Looking for things to do in Paternoster? If so, you’ve landed on the right page!
South Africa’s rugged West Coast is home to so many must-visit places that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But there is one very special place you simply cannot miss on your South Africa bucket list – the charming fishing village of Paternoster.
Featuring pristine beaches, white-washed fishermen’s houses, friendly locals, great seafood, and a vibrant art scene, Paternoster is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful (and oldest) fishing villages in South Africa.
The best part? Paternoster is only 2 hours drive from Cape Town, making it the perfect spot for a weekend getaway or a quick mid-week break away from the hustle of urban life.
Here’s my guide covering the absolute best things to do in Paternoster, plus all my tips to help make your trip all the easier.
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Good to Know
- The OK Mini Mark (Google Maps) is the only grocery store in town. It has a wide selection of goodies, including fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, and a bakery. The store was well stocked during our trip in January, and we never felt the need to drive back to the Weskus Mall in Vredenburg. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm and Sundays from 8 am to 4 pm.
- There are only two ATMs in Paternoster. Both are at the OK Mini Mark.
- Crayfish has recently been added to the Sassi red list due to overfishing. Please only buy crayfish from restaurants that source their catch from ethical suppliers.
- Paternoster’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its relaxing atmosphere. As a result, there’s a different pace of life here, and everything shuts down quite early.
- Paternoster is home to some of the best restaurants on the West Coast! Pop into Noisy Oyster, Voorstrandt, Wolfgat, and De See Kat for the best eats! Also, read my detailed guide to the best restaurants in Paternoster.
Did you know? Paternoster means “Our Father.” The village obtained its name from the sincere prayers of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors. Hundreds of ships have wrecked in South Africa’s dangerous West Coast coastline over the years.
The Best Things to do in Paternoster
Relax at the Beach
One of the best things to do in Paternoster is to enjoy a peaceful stroll on the beach. Long Beach is a beautiful 8 km strip of soft sand and Paternoster’s most famous beach. It takes you past white-washed cottages, rugged fynbos, and colorful fishing boats.
There’s plenty of room to bake in the sun, with lifeguards stationed by the safe swimming spots during the warmer months. Stick around until sunset to witness a truly magnificent sunset. And if you’re up to it, scramble on top of one of the boulders on the southern side of the beach to get a better view of the kaleidoscope of colors shimmering on the water.
Brave the Cold Waters
The waters of the Atlantic Ocean are not for the faint of heart. And even during the warmest months (Dec – Feb), it’s hard to work up the courage to swim here. That said, no visit to Paternoster would be complete without at least attempting to dip your toes in the ocean!
If you are brave enough to attempt swimming here, make sure to stick to safe swimming zones. Unfortunately, beach umbrellas, mats, or chairs are not available to rent in Paternoster. If you can, bring a beach umbrella, as there’s little shade on the beach.
Visit the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
The highlight of any trip to Paternoster is undoubtedly visiting the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve – 260 hectares of unspoiled West Coast beauty!
Located roughly a 10-minute drive from town, it offers a tranquil oasis with amazing views and a fantastic mix of fauna and flora. It’s a great place to explore, hike, take photos, spot whales and dolphins, bike or enjoy a picnic or braai (BBQ).
If you’re up for it, it’s worth stopping by the Cape Columbine Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1936 and is one of the very last manually operated towers in South Africa. Nearby, be sure to also make a pit stop at Tietiesbaai – a beautiful bay with many rocks to scramble on to admire the ocean views.
During spring, the reserve is chock-full of colorful wildflowers, and it’s prime time for birdwatching and whale spotting. While spending a few nights in the reserve is possible, booking a campsite or beach shack well in advance is recommended.
The reserve has a small entrance fee, so remember to bring cash. The entry fee for adults is ZAR 31 and ZAR 22 for kids. Please remember that prices often change, so checking rates on the Saldanha Bay Municipality website is always a good idea before you go.
Browse the Quirky Art Galleries and Shops
Paternoster is well known for its eclectic mix of art galleries and trendy stores selling everything from clothing to home decor, seashells, and local delicacies.
Pop into The Hobnobbery, a quirky collective space selling gifts, decor, deli goodies, and cool clothing. While there, be sure to grab a cuppa and a freshly baked croissant with msobo jam! For home goodies and baked treats, Dispens is the place to be. And if you’re into art, stop by At Botha’s Art Gallery (a famous South African actor turned artist).
Have a Drink at the Panty Bar
The Paternoster Hotel’s Panty Bar is one of the oldest buildings in town and probably one of the weirdest bars you’ll ever visit!
The original building was built as early as 1863, and apart from changing hands over the years, it’s also been a school, and even a jail. In 1940, it was converted into a hotel, and a few years later, the owner started hanging ‘honeymoon panties’ up in the bar.
Since then, the Panty Bar has been a popular pitstop for visitors from near and far. It’s pretty small inside, so if crowds aren’t your vibe, sit outside where there’s lots of room to enjoy an ice-cold beer and a seafood platter.
Hang Out at the Paternoster Wine & Tasting Lounge
Another must-visit place in Paternoster is the gorgeous Paternoster Wine & Tasting Lounge – a beautifully decorated space with laidback vibes and an impressive wine list showcasing over 400 curated South African wines. But that’s not all. They also offer gin, brandy, and bubbly tastings, as well as boozy wine slushies and mimosas.
Make sure to set aside at least a few hours to spend here because it’s the perfect spot to spend a couple of hours sampling wine and sharing a charcuterie board.
Go Beer Tasting at the Paternoster Brewery
If you’re a fan of craft beer, a visit to the Paternoster Brewery should definitely be on your list of things to do in Paternoster.
Located right before you enter the village, this family-run spot mostly follows the German Reinheitsgebot – a 500-year-old purity law that limits brewers to just four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast, and water. All the grain, yeast, and hops used to make their beer are sourced from abroad in areas best suited to the type of beer being made.
Besides the excellent selection of beers to taste, the brewery has a lovely setting and a relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy some tapas with your beer for the perfect low-key afternoon!
A truly fun way to explore Paternoster is on an e-bike tour. WOW E-Bikes [Google Maps], located at the Paternoster Waterfront, offers daily guided experiences on fat-wheel e-bikes to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve and along Paternoster Beach. We joined the Cape Columbine tour, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Tours are 1h30 long, and the guides are lovely and knowledgeable, offering useful insights you would simply not get when exploring independently. The best part is that since the bikes are electric, they’re suitable for any fitness level and require little effort!
Tours cost ZAR 550 for SA citizens and ZAR 950 for international visitors.
Hang Out at Bek Baai
A real off-the-beaten-track thing to do in Paternoster is to visit Bek Baai.
Bek Baai, or Bek Bay in English, is located on the southern edges of the village right next to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. It is a beautiful, long stretch of soft sand bordered by blue water and massive boulders. Apart from a few local fishermen, you’ll likely have the whole beach to yourself.
During our visit, we had the entire beach to ourselves, and we even spotted two Black Oystercatchers on the boulders towards the southern tip of the bay! Pack a picnic and find a spot on one of the boulders to enjoy the scenery.
Join a Kayak Tour
A great way to get up close to Paternoster’s beautiful natural scenery is with a kayak tour. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot seals or penguins in their natural habitat while enjoying the views!
Kayak Paternoster is the only company that offers kayak tours in Paternoster. Pop by their office at the Paternoster Waterfront (Google Maps) or visit their Facebook page for more deets. Kayak tours run on most days but depend on the weather and season.
Catch a Show at Die Koelkamers Theater
Enjoy a fun night out in Paternoster by catching a show at the quirky Die Koelkamers Teater. This cozy spot offers comfortable couches and colorful interiors and is dedicated to showcasing creatives in performing arts, fine arts, photography, book launches, and live music. For more details on upcoming shows, visit their website here.
Visit the West Coast National Park
Another absolute must-do on your list of things to do in Paternoster is visiting the stunning West Coast National Park.
Located just 40 minutes drive from Paternoster, the West Coast National Park is one of South Africa’s most beautiful nature reserves, brimming with diverse fauna and flora. Moreover, it offers a whole host of activities to keep you busy. Whether you want to tackle one of the scenic hiking trails, kayak in the Langebaan Lagoon, relax at beautiful Kraalbaai, or spot whales at Tsaarsbank (Aug-Dec), the park has something for everyone. Other popular activities include bird watching, snorkeling, and kitesurfing.
If you can, visit during the flower season (August to September) to see countless fields blanketed in colorful wildflowers. Postberg, which is only open for visits during the flower season, is the best place for flower viewing.
Where to Stay in Paternoster
For its size, Paternoster surprisingly has a lot of accommodation options! There are a handful of luxury boutique hotels, but for the most part, visitors opt for the cute self-catering cottages.
Paternoster is jam-packed with tourists during peak season, and accommodation fills up quickly. Expect higher prices on weekends and national holidays, too. If you’re looking for more affordable rates, planning your trip during the off-season is best. Although the weather might not be as pleasant, you can expect much lower hotel rates.
Here are some excellent accommodation options for your visit to Paternoster:
- Luxe: Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel offers sweeping views of the bay and 5-star, eco-friendly accommodation. The restaurant serves authentic West Coast cuisine with a creative twist. You can also arrange fun activities like kite surfing and horse riding at reception.
- Affordable Luxe: The Paternoster Dunes Boutique Guest House lies among the dunes and overlooks the ocean. All the rooms feature ocean views, while some even have private beach access!
- Mid-range: Gonana Guesthouse is a beautiful modern property featuring a shimmering pool, a spa, and stunning ocean views. The rooms are elegantly designed, and some come with a sunny terrace to relax on. Free parking is also available.
- Budget: With an outdoor pool and views of the village, Smugglers’ Cottage is a great budget-friendly option in Paternoster. Both the beach and the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve are a short stroll away.
- Self-Catering: Milk Thistle Loft is a cozy self-catering unit, offering easy access to shops, restaurants, and the beach. The apartment features a sunny open-plan studio with a queen-sized bed, kitchenette, and large patio to watch the day’s last rays slip away over the horizon.
How to Get to Paternoster from Cape Town
Paternoster is the perfect place to visit after exploring Cape Town and getting your fair share of wine in the Cape Winelands. The easiest way to reach Paternoster is by car. The drive is absolutely stunning and takes roughly two hours.
The fastest route to get to Paternoster from Cape Town is the R27. The road runs along the coastline and offers spectacular ocean views. Alternatively, take the R337 via Malmesbury and Darling. The scenic drive takes you through deep-lying valleys and past rolling hills covered in canola fields on the one side and endless wine orchards on the other. Don’t miss stopping by Evita se Perron, Darling Sweets and the Darling Brewery along the way.
Travel tip: If you’re flying into Cape Town International Airport, you can easily arrange a car rental just outside the airport. Alternatively, book a car rental here in advance.
When to Visit Paternoster
Paternoster is a great village to visit year-round. In the springtime, the weather starts to heat up, and wildflowers burst out all over town.
During summer, the town bustles with tourists seeking laidback beach vibes and sunny weather. Prices are steeper and it can be a little crowded.
In fall and winter, Paternoster is cold, and the weather can be rather unpleasant with strong winds. There are, however, fewer tourists during these seasons, so expect lower accommodation prices. If you visit during winter, prepare to snuggle up next to the fireplace with a book.
Peak season runs from December to January and during April, August and September. Although prices tend to be steeper, the weather is much more pleasant during these months.
What to do in Paternoster in Conclusion
With its stunning natural beauty, laidback fishing village atmosphere, and abundance of things to do, Paternoster is undoubtedly one of the best gems on South Africa’s West Coast!
Have you visited Paternoster yet? Feel free to share your top tips, what to do, and anything in between with fellow travelers planning a trip to Paternoster, South Africa, in the comments below!
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