“You can’t choose Paternoster, it chooses you. But when it calls your name, you’ll know it for sure.”
Paternoster is a place for quiet contemplation. Relaxation comes easily here yet leaving is the hardest part. It is a town reminiscent of yesteryear and still steeped in history. Its deserted eight-kilometre stretch of white sand beach speaks of paradise that merges with fynbos. Its white-washed fisherman cottages fringe its bay, which one could quite easily mistake as a slice of Greece.
Legend has it, that Paternoster got its name as a result of a Portuguese fishing vessel that had become shipwrecked along that stretch of the coast. To pay thanks for their deliverance from a potential watery grave, survivors said ‘the Paternoster’. Which, when translated from Latin to English means ‘Our Father’.
Here, you will appreciate the smiling fisherman that head to sea each morning in colourful self-made boats. They dip their fishing rods into the freezing Atlantic to fish for red rock lobsters that the area has become famed for internationally. In fact, locals refer to this type of lobster as ‘Red Gold’, and despite its massive export, it is not uncommon to see locals selling these to visitors from the comfort of their boats.
At the end of the day, sip on Three Sisters wine that is local to the area and admire the sky turning from pink to gold. Take a stroll on the beach leaving only footprints behind with the setting sun.
Paternoster, still to this day, is the historical centre of the lobster industry. It generates millions each year with their international fish exports, specifically to France.
Interestingly, the West Coast lobster industry, as well as Redro, South Africa’s famous fish paste, originated from here. Other fish common to the area include oysters, pilchards, mussels, snoek and herring.
What not to miss
1. Cape Columbine Reserve
The Cape Columbine Reserve sits five kilometres away from Paternoster on a massive outcrop of rock known as Castle Rock. It covers an area of 263 hectares and is home to the famous Tietiesbaai, one of the West Coast’s most beautiful beaches, especially during sunset.
Its undeniable sense of tranquillity just draws you in, and you can fully appreciate its unspoiled wilderness and untouched beauty.
It is not just its scenery, incredible hiking trails and unforgettable sunsets that draws people here. Instead, campers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life flock here to appreciate its camping on offer amongst giant rock boulders that line its coastline.
Its lack of electricity gives it a laidback romantic charm and you can appreciate its oneness with nature while admiring the dolphins and whales that grace these waters.
2. Cape Columbine Lighthouse
The Cape Columbine lighthouse was the last manned lighthouse to be built in South Africa in 1936. It got its name from the British wooden ship ‘Columbine’ which had been shipwrecked a kilometre or two north of Castle Rock, where the lighthouse stands. Still, to this day, it is manned by a lighthouse keeper.
Its light flashes once every 15 seconds and is unlike any other of South Africa’s lighthouses. The 15-million candlepower beam can be seen from 50 kilometres away and is usually the first South African lighthouse seen by ships coming in from Europe and South America.
What’s more, is that the light weighs more than a ton. It was lifted up manually with ropes and it still floats there in a mercury bath to minimise wear and tear.
Its design is also somewhat different from the anticipated cylindrical design of most lighthouses. It is a slightly tapered square tower and the outer faces of the walls are recessed, forming buttresses on all four corners.
Climb its 97 spiral steps to the top and enjoy incredible views of the windswept Atlantic coastline and the Britannia reef.
3. Spring flower season
Be sure not to miss the region’s flower season. For 10 months of the year, the West Coast sees very little colour, however, the onset of spring brings about a colourful carpet of the Namaqualand wildflowers that paints its brownfields. It is not uncommon to see shades of yellow, orange and red from July to October each year.
4. Kayaking and other activities
Paternoster is rated as one of the finest sea kayaking locations in South Africa for its dramatic scenery.
Guided tours launch daily from the Crayfish Wharf (Cnr St Augustine and Kreefte Street) and are best enjoyed in the early mornings when there is the least amount of wind. Anyone from the age of nine and up is welcomed to explore this picturesque scene amidst the local fishermen getting ready to pull their boats to shore.
If you are lucky, you can spot penguins, dolphins, seals and whales that are regular visitors to the bay.
Other activities you can enjoy here include windsurfing, horse riding on the beach and climbing aboard a beach buggy to race along the sand dunes.
Paternoster has a Mediterranean climate which makes it a great all-year-round destination.
It has infrequent rainfall, high offshore winds and dry countryside during the summer months. Rainfall usually occurs more in the winter and, ironically, during these months the sea temperatures are actually drastically warmer. Winter also brings about amazing swells, making it the perfect season for those surf lovers.
Where to eat
Enjoy delicious fresh crayfish and traditional local dishes at any of the little artesian restaurants that surround the main Paternoster beach.
Foodies from all over the world come to enjoy the unique flavour and food combinations found at Oep ve Eet. This unassuming rustic restaurant speaks volumes of its owner Kobus van der Merwe, the previous editor of Eat Out. Traditional dishes like chicken pie, ravioli and tagliatelle, receive a delicious twist with ingredients such as bokkoms, quince, and dune spinach. Homemade springbok sausage rests on a bed of butter bean mash and bruschetta is served with bokkom tapenade.
A sign that declares it sells “West Coast Viagra” is the first indication that the Noisy Oyster is like no other restaurant. Dishes on the menu are listed under headings like “Foreplay” and “Intercourse” and offer all sorts of seafood temptations. Oysters are served here with a presentation so tantalizing, you barely miss the pearl.
SkatKis (Treasure Chest) is a more elegant restaurant at the Paternoster lodge. Here you will find a menu consisting mostly of seafood dishes and West Coast traditional dishes, and a very unique milk dessert.
Where to stay
The area has a number of excellent bed and breakfasts, as well as two great hotels but it’s in the self-catering category that you are really spoilt for choice. Although there are over 170 properties listed on our website, here are our 5 favourites.
1) As it is in Heaven
As it is in Heaven is situated on Paternoster’s quietest stretch of beach. The views from here will take your breath away. Aside from its location, the house offers a rare benefit: the six en-suite bedrooms are not only fairly similar in size but all, bar one, share the same lovely sea view, so divvying up bedrooms within the family or group of friends is very easy.
It also offers an open-plan kitchen, dining, living area as well as a terrace with plunge pool.
2) Ceol Na Mara
Ceol Na Mara, Irish for “Music of the Waves” can accommodate up to six guests and is situated right on Voorstrandt beach. Its kitchen, dining room and lounge open plan area lead you out into a small garden where you can enjoy the best sunset views of the Atlantic.
3) Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel
The Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel is tucked away on a secluded section of Mosselbank beach. The owners ensured its tranquillity by purchasing a further three kilometres of the coast to protect the untrammelled views that future developments could possibly spoil.
It is supremely elegant and its ambience is almost preternaturally soothing. Despite that fact that only five of the 14 available bedrooms enjoy fabulous beach and ocean views, its courtyard rooms are just as pleasing. Each room comes with a private courtyard and water feature.
The spa treatments, an enormous swimming pool and the food served here will not disappoint you.
4) Paternoster Hotel
The Paternoster Hotel offers a unique historical charm. The original building was built in 1863 by the Paternoster community with limestone from that area. In those days it was used as a local gathering place with shops and a holding cell. The dining room was used for dances and church services and the open area of the function hall was used by local farmers to store their harvest.
In 1940 it was converted into a hotel and still standing as such. It comprises ten rooms and one self-catering house. The elegant rooms feature en-suite bathrooms and the house features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, a lounge with DStv and a fireplace and braai area.
The section of the hotel that once served as a holding cell, has been converted into yet another interestingly themed restaurant and bar. It is called The Panty Bar. When you visit, pay attention to the growing collection of underwear left behind by all the honeymoon couples who have visited over the years.
This should merely hint at the locals living here having a strong sense of humour.
5) Paternoster Dunes
The Paternoster Dunes offers six individually decorated bedrooms as well as a detached self-catering cottage. The three luxurious ground floor sea-facing rooms allow you to walk straight out to the beach from your private patio. The fourth sea facing room on the upper level has uninterrupted sea views. The upper-level classic suite boasts a lounge, kitchenette and a private patio. Partial sea views can be enjoyed from this bedroom and access is via a private exterior staircase.
If you are looking for a romantic beach retreat for two, then the cottage is the perfect place for you. It is situated only 600 metres away from the main guest house and enjoys uninterrupted views across Bekbaai.
If you are spending some time in Cape Columbine and Paternoster make sure you don’t miss out on the areas’ top-rated activities.
Did we miss any of your favourite activities? Share them with us in the comment below.
All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.