White houses on the beach in Paternoster, South Africa.
Travel Guide

Paternoster: the jewel of South Africa’s West Coast

Deb Hendricks

Contributing writer

Planning a trip to Paternoster? Stay at the Abalone Pool Villas near the beach. If you're short on time, explore the region on a day tour from Cape Town.

If you’d love to see the sides of South Africa that you haven’t explored yet, Paternoster is a great place to start. Many visitors come to South Africa for the epic wildlife and urban experiences, and leave without seeing everything else the Rainbow Nation has to offer.

Don’t make that mistake! Local vacationers love this seaside village, and once you’ve sunk your toes into its sand, you will too.

Paternoster is an idyllic, old fishing village on the rugged West Coast of South Africa. It’s known for its pristine beaches, serene white houses, and breathtaking sunsets. If you're looking for a peaceful getaway with plenty of natural beauty and outdoor activities, Paternoster is the perfect destination.

Explore the culture and the history of the area, spot the whales swimming offshore, and indulge in the supremely fresh, delectable seafood.

Paternoster is a walking-sized town. The vast majority of its sights need nothing more than a comfortable pair of shoes to get to. But to get the most out of your time here, a car is recommended.

A weathered boat on a sandy beach in Paternoster, South Africa.

Things to do in Paternoster

There is a wide variety of activities to keep you busy when visiting Paternoster. Whatever your purpose in visiting the area, you'll have no problem finding an activity that you’ll love. 

Go horse riding

There are a couple of stables just outside of town with beautiful and well-trained horses. On horseback is an amazing way to see the shoreline, and you can also go far on a cart ride, or even take riding lessons if you’re working on your seat. Picnics and sundowners are also available.


I’m always looking for ways to get out on the water, and Paternoster is a stunning spot to launch a kayak from. Guided paddles take you along the coastline, and the chances of seeing marine life are high! Seals sunbathe on the rocks, and whales and dolphins can often be seen swimming out at sea.

You can also choose from kitesurfing, scuba diving, and snorkelling, as well as just going for a dip. I have to warn you, though, the water is cold! The Atlantic waters may warm up the tiniest bit in the summer, but at any time of year, watersports here will be a bracing experience, to say the least!

Paternoster Crayfish and Seafood Festival

As mentioned above, the annual festival is a much anticipated town event. The fun is spread out over two days, and includes local musical talent, craft stalls, beer gardens, and of course seafood! There is even entertainment for the kiddos in the form of bouncy castles and face painting, along with all sorts of games and activities.

It’s a popular festival, and these are hot tickets, so if you’d like to be there, book your ticket online instead of taking the chance of there being no tickets left at the gate.

Paternoster lighthouse surrounded by white Namaqualand daisies in spring.

Find the wildflowers

One of my own favourite things about this area is the wildflowers. In the spring, from late August through to the end of September, head inland to the West Coast National Park. Here you’ll be treated to a spectacle of wildflowers that words just can’t describe. Fields full of colour waving in the breeze that will make you want to stretch out in them and get drunk on their scent. It’s an unforgettable sight that you don’t want to miss.

Whale Watching

Though whales swim through the waters off Paternoster all year round, the best time to see these goliaths is from August to December. Among the cast are orcas, Bryde's whales, southern right whales, and humpbacks. You might also get to see dusky dolphins, heaviside dolphins, and common dolphins.

The best part about whale watching here is that you don’t even need to board a boat to see them. Just have a seat near the water or lean against the rail of your balcony, and gaze out to sea.

The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve

Cape Columbine is about 20 minutes west along the coast, and is known more often by the locals as Tietiesbaai, as its bay is called. The centrepiece of the reserve is the Cape Columbine Lighthouse. The Cape Columbine light was built in 1936, and was the first sight of Africa for the ships coming from America. 

You can’t beat the view from the top, though you will have to pay for it. It’s the last manned lighthouse in South Africa, and the keeper charges a small fee for the chance to climb it. But believe me, it’s worth the price, and the 97 steps, to look out over the ocean from the balcony.

The area also has hiking trails and campsites, and is a fantastic spot for a picnic or braai (barbecue). There is absolutely nothing like camping at the beach, and this is also my very favourite place in the area to kayak.

A restaurant on a quiet road in Paternoster, South Africa.

What to eat and drink in Paternoster

This little fishing village is home to its own wine bar, the Paternoster Wine and Tasting Lounge. It features hundreds of wines from across South Africa, and you can see the owners' passion for introducing guests to their country’s best. They host events, as well, and you can spend an afternoon enjoying wine and scrumptious street-style food, or an evening painting as you sip the region's best wyn

There are also some excellent restaurants in town, including one of the world’s most famous, Wolfgat. Focused on sustainability and local ingredients, you’ll need a reservation to taste what Chef van der Merwe has cooking. If you have to wait a few days for your reservations, try the Abalone House. Steaks, seafood, and a decadent selection of desserts make for a lovely meal. And remember to ask about the cave.

There are also all manner of more casual spots to find a meal. A favourite is the Noisy Oyster. Seafood and other food, it’s all delicious, and the setting is relaxed and fun.

A quiet bay near Paternoster, South Africa.

Best time to visit Paternoster

If you’re planning your trip according to the weather, anytime is the perfect time to visit Paternoster. The rains fall in the winter, and July is the wettest month, with an average rainfall of 50 mm or so. But there are rarely more than 3 or 4 rainy days a month, and even with the temperatures falling to around 10ºC at night, the sea air is crisp, clean, and intoxicating.

The warmest weather comes in January, and with it come the crowds. February and November are the next busiest months, especially on the weekends. If you’d like to avoid the commotion, plan around these times.

If you’re planning your trip around whale watching, though, aim for August through December. If you do make your trip during this time, I suggest you catch the Paternoster Crayfish and Seafood Festival, too! 

I’ll discuss this spectacular annual festival more below, but it’s held in the spring, around September, and dates aren’t announced until late fall or early winter. Check out South Africa’s west coast info site when making your arrangements. 

If you’re a wildflower chaser, September is also prime time for wildflowers in the area - read on for more about that!

You might also factor seasonal dishes into your holiday timing, and who can blame you! Paternoster is a seafood lover's paradise year-round. However, there are certain dishes that can only be found at certain times of the year. Snoek, for example, also known as snake mackerel, is caught between May and August. On the other hand, the winter months are when you'll be able to enjoy the famous West Coast rock lobster, which is available from November to March or April. 

You really can’t go wrong visiting Paternoster at any time of year. It all depends on your tolerance for crowds, and how you want to spend your time - and your meals - while you’re here.

Getting to Paternoster

The town is about a 2-hour drive north of Cape Town, where the nearest airport is located. The 160 km, (99 mile) drive is along the scenic and well-paved R27. You’ll make a left when the R27 meets the R399, and take this road right into Paternoster.

Unfortunately, there is no public transportation that will take you along this route, so your options are driving or paying for a taxi. I strongly recommend renting a car. This will let you explore the Paternoster area without having to miss a thing.

You do also have the option of taking an Elwierda Bus to the nearby town of Vrendenburg, and hiring a taxi to drive you the last 13.5 km to Paternoster.

Holiday homes in Paternoster, South Africa.

Where to stay in Paternoster

For a town that covers only 195 hectares, with less than 2000 residents, there are a surprising number of options when it comes to accommodations. Whatever your budget or preference, there is the perfect palace for you here.

Choices range from the centrally located and very reasonably priced De Linden Boutique Guest House to the more luxurious and equally central Abalone Pool Villas. Whether you’re travelling alone, with your family, or having a romantic weekend away, you’ll have no problem finding the ideal stay in Paternoster.

Final thoughts

The word “quaint” may have been coined just for the town of Paternoster. The beautiful coastal village offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and delicious seafood. From the stunning beaches and picturesque sunsets to the historical landmarks and the range of activities, there is something for everyone in. 

The town's culinary scene, especially its seafood, is an element that should not be missed. Whether you're looking for a solo expedition, a romantic getaway, or a family vacation, Paternoster is a must-visit destination. 

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Deb Hendricks

Author - Deb Hendricks

After years of travelling, Africa is the one place that Deb can’t get enough of. According to Deb, there’s no place in the world that has more to offer a traveller.

Last Updated 12 September 2023

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