Picture an old fishing seaside suburb with lush green forests towered over by the beautiful Cape mountains and only 25 Km’s from the city centre, and that just about summarises Hout Bay for anyone who hasn’t been there.
It can be hard for anyone to imagine that the lights of the city are merely 20 minutes away when enjoying the cold Atlantic wind blowing through the wooded area around Hout Bay on a dark night. Not just pretty, this place has much to offer locals and visitors alike today with an interesting history.
The Name Hout Bay was given to the area in 1652 by the first Dutch governor, a man called Jan van Riebeeck. This is also the year the Cape was first settled by the Dutch, on their way to India. The name directly translates to “Wood Bay” and it is evident by the lush green forests that are still dotted around today.
The timber of the Yellowwood trees was much sought after for ship building and expanding the Dutch presence in the Cape at the time. Some of this wood was even used in the building of the Castle of Good Hope which still stands in the city today.
The first farm named Kronendal was established in the 1670s and the main house still stands, a beautiful example of Cape Dutch architecture with snow-white gables.
Another important factor for the use of the area was fishing. The first fishing village was built here in 1867 by a German settler named Jacob Trautmann. Today when visiting Hout Bay harbour, fishing is still happening. A trip to Mariner’s Wharf fisheries is a no brainer for any visitor, with great views of the harbour and fish and chips that have stood the test of time.
Hout Bay locals came up with an ingenious plan to attract visitors in the 1980s, they called themselves a republic, and even made their own passport for fun. This somewhat interesting idea actually worked and many visitors started to flock to the seaside area and helped create the tourist area we know today as the Wharf and surrounding shops. The signs welcoming you to this beautiful place always remind you that you are still entering the “Republic of Hout Bay” today.
The large informal settlement which is very prominent when driving through Hout Bay is called Imizamo Yethu which means “Our Efforts”. With fires burning through the Cape fynbos often, this place has seen many disasters over the years. It is an important part of any visit to South Africa to go on a Township tour.
These tours offer the visitor an insider view into places they probably would not visit on their own, and to see how most of South Africa lives. These tours often have walking and driving options, and there’s always so much to see, do and eat with a helpful local guide. We would say no trip to this beautiful country is complete without a township tour.
Hout Bay has much to offer. A well-known bird park, a castle and the beach are just a few of the most popular attractions. The Lichtenstein Castle is a replica of the Gothic Schloss Lichtenstein Castle in southern Germany and is available for weddings and even an overnighter. This is a unique setting with African mountains and a gothic Castle which offers something different for travellers and locals.
As with most places around Cape town, hikes form a massive part of things to do on a sunny day. Hout Bay corner is one of the most popular hikes and can be completed in under 2 hours. The beach is also on the top of most people’s lists and is well worth a visit.
The most popular place to visit for locals is the Hout Bay market. Food, drinks, live music and interesting people are always on show at this cool local market. We love the food there most and often spend a Sunday sipping a nice cocktail or beer while enjoying some great local food.