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Plettenberg Bay – Top Tours

Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay, nicknamed Plet or Plett, is the primary town of the Bitou Local Municipality in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. As of the census of 2001, there were 29,149 population. It was originally named Bahia Formosa (“beautiful bay”) by early Portuguese explorers and lies on South Africa’s Garden Route 210 km from Port Elizabeth and about 600 km from Cape Town.


Middle and Later Stone Age

Nelson Bay Cave and Matjies River Cave at nearby Keurboomstrand were inhabited for over 100,000 years by Middle Stone Age man and then later by ancestors of the Khoisan, who were possibly the same people who traded with the Portuguese survivors of the San Gonzales shipwreck. Their tools, ornaments and food debris can be viewed in these caves, which are still being excavated.

Colonial period

Long before Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape, Portuguese explorers charted the bay in the 15th and 16th centuries, the first being Bartolomeu Dias in 1487. Ninety years later Manuel de Perestrelo aptly called it Bahia Formosa or the Beautiful Bay. The first European inhabitants were 100 Portuguese sailors marooned here for 9 months when the São Gonçalo sank in the bay in 1630. The survivors built two small boats which they used to link with a passing vessel. A stone that they left behind on Beacon Island, known as the Van Plettenberg Stone, is now in the Cape Town museum. In 1763, the first European settlers in the Bay were stock farmers, hunters and frontiersmen from the Western Cape.

A stinkwood navigational beacon was first erected on Beacon Island in 1771. The original was a square block of stinkwood, inscribed with the latitude and longitude of Plettenberg Bay and erected to enable mariners to check their location. It was replaced by a stone one by Captain Sewell in 1881.

The bay housed a barracks for the Dutch East India Company in 1776. The Governor of the Cape, Baron Joachim van Plettenberg, renamed the town Plettenberg Bay in 1779. In 1869 the barracks was bought by St Peters Church and used as a rectory for the next 70 years. Today it is privately owned.

In 1787/88 Johann Jerling erected a timber shed commissioned by the Dutch East India Company ; the remains can still be seen and are preserved as a provincial heritage site.

In the 1830s, Plettenberg Bay was a stopping point for ships travelling through during the winter time, heading to India.

As of 1833, the population of Plettenberg Bay was estimated around 400, with half being white, according to diplomat Edmund Roberts who visited the area. Edmund Roberts noted that the bay had a large abundance of cattle and sheep. He also recognized “the excellence of its butter” and a timber industry.

Modern period

A whaling station on Beacon Island closed down in 1916. Parts of the iron slipway are still visible today. A hotel called The Beacon Isle was built on the site of the whaling station. This was replaced by the iconic Beacon Isle Southern Sun Resort which opened for business in December 1972. This building, designed by André Hoffe, has a layered atrium which pays tribute to the Guggenheim Museum of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Between 1960 and 1990 Plettenberg Bay holiday resort expanded dramatically, extending along Robberg Beach (‘Millionaire’s Row’), and back towards the N2.

Historical Attractions

Plettenberg Bay has a wide variety of historical attractions – a few are:

  • Nelson Bay Cave – An Important Middle and later Stone Age archeological site
  • First recorded European habitation in South Africa
  • Navigational Beacon first erected on the Beacon Island in 1771.
  • The Timber Shed – In August 1786 the Dutch East India Company decreed erection of the Timber Shed for storage of timber prior to shipment by sea.
  • The Old Rectory – Plettenberg Bay’s oldest surviving building was identified on a 1777 map as “verblyf voor het volk” (essentially “visitors’ accommodation”).
  • Sometime Norwegian Whaling Station – Beacon Island as it was when the hub of whaling operations (1913-16).
  • Robberg Peninsula – The Robberg Peninsula is a national monument nature reserve and marine protected area that lies about 8 km south of Plettenberg Bay.

Other Attractions

Plett is an adventure and activities playground offering a great range of attractions and things to do – from whale-watching to deep sea fishing to skydiving to hiking and other forest adventures, surfing, kayaking, bungy jumping, black water tubing to horse-riding…to mention just a few of the activities you can choose from! Attractions also include shopping, markets, animal sanctuaries and more. Have fun in Plettenberg Bay! There’s heaps to do!

  • Animal Sanctuaries
  • Arts, Crafts & Curios
  • Beaches & Beach Holiday Spots
  • Birdwatching
  • Tours & Excursions
  • Whales, Dolphins & Marine


Sporting Attractions

Plettenberg Bay is the ideal playground for those who enjoy sport. A wide variety of attractions are available:

  • Adrenalin

  • Adventure Biking

  • Bungee Jumping

  • Cycle Trails

  • Family Activities

  • Hiking & Walking Trails

  • Offroad Trails

  • Recreational Fishing

  • Water Activities

  • Game Reserves

  • Horse Trails

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