At Stone Fish Studio, owner and artist Dianne Heesom-Green showcases local talent. // © 2016 Steven Bereznai
Feature image (above): Sea Shack offers eco-friendly cabins on the beach. // © 2016 Steven Bereznai
When people in South Africa want to escape Cape Town, they usually head east to the temperate waters of the Indian Ocean. But about 90 miles northwest, the waves of another massive body of water meet the shores of a surprisingly undervisited beachside village on the Atlantic.
Paternoster is on the farthest point of the Western Cape peninsula between historic Saldanha and St. Helena Bay, where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama first landed in South Africa in 1497. Today, many Portuguese descendants continue to fish both recreationally and commercially in Paternoster Bay.
Visitors will need a car to make the 90-minute drive from Cape Town to Paternoster. Options include getting a rental car, taking a taxi or using a company such as Escape to the Cape, which also offers tours along the Cape Peninsula and Winelands. But once clients enter the hamlet of just about 2,000 permanent residents, the easiest way for them to see Paternoster is by foot.
Adventurers can paddleboard or rent a kayak to visit the colony of African penguins nearby. There’s also great whale watching, as well as a huge range of plant species and wildlife, such as roebuck, porcupines, honey badgers, meerkats, flamingos and pelicans. Paternoster’s incredible biodiversity also makes it an ideal location for birdwatching, as many nesting seabirds and colonies of endangered bird species make their homes along the shoreline’s rocky outcrops.
There’s creative inspiration to be found in Paternoster, too. Cape Columbine lighthouse, the last manned land-based lighthouse in South Africa, has stellar views of the pristine coastline, and it’s often a backdrop for photos and plein-air paintings. At Stone Fish Studio and Gallery, meanwhile, guests of all ages are invited to browse works by local artists, take a ceramics class or just drop by and learn more about the history and community of Paternoster.
Some visitors will want to stay more than a day to appreciate the destination’s range of activities and tranquil environment. Sea Shack is an eco-friendly campsite with simple but charming one-room cabins right on the beach. Offering a more luxurious vibe, Abalone House & Spa is operated by South of Africa, a hotel group with 17 properties in Limpopo and the Western Cape. Here, guests can relax in a rooftop Jacuzzi; dine in the hotel’s restaurant, Reuben’s; or eat freshly caught seafood such as sardines, crawfish and mussels at Gaaitjie, an eatery located in a homey, 70-year-old structure with a serene view of the ocean at sunset.
Most of the town of Paternoster is closed in July, and in December and January, it gets windy. But between the Jazz on the Rocks festival in February and the blankets of multicolored daisies blooming through October, there’s almost always something going on, which is why it’s always been a choice getaway destination for Capetonians. Visitors to Cape Town are only now discovering what’s been making this hidden hideaway such a well-kept secret.