Fish Hoek

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By Derek Keats (Flickr: Elsie's Peak) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Derek Keats (Flickr: Elsie's Peak) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Fish Hoek is a picturesque town situated about halfway down the Cape Peninsula, between Cape Town and Simon’s Town.- South Africa

It is well known for its beach, which gets jam-packed on sunny days. Fish Hoek is renowned for its friendly hospitality, proximity to all sorts of tourist attractions and activities besides boasting one of the best swimming beaches in the Cape. There is also a good suburban railway link with Cape Town to the north and Simon’s Town to the south. As a coastal suburb of Cape Town, Fish Hoek is popular as a residence for commuters and holidaymakers alike. The traditional industries of ‘trek’ fishing and angling co-exist with the leisure pursuits of surfing, kayaking, sailing and sunbathing.

History : Fish Hoek or Vissers Baay or Visch Hoek appears on the earliest maps of the Cape. The arrival of European settlers in 1652 forced the indigenous population to leave the area, and during the 1700s farmers appeared in the Noordhoek area. Fish Hoek beach was used on an informal basis for whaling and fishing, but it was not until 1918 that it was laid out as a township. The first grant of Crown Land in Fish Hoek was granted to Andreas Bruins in 1818. The land was sold several times before being bought by Hester Sophia de Kock in 1883. She was then a spinster of 51 years old. In 1901, late in life, she married a local farmer, one Jacob Isaac de Villiers who came to live with her on the farm.

Although she farmed wheat and vegetables she started providing accommodation for people who wanted to stay in Fish Hoek, and so became the first local tourist entrepreneur. Fish Hoek has remained, with its situation and views, a beacon of extraordinary accommodation ever since. Having realized that Fish Hoek was becoming popular she left instructions in her will that the farm was to be surveyed and the land sold as building plots, after the deaths of Hester and Jacob, the land was sold off, the first sale taking place in 1918. This was the beginning of the town of Fish Hoek. People built holiday cottages at first, but as there was a good train service to Cape Town a more permanent community soon arose. By 1940 it was big enough to be declared a municipality and was administered by the Town Council until 1994. It is now part of the City of Cape Town.

Hester and Issac de Villiers, with other members of their family are buried in the small graveyard next to the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) in Kommetjie Road. The farmhouse on the site of the present Homestead Naval Mess near the railway crossing became a hotel. The original building burned down in 1947. Open boat whaling took place in Fish Hoek from 1817 to 1868 where Southern Right and Humpback whales were targeted. The whalers would attack female whales who had arrived to calve, and their newborn. Eventually all the whaling operations were closed down, and nowadays the whales know that it is safe return, and come to False Bay to calve. Whales can be seen from about August to the end of November, however sometimes they arrive as early as June.

In the early days of European settlement False Bay was teeming with fish. Trek fishing has taken place ever since. Harders and yellowtail are the fish most frequently caught but nowadays in greatly reduced numbers. “Trek” is Dutch for pull and refers to the pulling in of the net. The original barn of the Fish Hoek Farm now called Mountain View can be seen in Cottage Lane. It has been converted into two cottages and is not open to the public.

Access : Coordinates: -34.136, 18.43 / By car There are 3 main routes to Fish Hoek : From the north : Via the Main Road (M4) along the east coast of the peninsula. From Cape Town you will pass through Cape Town’s southern suburbs before reaching Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Clovelly followed by Fish Hoek. From the south : Via the Main Road (M4) along the east coast of the peninsula. From Cape Point you will pass through Simon’s Town and Glencairn before you get into Fish Hoek. From the west : Via Kommetjie Road (M65), which leads from Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Sun Valley and Tokai.

By train :  MetroRail operates frequent and reliable trains from Cape Town to Fish Hoek ; the route goes through the southern suburbs then via Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Clovelly to Fish Hoek. From Fish Hoek the train goes on to Glencairn and Simon’s Town. The section from Muizenberg to Simon’s Town is right next to the sea and is very scenic. The station is on the corner of Beach and Station roads, one block from the Main Road and a 3-minute walk from the beach itself.

By bus :  Golden Arrow operates frequent buses to Fish Hoek along the Main Road (M4) from Muizenberg to the north and Simon’s Town to the south. Buses also ply the route from Kommetjie and Sun Valley (via Kommetjie Road, the M65), Noordhoek (via Noordhoek Main Road, the M6) and Tokai (via Ou Kaapse Weg, the M64). Buses arrive at and depart from the train station (see above).

Get around :   Fish Hoek “town centre” (the area around the beach, Main Road and train station) is small enough that it can all be covered on foot very easily. Valyland Shopping Centre is about 15 minutes walk from the beach up Recreation Road. Longbeach Mall (a large, relatively new shopping centre) is just over 4 km from the beach, westwards on Kommetjie Road (M65). Frequent buses and taxis ply this route, leaving from the train station.

Highlights :

  • Fish Hoek is rated as a great place for whale-watching and is only a few minutes drive from a colony of penguins at Boulders Beach. From Simon’s Town, about a 15 minute-drive from Fish Hoek, there is shark-diving and a boat trips to see the seals. There are loads of excellent restaurants in Fish Hoek, Glencairn, Simon’s Town, Noordhoek,
  • Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, all of which are within 15 minutes of Fish Hoek.
  • Imhoff’s Farm, Kommetjie Road (M65). Monkeys, birds, camel rides and a snake park as well as several restaurants and craft shops.
  • Peers Cave (A short climb up the dunes above 19th Avenue). In 1926/7 Victor Peers and his son Bertram excavated the cave now known as Schildersgat, which later became known as Peers Cave. They found many stone tools and the remains of nine people, one of whom became famous as Fish Hoek Man. The skull has the largest brain area of any skull of its age found up until that time, and has been dated at 12,000 years old. In January 1941 Peers Cave was declared a National Monument. The location affords beautiful views across the peninsula to both oceans from across the valley and a peep into stone-age history

Activities : Next to the beach is the famous catwalk from which you can explore the rock pools and get great views across the bay. There are sections without handrails – potentially dangerous for children or the elderly. Fish Hoek beach is rated as one of the most beautiful and family-friendly beaches in the Western Cape  along with Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town it is probably the best and safest swimming beach in and around Cape Town. A shark spotting system with warning sirens is in place to protect bathers from the occasional visiting Great White, and an experimental shark net system. The beach has restaurants and shopping close by, has changing rooms, showers and an excellent group of lifeguards.

Go next : Kalk Bay a small picturesque fishing village is just around the corner. It has a whole row of quaint little shops and a couple of great eateries, situated right on the sea, where we can drink the great Cape Wines, eat fresh seafood and watch the fishing boats coming in. St James is really great for the littlies, with a safe tidal pool and little changing boxes! Muizenberg has a magnificent beach that goes on for miles, with surfing and good swimming.

Towards Cape Point is the historical village of Simon’s Town, a South African Naval base, which is great fun to visit. There is a statue of Just Nuisance, a Teddy Bear Museum and a Gemstone Factory.

A little further on is Boulders Beach, which has one of the few land-based African penguin colonies. These endemic penguins come right up onto the beach and among the resident’s gardens, where they nest. Then on to Cape Point, where two oceans meet there are baboons and lots of wild flowers and animals in the Game and Nature Reserve. Curios are available from the African Arts and Crafts village. Kommetjie is famous for surfing (large waves), crayfishing and bird life.

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