Hout Bay (Afrikaans: Houtbaai, meaning "Wood bay") is the name of a lively coastal suburb of Cape Town.
The views of the village are mesmerizing since Hout Bay is set in a fold of sea-lapped mountains that look out across the Atlantic Ocean.
Situated twenty kilometres south of the Central Business District of Cape Town, Hout Bay’s standard of living is a combination of both worlds; from the very rich to the very poor.
With the surrounding protective mountains, Hout Bay has become a very popular seaside resort town and a trendy holiday destination for international tourists in South Africa. Its long sandy beach is ideal for swimming and water sports such as sea kayaking, sailing, fishing and surfing.
Hout Bay residents are very passionate about where they live, and you will often see locals walking their dogs, riding horses and families playing at the water’s edge. Capetonians throng here over weekends to enjoy the local fish and chips and to catch a glimpse of the resident Cape seals that have made the harbor their home.
Hout Bay’s History
Houtbaai (Wood Bay) was named by Dutch explorers, while they explored the bay behind Table Mountain. After his landing in Table Bay in the year 1652, Jan van Riebeeck described Hout Bay as the most beautiful forests he had ever come across. This beautiful heavily wooded valley became the main source of timber for the construction of ships and of the Castle of Good Hope.
The timber was used to help build the fort at Cape Town and the subsequent port that grew to Cape Town city.
Hout Bay is well protected by mountains and benefit from an abundance of fish. The fishing village of Hout Bay was probably established around 1867 when a German immigrant, Jacob Trautmann, started to farm and fish in that area.
Later on Hout Bay was divided up into a few farms Kronendal, Moddergat and Ruyteplaats. In the long run, the farms were divided to make way for urban expansion, yet today Hout Bay still enjoys a rural atmosphere with several equestrian estates and small holdings.
Hout Bay has a long history of farming and fishing and visits to the museums in Hout Bay provide interesting insight to the history of this delightful town.
The Hout Bay Museum in Andrews Road gives guests an insight into the history of the neighborhood from prehistoric times to the growth of the fishing industry.
Hout Bay Museum
Opened on 5th of April 1979, the museum depicts the cultural and natural history of the Hout Bay valley and its people, focusing on forestry, mining, and the fishing industry up to modern times.
For those who would like to discover more about the history of the area, the museum also has an exhibition on the early strandlopers (hunter gatherers), who lived in the Cape when the first Europeans landed, as well as memorabilia concerning the fishing industry in the early days.
The museum also organizes weekly guided nature walks into the surrounding mountains.
Attractions in Hout Bay
Hout Bay is well known for its magnificent mountains and sparkling blue sea views, its vibrant cosmopolitan restaurant life as well as its laidback “village” lifestyle.
Hout Bay provides many attractions, even with its central position. The main street in Hout Bay is full of interesting shops and every Sunday, there is an excellent craft market on the green. Bay Harbour Market is Cape Town’s most diverse and eclectic weekend hotspot.
Hout Bay Craft Market
Walk around in the Hout Bay Craft Market, where you can pick up a range of curios made locally and from further north.
The Hout Bay Craft Market is run by the Hout Bay Lions and is held on the Hout Bay Common between 10.00am and 4.00pm every Sunday. Its reputation as one of the finest markets in the Western Cape is justified with its wide range of African art and curios including pottery and wire crafts, ethnic clothes and food.
During your visit to the Sunday Craft Market, you can find local arts and crafts, as well as activities such as pony rides for the kids.
Another option for visitors is a trip to Africa’s largest bird park, the World of Birds, which is home to more than 400 species of birds and other animals, including monkeys, wallabies and reptiles.
World of Birds
The World of Birds in Hout Bay, Cape Town is a wildlife sanctuary that focuses on preservation, breeding, education and research.
The predator area has always been the favorite of many visitors and the variety of different owls on display is phenomenal.
There are also many small animals that call the place home – make sure to take a stroll through the Monkey Jungle and make friends with the inquisitive little Squirrel Monkeys.
It is a fantastic place to visit whether you love nature, are a keen photographer or simply someone looking for a great day out. Kids of all ages will love the World of Birds, which has more than 3000 birds housed in its large aviaries.
The World of Birds is a premier tourist attraction – visited by 100 000 people every year –which no visitor should miss and that should be on your “top-five” list.
Another exciting tourist attraction is a boat trip to Duiker Island from the harbour (“Duiker” is the Afrikaans name for a specific small South African antelope).
You can also take the opportunity to enjoy a cheerful trip to Seal Island on one of the many pleasure boats operating in the Hout Bay harbor. The scenic boat ride takes you close to them and it is a unique experience. Watch them lazing on the rocks or frolic in the freezing water of the Atlantic. This is great fun for kids and persons of all ages.
Hout Bay Harbour is a working harbour for tuna and crayfishing industries and is hence home to a large seal colony residing in the area. (Note: The Seal Island in Hout Bay should not be mistaken with the larger Seal Island in False Bay, where great white sharks are sometimes spotted.)
As part of your visit to Hout Bay, you can also enjoy some of the freshest seafood at the Mariner’s Wharf.
The Mariner’s Wharf.
Built on a pier, this area was South Africa’s very first maritime harbour-front emporium. More than 25 years old, popular Mariner’s Wharf includes a seafood bistro, a maritime themed restaurant, fresh fish and live crayfish (lobster) markets; as well as nautical antique shop and gift shops. Mariner’s Wharf is steeped in local Hout Bay fishing history and patrons can look forward to enjoying the authentic harbour-side ambience. It has a great harbor ambience and you cannot help to feel at home.
The views from Mariner's Wharf across the beach, along famous Chapman's Peak Drive, over the water and back across to the encircling mountains is applauded by seals visiting from nearby Seal Island. The restaurants put forward excellent fish dishes and there is always an abundance of prawns and calamari on the menu.
Moreover, if you are a keen walker, the beaches around Hout Bay are wonderful for long strolls.
Hout Bay Beach
Wading in waves and walking are popular activities among the locals. The beach is wide, flat and child-friendly; so crunch sand between your toes or build a sandcastle with the family. The bay waters are calm, swimming is allowed and water sports are encouraged especially on a hot summer’s day.
Another great way to explore the neighborhood is to take advantage of the several hiking trails through the mountains around the town. All of these trails offer the chance to experience the Cape’s unique floral kingdom, Fynbos, up close and personal, combined with magnificent views of the town, surrounding mountains and sea. The Sentinel is a popular climb.
Adventure lovers might also enjoy kayaking, mountain biking, fishing charters and jet-skiing – all available in the Hout Bay area.
There are many restaurants, shops and pubs in Hout Bay, and while this lively little town is something of a sleepy fishing village, the nightlife is hot and happening, particularly during peak season.
Additional information on Hout Bay:
Getting there - Whatever way you choose to enter Hout Bay, it’s spectacular.
Hout Bay is around 20 minutes’ drive from the centre of Cape Town.
Getting there is an easy and beautiful drive from the city centre. There are three distinct possibilities; all of which are scenic drives. Chapman’s Peak, although a toll road, remains one of the most beautiful and awesome routes with views to take your breath away, whilst the route over Suikerbossie Hill to Llandudno and other Atlantic beaches of Cape Town, in the shadow of the Twelve Apostles, is equally inspiring. The road that joins up with the Constantia Wine Route, over Constantia Nek, provides a bird’s eye view of False Bay and takes you into the beautiful Constantia Valley.
Hout Bay, also known as "Dungeons" to the surfing community, is one of the sixteen globally recognized big wave spots. The Red Bull Big Wave Africa competition is held here annually.
The Hout Bay harbour is the 9th most visited tourist attraction in Cape Town and includes a yacht and boat marina.