10 Top-Rated Things to Do in Mossel Bay, South Africa
Author Meagan Drillinger visited Mossel Bay during her travels throughout South Africa in 2022.
The drive into Mossel Bay is simply stellar. The rocky slopes of Cape St. Blaize tumble down towards the crashing waters of the Indian Ocean. A wide stretch of sun-bleached sand unfolds to the west, and a charming historic downtown sits watchfully on a cliff with its gaze out to sea.
Settled by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century, historic Mossel Bay still has reminders of its early maritime history. Among the top things to do downtown, a museum named after explorer Bartolomeu Dias tells the story of the city's earliest settled roots, while the actual roots of a centuries-old tree grows from its courtyard.
But this beautiful town along South Africa's Garden Route is also firmly rooted in the present. It is the adventure capital of South Africa, home to areas for hiking and whale watching, and has one of the longest over-ocean ziplines in the world.
Mossel Bay is a great place to get to know the southwestern coast of South Africa. Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in Mossel Bay.
1. Visit the Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse Complex
One of the most recognizable icons of Mossel Bay is the St. Blaize Lighthouse Complex. Perched atop the St. Blaize cliffs, the lighthouse stands at nearly 21 meters tall.
Believe it or not, the Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse is actually closely tied to the name of the town. Mossel Bay was named for the thousands of mussels that clung to the rocks in the bay, making it challenging for ships to navigate the waters. The lighthouse was erected to help guide ships safely around the point.
The lighthouse was completed in the mid 19th century. Until recently it was one of only two South African lighthouses that had a 24-hour watch.
One of the best views along the Garden Route is from up at the lighthouse, which is open between 10am and 3pm every day between April and October.
If you're pulling into Mossel Bay, this should be your first stop to get the lay of the land and some truly Instagrammable views.
Address: 6 Point Road, Mossel Bay, 6500, South Africa
2. Hike the St. Blaize Trail
If you aren't finished with the epic coastal views of Mossel Bay, you may want to lace up your hiking boots and hit the St. Blaize Hiking Trail. This popular, scenic trail runs for 13.5 kilometers and follows the craggy coastline west from the lighthouse towards Dana Bay.
The hiking trail is an out-and-back trail and takes about six hours to complete in its entirety. Keep your eyes peeled for the adorable dassies — cute badger-like creatures that scramble down the rocks with ease. It's one of the best trails in South Africa for birding, as well.
The coastal walk is not short on views, with the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing not far from your feet.
It's recommended that people who hike the trail are somewhat experienced, as looks can be deceiving. It may seem like a flat, coastal route, but lack of exits means once you've gone a distance on the trail, you're pretty much committed to finishing it. Still, those that do attempt the trail are rewarded with breathtaking views, sunshine, and warm breezes off the Indian Ocean.
3. Ride the Mossel Bay Zipline
The Garden Route is a paradise for outdoor thrill chasers. Rock climbing, caving, white water rafting — you name it, the Garden Route has it. But perhaps one of the most action-packed adventures you can have along the Garden Route is the Mossel Bay Zipline, the longest over-ocean zipline in the world.
The zipline runs for 1,150 meters at a towering 90 meters above sea level. It can reach an average speed of 80 kilometers per hour, as well. Along the way, riders will have mesmerizing views over the cliffs, nearby beaches, and the villages that surround Mossel Bay. It's one of the best ways to get in all the views of what makes Mossel Bay so naturally beautiful, and get a shot of adrenaline in the process.
No need to worry about capturing your own photos, either, although you will be able to wear a GoPro on your helmet if you like. If not, a professional photographer is available to take pictures of your journey.
Be sure to wear your bathing suit — you will most definitely make contact with the tops of the waves. It's a thrilling experience.
Address: 6 Point Road, Mossel Bay, 6500, South Africa
4. Explore the Point of Human Origins
Believe it or not, Mossel Bay is one of the earliest sites in the world with fossil evidence of human beginnings. The place is called Pinnacle Point, and it features a series of caves that have evidence of human occupation from the Middle Stone Age, roughly 170,000 to 40,000 years ago.
With a visit to the caves, visitors can sign up for guided sightseeing tours that take them to Cave 13B down a series of wooden walkways. Within the cave, the guide will walk you through quite literally the millennia of time, explaining what is known about the very first humans who inhabited this area.
The evidence found in the caves suggest that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago when the world was in an ice age. Fossils go on to show early human habitation of the caves for the next several tens of thousands of years. In fact, Mossel Bay likes to brag that it has been a tourist destination for more than 150,000 years.
Today Pinnacle Point has been declared a Provincial Heritage Site.
Address: Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay, 6511, South Africa
5. Swim at Hartenbos Beach
All along the Garden Route, and Mossel Bay in particular, are some of the best beaches in South Africa. Hartenbos Beach isn't technically in Mossel Bay — it's just north in the village of Hartenbos — but it is definitely worth a visit. The spectacular beach has been awarded with Blue Flag status thanks to its soft, wide stretch of sand; clean water; and lovely views.
Kilometers of white, powdery stand stretch off into the distance, making the perfect spot to spread out a blanket for the day. The safe waters and designated areas make it one of the best places to swim along the Garden Route coast. Anglers can cast off into the Hartenbos River, too, which is nearby.
The beach is a top viewing point to try to spot whales, dolphins, seals, and birds, so don't forget to pack the binoculars. In fact, Mossel Bay in general is a great place to visit to spot wildlife splashing out in the bay.
Address: Saldanha Ave, Hartenbos, Mossel Bay, 6520, South Africa
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hartenbos
6. Stop at the Janine Iron & Washing Museum
If you're interested in quirky museums, the Janine Iron & Washing Museum will certainly give you something to think about. The small, niche museum is home to some of the most unique and rare laundry irons in the world — about 640 of them. You'll also find more than 50 rare washing machines and mangles, which date back to the 19th century.
Who knew the laundry could be so interesting? But all jokes aside, this is a great spot for people who are fascinated by antiques and with historic ways of life. It gives a pretty unique look into how basic household chores were done in this part of South Africa back before the 20th century.
Address: 3 Onderbos Ave, Hartenbos, Mossel Bay, 6520, South Africa
7. Surf at Diaz Beach
But let's get back to those beaches. As we mentioned, Mossel Bay has some of the best beaches along the Garden Route. Diaz Beach, in particular, is a popular one for its long stretch of sand and the lovely shades of swirling blue from the Indian Ocean.
The beach is named for Bartolomeu Dias, a name you'll become familiar with pretty quickly when visiting Mossel Bay. Dias was a Portuguese explorer who landed in what is now the Mossel Bay area in the 15th century.
Today Diaz Beach is a popular spot for surfing thanks to the calmer waves here, making it a great place to learn to surf. More advanced surfers can try their skills along the four reef breaks in Mossel Bay, as well. Because the waves are so calm, this is one of the best beaches for swimming in South Africa, too.
Diaz Beach is a quick drive from downtown Mossel Bay. If you're driving the Garden Route, you'll likely have your own car. Otherwise, taxis are readily available, including Uber.
Read More: Best Beaches in Africa
8. Splash at Santos Beach
If you want a beach that is walking distance from downtown, look no further than Santos Beach. Right in the heart of downtown, along this stretch of sun-soaked coast, Santos Beach is one of South Africa's Blue Flag beaches, conveniently located near the heart of the action in downtown.
Visitors come from all over for the stunning ocean views; sparkling blue water; and soft, white sand. They also come for the balmy water temperatures, which can reach as high as 22 degrees in the summer months.
Swimming, paddle-skiing, surfing, and diving are all some of the top things to do at Santos Beach. Lifeguards are on duty during the busy seasons in December and January.
Between the months of June and November, keep your eyes peeled for whales, which can often be seen right from the beach.
The beach is also the backdrop for many community events, like live entertainment, sports events, and food markets. WIth so much activity happening right on the beach, it's no wonder this is a popular spot for everyone in town.
9. Visit the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex
Right in the heart of downtown is Mossel Bay's Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex. Centrally located to both the beach and the many shops and restaurants, the museum complex is one of the top tourist attractions in town.
The museum has three buildings, each of which has its own theme. The first is the Granary, which has information on the surrounding area.
The Maritime Museum is the most popular section of the museum, which tells the story of Portuguese maritime history when Dias arrived in Mossel Bay 500 years ago. It goes on to explain the Portuguese interaction with English and Dutch explorers.
Finally, a Shell Museum and Aquarium has information on sea and land snails and how mollusks have been used throughout history.
Wandering the grounds of the museum is lovely, as well, including sites like a reconstructed freshwater spring, a perch for whale watching, and the famous 500-year-old Post Office Tree that was used by early Portuguese explorers as the post office.
Address: 1 Market Street, Mossel Bay Central, Mossel Bay, 6500, South Africa
10. Drive the Garden Route
When you opt to drive the Garden Route in South Africa, you will either begin or end in Mossel Bay. The seaside town is an important location along the 300-kilometer coastal road between Mossel Bay and Storms River, and one of the most popular towns to stop in along the journey.
The beautiful driving route passes through coastal villages and national parks, with ample opportunity for outdoor adventure, swimming, surfing, dining, shopping, and wildlife viewing. Along the Garden Route, explorers will be able to discover the richness near Mossel Bay, like the Ruitersbos Nature Reserve.
George is the largest city along the Garden Route and the closest to Mossel Bay. George has an airport, in case you want to fly in closer to the coast. You'll also find the Garden Route Botanical Garden in George, which is a beautiful spot for a little side trip.
Of course, you can keep going along the Garden Route from Mossel Bay to find other towns like Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. In the other direction is the town of Hermanus and, eventually, Cape Town.