Mossel Bay
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 34 10.976 E 022 09.049 pop. 80,000 | elevation 31 m/102 ft

Mossel Bay has been a traveler hot spot for centuries – the first contact between Southern Africans and Europeans occurred on Santos Beach in 1488. But since the opening of a large oil refinery in the '80s, tourism in Mossel Bay has been down at the heels. If you ignore the industrial sprawl on the edges of the city, it's easy to appreciate the beautiful architecture, unhurried warmth and rough-and-tumble lifestyle that attracts fishermen, bikers and South African families alike. But the wide and sandy swaths of swimming and surfing beaches that pepper the coastline are reason enough to pay the town a visit.

Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex

Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex encompasses historical landmarks and museums in one complex overlooking the beach. It was here that Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias first landed his ship in 1488 and subsequent travelers anchored to gather water and trade with the local Khoi population. In the pleasant walk around the Ethno-botanical Garden and Braille Trail, you can learn about the historic and homeopathic uses of South African plants, or venture towards the beach to view replicas of early Mossel Bay cottages and visit the Mecca-facing graves of early Muslim residents.

The Post Office Tree is the site where Portuguese captain Pedro de Ataide famously left a letter in a shoe under a large tree to document the ordeal he and his shipmates suffered during a bad storm on their voyage. A year later, the letter was found by another Portuguese sailor and thus the first post office in South Africa was born. Today the site itself it not much to write home about, but if you must, you can post your letter in the stone boot after you obtain the proper postage down the street.


Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum is home to a full-size replica of the original Bartolomeu Dias caravel. The venture was jointly commissioned by the South African and Portuguese governments in 1988 to mark the 500-year anniversary of the first Portuguese landing. The replica was sailed down from Portugal, following Dias's original route, before being pulled ashore and into the heart of the museum. You can board the ship for an extra R15. While the ship's presence may steal the show, the exhibits of Portuguese early nautical technology and exploration are overflowing with information and the collection of early cartography is great for map nerds. Upstairs is also a motley collection of Mossel Bay antiques and artifacts.


Shell Museum & Aquarium

Shell Museum & Aquarium is a lot of fun for kids. There are multiple aquariums and a touch tank that allows you to feel sea anemones or pick up hermit crabs. And all the information about shells that you never knew you didn't know.


Cape St Blaize Lighthouse

Cape St Blaize Lighthouse offers spectacular ocean views from the top of the 1864 lighthouse tower. Just below the lighthouse is Cape St Blaize Cave, a staggeringly large cavern that faces the sea. Indigenous people in the area have used the cave for 160,000 years.


White Shark Africa

White Shark Africa offers cage diving trips that include a light breakfast before departing and three to four hours on the boat along with lunch. The boat departs from the harbor and heads to Seal Island about 5 km away where sharks are common.


Romonza Boat Trips

Romonza Boat Trips does trips to Seal Island (year-round, 1hr, adult R110, child R55) where you can see the colony of 3,000 Cap Fur seals, and whale watching (July-Oct, 1.5-3hrs, adult R580, child R300) with guaranteed sightings, and sunset cruises (Nov-Apr, 2hrs adult R190, child R90).


Skydive Mossel Bay

Skydive Mossel Bay offers tandem jumps at 10,000 feet above sea level. With a 40-second 250-km/hr fall followed by a gradual descent and beach landing.


Deepsea Adventures

Deepsea Adventures is an established deep sea fishing operator that offers chartered day trips on their fully rigged, 8-meter boat.


Electrodive

Electrodive offers shore-based and boat dive trips to the Santos shipwreck and to a number of area reefs. They also offer diving certification courses and gear and equipment sales and rental. Prices vary depending on the type of excursion you're interested in, so stop by their office to check out the array of trips they offer and get specific pricing.


Déjávu Vintage House

Déjávu Vintage House is a great find for vintage and antique lovers, as the house has two floors of clothing and curios for sale. The attic is also used as an impromptu tearoom and ladies can rent hats and gowns of yesteryear so as to nibble on scones in proper form. The shop also screens old movies twice a month.


Mossel Bay Craft Art

Mossel Bay Craft Art is a maze of studios for local artisans who sell their wares as they work. Don't mistake this for a glorified street market - these are serious artists who also teach classes on their crafts.


Bayside Center

Bayside Center is a collection of smaller shops with a Pick 'n Pay, Internet, and Nedbank and Standard Bank ATM.


Langeberg Mall

Langeberg Mall is 6 km from town and your best bet if you're looking for one-stop shopping.


Budget

Mossel Bay Backpackers

Mossel Bay Backpackers is a lively backpacker favorite with a large lounge room, full bar, braai and patio. The friendly staff will ensure that you enjoy your stay and can book all sorts of area activities, tours and extreme sports.


Santos Express

Santos Express is exactly what you've been looking for if you've always dreamed of sleeping on a train on the beach. Though the standard compartments don't offer much elbowroom, you can hear the crashing of the waves through your window, roll out of your bunk in the morning and go for a swim. The caboose is a much more spacious, if expensive, option.


Park House Lodge

Park House Lodge is a backpackers and guesthouse built inside the rambling manor house of a Victorianera ostrich baron. Both dorms and various-sized en suite rooms are clean, tasteful and furnished with antiques. Outside, there's a plenitude of hammocks, cozy garden nooks and a fire pit where the owner's son conducts drum circles upon request.


De Bakke Caravan Park

De Bakke Caravan Park is the best of the city's caravan parks. Located right next to Santos Beach, it offers impressive views across the bay. Seafront camping is slightly more expensive than the back row, but well worth it. They also have one- to three-bedroom self-catering chalets.


Mid-range

B@Home Guest House

B@Home Guest House is a pleasant five-bedroom guesthouse situated 150 meters from the beach. Rooms are spacious with dark hardwood furniture and good-sized bathrooms, TV and AC. There is also a large living room with full window views of the ocean where you can whale watch from the couch.


Huijs te Marquette

Huijs te Marquette is a small clean and traditional guesthouse in the center of town. The common areas have small atriums where hummingbirds come to feed regularly and rooms surround a nicely landscaped pool area.


Green Door Guest House

Green Door Guest House is centrally located on Marsh Street in a heritage building with original architectural details. Guests can nab a sundowner from the cocktail bar to drink on the deck overlooking the ocean. Rooms span the spectrum of dorms to family-sized second-story rooms with private balconies overlooking the ocean.


Top-end

The Point Hotel

The Point Hotel is reputed to be one of the best hotels in town, presumably for the magnificent location rather than the standard rooms. Wake up to surf crashing just below your balcony and swim laps in the tide pools during high tide, but avoid the first-floor rooms, which open out to a view of the rock face instead of open sea. The Point also has an upscale restaurant and bar attached.


Café Gannet

Café Gannet is without a doubt the best restaurant in town. Its chic decor, airy patio and harbor views are complemented well by the fusion of Mediterranean and African flavors on the menu. It's stylish without being stuffy and has deliciously creative food.


Jazzbury's Restaurant

Jazzbury's Restaurant is a quaint restaurant with just over a dozen candlelit tables in three rooms. The food is a modern interpretation of traditional South African cuisine. Its house specialty, the ostrich fillet, is delicious and they have a decent selection of potjies and fresh seafood.


Delfino's Restaurant

Delfino's Restaurant is standard Italian fare with beachside dining and an incredible view of the ocean. Walk right through the pizza joint's bland front dining room to the chic lounge area in the back, where sand-covered floors and weathered antiques add romance to the wads of cheddar cheese that most everything is covered with.


King Fisher Seafood Restaurant

King Fisher Seafood Restaurant is upstairs from Delfino's and by the same owner. It serves up large portions of fish and shellfish and has a gorgeous view of the ocean from its wide balcony. You can often see seals playing in the waves below.


Fynbos Coffee Shoppe

Fynbos Coffee Shoppe serves breakfast and lunch in a beautiful Victorian sunroom and backyard. The fussy tearoom vibe isn't for everyone, but the simply prepared fare and baked goods are a welcome change from Mossel Bay's plethora of fried food. Next door is Fynbos Shoppe, a catacomb of gifts and home décor.


Pavilion

Pavilion was closed for remodeling after a recent interior fire when we stopped by, but is a popular spot located right on the beach.


Café Havana

Café Havana is decked out with photos of Che and does a decent job of putting together the Havana look in Mossel Bay. The food won't inspire a revolution, but the solid variety of mostly fried appetizers, such as lemon garlic chicken strips or onion rings and steaks can solidly pave your stomach for a night of raucous drinking. Upstairs is the Havana cocktail bar, with a good selection of drinks and cheap flavored cigars.


Patrick's Pub & Restaurant

Patrick's Pub & Restaurant is an Irish pub that has been a Mossel Bay institution for many years. Recently under new management, this place pulls in a hearty festive crowd of locals, bikers and tourists most days of the week. They also are a restaurant that serves pub grub and steak.


Carouse Dance Club

Carouse Dance Club is the only dance club in town and the place to be on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. But catch it on any other night of the week and it's just a few guys playing pool and more people in the DJ booth than on the dance floor.


Trawlers Action Pub

Trawlers Action Pub is not looking to impress but is a popular place with locals, bikers and "action seekers" passing through. You can watch Mossel Bay go by as you quench your thirst from picnic tables on the deck. They also serve some fried pub fare.