Cape Town  - Paternoster

Paternoster West Coast
South Africa

Beach Paternoster

The beach at Paternoster

Paternoster is a small fishing village about 15 kilometres north of Vredenburg on the West Coast. Its claim to fame is its crayfish. Paternoster is one of the oldest towns in the area and today there is still uncertainty as to how it became known as Paternoster.

One school of thought is that it was named after the "Our Father" or "Paternoster" prayed by Portuguese sailors as they sailed passed the bay. Others feel that it might be named after the beads (Paternosters) that were worn by the Khoi tribes who frequented the area in the early 1800's The name was obviously too much of a mouthful for the locals and over the years appears to have been shortened to Paternoster.

The town has a long white beach which is dotted with fishermen's cottages. Being so far from civilisation it's a real sleepy hollow, but during the school holidays in December/January it comes alive as visitors stream in to visit Tieties Bay about four kilometres away. The hotel in the town has a lovely veranda where visitors can sit and watch the sun set over the sea and the whales when they visit the bay from July onwards.

Paternoster has been the scene of a number of shipwrecks over the years. In 1876 the iron steam troopship SS Saint Lawrence was wrecked on Great Paternoster Point. She was bound for Cape Town and was carrying the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Buffs. Luckily no lives were lost when she ran agound.

Other ships to founder in this region were: the Portuguese twin-screw mail-steamer SS Lisboa (1910), SS Haddon Hall (1913), SS Malmesbury (1930) and the SS Haleric which sank off Cape St Martin (1932). According to local folklore the SS Lisboa was carrying barrels of red wine which washed up on the shore after the ship sank. The locals apparently buried some of them and dug them up after the customs men left the town. Cape Columbine a majestic headland near to Paternoster got its name after the British wooden snow ‘Columbine’ was wrecked there in 1829. Because of the many shipwrecks that occurred along the coastline it was agreed that a lighthouse should be built in the area.

After long delays the lighthouse commission in 1906 finally recognised that Cape Columbine would be a suitable location to the build a lighthouse. The rising ground at Castle Rock was chosen as the site for it. Things normally move very slowly on the west coast and in this instance it took thirty years before the construction of the lighthouse took place. Harry Claude Lee Cooper was appointed engineer and the Cape Columbine lighthouse was the last lighthouse to be designed by him. Its design was quite different from the conventional tapered circular towers found around the South African coastline.

Cape Columbine was built with a slightly tapered square tower with the outer faces of the walls recessed to form buttresses on its four corners. As with most lighthouses the tower was painted white with the lantern painted red.

Cape Columbine Lighthouse

Cape Columbine Lighthouse

Being the most modern lighthouse of its time, it was the first to receive all three navigational safety features, which other than the light, included a fog horn and a radio beacon. As it had taken so long to build the Columbine lighthouse, everybody living in the area held their breath on the on the 1st October 1936 when Mrs Cooper flipped the switches after sundown to put the lighthouse into operation. Immediately its two beams of light shone out over Britannia Bay and could be seen as far as 50 kilometres out to sea.

Paternoster also boasts a small nature reserve which was established in December 1973. It covers an area of 263ha along the rocky coastline and has numerous inlets and coves. The vegetation ranges from the well-known West Coast fynbos to succulent Karoo.

In spring which starts in August the area is covered in a bright tapestry of wild flowers and is a show not to be missed. For people wanting to holiday in the area, the reserve offers accommodation in the Beach Camp where comfortable tents and wooden A-frame huts are provided. Other than beds and pillows it is necessary to provide your own linen and blankets.

Hot showers, cooking facilities, as well as a wind protected lapa are on site. The camp caters for a total of 23 people and can supply meals for those who do not like self catering. For those who like sea and sand and to get away from it all Paternoster is just the place to visit.

It's full in December so book early.

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