General Information on Hout Bay
The name Hout Bay is not really the anglicized version of the Afrikaans Houtbaai (Wood Bay) but rather a shortening of the original Dutch "Houtbayken". The name is derived from what Jan van Riebeeck recorded in his journal after his visit in 1653:
"The forests are the finest in the World and contain timber as long, thick and straight as one would wish".
The mountainous terrain and road building hazards accounted for the delay in the extension of the wagon road from Kirstenbosch, which reached Hout Bay in 1693, some 40 years after van Riebeeck's first visit.
The patches of forest in Hout Bay were preserved a little longer by their inaccessibility, but the woodcutters were soon at work in the moist valley bottom below. From the nearby anchorage, the wood was shipped around the Mountain to Table Bay. The forests, never extensive, lasted barely a generation. Though trees now cover large areas of the mountain slopes once again, they are mostly of exotic species.
As Table Bay was unsafe during gale force North Westerly winds, the anchorage in Hout Bay supplied alternative safe shelter for ships.
Today, Hout Bay is the headquarters of the crayfishing fleet which provides a rich export trade. Large catches of snoek during June and July cause much activity in the bay.
On the Eastern side of the bay, mounted on a rock, is the fascinating bronze leopard of Ivan Mitford-Barberton, who's studio used to be in the village.
The enchanting fishing village of Hout Bay, once a grazing area for the Dutch East India Company's cattle, is now a patchwork of smallholdings and farms.
The harbour is the focal point of the village and has become a major attraction with the development of the Yacht Club and Mariner's Wharf. Hout Bay is the headquarters of the Peninsula's crayfishing fleet. The Snoek Festival in June brings visitors to the harbour where snoek are caught offshore in large numbers and sold on the quayside. Boat trips are available.
The Cape Dutch homestead of Kronendal, on the Main road, was built in 1800. The land was granted to Matthys Bergstedt in 1715 and later that century, the farm became the property of Guilliam van Helsdingen, who was responsible for building the house. Kronendal is the only surviving example of an H-plan house in the Peninsula. There is a painted false loft window in the gable facing Constantia.
One of the most interesting attractions in Hout Bay is the World of Birds in Valley Road. It is one of the country's largest bird parks and is privately funded. Bird and wildlife lovers will be enchanted by the beautifully landscaped aviaries styled to simulate natural habitats. Visitors walk through these aviaries while the birds and small animals often come to greet them.
Hout Bay Beach is an ideal place for a sundowner, and if the South-Easterly wind is blowing, one may take shelter at one of the many fine restaurants and coffee shops in the area.
The 10 km long Chapman's Peak Drive (partly closed for renovation) is an extremely picturesque road that follows the division of strata between the Peninsula's granite base and its sandstone superstructure. This is a narrow road along a cliff face which plunges 600 metres to the sea.
There are wonderful picnic spots and look-out points and the view across to the Sentinel, guarding the entrance to Hout Bay, is powerful. Walking tours along Chapman's Peak may be arranged via Hout Bay Tourism Office.