It was a windless summer’s day and I wanted to explore an old-world corner of seaside Cape Town. After parking at Surfer’s Corner, I took a moment to admire the brightly coloured bathing huts before setting off along the Catwalk towards St James. Dozens of surfers were at play in the waves to my left and the sea was a most inviting shade of green.
The concrete path wended its way along the shore, just metres from the crashing waves. The slopes of Muizenberg mountain towered above and the magnificent sweep of False Bay stretched out before me. There were fishermen casting from the rocks and children at play in the rock pools; occasionally a train clattered by on the tracks adjoining the Catwalk.
To my left stood Bailey’s Cottage – designed as a beach hideaway for diamond tycoon Sir Abe Bailey in 1909 – perched in an idyllic spot at the water’s edge. Reaching delightful St James Beach, I paddled in its tidal pool, lamenting that I hadn’t brought my bathing costume.
Heading back towards Muizenberg along Main Road, I marvelled at the grand old mansions lining this historic route, such as Victorian Carisbrooke House with its tall slate roof, and Graceland with its ‘Cape Mediterranean’ architecture of clay-tile roofs, arches and pergolas.
I came to the humble, thatched Rhodes Cottage and stopped for a visit. Empire builder, mining magnate, prime minister of the Cape Colony and founder of Rhodesia, Cecil John Rhodes bought this simple, three-bedroom cottage in 1899. The house has exhibits depicting his life, including photographs, newspaper cuttings and caricatures revealing the man behind the imperial legacy.
Next up on Main Road is the palatial Casa Labia, also known as ‘The Fort’. It was built in 1929 for Count Labia, the Italian First Minister Plenipotentiary in South Africa at the time. All its decorations and furnishings were imported to reflect the style and elegance of 18th-century Venice (the Labia family’s ancestral home was Palazzo Labia in Venice).
Just 50 metres further along Main Road lies the quaint, thatched Posthuys. It’s thought to have been erected in the 1670s by the Dutch East India Company and was used as a military observation post to warn the colony of attack from the sea. Today it’s a museum that focuses on the Battle of Muizenberg (1795) and Khoi history.
I ended my walk at Muizenberg’s beautiful Edwardian station, built in 1913. This grand edifice is the symbolic gateway to False Bay, marking the start of perhaps the most scenic railway line in South Africa. Its graceful clock tower is made of solid teak. Then it was time for a cup of coffee and a delicious sandwich at Knead Bakery, a local haunt of surfers and beachgoers.
To experience the byways of Muizenberg, take an audio tour with VoiceMap.