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Once a quaint fishermen’s village where descendants of South Africa’s first nation, the Khoisan people, and several freed slaves settled to live off the plentiful bounty of seafood available along this stretch of the Western Cape coastline, Arniston has graduated into a fashionable holiday resort.
The area is renowned for the fishermen cottages, the ancient sea cave and the wreck that occurred here in the early 1800s, leaving only 6 survivors of the 378 passengers and crew. The village was subsequently named after the wreck.
Arniston is enjoyed by artists and photographers who are presented with a spectacular scene of old fishermen cottages standing starkly against a backdrop of surrounding natural beauty, and with fishermen and water sports enthusiasts for the excellent fishing opportunities and the challenging seas.
Top 6 reasons to visit Arniston
1. Grab your camera or canvas and head to Kassiesbaai (small cases bay) to photograph or paint the historic fishermen’s cottages. Several of the cottage owners offer traditional meals to visitors, ask your host to arrange. The area has a local craft market.
2. Make sure you time your hike to coincide with low tide in order to explore the massive Waenhuiskrans Cave, accessible only when the sea is low and almost 2km from Arniston. Keep an eye out for ancient middens along the route.
3. Arniston has a lovely swimming beach and fishing is best done on a boat rather than from the shore. Hire a powerboat and fishing gear to try and land yellowtail and snoek (barracoota), prevalent along this part of the coast.
4. Buy your permit at the gate to visit the De Mond Nature Reserve west of Arniston. The reserve is situated at a river mouth where vast birdlife congregate in the wetlands. Several antelope species and the Chacma baboon are common in the reserve.
5. Take a trip to Bredasdorp to visit the fascinating shipwreck museum. Enjoy a lunch at the Black Oystercatcher before popping in to the Kapula Gallery to purchase affordable, brightly-coloured pottery for the folks back home.
6. Stop in at the Richman Poorman Takeaway for a fish and chips meal to share with the seagulls alongside the slipway, while you watch for passing whales and fishing trawlers returning with their catch.
The nearest airport is Cape Town International, 195km from Arniston. The Bredasdorp Airfield, available for incoming chartered flights, is located alongside the road between Arniston and Bredasdorp approximately 20km out of town. Car rental agencies are stationed at the airport and in Cape Town, however, you could rent a vehicle online. There are no rail and bus services to Arniston, a hired vehicle is your best means of transport.
Did you know?
Kassiesbaai was named after the small paraffin cases, discarded by sailors, which would wash up on the shores. Along with plastered mud, local fishermen would stack the cases to erect home walls and use driftwood and reed for house roofs.
Eons of wave action have cut away the rock to form the Waenhuiskrans cave. Farmers saw a resemblance to a wagon house and the name stuck for both the cave and the area. Later, when the HMS Arniston ship wrecked here in 1815, the name of Arniston was given to the village.