A Guide to Paternoster, Western Cape.

Paternoster is a quaint little seaside village a mere 145 km from Cape Town, known for its whitewashed cottages.

Originally a fishing community dependent upon the ocean for sustenance and sustainability, these days the fishing traditions have been replaced by a thriving tourism industry. However, for some locals, little has changed in their daily lives over the years. The small fishermen boats still leave the harbour at dawn each day and, depending on what's running, return heaped with snoek or hottentot, rock lobster, sharks, or the rather funny-looking elephant fish.

Paternoster means 'Our Father' in Latin and although the exact origin of the name remains unknown, it is believed that it refers to prayers said by Catholic Portuguese seamen when they became shipwrecked off that stretch of coast. The survivors said the Lord’s Prayer / Our Father as a way to give thanks for their spared lives. The bay appears as "St. Martins Paternoster" on an old map by a 18th-century French mapmaker and engraver, Pieter Mortier.

Other theories believe that it refers to beads that the Khoi tribe wore that were called Paternosters or that the name is derived from a kind of fishing tackle that originated here.

A rather eery titbit, St. Augustine's Primary School in Paternoster was put on the national- and possibly the international- archaeological map when three partial human skeletons were found by construction workers digging trenches for two new classrooms back in 2009.

Luckily foul-play was ruled out when Nick Wiltshire, senior heritage officer at the provincial heritage resource authority, said the remains were pre-colonial and dated back between 500 and 3 000 years. The remains were most likely of the Khoisan tribes that were indigenous to the area.

"Pre-colonial people of South Africa who lived on the beaches would harvest the perlemoen, catch fish and crayfish, bring it up to the beach, eat and camp next to the shoreline, where they would discard all the shells," he said. People would be buried close to where they had died.

Based on the remains found alongside the bodies, Wiltshire said they believed this was a multicomponent archaeological site, with evidence of what those people ate, how they camped, their artefacts and their lifestyle.


The original building was built in 1863 with limestone from the area. In those days, it acted as the local gathering place with shops and a holding cell. The dining room was used for dances and church services and the function hall was an open area used by the local farmers to store their harvest. Converted into a hotel in 1940 by the Tollman family who bought the building and then went on to sell it to the Sanks family in 1948 before they immigrated to England.

The restaurant is open 7 days a week to hotel guests and day visitors, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’re known for their seafood, but even better known for the famous Panty Bar adjacent to the restaurant. In 1974 Johan Carosini started the collection of "Honeymoon Panties". Unfortunately, the collection had to be taken down in 1983 after a Clergyman reported it to the Police as an 'unholy practice'...needless to say the police man, who was responsible for the confiscation of the panties, was thereafter called "Panty' Basson. Giorello Carosini started 'collecting' again in the nineties – the collection is now more interesting than ever and still flourishing.


Cape Columbine lies just 5km outside of Paternoster and covers an area of 263ha along the rocky stretch of coastline. This area was declared a nature reserve in December 1973. There are beautiful hiking trails and you can expect unforgettable sunsets right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The reserve also boasts the last manually controlled lighthouse to be built in South Africa. Built in 1936, the Cape Columbine lighthouse is usually the first South African lighthouse to be seen by ships coming from South America and Europe. Standing on a massive outcrop of rock known as Castle Rock, the lighthouse is named after the barque Columbine, wrecked here in 1829. The lighthouse is also one of very few to remain manned by lightkeepers. Former lightkeepers' homes have been converted into guesthouse accommodation, supplying three cottages and one of few places in South Africa where one can stay at a lighthouse.

Open Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) 10am – 3pm


Speaking of the Cape Columbine Reserve, there are multiple accommodation options within it. The above-mentioned light keepers’ homes and breathtaking campsites are scattered throughout, but my favourite will always remain Sea Shack. Guests stay in wooden cabins, each fitted with a queen-size bed and two small shelves on either side. You will find a fully stocked kitchen including fridges, pots, pans, cutlery and crockery in the communal boma. There's also an outdoor patio and large fire area for braai enthusiasts. (Wood is available to purchase)

Sea Shack is fully off the grid, powered by solar and gas and a proud participant of Eco-lodging. While this may mean a hairdryer free zone there are power points enough for cell phone and laptop charging and free Wifi also makes for a perfect working hideaway, should you need it.


A theatre of food and life, and home of honest seaside cuisine. The Noisy Oyster is my favourite spot to sit down for a vibey dinner or drink.

Discover the quirky, eclectic The Hobnobbery, a new co-operative. Browse for beautiful gifts, jewellery and clothing at Tumbleweed while enjoying a gin or glass of wine with delicious cheeses, deli items or a yummy open sandwich from The Drunken Pecorino.


Browse through the treasure-trove that is Die Winkel op Paternoster for West Coast produce, wine and more. The Bistro is also the sister restaurant to the famous, Wolfgat, where chef Adel Hughes serves up a tasty and unique strandveld menu daily.

On this trip, I only managed to briefly breeze over everything Paternoster has to offer during my short two-day stay. But if you’re looking to visit this picturesque little town anytime soon, I highly recommend taking a look at the ULTIMATE PATERNOSTER BUCKET LIST.