Don’t miss our favourite 5 historical buildings, homes and churches on Kalk Bay’s main drag!
Parking is severely limited along the narrow mountain hugging main road (despite the improvements) and Kalk Bay’s narrow, cobbled alleyways accommodate very few (additional) cars – residents already park on the road.
Catch the train? Yes, we’d advise it.
We’d also recommend that when next in Kalk Bay you have a clear view of where it is you’re going to avoid the we’re-here-now-what crowd that mills around the centre of Kalk Bay.
A plan like Kalk Bay’s historical walk …
But first, a little bit of history…
Kalk Bay has some gorgeous historical buildings, some of them dating back to the 1870s. You’ll find similar in Simon’s Town, a few in Muizenberg, and then Wynberg’s Main Road.
It turns out that Simon van der Stel was as passionate about Kalk Bay as the average Cape Town resident today.
Delayed here in 1687, when the prevailing south easter prevented his boarding a ship to Simon’s Town, he took to fishing from the rocks, hugely impressed by the numbers of fish on this side of the peninsula (clearly, things on the Castle end of town were not nearly as abundant).
When he retired in 1700 to Steenberg, he also started a fishery at Kalk Bay.
Kalk Bay played a pivotal role because of its position between Cape Town and Simon’s Town, where the Dutch East India Company established a winter anchorage at Simon’s Town (the winds made it impossible to enter Table Bay between May and August).
The roads to Kalk Bay were in a decent enough state, but any further towards Simon’s Town in an ox wagon and it became impossible to navigate the mountains and soft sands. Kalk Bay thus served as a storehouse for goods shipped to Simon’s Town.
Later the well-to-do (mainly from Wynberg, but a few from Cape Town) built summer holiday homes in Kalk Bay to get away from the heat.
Then the railway line arrived in Kalk Bay in 1883 and suddenly everyone had access to Kalk Bay’s beaches over weekends. It also meant fish could quickly get to town from the bay.
Fishing was the mainstay of Kalk Bay. Most of the fishermen lived in an area known as Die Land, on the south side of Clairvaux Road. It became such a slum (property, even back then, was ridiculously expensive on this side of the bay as the government increased rates to pay for projects elsewhere) that later the slum was destroyed and the city council built fisherman’s flats sold to the fishing community. They’re still here today.
The great, little (cheap) book that reveals the secrets of Kalk Bay
Old Kalk Bay would have had a far busier harbour. Today’s antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and bric-a-brac stores would have been butchers, bakers, hairdressers and chemists.
But to get a bird’s eye view of what Kalk Bay would have been like then, pop into Kalk Bay Books. You’ll find it in The Annex, a beautiful stone building designed by the architect John Parker in 1913, when it was known as ‘Die Klipkantientjie’ and served as a saloon and public bar.
Their best-selling little book is Kalk Bay An Historical Walk by the Kalk Bay Historical Association that costs a mere R40 to buy.
The walk is easy. You can get through it in as little as two hours. But you can also take a lot longer exploring every little nook and cranny – it’s up to you.
The walk stretches between Quarterdeck and Clairvaux roads and includes the Point and the Harbour in its scope. You’ll get a whole new perspective on Kalk Bay by doing this.
5 of our (favourite) buildings that reveal the secrets of Kalk Bay’s historical main road
Everyone knows this substantial building, built in 1906. It may have served as the Kalk Bay Residential Hotel back then, but today the Olympia Café with its first-rate coffee, home-baked pastries and ciabatta that is without doubt the best on the peninsula (but don’t tell anyone) is downstairs, whilst the Kalk Bay Modern is on the first floor.
THE DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH AND PASTORIE
You can’t help but notice this beautiful neo-gothic church built in 1876. It’s right in the heart of Kalk Bay, painted a striking black and white with a red door, on the corner of Rouxville Road (these side alleys are good spots to nab parking spaces, although difficult to navigate if your car is larger than a fiat 500). These days it serves as the Kalk Bay Theatre, one of Cape Town’s favourite independent theatres.
THE POTTER’S SHOP
This has to be my favourite – the little upstairs balcony of the typically Victorian building with its tiny windows takes you right back to when it served as a municipal washhouse (there’s a similar building in Simon’s Town known as the Squire’s Building). Built in 1901 a the time when there was an episode of the bubonic plague in the Cape, it was often crowded with women who met here to gossip. Today it’s a potter’s shop, just off the main road.
Up Rouxville Road, past Lever Street Park (where locals hang out and picnic; someone’s even moved in their own picnic table and chairs) and up a flight of stairs, you’ll find the smallest mosque in the country, the plans approved to build it in 1898. Back then it was used largely by emancipated slaves from Batavia and Malaysia.
Strathmore is a little tricky to find as the map does not place it on the correct side of Colyn Road (it’s on the left at the top of the hill), but once you’ve found it, you’ll be thrilled. Built by Alex Calder, the same man who ran the King’s Hotel, around 1915 it was the first of three boarding houses in the area. Today it’s a five-flatlet establishment with great views.
For the whole walk and access to a whole lot more buildings, churches and homes, buy Kalk Bay An Historical Walk at Kalk Bay Books (the Annex).