Kassiesbaai: Experience one of

Photo: Jeanette Simpson/ OlivePink Photography

Kassiesbaai: Experience one of SA’s last authentic fishing villages

You’ve seen it in paintings and photographs. But nothing beats visiting Kassiesbaai in real life.

Kassiesbaai: Experience one of

Photo: Jeanette Simpson/ OlivePink Photography

Much of the Western Cape coast has become a modern, slick and sophisticated holiday destination. But there are still hidden gems that combine beach-side beauty with charm, serenity and more than a touch of history.

Situated 220km from Cape Town, Kassiesbaai, which is adjacent to the thriving holiday town of Arniston, is such a place. One of South Africa’s last authentic fishing villages has been immortalised in countless photographs and paintings of whitewashed thatched cottages and quaint, colourful wooden fishing boats upon a turquoise bay.

Many holidaymakers are surprised to find it still exists and that its traditional way of life remains largely intact. The elements and fishing conditions permitting, the locally made open-topped vessels still put to sea regularly and return with (hopefully) heavily laden nets of yellowtail (geelstert) and red fish (rooivis) destined for the restaurants and dinner tables of Arniston or Cape Town.

Steeped in rich history

Photo: Jeanette Simpson/ OlivePink Photography

The weather-beaten fishermen winching their boats – known as “chuckies” – ashore at the small harbour, are mostly sixth- or seventh-generation descendants of the original Kassiesbaai inhabitants. Their forefathers moved here in the 1850s from Roman’s Beach, on the other side of Arniston.

They built their first homes from crates (“kassies” in Afrikaans) that fell from a passing ship. At times, when the strong winds blew in from the Indian Ocean, the flimsy wooden houses fell down and had to be rebuilt.

On a summer’s morning in the Christmas holidays it’s a treat to be in the village when the fishing fleet returns to harbour after a productive night at sea.

Excited children arrive to help their fathers and grandfathers unload the catch and clean the salt from the boats. Seagulls squawk and bicker over fishy titbits bobbing on the shoreline with city-slicker holidaymakers bargaining with the locals for a fresh fish or two.

National Heritage site

Photo: Jeanette Simpson/ OlivePink Photography

After the action at the harbour has subsided, visitors can wander through the narrow winding streets of traditional Kassiesbaai and soak up the atmosphere of an iconic part of South Africa’s history.

Its friendly inhabitants are happy to chat and the thatched cottages still look much the same as the original permanent stone homes built in the 1890s. The area is a National Heritage site and its residents, through the local Fishermen’s Union which owns the title deed to all the land, are also working to preserve the cottages’ original design.

The roofs must be thatched, there are restrictions on the kinds of windows and doors that may be fitted, and walls must be either whitewashed or left bare to show the stone.

There’s also a charming restaurant, which doubles as an arts and crafts shop, and a quaint bed and breakfast with stunning beach view.

If you like to mix your beach holiday with a dollop of South African architecture, culture and history, Kassiesbaai is a must-visit destination.