Mossel Bay — a rising tourism star

Standing high above Mossel Bay, the St Blaize lighthouse was first lit in 1864.
Standing high above Mossel Bay, the St Blaize lighthouse was first lit in 1864.  It lets tourism down by not offering tours over weekends as well as less-than-attractive access.

Mossel Bay has been on the up-and-up for some time and tourism numbers to the area have grown steadily.  The town includes more rural areas like Boggomsbaai (where Beezus and I stayed) on the Cape Town side to Herolds Bay on the George side, with Brak river in between.

The tourism office is good and it deserves much of the credit for Mossel Bay’s success in tourism.  Of course they are helped by an enormous range of activities and attractions that will cater for all travellers — click here to download their guide.

The town itself is rather cluttered and it seems that the new Langeberg Mall on its outskirts has affected CBD trading badly.  Maybe this should be the stimulus to revitalise the CBD.  New developments at The Point provide some attraction but much more needs to be done if the Mossel Bay brand is going to grow.  It is a town at the crossroads.  I wonder if the municipality has a clear idea for the road ahead.

While most contemporary architecture is rather mediocre, the town’s saving grace lies in its history — it does have some fine historic architecture and there is a Historic Walk, with a brochure from the Info office.

Standing high above Mossel Bay, the St Blaize lighthouse was first lit in 1864.
St Blaize Terrace, built in 1909 and renovated in 1986.

The museum complex across the road from the info office is definitely worth a visit.  The star of the show must be the replica of the caravelle that brought Bartholomew Diaz to the Bay on February 3, 1488.  The curator told me that funding is down and so are visitor numbers.  Maybe it’s time for a new business model because the Diaz Museum feels a little sparse and unused, along with the whole museum complex.

Mossel Bay Bartholomeu Diaz Caravelle
The replica of the caravelle that brought Bartholomeu Diaz to Mossel Bay in 1488, and which sailed from Portugal to Mossel Bay 500 years later, in 1988.

The highlight of my visit was the Point of Human Origins Experience.  Peter Nilssen’s presentation was much more than just thought-provoking.. it is something that will stay with one forever.  The town should be making much more of this memorable experience, and it needs to be accessible to many more people.  Human Origins tourism should be part of any game-changing plan.  Time for an interpretive centre?  (I will be writing more about this experience.)

The pavilion at Mossel Bay's Santos Beach
The pavilion at Santos Beach c1916– a replica of the Brighton Pierhead after the architect visited the UK.

But for many visitors, Mossel Bay is primarily about a beach holiday and the area has plenty of those.  My favourite beach was Herolds Bay with its seasonal bistro on the parking lot alongside the beach.

Herolds Bay

Herolds Bay with its beachside bistro was a surprise discovery, which happens when you avoid the N2. It’s delightful, just like the other dorps outside Mossel Bay — Boggomsbaai, Groot and Little Brak River.


Mossel Bay: No domestic pets on all Public Open Spaces -- the ultimate dog-unfriendly town?
No domestic pets on all Public Open Spaces — the ultimate dog-unfriendly town?

One of my few gripes was with the municipality.  (Redefining stupidity was the other.)  It is the most pet-unfriendly area I’ve ever encountered — and it says a lot about the mindset of the municipality’s management.

Every beach, every public open space, from Boggomsbaai in the West to Herolds Bay in the East displays the sign shown alongside.  Nowhere do you find signs saying what you may do… I saw no signs saying “this is a place where dogs can be walked on a leash or run free.”  (Knysna showed a refreshing flip side of the coin.)

Surely… Public Open Spaces includes all sidewalks too?

Come on SPCA… animals have rights too.  Surely you can prosecute the municipality in terms of animal rights legislation?

Following the Getaway Show in Cape Town a few weeks ago, there are rumblings that the municipality wants to play a more dominant role in tourism.  If they do, and if they don’t know their place, it will be the kiss of death for tourism in this town.  But there will be more on that in future stories here.  This is a municipality that needs a game-changing plan — the private sector has got it right but local government hasn’t.

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