My first encounter with Mossel Bay dates back to 2004. Driving back to Joburg from a festive family holiday in Cape Town, I decided I would head home via “another route”. This alternative route had Mossel Bay as the first stop as I ventured into the Garden Route of South Africa. My family hail from Durban so this part of the world was, at that point, relatively unknown to me.
Such are the ingredients for a successful road trip: last-minute planning and hitherto unexplored regions.
But, Mossel Bay did not make a big impact on me back in 2004. Perhaps my timing caused this state of affairs, allowing only for a late afternoon arrival and an early morning departure. Perhaps it was the very steep road I had to navigate to reach the B&B I had booked. Again, my fault as I was looking for spectacular views (which I received in overload).
However, such was my experience of Mossel Bay. The good-old-fashioned overnight stop.
Fast forward to 2021 and I find myself planning a trip with fellow travel writing friends Di Brown and Allison Foat to explore Mossel Bay. “Why?” I ask of these seasoned adventurers, followed by “what goes on in Mossel Bay?” Agreeing to put my rather staid viewpoints to one side, we started researching Mossel Bay. Let me tell you, what I found blew my mind.
So, allow me to play virtual tour guide for you, as we explore Mossel Bay.
Mossel Bay abounds with a variety of accommodation offerings, depending on your particular inclination. From caravan parks, of which I am not a huge fan thanks to too many childhood memories of frogs in tents, log cabins, B&Bs, self-catering options and even game lodges (yip – right there by the sea). They have it all.
Dibiki Hartenbos and Dibiki Riversdal offer a combination of caravan camping sites and more traditional accommodation. Riversdal has chalets and Hartenbos offers log cabins which made for a very welcome home on the third night of our sojourn through Mossel Bay. The balcony, with the ocean as its backdrop, was just what the doctor ordered as we sat back and shared travel adventures. If only for a while. Needless to say, the complimentary bottle of wine did not last very long that evening.
But nothing could have prepared me for the warm, heartfelt welcome and stay I received from Julie and her husband Nick at Julsies Home Guesthouse, just 16 kilometres from town in Kleinbrak Rivier. What once served as a family holiday home is today a guesthouse, but the family feel lives on. Being a fan of early morning sunrise shoots, Nick shared his knowledge of the area and I came away with stunning images.
One of the things I was to learn about Mossel Bay was the range of services on offer in this town. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the variety of self-catering accommodation options experienced. One evening saw us spend the night at Mosselbos Guesthouse, nestled against the rolling hills of the Grootbrak Rivier. This 12-bedroom palatial home is well appointed and ideal for large groups and families wanting to stay together under one roof. Another self-catering spot we spent the night at was the funky Kango 10, located in a small village in Hartenbos. The attention to detail in the finishes made for a stunning break in a space that I found very inspiring. The cheeseboard and sparkling wine on arrival was a great touch that instantly flicked the “at home” switch for me.
Not associating this region of South Africa with game drives and safari tents, my time spent at Garden Route Safari Camp was most pleasant. The luxury en-suite tent was pure indulgence and being on a game drive the following morning accompanied by the sound of the roaring ocean, still brings a smile to my face when I think about my time there. Guide Stephan was phenomenal, overflowing with passion for nature and a wealth of knowledge to compliment this, he shared insights into the bush-by-the-sea that had me transfixed.
Let me tell you, Mossel Bay’s food game is on-point! The variety is inspiring and requires more than just a one-night stopover to truly appreciate. Our first night saw us take in Carola Ann’s in downtown Mossel Bay. They aim to make food for life and from the response to my Facebook post about this eclectic eatery, I think they are hitting the mark. The décor had me shooting up a storm and a rather sizeable appetite, which fortunately my steak soon sorted out.
One cannot visit a seaside town and not have at least one fish and chips meal. Ruiterbosch Lodge did a fine job in this regard. Located 30 kilometres from Mossel Bay, in the Ruiterbosch Valley and at the foot of the Robinsons Pass, we spent a very pleasant afternoon at Ruiterbosch Lodge. A great family spot with a craft shop and an old VW Beetle planter for succulents, Ruiterbosch Lodge will soon play host to a butterfly sanctuary.
Mossel Bay also offers some unique speciality food offerings. From Vista do Mar (the only authentic Portuguese restaurant in town) to De Vette Mossel Grootbrak (one of the original seafood beach restaurants). Vista do Mar offers stunning views and is a great spot from which to observe life in Mossel Bay, while De Vette Mossel encourages you to take your shoes off and get copious amounts of sand between your toes. All of this as you experience 13 dishes over 7 courses, prepared on open fires. Just what Sundays were designed for!
I have a thing for beer. Offer me one and I’m generally there in a flash! Salty River Beerhouse, just 14 minutes from Mossel Bay in Kleinbrak Rivier, was great. I was told beforehand that they made the best pizza’s in town. I can now confirm this to be the case plus there is more than enough beer to choose from to accompany your pizza appeasement.
For a special dining experience, Salt and Copper Restaurant should be on your list. Whether it be lunch or dinner, this spot is popular amongst just about everyone. I tucked into the Botanist Pizza complete with smoked chicken, caramelised red onion and feta. Going around the table was a curry dish and a pork belly dish, all of which we decided to enjoy tapas-style straight from the heart of Hartenbos.
Whether you enjoy something marginally out of the ordinary or perhaps an activity that registers off the adrenaline charts, Mossel Bay has something for you. Fancy a four-day slack-packing trail along the beaches, dunes and cliffs of Mossel Bay? The Oystercatcher Trail has it in bucketloads. No need to carry your bags and provisions, as each night you return to luxury accommodation and meals. You just do the walking thing, together with expert guide Chris. You will be introduced to some of the most beautiful sections of coastline including Boggoms Bay and Fransmanshoek. If you share my love for photography, you will be even more in your element.
Looking to push the adrenaline factor? Try the longest over the ocean zipline in the world. Starting just above the Cape St Blaize lighthouse in Mossel Bay you glide for 1 100 meters and up to 80km/h over the ocean as you head for the point. During high tide, you may well receive a splattering of salty seawater as you scream your lungs out (as with most things in life, timing is everything). All in a day’s fun in Mossel Bay!
Perhaps you want something a little more low-key and family-friendly, but still exciting? Head over to Hartenbos where you will find Mossel Bay Quad Bikes. Owned and operated by Melvern, his ex-military persona soon gives way to a man passionate about nature and conservation in the region.
If your zip line outing has you wanting more aerial adventures, Mossel Bay Helicopters are on hand to assist. Owner and pilot Kobus Crous Snr is a legend in this field. Using his fleet of helicopters, he gets involved in game capturing, counting, search and rescue flights and firefighting – with a reputation that spans way beyond Mossel Bay. This was my first heli-flip with the door taken off and I loved it, allowing for an even more intimate connection with the whole experience. Mossel Bay is truly beautiful from the air.
Are you a culture vulture? You’ll find many such pursuits in Mossel Bay too. Our first day saw us stop in at Voelropersfontein to meet Tannie Marietjie. What a grand lady she was. As a veteran publisher here in South Africa, in her later years, Tannie Marietjie purchased a magnificent property in Albertinia (which once housed the mayor of the town) and converted it into a writers retreat and guesthouse. Her magnificent upstairs lounge and study is just the place to catch up on some outstanding writing, with glorious views of the gardens for inspiration. Located within her garden is a champion wild fig tree. This spectacular specimen, also known as the Whispering Tree (due to the sound the wind makes when blowing through its leaves) is over 200 years old and has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
For a genuine feel-good story, take a drive 35 kilometres inland from Mossel Bay and, at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains, you’ll discover the little village of Friemersheim. Founded as a mission station back in the 1860s, this quaint spot teems with friendly locals who take exceptional pride in their gardens. During the lockdown here in South Africa local artist Fourie Ackermann started painting wildlife murals on homes throughout the village. Use this link to explore the street art at your own pace. Be sure to allow for extra time to stop and chat to the friendly folks of Friemersheim, they love engaging.
Sampling the fruit of the vine in Mossel Bay couldn’t be easier. Boplaas Wines have a tasting room in Kleinbrak Rivier, just 14 kilometres from town. The Nel family, owners of Boplaas, first distilled brandy way back in 1880. In 1981 they started making wine and today have an impressive offering of wines, brandy and port on offer. And I’m not the only one who thinks so, Boplaas was awarded Best SA Producer at the 2019 Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards.
For wine tasting in a more rural setting, head on over to Jakkalsvlei Private Cellar. A 40-minute drive inland from Mossel Bay and with the Langeberg Mountains as a backdrop, this is a place of stunning beauty. Their wine pairing menu has seven different options, including a fudge and wine pairing and a prawns and wine pairing. Have you ever tried bamboo ash crusted prawns? No, well then you have to sign up for this pairing. I won’t tell you which varietal it was paired with, but it was paired to perfection.
If wine and whisky are not your poison, take yourself on a gin journey at Harmony Gin. Located in the same building as Salt and Copper Restaurant, owner Marlene Smuts is passionate about what she does. Sharing her extensive knowledge of the various ingredients used to craft her gins, Marlene also has some very interesting gin cocktails to offer you. The Captain Copper, which pays homage to Nona the copper still used in all Harmony Gin’s, is bright and shiny complete with copper ice. I particularly loved the Gin Float (yip, let your inner kid out for a while) with its gin-infused Turkish delight ice cream and topped off with a delightful pink meringue.
For some wholesome fun out of doors in the COVID-busting fresh air, stop off at Hart en Bosch Village Market. Just like the trendy weekend markets we have in all major South African cities, Mossel Bay now has one too. It’s an all-day affair with traditional market ware on offer, local craft beer and food, plus a blue train ride for the little ones (or the big ones who still act like little ones). As the sun sets it’s time for a movie at the drive-in on the same grounds. Keep a lookout for the line-up.
If all of the above still finds you looking for entertainment in Mossel Bay, here are three last suggestions from me:
- Alcare Aloe, located in Albertinia just outside Mossel Bay, is the house of Aloes. Their shop offers a range of products derived from the Aloe Ferox, renowned for its powerful properties. The restaurant offers light meals and great coffee.
- The Outeniqua Moon Guest Farm is home to the Heavy Draft Horse Foundation of South Africa. Visit for a day or stay overnight on this 100-hectare farm as you engage with and learn more about Heavy Draft Horses. Let founder Christine share her passion for these magnificent animals who are on the brink of extinction and are rarer than rhinos.
- Take a walking tour through Mossel Bay and connect with her history, plus a ghost or two if you opt for the Ghost Walk option.
Mossel Bay is 385 kilometres from Cape Town (just on a four-hour drive), along the N2 national road. Alternatively, it is 45 kilometres from George (a 35-minute drive). If you don’t live in the region, both Cape Town and George are easily accessible via most domestic and regional carriers.
Vineyard Car Hire ensured we could road trip to, and around, Mossel Bay in style. This independently-owned business has been around for 40 years and is based in Kenilworth in the heart of the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. Collecting the vehicle at Cape Town International Airport upon my arrival in Cape Town was an absolute breeze thanks to Vineyards’ personalised drop off service. No standing in long queues with the rest of your flight at the other car rental kiosks. Returning the vehicle at the airport was just as easy.
Thanks to Top Up Service Stations for helping out with fuel on our trip. This new network of nationwide service stations, currently covering the Western and Eastern Cape, has seven fuel sites. It’s great to see local guys supporting local tourism!
My first trip to Mossel Bay may have been uneventful in 2004, but my mind is most definitely changed in 2021. This town is certainly not the one-night stopover it has been for so many years. It deserves more of your time and, if given, will surprise you.
To answer the question I asked when planning “what goes on in Mossel Bay?” the answer is simple – a lot. Of very interesting things.
Now go and explore and tell me what you discovered in Mossel Bay.
The Travel Trio
Our travels around Mossel Bay were hosted and a very big thank you to all who worked with us to showcase exactly what Mossel Bay has to offer. As always, all views expressed above are my own. Special thanks to Mossel Bay Tourism and Garden Route Unexplored for assistance in fine-tuning our itinerary to ensure a great overview of what goes on in Mossel Bay.
I undertook this project together with Di Brown and Allison Foat. Together we are the Travel Trio, a little travel triumvirate of three energetic travel writers with skills ranging from photography to writing, social media content creation, blogging and public relations strategy. We are passionate about promoting local destinations throughout South Africa, as we did for Mossel Bay. Fancy working with us to boost the brilliance of your destination? Hit me up either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via DM on one of my social platforms. Let’s chat!