Hout Bay’s Historic and Cultural Attractions

Hout Bay might be known for its markets, restaurants, and beach but this verdant valley and Atlantic harbour has a staggering 400-year history, beguiling relics of which can still be found scattered throughout it today. So, whether you’re a history buff or a tourist wanting to get connected on a deeper level with Hour Bay’s historic and cultural heritage, here are some gems you should check out on your next visit.

The East Fort (and a bit of back story)

Did you know that Hout Bay is the third oldest surviving formal settlement in South Africa? Cape Town is the original and so it’s the oldest, of course, but only Simon’s Town beats Hout Bay in terms of age. The valley first became settled when its vast forests of hardwood were discovered; hence the name Hout Bay (“wood bay” in Afrikaans). And since the Cape is mostly carpeted in fynbos, which isn’t very useful as building material, timber was established as a primary industry in Hout Bay soon after Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival in the Cape. Once all the forests had been cut down, the industry here turned to farming and fishing.

What does all of this have to do with Hout Bay’s militarisation and the building of a string of forts along the eastern and western flanks of the bay?

Well, Hout Bay was actually viewed by the government of the day as the soft-underbelly of the new Cape Town settlement. The Dutch were concerned that the bay was wide open to possible marine invasion from the south by British warships and so four coastal fortifications were erected during the period 1781 to 1806. The Dutch East India Company (DEIC) built the West Fort Battery on the western side of the Bay in 1781 followed by the East Fort Battery the year after, which is today bisected by Chapman’s Peak Drive.

The East fort now lies in ruins but its original shape and basic structure can still be seen and makes for a nice hour’s exploration. There’s also a battery of 8 x 18 PDR (Personal Defence Rifle) guns, which have been restored and, on certain special occasions, ceremonially fired.


Original Farmsteads (and a special river)

As mentioned, Hout Bay was originally populated when its hardwood forests were discovered, making available to the Dutch a source of timber for the building of the new settlement in Cape Town. Within 30 years of van Riebeeck’s arrival, however, this valuable resource disappeared and so the activity here shifted from logging and timber to agriculture. The reason this industry took off so well in Hout Bay was because of a very special feature of the valley’s nature heritage: the Disa River, the only intact riverine ecosystem rising from Table Mountain. This river supplied the valley with a steady and generous source of fresh water and the farmers prospered, building for themselves beautiful homesteads and farmhouses over the years.

Today, farming is largely a part of Hout Bay’s past although many of the original homesteads and farmhouses still stand as heritage buildings. And you can visit many of them! Kronendal (pictured above) and Oakhurst are two of Hout Bay’s original farmsteads. Established in the 1670’s, Kronendal was the first farm in Hout Bay and its Cape Dutch Homestead (built in 1800) is the only surviving example of an H-plan house in the Cape Peninsula!

Also, many of Hout Bay’s retail outlets and restaurants (such as Cheyne’s, Lucky Bao, and Woodcutter’s Arms) are located in heritage buildings that have thankfully been tastefully restored.


Hout Bay harbour

An important facet of Hout Bay’s history that still thrives to this day – and is still appreciable by all who visit the valley – is its fishing industry. The bay’s prime positioning along a coastline wealthy in seafood has, over the years, lead to the establishment of a busy working harbour and a colourful fishing community. Every morning, fishing trawlers return to the harbour laden with a fresh catch, a portion of which can be purchased directly off the boats or from the local fresh fish shop. Of course, most Capetonians know of the Hout Bay harbour as the home of the perennially popular Bay Harbour Market – a weekend food, arts, and crafts market. But more than its market, Mariner’s Wharf, and restaurants, the harbour has become a beating cultural heart and a stunning place to spend a leisurely afternoon.


Hout Bay’s leopard

On the other end of the bay, you’ll find the Hout Bay leopard. In 1937, the last ever Cape leopard to have been seen in the valley was spotted on Klein Leeukoppie Mountain (Little Lion’s Head). In 1963, Ivan Milford-Barberton sculpted a life-like leopard out of bronze, which was subsequently mounted on a granite boulder on the eastern periphery of the beach. This statue, which proudly stands today, serves as a memorial to the many wild animals that once called the valley and its surrounding mountains home but have sadly been edged out by human habitation.


Hout Bay Museum

Opened on 5th April 1979, the Hout Bay Museum collects, displays, conserves, and researches the cultural and natural history of Hout Bay and the neighbouring suburb of Llandudno. You’ll find the museum standing next door to the Hout Bay Tourist Office and is worth a visit for its collections of artefacts dating back to 1652, when the Dutch settlers first arrived in the Cape. There is a fascinating wealth of memories and information of Hout Bay's past to be discovered here; also, admission is free! Embracing the museum is a garden of local wild plants and medicinal herbs: edibles the earliest people here would have used for various reasons. For more information, go to: www.westerncape.gov.za/facility/hout-bay-museum


A Restorative Return to the Roots at The Boardwalk in Hout Bay by DK Villas | Southern Vines

Right off Hout Bay’s Victoria Road, in a quiet, unassuming apartment complex called The Boardwalk, you’ll find a stylish two-bedroom guesthouse by DK Villas. Overlooking the Hout Bay village, the Atlantic Ocean, and Chapman’s Peak beyond, this property is in a prime position for guests to enjoy the fruits of the valley, which range from wine, markets, and fresh-caught seafood to heartbreakingly beautiful views, world famous drives, and nature appreciation. Read more.

Discover the charm of Hout Bay from the Harbour View holiday apartment

About 24 hours into our weekend stay at Harbour View, I looked around at our comfortable clutter and remarked to my friend that we sure know how to settle in and make ourselves at home really quickly, even in the fanciest of places. Indisputable proof we were destined for the good life.

This three-bedroomed apartment with two bathrooms is on the Main Road in Hout Bay, which is a super-convenient location from which to explore, and it’s combined with an elevated position which provides a gorgeous sweeping view of the bay, The Sentinel (the big rock, below), the harbour (as promised in the name), and even the beach on the south-eastern side of the bay. Read more.

A Luxurious West Coast Stay at DK Villas’ Skilliepark Beach Cottage, Dwarskersbos

If you exit the city on the N7 and drive up the country’s west coast, past the West Coast National Park, through the town of Velddrif – keep going – and past a vast tract of low-lying marine scrub, you’ll chance upon the quaint seaside community of Dwarskersbos. Here, a clutch of residential homes and holiday cottages bathe in the gentle, ever-present purr of the ocean waves and the salty maritime breezes that blow off the Atlantic Ocean.

Dwarskersbos and its beach, Dolfynstrand, is a place to “get away from it all” – away from the city and the insanity. It’s a serene escape in which one can do a little reconnection with oneself, a loved one, and nature. And as a visitor to this far-flung portion of the Cape, I couldn’t think of a better home-away-from-home to do it all in than DK Villa’s beach cottage at Skilliepark. Read more.

A local’s guide to a luxurious, self-catered weekend in Hout Bay | Traveller24

Walking into The Boardwalk apartment at DK Villas is a sensory treat that immediately tells you – this is going to be great.

Before your eyes are even able to process the stunning decor that will be yours to marvel at for the weekend, your nose is greeted by what I would argue is one of the top five scents on the planet. I still cannot get over just how amazing the space smells so if you’ll indulge my mental imagery. Read more.

Escape to tranquil dk villas in Hout Bay | Cape Town Etc.

A mere 30 minutes drive out of the Cape Town city centre, a secluded home away from home awaits you at the dk Villa Harbour View Villa in Hout Bay.

As we entered the address into the GPS for the drive there, I began to wonder what the stay had in store for us and imagined a weekend of relaxation and sea breezes. Read more.

A villa made with love | Gone Travelling

In the quirky seaside town of Hout Bay, you’ll find Harbour View – one of the three luxury self-catering accommodation available within the DK Villas group. Couple and co-owners Johann and Petra de Kock have put everything into the construction of their villas, and it is this passion and absolute attention to detail that make Harbour View the perfect choice for a home away from home. Harbour View is elegant without being pretentious and cozy without being cramped. Read more.

Living like a local | SA Express airlines in-flight magazine

Hout Bay, situated just 30 minutes from the city bowl, has great restaurants, shops, coffee bars and markets, and is also the gateway to the spectacular Chapman’sPeak, meaning mountains and nature galore. Unlike its more cosmopolitan seaside counterparts – Camps Bay and Clifton – Hout Bay is not over-populated with expensive hotels and over-priced guesthouses, making it the perfect escape from the maddening crowds during Cape Town’s peak summer season. It’s the kind of place where those who seek a more relaxed holiday venture to – those who want to spend balmy days exploring the beaches, harbour, and markets, and quiet evenings with loved ones over wine and delicious food. Read more.

WILD AND RUGGED, THE VAST OPEN SPACES OF DWARSKERSBOS OFFER A RESTORATIVE WEEKEND GETAWAY | Eat Play Drink

Having said that, our accommodation for the two nights in this remote West Coast location just outside of Veldrif was in housing complex.

Formerly the private beach home of Johann and Petra de Kock – co-owners of dk villas – it is, we have it on good authority from the neighbours, the most beautifully decorated property in the whole of Skilliepark.

It’s a claim I can easily believe is legitimate. Read more.

DK VILLAS AT SKILLIEPARK, DWARSKERSBOS | The Tipsy Gypsy

To me, the West Coast is ruggedly beautiful with a few rough edges. One day it’s sunny and hot with magnificent sunsets, the next the wind is howling while the sea is raging. To be honest, you never really know what you are going to get when you visit the West Coast! But if you are looking for somewhere cosy and comfortable to stay while exploring the area, then the beach apartment at Skilliepark in Dwarskersbos is guaranteed to be a safe bet! If the weather plays nicely, then it’s the perfect lock-up-and-go place, but if the weather turns foul, there’s soft couches, cosy beds and a giant flatscreen TV with DSTV to make being indoors a pleasure. Read more.