It wasn’t long ago that Muizenberg’s beachfront was virtually derelict, with more boarded-up buildings than visitors – it’s early 20th-century heydays as one of South Africa’s most fashionable seaside resorts long behind it. However, residents refused to let it rot and today, thanks to plenty of hard work and investment from loyal locals, Muizenberg is once again the place to be seen on the Cape Town coast.
Though there has been no return to bloomer-clad ladies lifting their petticoats to paddle in the Atlantic Ocean, or day-tripping picnickers piling off the train to watch Punch and Judy shows on the sand. Instead the remarkably infectious regeneration, which has spread along the beachfront of Muizenberg and back into the side streets, has lured eclectic customers – long-haired surfers, creatives looking for a casual office and commuters popping in for a bite or a beer on their way home from the train station – into equally eclectic cafes. The intrepid surfers, to their credit, have never actually turned their backs on Muizenberg’s break, but they no longer hightail it out of the neighbourhood as soon as they’d had their fill of waves.
Grab a bite
Food and drink have played a major role in the renewal of Muizenberg. These days you can wander from restaurant to bar, grazing on wood-fired pizza, gourmet burgers, vegan treats, sushi and plenty of good coffee and craft beer. The most pumping place on the strip is Tiger’s Milk, a laidback bar serving a local spin on pub grub – with spicy chicken livers and Bunny Chow (a loaf of bread filled with curry) making an appearance alongside burgers and ribs. Further along, choose from seafood and sushi at Live Bait (livebait.co.za), veggie-friendly fare at Yoffi Falafel (Balmoral Building), or if it’s breakfast you’re after, join the families at Knead where great coffee is combined with a kids’ play area. Across the train tracks there is Empire Café, an old favourite known for breakfast and coffee, and the brand new bar The Striped Horse, the flagship of the local craft beer brand of the same name.
It’s not all about ocean views though. Eateries are also emerging in a hidden quarter known locally as ‘The Village’ – an area of narrow streets north of the beach. Grab a latte at Kitch Kombuis (34 Palmer Rd) or sip on fresh juice while browsing for books and vinyl at Roots Bar (rootsbar.co.za). If you’re hereabouts on a Friday evening, wander a few streets further to the Blue Bird Garage Market to sample international cuisine from local vendors.
Art in the streets
Cape Town has a promising street art scene and Muizenberg is one of the suburbs where graffiti-style murals are easily found. Vibrant paintings by local art collective One Love Studio (theonelovestudio.co.za) can be spotted on walls around the region; their best-loved work is the giant surf mural etched on to the side of the Stoked Backpackers building next to the station. The station itself is also a work of art, its Edwardian façade one of many reasons architecture enthusiasts are as happy in Muizenberg as surfers are. The renovated beachfront buildings date back to the early 20th century and contain a mix of Art Deco and Edwardian styles – something that developers strived to retain when revamping the buildings. Perhaps most striking of all though are the brightly painted Victorian beach huts that have become the emblem of Muizenberg. These days the huts are empty, but as regeneration continues, plans to give the huts a new purpose are in the pipeline.
There is one thing that has kept Muizenberg going, even through its rougher times – surfing. The beach break here is ideal for beginners, who come to join a surfing lesson with one of the ‘Berg’s half-dozen surf schools. More accomplished surfers stick to the back line, but Muizenberg is well known for being one of the most welcoming surf spots in South Africa when it comes to newbies. The local outfitters also hire out stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) and offer lessons in both wind- and kite-surfing, which take place at the eastern end of the beach.
If you can drag the kids out of the ocean, there are a few attractions built with them in mind. Behind the beach, some well-established pursuits await – mini golf on the seafront, a pair of well patronised waterslides and a kids’ playground. For something a little more exhilarating, book in advance to try out the blo-karts at Sunrise Circle (blokart.co.za). A cross between go-karting and windsurfing, ‘blo-karting’ is an ideal way to take advantage of Muizenberg’s perpetually breezy weather.
Take something home
Once you’ve surfed, wiped out, rinsed the salt from your mouth with a cold beer and taken your fill of photographs, there is only one thing left to do: shop. Muizenberg hasn’t typically been known as a shopping destination, long overshadowed by neighbouring Kalk Bay with its hippie boutiques and antique shops. But like everything else in Muizenberg, the selection of shops has greatly improved in recent years. It is, of course, a prime place to stock up on surf stuff – boards, boardies and the like – and don’t miss the wonderful Rolling Wood (rollingwood.co.za), where wooden surf and skateboards are crafted. If you’re looking for a local creation, head to Palmer Street in The Village (facebook.com/madeinmuizenberg), dotted with one-off shops selling jewellery, clothing and crafts. On the last Thursday of each month, the Palmer Street shops are joined by a selection of food stalls and everything stays open until 10pm