Hout Bay, Western Cape
Did you know?
Imizamo Yethu – home of Mandela Park – is the Xhosa term for 'our combined effort'.
Hout Bay is a quaint coastal town about a half-hour's drive from Cape Town, which gets its name from the Afrikaans 'houtbaai', meaning 'Wood Bay'. The area supplied the Dutch colony with wood during the 1650s that was used help build Cape Town. Nowadays, Hout Bay is a tourist hot spot, offering a variety of nature and outdoor activities, great restaurants and pubs, and year-round events, all while still maintaining its small-town feel and hospitality.
According to visitors and locals alike, Hout Bay produces the best fish and chips around. The busy little harbour is used by fishermen to bring in fresh catches, but also services a number of boat tours and charters, including a trip around the bay in a glass-bottom boat. If you are just there to sample the grub, however, Mariner's Wharf is the best place for fish and chips, and offers great views of the beach and the surrounding mountains.
There are only three ways to get to and from Hout Bay (known locally as the Republic of Hout Bay due its sense of uniqueness and individuality), all of which are passes: the Suikersbossie pass, feared by the Cape Argus Cycle Tour contestants as the toughest hill in the race; Chapman's Peak, with its spectacular scenery; and the Constantia Nek pass, which lies between Vlakkenberg and the back slopes of Table Mountain. If you're feeling adventurous, you can hike these surrounding mountains – their summits offer great views and photo opportunities.
Hout Bay is also known for its arts and crafts market and quirky shops. The Bay Harbour Market brims with interesting and unusual stalls, selling everything from clothes and crafts to fresh foods. There is also a good line-up of musicians to provide a festive ambience to the whole experience. The market is one of the many family-friendly spots in town; Dunes restaurant is another well-known kid-(and dog-)friendly establishment. The World of Birds is also a definite must-see during a family holiday here, with several species of birds, mammals and reptiles roaming the park.
Hout Bay is not all picturesque seaside village. It is also home to many previously disadvantaged South Africans from low-income families, who have built their houses out of scraps of metal and forged their own community. Imizamo Yethu is situated on a steep slope that flanks the main town, and the township has its own distinct vibrancy. Experience it by booking a cycling tour, guided by one of the friendly locals who live here.
There are a number of accommodation options in the area, ranging form luxury hotels to affordable B&Bs, most of which come with unrivalled views of the mountains and the sea. Stay for a few days, or at the very least, make sure you include Hout Bay as a stop during a tour of the Cape Peninsula.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Hout Bay Tourism Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0)21 790 1194
How to get here
From Cape Town head towards Camps Bay. In Camps Bay, follow the direction Llandudno/Hout Bay on the M6 (this is the coastal road). Stay on the M6 into Hout Bay.
Best time to visit
With all its pubs and restaurants, Hout Bay is an all-year-round attraction, but summer (November to March) is best for outdoor activities.
Around the area
The surrounding areas, including Chapman's Peak and the Silvermine Nature Reserve, are good for picnics, hiking, photography, running, cycling and whale watching, to name some popular activities.
Tours to do
Circe Launches operates glass-bottom boat tours from Hout Bay Harbour. Contact it on +27 (0)21 790 1040. Imizamo Yethu walking tours start from the Hout Bay police station and cost R75 per person. Contact Afrika Moni for more information: +27 (0)83 719 4870
Car rental would be ideal; metered taxis are also available.
Where to stay
Try Hout Bay Manor or the Chapman's Peak Hotel. There are many B&Bs and self-catering accommodation options in the area.
What to eat
Try the fresh seafood down at the harbour.