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In France they call them Les Plus Beaux Villages – the most beautiful villages – and the tiny fishing village of Paternoster on the west coast of South Africa fits quite comfortably into this category. Once a tiny enclave bypassed by travellers heading north from Cape Town, Paternoster is today a thriving seaside destination.
Paternoster’s wide, open beach is dotted with brightly-coloured fishing boats and the old white-washed fisherman cottages have been upgraded and are mostly used as holiday homes. On weekends, visitors arrive to dine on fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants overlooking the beach.
The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is located at the southern end of Paternoster where a popular camping resort and the Columbine lighthouse is situated.
Top 6 reasons to visit Paternoster
1. Rise early to get to the beach and watch the fishermen return with their haul. Buy choice fish direct from the boats then arrange to have it descaled at the fish market on the beach. Enjoy a brisk swim or surf the waves while there.
2. Walk the town to appreciate the restored fishing cottages, the few original cottages that still remain, the art galleries, quaint craft shops and the hotel, which is a national monument where farmers once stored their corn.
3. Spend time beachcombing to discover the many seashells strewn on the beach and the vast sea organisms that thrive in the rock pools. Look out for the sparkling white ovulate shell, commonly known as baby’s toes.
4. Paternoster becomes a sea of colour during the wild flower season, be sure to visit in early spring to experience the beauty brought on by this wild flower spectacle.
5. Check out the marine birdlife at Cape Columbine Nature Reserve and climb the 15m lighthouse built on Castle Rock, an 80m-high stone outcrop, for stunning views of the horizon and Tietiesbaai bay.
6. There are 2 established hiking trails starting in Paternoster of 17km and 30km in length. If short of time, hike the trail for a lesser distance. Take along snorkelling gear to swim in the calm bays along the route.
The nearest international airport to Paternoster is Cape Town International Airport, 162km away. Chartered flights land and depart at the Saldanha/Vredenburg airfield, an approximate 30 minute drive. Car rental agencies are located at the Cape Town airport and in Saldanha Bay, otherwise order a rental online. Unfortunately there are no taxi operators in Paternoster, however, there are a number of tour operators that offer shuttle services between the airport, Cape Town and Paternoster.
Did you know?
Before the Cape Columbine lighthouse was erected in 1936, many ships ran aground or capsized in the seas around Paternoster. The lighthouse, which has a light, fog signal and radio beacon, is named after the English ship Columbine that wrecked here in 1829.
Portuguese sailors stranded here in the 15th Century sang the Lord’s Prayer – Padre Nosso (Our Father) – and over time, the words were distorted by the locals to form the single word Paternoster.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.