Think of this as a prequel to other Mossel Bay posts to follow. It’s also an expanded transcript of my recent Capetalk Radio interview with Pippa Hudson, a brisk chat about my week spent ferreting out lesser known destinations on the boulevards and back roads of the Baai.
SO WHAT’S ON THE WAY TO MOSSEL BAY?
The Garden Route
Getting to Mossel Bay is via the Garden Route, a bracing drive along the Cape’s southern coast that sweeps through some of the most glorious landscapes of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a showcase of abundant wildlife, forests, lakes and indigenous vegetation and a biodiversity hotspot so uniquely beautiful that it has been listed on UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Together with Mossel Bay, other towns populating this stunning thoroughfare are Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley and George. It’s an invigorating journey that opens a window onto one of most striking environments of the Province, and there are plenty of diversions on the way as you close the gap to Mossel Bay. I’ve highlighted a few ~
The Garden Route traverses the Hessequa region known for swathes of aloe plants, and Alcare Aloe does good custom with its specially formulated skincare ranges and wellness products made from the gel of the robust aloe leaf. Packaging is sexy and goods are displayed in a bright emporium next to their conveniently located coffee and curios shop. Don’t leave without ordering a flat white and a cheese-and-tomato toastie, obligatory road trip comfort grub.
On the edge of the Klein Karoo sits Albertinia, a tiny town of around 6,500 people with a reputation for solid platteland hospitality. There’s a surprising number of cool things for tourists to do in this lovely dorp like hikes and 4×4 trails, a 9 hole golf course and the Klein Begin Met Groot Genade tea garden, complete with a nursery, health shop, and two gentle rescue donkeys, Noag and Moses.
Across the road from Klein Begin is possibly the most famous staycation spot in this neck of the woods, a writers retreat-come-guest house called Voëlroepersfontein.
It’s a place that calls for a sojourn and proprietor Tannie Marietjie is a warm, genteel hostess. The garden is large enough to feel like a small park and in the middle of it, resembling something from Lord of the Rings, stands the star attraction – an ancient wild fig tree – affectionately nicknamed and widely known as The Whispering Tree -that proudly holds Champion Tree status.
(Note to campers and caravaners: if you’re looking to overnight en route to Albertinia, try Dibiki in nearby Riversdale, or if you’re in Mossel Bay there’s Dibiki in Hartenbos that also offers self catering in comfy wooden cabins).
Garden Route Game Lodge
Safaris are topping itineraries now more than ever as travellers yearn for nature and vast open spaces.
Garden Route Game Lodge offers stylish accommodation and has a menagerie of free-roaming wildlife like lion, white rhino, giraffe, elephant, buffalo and several species of antelope and smaller mammal species. Plus they recently announced the birth of their latest cheetah litter, six adorable cubs that born in February that have been seen out in the open more frequently since March.
WHAT TO DO IN MOSSEL BAY?
Mossel Bay’s activities buffet is impressive. As a destination with a consistently mild climate and 320 sunny days a year, outdoor plans are seldom interrupted.
Acquaint yourself with the harbour town’s backstory through a Ghost Walk, also undertaken at night, with guide Leon van der Walt. It’s a tight history lesson told mostly through Mossel Bay’s architectural heritage, giving the lowdown on how things looked in Bartholomeu Dias’s day and in the time of ox wagons and when people posted letters in old boots under trees. Many of the old buildings from the 1800’s still exist – old barns, municipal buildings, granaries and cottages – well restored and serving a new purpose today.
Ziplining, heli flips & quad biking
The longest over-ocean zipline in the world is here. Get clipped in on the cliffs above the Cape Saint Blaize lighthouse and careen down the 1,100m cable that comes to a halt at the Point Road base. It’s a thrill ride and even more fun when waves are so high that they slosh over your sneakers! Or so I’m told! 😄 🌊
A heli flip snags you a birds eye view over the ocean and the town, and inland across lagoons, ravines, rivers, farm land and rolling hills. It’s a must-do spoil.
Quad biking at Hart & Bosch Village in Hartenbos is the most fun you can have on four fat wheels and kudos to the conservation-conscious team who took great care to lay the bike tracks without damaging any indigenous foliage, and for the bat box initiative As owner Melvern says, “if it lives and breathes, we’ll protect it!” My kinda guy.
When you’re done with the ride, eat and browse the artisanal stalls at Hart & Bosch and catch a movie at the Drive-In on site.
Food, wine, beer and craft spirits
When it comes to feasting, drinking and the crafting of fine spirits, Mossel Bay will put a smile on many a connoisseur’s face.
For authentic Portuguese fare, try Vista Do Mar with its traditional menu and the best pasteis this side of Lisboa!
The gin coming out of Harmony Distillery at Hart and Bosch Village is first rate and hand crafted, laden with aromatic botanicals and best imbibed in the Copper Lounge. It’s a chic bar inbetween the pot stills on one side and Salt & Copper Restaurant on the other, a spacious destination eatery with an ever-evolving and broad menu, and a lovely outdoor area with a play area for kids.
Salty River Beerhouse at Klipheuwel Farm in Klein Brak serves up appetising nachos and thin-based pizzas that go oh-so-well with their craft beers.
The Boplaas tasting room right around the corner from Salty’s is famous for fine wine, single grain whisky, gin, brandy and champion ports, the latter named in 1992 as one of the top 150 wines in the world. No surprise there.
And what’s a trip to Mossel Bay without mussels? Get yourself to De Vette Mossel, the eclectic beachfront restaurant, kick off your shoes and feast on seafood platters and stews, made fresh in big potjie cauldrons right in front of you. One of the best sides is the warm homemade bread, sliced thick and good for mopping up sauce or simply enjoyed with lashings of butter and apricot jam. Banters will not prevail here 😂 !
EXPLORING OUTSIDE TOWN
From town, short road trips of between two and three hours open up the lesser known countryside that corrals Mossel Bay. Access couldn’t be easier, via three circle routes that lead to some incredible places.
A stay here is a therapeutic experience for anyone and especially for the animal-obsessed among us. There are Percheron-drawn carriage rides, miniature ponies that hang out on the stoep, a beloved wolfhound and a cat who, given half a chance, will annex your pillow and purr in your ear all night.
And of course, Shadowfax the magnificent lives here, a spirited stallion with a magical aura and at 1250kgs, the biggest Percheron ever bred in South Africa.
Ruiterbosch Lodge, just below Ruiterbos Valley, entices families with small children with its huge play zones, sprawling lawns, domesticated farm animals and a soon-to-be-launched butterfly farm.
From there, about a thirty minute drive hence, lies Friemersheim at the foot of the Outeniqua hills.
A mostly agricultural community of 1,200 live in the hamlet where many of the homes are prettified by incredible gardens. A more recent attraction is the wall art, a lockdown project initiated by Groot Brak artist Fourie Ackermann. The increase of tourists to see both gardens and the wildlife murals has been a welcome boost to micro businesses like the Shweshwe Stop, a store that sells a range of vibrant goods made by local ladies.
Hiking trails off the beaten path
About thirty minutes from Mossel Bay is Boggomsbaai where the world famous Oystercatcher Trail begins, a guided walking tour accomplished over two or four nights and easily managed by adults and little explorers alike. Returning each evening to a stylish abode as opposed camping outdoors is rather fabulous (for non-campers like me!) and is, aside from the spectacular environments, what sets this trail apart.
The walk is a ramble along rocky shores, dunes and beaches, through the Gourikwa Private Nature Reserve and to the Fransmanshoek Conservancy, a peninsula accessed from Vleesbaai via a dirt road and recognised by orange-tinted cliffs, striking rock formations, boardwalks, and a picturesque cove known as Stilbaaitjie. Take a detour along the R327 before heading back to Mossel Bay and stop at Jakkalsvlei, a stylish wine estate tucked in a valley, with a tasting room-come- daytime-eatery, offering excellent food and sensational views across the vineyards.
I’ve called this trip ‘Mossel Bay with the most’. For obvious reasons.
Until next time and bon voyage,
Each place visited adhered to Covid-19 protocols and took great care to protect guests at all times.
Additional accommodation suggestions:
About The Travel Trio:
This trip was enjoyed in very good company: myself with Ryan Enslin and Di Brown, #mylimeboots and #theroaminggiraffe respectively. In case you’re unaware, we have formed a little travel triumvirate – #thetraveltrio – three energetic individuals wearing photographer | blogger | journalist | PR hats, on a crusade to passionately promote local destinations throughout each province in South Africa. Hit us up via email@example.com or any of our social media platforms to book us and we’ll boost your destination beautifully!