Tis the season for carols...
Spend a Day in: Hout Bay
Spend some time in the Republic of Hout Bay
Hout Bay, yet another seaside town, but what makes this place especially special? Do you want the short answer of the long answer? Short answer - it just is. Long answer - you will just have to read and see.
The Republic of Hout Bay, as the locals like to call it, has been nestled between two mountain peaks since the very early history of the Cape Colony. The need for infrastructure after the Dutch settled here in 1652 meant that the visitors were left searching for raw materials (timber); which they found at Constantia Nek. Hout Bay cropped up as a settlement for the timber industry and has since grown into a charming place to visit, with its own individual culture.
As with most places in Cape Town now, Hout Bay is connected to the rest of the Mother City via MyCiTi bus links, which has provided a hugely useful transport system to locals and visitors alike. Even better for tourists is the City Sightseeing buses, which also pass through Hout Bay, making a total of three stops. It also links up with the Purple Wine Tour through the Constantia Wine Valley. This is definitely important knowledge in our opinion.
There are a lot of places to get through in this tourism guide, so let’s get started where we always start - with breakfast! The morning meal often falls to the waste side if you get to work early, or you're a late sleeper, but one of the best things about weekends is being able to wander down to a local coffee shop and just watch the world go by with a delicious coffee in one hand and (preferably) a delicious pastry in the other.
When we talk about pastry, and that is where La Cuccina comes in. Their food selection every AM is mouth wateringly good and attracts residents from all over Hout Bay. On offer is a selection of pretty much everything you’d expect from a deli and restaurant specifically organic produce, fresh juices, ready-made meals (with a difference) and a scrumptious menu of classic dishes served with a little twist. Personal recommendation - Welsh rarebit (no rabbits involved, we promise).
If you are anything like me, you can only do savoury breakfasts for so long before you simply need a waffle or something sweet and delicious to help you face another day (depressing much?). Jokes aside, Ta Da! is possibly the greatest hidden gem that Hout Bay has to offer. Known to only a few locals, Ta Da! serves pancakes of every type, all of which are taste-shatteringly yummy. I’m a classic kind of girl, and I go for a classic kind of pancake; cinnamon sugar all the way baby.
The art of coffee was mastered by the Italians first, and Dario’s Cafe is the best place to get some caffeine in the Bay. Between the friendly staff and delicious food, it is no surprise that this place is hugely popular with the locals. You’ll be lucky to get a table on a Saturday morning, so why not wake up a little earlier, go for a stroll on the beach and stop off at Dario’s for something yummy!
Once you’ve broken your fast, you’ll be looking for a something to keep everyone entertained for a few hours, and Hout Bay has plenty to offer! Because this is ‘Spend a Day in’ we have divided the activities into morning and afternoon meaning you’ll be able to get to more than one!
First thing’s first, Chapman’s Peak. If you haven’t already heard of it, is a magnificent piece of human engineering and you need to add it to your bucket list. Chapman’s Peak Drive connects Hout Bay with Noordhoek and runs along pretty sharp cliffs. In winter, make sure you check their website for weather updates as they do not allow people through during periods of extreme wind and rain. You can either drive along the road and enjoy the views on your way to Noordhoek (or visa versa) or you can park before the toll gate and walk, enjoying the scenery for longer. It is also pretty popular in Cape Town to pack a picnic and find a comfy little spot overlooking the bay for a charming alfresco meal. There are also various hiking trails on the mountain, none of which you should ever attempt alone. In big groups, they are perfectly safe and provide truly stunning views of the area. If you get high enough, you can also see over the other side to Noordhoek and Long Beach. This is where your phone’s ‘panorama’ mode really comes into play!
Because you’re already in the harbour area after just having some delicious fish and chips, you should not leave before taking a Seal Island trip on the glass-bottomed boat. Seal Island is famous for two things - seals and sharks. Get a very unique chance to see these lovely mammals (the seals, that is) swim and play in the water near their favourite Cape hangout. If you’re lucky, you might just spot the watery shadow of a Great White Shark searching for his next meal - I wonder if anyone has told them how delicious the food in Hout Bay is? There is a charming local market at the dock station, selling all kinds of locally crafted goodies for you to keep and take home as a momento of your visit.
Next, and with use of the City Sightseeing bus, you can head over to the World of Birds This haven for birds of paradise (and monkeys) is the best way to get up close and personal with nature. It also doubles as a rehabilitation centre for local wildlife that need a little assistance. The World of Birds is incredibly popular, so it’s probably best that you go and check out why! Be on the lookout for birds overhead, even if they say that being pooped on is good luck.
With all that activity, you’ll be starving and it wouldn't be fair of us not to tell you a little more about our favourite places to grab some lunch!
The beachside institution that is Dunes Beach Restaurant provides amazing views of the ocean and a selection of delicious lunch items! This venue is also very popular for dinner and drinks because it has a lovely view of the sunset (at certain times of year). It is still a lovely place to have an ice cold beer and a bite to eat after a day of adventuring all over Hout Bay, or even just after a day sitting in the sun on Hout Bay beach. Their pizzas are delicious, and trust me, I know pizza.
Next on the list, and adding a bit of foreign cuisine, is Cheyne’s. This asian-fusion restaurant provides delectable treats from the East, with a special emphasis on seasonality. They are experts in ‘Pacific-Rim cuisine’ which (by their definition) “combines Pacific Island foods, Asian cooking techniques, local freshness, and a host of other cultural and culinary influences”. Sounds pretty enticing to us! They have seasonal specials, so make sure you ask your very friendly waiter what’s cooking that day!
If you like looking at the sea, and would prefer to be a little closer to the ocean, then why not consider giving Mariner’s Warf a visit? They specialise in seafood and have a menu that brings people back again and again to get a little more of their sensational food. Their fish and chips is delectable, so make sure you give that a taste!
If you love a good old fish and chips, you might also like to try Fish on the Rocks. This place really is a Hout Bay institution and has been staring resolute on the rocks jutting out into the sea for many years. Their bright yellow walls and sunny red roof mean that this place cannot be mistaken for anything other than the home of the best place to grab some fish and chips on the Atlantic Seaboard! This family run establishment has newspaper clippings and big news stories plastered on all the walls, and they pride themselves on friendly service and making you feel like part of the family.
Now that you’ve had some food and refuelled for the rest of the day, let’s dive straight back into stuff to do in Hout Bay!
Let’s return once again to the Big Red Bus (the City Sightseeing bus), and one of their most popular stops - the Imizamu Yethu township. This tour will take you into the heart of this vibrant area. Often associated with crime, Imizamu Yethu is home to people from all over Africa, and they have all come together and created a one-of-a-kind settlement on the slopes of the stunning Skoorsteenberg Mountain. You will be lead around the area by a very knowledgeable tour guide, who will be 100% clued up on which areas are safe, and more importantly, which are not. After you have finished on your tour, you can also walk the short distance to the Original T Bag Designs workshop where local women turn used tea bags into functional arts and crafts. This company gives women from the township the chance of employment and some security, in return for creating stunning treasures.
The Clay Cafe, my favourite place in Hout Bay, is totally unique. They recently moved to a new location; it’s bigger, newer and even has a playground for the little kiddies. At the Clay Cafe, you select an item you wish to paint, grab a few colours and let the artistic mindset move you. They have plenty of helpful guides on how to make your bowl/cup/plate/minion etc look perfect. These handcrafted treasures make amazing presents for a more personal gift and they also give you an opportunity to get creative. There will be an individual charge per item that you choose to paint, with an additional R35p/p for firing (in peak season they say you should have your item back in three weeks).
Your last activity, and it helpfully doubles into a place to have drinks and dinner, is the Bay Harbour Market. This vibey venue is nestled next to Fish on the Rocks on the very far side of Hout Bay. It was born out of a derelict factory, and has been drawing people in from the entire Cape Town area ever since! They’ve got it all; craft beer, biltong, jewellery, cakes, clothes, books, shoes, art and decor, and the also have live bands playing on Friday nights. Pay attention to their website for a more comprehensive list of which days they are actually open (it’s weekends only folks), but definitely worth a return visit if you're in Hout Bay during the week.
Before we jump into the best places to grab a cold one, we must first make special mention of IceDream. This authentic Italian gelato vendor is what dreams are made of. They use fresh and delicious produce in their ice creams and you can definitely taste it. They offer a range of classic flavours like rum and raisin, mint chocolate chip and creamy vanilla along with fruit infusions like granadilla, mango and even ginger! You have to taste it to believe it, so put this little hidden gem on your list!
Okay, so after a long day out, you’re going to need a drink (alcoholic or not). Below is our pick of the best and most interesting places to get a cold one in Hout Bay. Starting with The Workshop; Africa’s smallest pub. The Workshop is a hugely popular hangout for locals, and is certainly worth a visit. Just a heads up, an establishment doesn't get the title of ‘world’s smallest pub’ unless it’s tiny and believe me, this place is minute. More suited for a casual drink with a friend than a booze up with the boys, this drinker's paradise has plenty of alcohol to get you through a long work week.
If you have ever wondered what spending time in a quaint English pub is like, then the place for you is the relatively new Woodcutters Arms. It’s an olden-day sports bar in the heart of Hout Bay, with plenty of beers on tap and screens to watch the live broadcast. Whether it’s footie or the latest instalment of some kind of rugby clash, it’ll be on the screen at the Woodcutters Arms.
We’ve mentioned them before, but they are certainly worth another; Pakalolo. One of their expertly made cocktails are just the ticket on a hot day. Whether you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, or you prefer a good old fashioned mojito - you’ll leave Pakololo happy (and with a bit of a buzz, if you want to). It’s happy hour at Pakololo between 4pm and 6pm everyday, which is perfect for a pre-dinner drink or two.
Hout Bay is so big that there are dinner options that suit almost every taste. The kiddies will have the best choice of yummy dishes to choose from, and the adults will have the best choice of international cuisine. There are also options that suit a variety of budgets and wallet sizes; from family-friendly all the way to fine dining.
You have probably heard of La Colombe because of their amazing reputation and impressive success at the 2016 Eat Out Awards. They picked up an award for being one of the best restaurants in South Africa, second only to The Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill. They’re located on the Silvermist Wine Estate, towards the higher end of Hout Bay and their view (along with their food) is amazing. This place is booked up months in advance, so if you want to taste some of the best food that Cape Town has to offer, you’ll need to book well in advance!
If you’ve got kids, or fine dining really isn’t your scene, there is Posticino. This family-friendly Italian haven is the best place for pizza and pasta in Hout Bay. The staff members are hugely friendly, and the menu prices are very reasonable to say the least. The menu features classic Italian dishes along with some modern takes and new inventions. Their pasta selection is incredibly extensive (their menu features over 20 different pasta sauces, all available with whichever type of pasta you would like).
Article written by Charlotte Rogers.
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