A hidden gem, an hour and a half from Cape Town, Paternoster (translation: Our Father) is a quaint fishing village with some of the prettiest scenery on South Africa’s west coast.  Think wide, open beaches lined with pristine white sand, azure blue waters, and fragrant fynbos. Adding to its allure, Paternoster is brimming with charming whitewashed, blue-roofed beach cottages, boutique hotels, traditional fisherman’s style architecture and an incredible gastronomy scene. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d arrived on a Greek island at first glimpse.  Enjoy our insider’s guide to this undiscovered treasure.

Why Paternoster South Africa is worth traveling for

Image Courtesy of Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel

Picturesque and beautiful, brightly colored fishing boats still pull up to the dock each day with fresh hauls of seafood. And that’s good thing, because there are no supermarkets in this charming village, but it is abundant with quirky ‘padstals’ (Afrikaans for farm stalls) which are packed to the rafters with vintage treasures, handmade preserves and jams, freshly baked bread, local produce and artisan goodies. And there’s more treats for foodies, Paternoster is now home to a burgeoning gastronomy scene with renowned chefs out to make their culinary mark thanks to the bounty of fresh seafood and local produce.

Immerse yourself in the diverse culinary scene

Image Courtesy of Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel

Paternoster is a culinary tale of traditional and contemporary.  To experience the former, The Noisy Oyster is the place to go for simple South African cuisine in a charming, cheerful setting. The tables are brightly decorated and diners are scattered across a sprawling indoor and outdoor area, illuminated by fairy lights and lanterns. The menu changes daily, so you never know exactly what to expect, other than delicious homestyle meals with a twist – fresh seafood dishes, lamb, curries, and staples like pasta. For elevated modern gastronomy, Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, tucked away from the town’s center is home to Leeto, a shoreside restaurant by renowned chef Garth Almazan.  The menu here is coastal influenced and once you’ve tasted the Malay west coast mussels, you’ll never want to go back to mussels in white wine sauce.

You can also eat at one of the best restaurants on earth

Image by Samantha Reinders for The New York Times

While fish and chips on the beach is a fun pastime, Paternoster’s thriving food scene now boasts Wolfgat, one recently named the Restaurant of the Year at the World Restaurant Awards. Helmed by chef Kobus van der Merwe (who also moonlights as your waiter for a total personal experience), Wolfgat is set on top of a cave in an authentic beach cottage and from its terrace you can enjoy a spectacular view over the rugged fynbos sand. As for the food, everything is locally grown and sourced – or foraged in the wild from its signature venison to handpicked beach vegetation and homegrown herbs.

Insider tip:  If you want to taste van der Merwe’s outstanding cuisine, book in advance. The restaurant serves just seven dinners a week and there’s a maximum of 20 people per sitting.  Wolfgat is fiercely anti-waste, and there are only enough fresh, local ingredients to serve that exact amount.  

Marvel at the Panoramic Ocean Vistas

If we had to narrow it down to one reason Paternoster is worth traveling for, it’s the scenery (OK the food too). The sight and sound of its icy cold waves crashing against the shoreline, tossing up clumps of seaweed and broken seashells as it goes is the stuff of traditional fishing village fairytales. On a sunny day, the sand is almost blindingly white and the gentle breeze is a welcome relief from the heat. The coastal landscape is equally delightful on overcast days when the sky and sea is moody, the beaches are deserted. Grab a cup of South African coffee and a rusk and lap up the scene in seclusion. 

Explore Cape Columbine Nature Reserve

This breathtaking 263 hectare nature reserve is home to the last manually-controlled lighthouse in the country. Before the lighthouse was built in 1936, the coastline was notorious for shipwrecks including the British Columbine, to which the reserve owes its name. These days Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is a popular day or half-day outing for outdoor lovers. An abundance of hikes are available across pristine beaches and rocky outcrops that jut right into the sea. You’ll also be able to spot local wildlife like Dassie, and sprawling indigenous plants like succulents and fynbos. After you’re done, settle in for a drink at the Seekombuis (translation: sea kitchen) a fishing-boat-turned-table for a unique toes in the sand experience.

Go Whale Watching

Though it’s usually West Coast cousin Hermanus who lures in whale-watching enthusiasts, eagle-eyed Paternoster visitors can often spot whales and dolphins off the coast, especially if you visit between the prime whale-watching months of August and November. Paternoster and the adjacent Cape Columbine jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, so you’ll have plenty of whale watching opportunities. The best view is from one of the village’s main beaches (bring your binoculars), or take to the water at the nature reserve in a kayak.

Shop Village Gems

You won’t find high-end fashion, malls or chain stores in Paternoster, in fact there’s just one small convenience store and that’s also part of the draw.  Instead, spend a day weaving in and out of the village’s cute local boutiques, farm stalls and whitewashed art studios that reflect its beloved coastal style.  Be sure to stock up on handmade preserves and produce, olives, and artisanal crafted coffee, homewares, soaps and artworks.  

Visit St Helena Bay

Image Courtesy of West Coast Way

20 minutes outside Paternoster is St Helena Bay, another small west coast town that’s well worth a visit.   Here, you can take whale watching to another level with a whale-watching boat tour that will transport you out to the sea where you’re certain to come up close and personal with these majestic ocean creatures and all manner of sea life.  Insider tip:  Make a day of it and book a stay somewhere in Shelley Point, an incredible natural phenomenon not to be missed. One of only three natural bays in the world on a mainland coastline where the sun rises and sets over the ocean, you’ll be treated to the stunning early morning displays of red and orange skies and incredible sundowners at night. Be sure to have your camera ready. 

The best places to stay in Paternoster 

Image Courtesy of The Oystercatchers Haven

For travelers that love to venture off the beaten track, book for a night at The Oystercatchers Haven. This small, immaculate, homely guest house has amazing views of the unspoiled crescent of Bek Bay, which are best enjoyed with a glass of champagne on your private terrace in the King Suite.  If a boutique hotel is more your vibe, Strandloper Ocean (home of the aforementioned Leeto restaurant) is all about barefoot luxury meets humble fisherman’s cottage.  Soak in the ocean views from the restaurant and Ocean Suites, or enjoy the sight of the natural flora of a west coast riverbed from the Nature Suites.