Time-travelling to seaside Arniston
THE first thing to do when you get to Arniston is to relax on one of the pavement benches in front of the hotel and drink in the unique hues of the village’s aquamarine sea.
And, while filling your lungs with ozone, soak up the view of the most unusual formations of putty-coloured rock, both those ringing this effervescent bay and those whose foundations are just below the waterline hark back to larger stony citadels past. Well, that is our ritual anyway.
After checking i nto our s econdstorey apartment in one of the thatched Arniston Seaside Cottages, we took a g e n t l e wal k t o t h e whi t e s a n d s o f Roman beach, only a few hundred metres down the road. While we were content just to stroll along the water’s edge, groups of brightly clad children paddling in the breakers demonstrated what a safe swimming spot this is too; t heir presence added hi ghli ghts of colour and youthful exuberance to this otherwise tranquil shoreline. A pair of black oystercatchers showed their mussel-cracking prowess as they prised some of these hardy shellfish from the rocks, miraculously managing to free the contents with their long and dextrous orange beaks.
T he i nc o ming t i de , a nd a pr i o r drinks and dinner arrangement in nearby Napier, unfortunately put paid to our earlier thoughts of walking to the Waenhuiskrans cave, farther along the coast. By most accounts, though, it is said to be big enough for one, if not several, fully spanned ox-wagons to turn around in.
But, after collecting some shells and surf-smoothed stones, we were content just to sit on a stony ledge, high above a small group of resident surfers, and savour the expansive sea views until it was time to leave.
“ Do you ser ve breakfast here,” I asked at the first craft shop and restaur a n t we e n c o u n t e r e d o n o u r wal k through historical Kassiesbaai – the 200year-old fishing hamlet just north-east of the hotel the next day.
“No dear, sorry, we only do meals on request. You can book for dinner if you like through the reception at the Arniston Hotel,” replied the woman, her deeply etched laugh-lines accentuated by the broadest of smiles.
Accepting that breakfast wasn’t on offer there, we bought a small yacht instead.
Okay, so it was only a scale model, one made by one of the skilled locals who had apparently injured himself on a fishing trip some time ago and was no longer able to earn a living from working on life-sized boats.
To walk along the ragged and rocky road through the maze of thatched and lime-washed fishing cottages of Kassiesbaai is to take an authentic step back in t i me. Chickens s cat t er, dogs f er r et around i n t he undergrowth f or l ast weekend’s braai scraps and the ancestors of Khoi fisherman go about their daily chores, secure in the knowledge that tonight there will be fish on the table, as there’s always been.
Back in the more modern and afflue nt s e c t i on of t own, our nost a l gi c reverie was quickly broken, the four-star Arniston Hotel providing a stark and sobering contrast to the time capsule we’d just walked through. But, while time travel through Kassiesbaai is highly r ecommended, t he l avish breakfast spread at the Arniston Hotel certainly is too.
Sitting there drinking freshly brewed f i l t e r c o f f e e a n d wor k i n g o u r way through steaming plates of gourmet fare, we toasted our favourite Overberg seaside town. It’s unique appeal just never seems to fade — even with the passing of time.
Where it is: Arniston is an easy twohour, 15-minute drive from Cape Town.
Why go: To swim, snorkel, fish, surf, paddle-ski, walk, bird-watch, whalespot (in season), or just to read and unwind in unspoilt surroundings.
The accommodation: We stayed at the thatched-roofed Arniston Seaside Cottages – comfortable self-catering units near Roman beach. But make sure you ask for a unit with a view.
Food: If you prefer not to cook, then the Arniston Hotel’s restaurant is a safe bet, otherwise there are many good restaurants in Bredasdorp and Napier.
Rates: R240 a person a night, children under 12 half-price out of season.
Getting there: From Cape Town, travel the N2 to Caledon then take the R316 to Napier and Bredasdorp. Arniston is 24km out of Bredasdorp.
What else to do and see: Nearby Napier is well-endowed with galleries, pubs, and bric-a-brac shops.
Also visit the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas, the charming wine farms of Elim and the shipwreck museum in Bredasdorp.
Contact: 028 445 9772 or visit w w w. a r n i s t o n - o n l i n e . c o . z a o r www.wheretostay.co.za