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How To Spend 48 Fun-Filled Hours In Cape Agulhas


On any day at the windswept tip of Cape Agulhas you will hear a multitude of foreign languages as visitors wait to have their photo taken at a spot where the inscription reads “Indian Ocean” on one side and “Atlantic Ocean” on the other.

This is officially the southernmost tip of the African continent and the place where the waters of the two great oceans meet.

There’s a lot less razzmatazz here than at the southernmost point of the US at Key West, in Florida, for example. But that doesn’t make this spot any less significant and it remains a magnet for visitors.

The tip is flat and rocky, unprotected from the rough weather that caused mariners of old to name this part of the world the Cape of Storms. Not far away, you can take pictures of the forlorn-looking Meisho Maru 38 – a fishing trawler wrecked here in 1982. It’s a reminder that around 150 ships are known to have met their doom along this unforgiving coastline.

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse still shining bright

Still providing a warning to modern mariners is the famous Cape Agulhas Lighthouse. The second-oldest working lighthouse in South Africa, it was built in 1849 to warn ships of the reef that early Portuguese sailors called Cabo dos Agulhas (Cape of Needles).

The lighthouse is now a national monument and visitors are welcome to climb to the top for impressive views of the two oceans and the village of L’Agulhas below.

About 45km from L’Agulhas lies the seaside settlement of Arniston with its whitewashed cottages and turquoise sea lapping against pristine beaches. It seems like a postcard of the Greek Isles. The only town in South Africa with two names – Arniston and Waenhuiskrans – it’s an upmarket holiday resort with a luxury beachfront hotel and well-kept holiday homes.

But the real gem here is surely Kassiesbaai. Located on the other side of the tiny Arniston harbour, it is said to be one of the last authentic fishing communities in the country. Its unassuming thatched cottages and colourful wooden fishing boats have become much-photographed national icons.

Honouring those who perished in sinking of Arniston

Arniston’s original name of Waenhuiskrans derives from a large cave at the edge of town that’s said to be big enough for a wagon and full span of oxen to turn around within it. The community adopted the dual name of Arniston to honour the British ship of the same name which sank off the settlement in 1815, resulting in terrible loss of life.

To find out more about the sunken ships that dot this coast, head inland to Bredasdorp, the largest town in the Cape Agulhas municipal area. Here you’ll find the excellent Shipwreck Museum, which houses exhibits detailing the sad tales of the many vessels that came to grief here.

The Arniston aside, perhaps the most famous wreck is that of the British troop ship HMS Birkenhead in 1852. While the death toll was significant – 445 men perished – the tragedy is best known for creating the selfless naval tradition of “women and children first” which endures to this day.

Historical Moravian Church a historical gem in Elim

A half-hour’s drive from Bredasdorp along the R43, is the little settlement of Elim with its striking Cape Dutch-style church and rows of small but colourful houses. You’ll be blown away by the church, which is simple, yet attractive, on the outside and lovely inside.

It was built in 1835 to be the focal point of the community, which at the time comprised hundreds of recently freed, but destitute, slaves and some indigenous Khoi people. All were given refuge in Elim by German missionaries from the Moravian Church who established Elim in 1824.

There’s a lot to pack in if you’re spending 48 hours in the Cape Agulhas area. So, given that this is the Christmas holidays and you should have more time on your hands, why not plan to linger a little longer?

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