through town. Prices start from R180 per person.
Get a historic glimpse into the past of sea explorers who dropped their anchors in and around Mossel Bay; you can also board the Diaz Caravel (but don’t worry, you won’t get seasick). Back in the day Pedro de Ataide, Commander of a Cabral ships, put a message in a shoe and it is believed that seafarers communicated like that for years, the tree is known as the oldest “post office” in South Africa.
During my time in Mossel Bay I had the opportunity to spend a morning with Oceans Research and got a glimpse into their White Shark Populations Research which assesses and monitors the abundance and trends of white sharks in the region. They also play an important role in the community, educating young and old alike about plastic pollution (with regular beach clean-ups) and breaking down the JAWS stigma around sharks.
While I got to witness how they log a shark in, write down all the details from length to scarring with the goal to photograph the dorsal fin (it’s like a human’s fingerprint), boats such as the Sea-vu-Play and the Romonza circled around Seal Island which is home to more or less 4000 seals. Prices and length of boat trips differ from company to company but start at R170 per person.
Even though this train did not run during my visit, I did experience it a few years ago over peak season. If you find yourself in Mossel Bay or Hartenbos over December and January, give the holiday traffic a skip and climb aboard the Diaz Express.
I’m a weirdo, I would rather go for long walks in the forest than long walks on the beach but if you are in need of beach time, Mossel Bay’s De Bakke Beach – not too far from another favourite, Santos Beach – is a Blue Flag Beach. Towards The Point there is also a tidal pool and another one, which is deeper, called Blougat. If you want to have a different salty experience, you can go surfing, learn how to sail, snorkel, dive and go fishing.
Mossel Bay Restaurant suggestions
Kaai 4 if you want to have an informal restaurant experience, dig your feet into the sand, enjoy the ocean view and eat some of your braai favourites. Try the tomato, cheese and garlic roosterkoek (the garlic does the trick).
Café Gannet has been in Mossel Bay for nearly four decades already and is perfect for those special evenings and celebrations when you want to kick your flip flops out and slip into something a bit more elegant, order a cocktail and wine, dine and enjoy gourmet meals by candlelight. While the restaurant is known for local seafood specialties, the ostrich espatada proved they know their way around poultry as well. And bonus points for them, they can whip up a ginger square at the bar.
Stars Restaurant is situated next to Spar and is a definite favourite amongst locals; they have unbeatable specials, day-to-day prices are very affordable, they bake artisan bread and serve a great cup of coffee (Wow Coffee is roasted on-site) in a relaxed atmosphere (with plenty of plug points for those looking for a coffice). Try the coffee (of course) as well as the chicken, butternut, pesto salad.
Portao Diaz Hotel offers guests as well as non-guests an experience to remember in their Urban Boma. An evening in the Urban Boma combines authentic traditional African cuisine (a shisa nyama/braai on the fire in the boma), traditional games, African dancing and drumming performed by members from the local community. A dinner experience like this is R180 per person and if you prefer a buffet breakfast it is R85 per person (also cooked on an open fire but minus traditional performances).
I wrote a blog post about the coffee shops and coffee experiences in Mossel Bay. Click here to read about my time at The Blue Shed, Baruchs Coffee Roastery and Fearless Science of Coffee. This town definitely knows how to creep into a coffee lover’s heart.
Find a place to sleep in Mossel Bay
For the duration of my first stay I found a second home at Golf Inn Guesthouse, which is less than 2 km from town in a quiet residential neighbourhood. Golf Inn Guesthouse is perfect for business and pleasure; the rooms are spotless (the kind of spotless your mother always wanted your room to be) and the rate starts from R850 per room (for two) and includes a hearty home-made breakfast prepared by the owner herself. For more information, click here.
During my second visit I spent one night at Portao Diaz Hotel; this hotel was the only hotel to accept black and coloured guests during the year of Apartheid, and it is still carrying through that rich history to this day to make it the benchmark of South African living. With a dormitory, communal kitchen and basic rooms, affordability is the middle name of this hotel.
And in the meantime, go over to these blogs and read about what other bloggers experienced in Mossel Bay:
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Mossel Bay Tourism, all opinions – and lack of knowledge of whether galjoen really goes for mud prawn – are my own.