A travel dilemma. Do you return to a favorite spot or seek out a new experience? This time, the issue is South Africa. You fell in love with the country a few years ago, when you explored Cape Town, drove along the Cape Peninsula, and drank wine in Franschhoek. So your travel thoughts should be elsewhere this year. But there’s a spot on the Western Cape that you didn’t get to see—and it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore your craving.
You missed Paternoster last time because you drove out of Cape Town in the opposite direction. One of the oldest fishing villages in the Western Cape sits 90 minutes outside of the city along Cape Columbine. Jagged cliffs and white boulders lead to the little town. It’s full of white-washed cottages, colorful fishing boats, and one of the most beautiful beaches on the southern coast. The country’s last manned lighthouse sits in a nature reserve along the rocky coastline. Fishermen catch lobsters, kabeljous, and herring just offshore and draw mussels from the rocks. Whales and dolphins use the surrounding water as their playground. Plus a little hotel with a perfect ocean view lies just beyond the sand dunes.
The Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel sits on a quiet cul-de-sac on the north shore of Cape Columbine. It feels like you’re entering a good friend’s beach house. You’re welcomed into the lounge and offered a seat by the fireplace and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from nearby Darling. The colors of the low-key decor match the surrounding sand, sea, and sky. Your ocean suite blurs the lines between the indoors and the outdoors, as well. It has locally made furniture, a stone bathtub, and an outdoor shower. While every terrace has a panoramic view of the white-sand beach and the blue water.
You don’t have a large itinerary when you arrive in Paternoster. Wake up to the sound of crashing waves and low-flying seagulls. Eat homemade bread, seasonal fruit, and local cheese for breakfast. A small buck shyly approaches the terrace as you’re eating. Look for seashells, watch fishermen unload crayfish from their boats, and scan the water for dolphins as you walk along the eight-kilometer beach. A flock of strandlopers, after which the hotel is named, run just ahead of you on the sand. Paddle a kayak out to search for nesting cormorants, seal pups basking in the sun, and even a colony of penguins. Hike to the lighthouse in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, passing fynbos and succulents along the way. Keep an eye out for a lynx and endangered African black oystercatchers, whose population has been increasing lately.
Back at the Strandloper, freshly baked cake is waiting for you when you return. Munch on a small piece before retiring to your room to relax. You were thinking about your stone bathtub as you circled back toward Paternoster on your hike. Slip into the warm water, close your eyes, and enjoy your peaceful surroundings. Then join the hotel’s other guests, whom you hadn’t even seen yet, on the patio for a seafood dinner. It features gambas pil-pil (West Coast tiger prawns in a garlic and chili sauce), Paternoster crayfish grilled with caper butter, and an earthy Shiraz.
Your beautiful surroundings, the delicious food, the flickering candlelight, and even your new friends make for a perfect evening along the South African coast. And to think you almost skipped it.