If you’re travelling in the Cape Agulhas region, be sure to visit the picturesque holiday town of Arniston and the adjacent village of Kassiesbaai.
Words by Mike Simpson, photos by Jeanette Simpson and Olivepink Photography
The latter is the last authentic fishing village in South Africa and is a living, breathing, working community.
Founded in 1850 by coloured fishermen, its trademark whitewashed stone cottages with their thatched roofs have become an iconic part of the tourism landscape, seen on countless postcards, paintings and tourist knick-knacks.
1. Visit the harbour
Be sure to visit Arniston Harbour to see the colourful wooden boats – called ‘chuckies’ – used by the local fishermen. The fishing season is typically from around November to March (although it can be unpredictable) and if you’re fortunate you may be able to witness the excitement as the fleet comes ashore with its catch.
A dozen chuckies are based in Arniston Harbour, each crewed by 7-10 people, depending on the size of the boat. The fishermen are all from Kassiesbaai and many are the sixth or seventh generation to earn their living from the sea.
2. Stroll around Kassiesbaai
The entrance to the village is just metres from Arniston Harbour. The people who live here are very friendly and welcoming to visitors, so feel free to simply wander the narrow winding streets and take in the ambience and close-up views of the historic cottages.
You can drive if you wish, but the village is tiny and everything is in close proximity, so you shouldn’t get too tired and footsore. Unless you’re severely directionally challenged, you won’t get lost either.
Along one of the streets you’ll come across what remains of ‘Mrs H’, a chucky that sank in 2015. Fortunately the crew was rescued without loss of life.
3. Pop into the Kassiesbaai Craft Centre
As you stroll along Harbour Street, look out for the small property that houses the Kassiesbaai Craft Centre. It’s a community based initiative which encourages local women to learn crafting skills and sell the items they make to visitors.
Given that most people’s main source of income is fishing, which is highly unpredictable and erratic, the centre is a useful source of additional income for many families here.
4. Have a bite to eat at Willeen’s Art, Craft and Restaurant
At the far end of the village you’ll find Willeen’s Art, Craft and Restaurant. Founded in 2003, it’s housed in a quaint converted cottage and is a popular stopover for tourists.
In season it serves meals all day, including dinner. Among the best-sellers are pies, bobotie and pickled fish. You can also buy arts and crafts made by the people of Kassiesbaai.
5. Enjoy the beach at Kassiesbaai
Not to be confused with the beach adjacent to Arniston Harbour, this stretch of shoreline is spectacular and largely deserted, even in peak season when the other local beaches are busy. Do a spot of fishing, have a stroll or simply sit outside at Willeen’s and enjoy the sea views.