The wind is as much part of the wallpaper of Pringle Bay as the mountains and sea. Perhaps for two months of the year, in April and in May, there will be stillness for days on end, but for the rest, befriend the wind or avoid the last of False Bay’s coves.
Clarence Drive, the part of the R44 between Gordon’s Bay and Kleinmond, is among SA’s must-drive coastal scenic routes. After leaving Somerset West’s traffic behind, it is just a few kilometres until the natural wonders begin.
Pringle Bay, between Rooi Els and Betty’s Bay, is a historic bolthole. Just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, it has gravel roads, quiet nights, and mountains and sea enclosing a protected fynbos biosphere.
Although the fynbos recently burned in raging fires, green shoots are already evident on the mountain path to the Brodie Link, a walking route between Betty’s Bay and Pringle Bay.
The fire did not reach the Hangklip side of the reserve, which is still covered in pristine fynbos. It is a challenging climb to the peak, but there are many well-marked walking routes in the Kogelberg Reserve under Hangklip, including a generally flat route to look down on to Sea Farm in Betty’s Bay — the site of fish traps built into the rocks.
Perhaps the most notable thing about walking in the reserve is that you might not see another soul. There must be few places of such natural beauty that are as easily accessible and yet hardly used.
Accommodation is easy to come by except in the peak Christmas period, when the other half of Pringle Bay’s property owners take up residence.
Baytown and My Beach House are good websites for finding a house available for a weekend or more, while upmarket guesthouses include Villa Marine right on the rocks near The Point and Moonstruck.
Both are recommended. The four-star graded Moonstruck has four guest suites and a honeymoon suite named Pan. Half the rooms have fireplaces. Villa Marine has six suites.
3 Flavours Guest House is on Clarence Drive a little way outside the village, while The Hangklip Hotel offers a no-frills stay for budget-conscious travellers.
The main beach at Pringle Bay stretches more than 1km towards a lagoon, where the sea and Buffalo River meet — a favourite spot for families with young children who enjoy wading in warmer water.
The deeper part of the river is good for swimming, although the tannin-coloured water hides sharp rocks.
The beach is home to several breeding African oystercatcher pairs — recently named Bird of the Year 2017 — and areas on the beach are roped off to protect their eggs. Like the mountains, the beach is sparsely populated and even in peak holiday periods is not crowded.
The village revolves on a hub that contains Miem’s restaurant, the Mini Mart, Lemon & Lime, Simply Coffee and Bistro 365. At the Saturday morning market, home-bakes, clothing, bric-a-brac and fresh eggs and vegetables are on sale.
The deli Lemon & Lime offers delicacies like double-zero flour, truffle oil, Welsh cheddar and other recherché ingredients, along with fresh goodies and meats. They serve a great coffee and a light menu of items, but Simply Coffee, just next door, is where the villagers congregate for breakfast and lunch.
Simply Coffee and the more elegant 365 Bistro upstairs are consistently good and good value for money. The omelette and eggs on savoury mince make great breakfasts at Simply Coffee. The liver and onions, lamb shank, venison platter and baked line-caught fish are always good at Bistro 365. The trio of samoosas make a good starter at Bistro 365. Owners Morne and Etienne are always around and the food and service reflect their commitment.
Hook, Line and Sinker, just a block outside the village hub, is the sort of place people either love or hate.
With no decor or charm to speak of, this is pared-down eating at its best: a small menu — two starters (the mussel soup is a favourite) and local fish and prawns are typical. Lunch is battered hake and chips on newspaper, while dinner is fish cooked in farm butter over a log fire. On Wednesday and Sunday nights, steak is on the menu. Walk-ins risk being shouted at. Perigators is popular for pizza and for its theatre, where music is on offer most weekends.
No story about Pringle Bay is complete without mentioning baboons. The many homes with electric fences are less concerned about crime and more about keeping out the baboons.
Pringle Bay is a good place to catch lobster and pick mussels (get a licence from the Post Office inside the Mini Mart) and the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay is a must-visit, especially when you need an escape from the wind.