Paternoster – Answer to a Prayer

Paternoster – Answer to a Prayer

This week let’s visit Paternoster which is an unspoilt gem and one of the most traditional, old-worldly fishing villages on the South African West Coast. If you are looking for romance, peace and tranquillity, you will find it here on this exceptional and diversely beautiful coastline.

As one would expect, there are plenty of quaint, whitewashed fishermen’s cottages stretching along the white beach causing one to think they are from a bygone era. All of this splendour and beauty is a mere 145km from Cape Town.    

Paternoster, derives its name from the prayers of ship-wrecked Portuguese sailors. The Latin meaning of Paternoster – Patre Nostre – means Our Father.

The locals tell the story that this is the prayer the Portuguese sailors cried out, when their ship The Lisboa ran aground here many years ago. Interestingly enough, many of the locals are direct descendants from the survivors of this shipwreck.


History tells us that the Lisboa was wrecked on Soldiers Reef, Paternoster on the 23 October 1910 while sailing from Angola, to Cape Town with 250 passengers and 50 crewmembers aboard. The ship was carrying a cargo of live bulls, olive oil and red wine. When the ship ran aground many of the wine barrels were washed overboard and smashed on the rocks turning the seawater around the ship into red.

Over the years Paternoster has remained a fishing village and many fishermen still use the old traditional methods. Early in the morning you may be lucky enough to spot The Watcher… he walks up and down the beach watching the sea birds, and by doing this, he determines where the Mackerel are and points fishermen to the right spot.

Paternoster is also a crayfish (lobster) paradise with local fishermen selling them next to the road during season. One of the most enjoyable local customs is a Kreef Braai which means a Crayfish Barbeque and with lots of great white wine from local producers, crayfish fresh from the sea and an open fire on the beach. What’s that saying about ‘local is lekker’……

In Spring, its time to visit the flowers in the beautiful Columbine Nature Reserve. Tietiesbaai (declared a nature reserve in 1973) forms part of the Columbine Nature Reserve, covering an area of 263 hectares along the rocky coastline with lots of interesting little inlets and coves. 

The Reserve’s vegetation is typical West Coast veld, ranging from the well-known fynbos to succulent karoo. In spring (August to October) the area is covered in a bright tapestry of wild flowers, which is common to the entire area.

Another interesting fact is that the reserve hosts the last manually controlled lighthouse to be built in South Africa, known as the Cape Columbine lighthouse.

This lighthouse is usually the first South African lighthouse to be seen by ships coming from Europe. It was built in 1936, and it stands on Castle Rock at a height of 80m above sea level.

The beam it casts is visible for about 50 kms. It must have given the old seafarers a real sense of security to see that light beaming out to them on some of the stormy Cape nights.

From the lighthouse viewpoint you can observe the whales and dolphins frolicking in the ocean for at least ten months of the year. Birders are welcome and can see over 250 species of birds with seabirds such as the Seagulls, Cormorants, Sacred Ibis and the Oyster Catcher, who use the Paternoster coastline as their breeding ground.

And last but certainly not least, your eyes and taste buds will be given a sensorial feast which you will never forget when you stop off in Paternoster for the Seafood Festival, in December.


The festival includes snoek braai’s, seafood poitjies and of course their famous crayfish. The focus is on seafood, so you can select your own Crayfish form the fishing boats. (As I will not cook a live crayfish, I researched how to prepare them humanely:  the least distressing way is to immerse them in cold, fresh water for about thirty minutes).

When you have selected your crayfish, it will be cooked on the coals for you and to go with it, you must try a few glasses of palate titillating wine from one of the local wine producers.

What can I say but, a lekker braai, with a lekker glass of wine, in a lekker place …….!!!

Denny McQueen 

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