Mossel Bay Tourist Attractions
The port and holiday resort of Mossel Bay lies at the west end of the beautiful Garden Route along the coast of the Indian Ocean. It owes its name to the shells (mosseln) which the first Europeans found here in such quantity. Until a few years ago Mossel Bay was one of the most charming places on the Garden Route, with a variety of accommodation for visitors, beautiful beaches within easy reach and a wide range of sports and leisure facilities: now the scene is spoiled by industrial development and the offshore rigs processing the oil and natural gas that were discovered here in the 1980s. But that is only one side of Mossel Bay, which still has its trim villas and holiday houses.Many of the seafarers who sailed round the Cape anchored in Mossel Bay. The first of them was Bartolomeu Diaz, who set foot on South African soil here in 1488. He was followed in 1497 by Vasco da Gama and in 1501 by the Portuguese Admiral João da Nova, who built a chapel (not preserved) which is believed to have been the first European-style building in South Africa. There was no permanent settlement in the bay until 1787, but thereafter Mossel Bay developed into an important port serving the southern Cape region and the Little Karoo.
Bartolomeu Diaz Museum
The 500th anniversary of Bartolomeu Diaz's landing in Mossel Bay was marked by the establishment of a large modern museum complex. The reception and information center is housed in the Granary. The Granary, originally built in 1786, was pulled down in the mid 20th C and rebuilt in its original form in 1986. Facing it is the Maritime Museum, in a building which from 1901 onwards was a grain mill and sawmill. The museum's star exhibit is a replica of the caravel in which Diaz rounded the Cape in 1488. The vessel was built in Portugal and sailed into Mossel Bay in 1988. Adjoining this museum is the Shell Museum, with a collection of shells from all over the world on the upper floor and aquarium tanks showing living shellfish in their natural environment on the ground floor. The Munrohoek Cottages, built around 1830 and restored in the mid 1980s, are among the oldest buildings in Mossel Bay.
Address: Private Bag X1, Mossel Bay, Western Cape 6500, South Africa
Opening hours: 9am-4:45pm; Sun: 9am-3:45pm; Sat: 9am-3:45pm
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Post Office Tree
Outside Mossel Bay's Shell Museum is the Post Office Tree, a large milkwood tree beside a spring (still existing) from which ships replenished their water supplies. Mariners sailing east used it as a ''letter-box'', letters deposited here being collected and delivered by ships on the homeward voyage.
Local History Museum
The Local History Museum is also part of the Bartolomeu Diaz museum complex. It is housed in a building of 1858 and a larger extension of 1879.
St Blaize Lighthouse
On the Point, a rocky promontory southeast of Mossel Bay's center, is the St Blaize lighthouse. This is a good place from which to watch whales and dolphins; there is a restaurant. The St Blaize Trail to Dana Bay (13km/8mi west) starts at the Bats' Cave, below the lighthouse.