A wonderful place to take a breather from your hectic schedule, Hout Bay is mid-seventies laid back.
Tourist or local, there is always the chance you might be stuck for something to do in Cape Town of an afternoon. Plans could fall through or the weather might ruin your carefully laid out itinerary.
Here’s a backup plan: Go have lunch at Hout Bay harbour.
It is a wonderful place. The town itself is a bit disjointed, but all in all, it is well worth a visit. Not having a wine route to speak of and without any major tourist attractions in the town itself, Hout Bay is a bit off the high-profile tourist radar. But it does have a magical quality.
The name comes from the dense forests that used to blanket the horse-shoe of mountains that cut the valley off from the rest of the Cape Peninsula. Hout Bay managed to hang on to its trees because the early timber merchants were thwarted from removing their bounty. The mountains stopped them going by land and the boggy soil of the valley prevented access to the sea.
Now for lunch.
Make your way to the harbour side of town and head for the Bistro Wharfette at the Mariner’s Wharf. The place is nowhere near as complicated as its name. In fact, absolute simplicity is one of its main attractions. Furnished with plank furniture usually found at picnic sites, it’s a first-come-first-served-self-service establishment. But a word of warning; the downstairs area is the self-service, nicely priced venue; upstairs houses a tourist priced, very nice, seafood restaurant. The experiences, while both pleasing, sit at different ends of the dining experience spectrum.
The relaxed atmosphere, the beach a few meters away and the happy mix of local folk and tourists from foreign shores and inland South Africa make Mariner’s Wharf the perfect spot to drop out of tourist mode if you’re travelling or out of local mode if you’re a local.
The food. Fresh fish and chips. Ever since the children were young, we have somehow landed up at Mariner’s Wharf on a regular basis. The tradition persists – as traditions will! The reason: after your first visit, you arrive knowing exactly what to expect, so disappointment isn’t a factor. If the service sucks, you have only yourself to blame and the food is always good. Apart from small price adjustments, the menu hasn’t changed much in the thirty years that the Mariner’s Wharf has been operating. The quality and value for money have always been great.
The prices: To give you an idea, the last visit, in December, cost the four of us a total of R300.00, or less than $30.00. That paid for three orders of Snoek and chips (Barracuda and fries in $ terms!) one order of Calamari and chips and a round of soft drinks.
The food has always come in more than adequate quantities. The take-away boxes are pretty much stuffed to capacity and once the average diner had made his or her way to the bottom of said box, a walk along the adjacent pier or nearby beach is a must.
Getting to Hout Bay is simplicity itself. From the city centre the easiest route is along the Atlantic seaboard. Going that way, you can’t miss Hout Bay as the road runs directly through it. Without turning off, you will end up at the harbour. But a far more scenic route is to take De Waal Drive or the Nelson Mandela Boulevard from the city to the M3. Take care to turn right after the Newlands Forest and head out passed Kirstenbosch Gardens. From here, it’s easy enough to follow your nose to Hout Bay and then work your way across the town to the harbour area. Take Atlantic seaboard route home and you’ll have the trip of a life time.
The scenery alone, even on a rainy day, makes the trip well worth while. It’s beyond breathtaking – right up there with the best the planet has to offer.
Enjoy the trip; enjoy the meal.