When we moved to Hout Bay from the Cape Town City Bowl, I kept waiting to miss our old ‘hood. I had loved living in town so much – the vibe, the constant stream of things to do, the feeling of being in the heart of Cape Town with a lovely view of Table Mountain. But then we moved to Hout Bay, and five years later, I’m still waiting for the day I wake up and wish we lived in town again. I originally wrote this article after we’d only lived here a year and a half – now it’s been even longer and I love living in Hout Bay even more.
The truth is, living in Hout Bay is wonderful. It is absolutely home to me – to us. This morning I dropped my son at playschool (a 2 min drive from home) and went for a walk on the beach before work. It was cold and crisp – the first real Autumn morning – and the sun slanted over the mountains and lit up the waves. There are mountain views on all sides, and a wide expanse of sea, and I saw a ship chugging out to start its day, surrounded by flocks of seagulls; a man SUPping in the first rays of the day’s warmth; a legion of people walking their dogs and a sole horse rider trotting along the shore. Twice a week I walk along Chapman’s Peak and I am astounded – stopped in my tracks – at the beauty of our bay.
Natural beauty every way you look
It is so, so beautiful here. Never mind the fact that we can afford a house with a garden that has mountain views every way you look and is a 5 minute walk from the beach (I never dreamed that was possible!) Even grocery shopping is beautiful, with these amazing views and the scent of the sea as you step out of the shops.
And I love that everything is so close. The shops, the library, the beach, the garden centre – because we’re cut off from the rest of Cape Town, there’s one of everything (except the movies, sob!) here. Which means there’s a real sense of community: you see the same people moving around their business every day, and we’re all in this together. COVID made this even more of a reality, because we all had to band together to keep each other safe. Although we were all social distancing, there was a real sense of community. Ard Matthews (of Just Jinjer fame!) did a series of free rooftop concerts during lockdown, to keep everyone’s spirits up!
We can drive 5 minutes from home and start a hike that gives us these views! We’re 5 minutes from the beach and Chapmans Peak, 15 minutes from Constantia Nek, half an hour from Table Mountain. I mean, come on! Who gets this lucky?
Commute and crime
The two things that worried me most about living in Hout Bay were the commute and the crime, and I feel like we have a handle on both of them now. The commute is just a matter of adjusting timing – everything takes 20 to 30 minutes, but the drive is a joy, either way. The coastal road is filled with tourists taking photos because it’s so beautiful, and the forested drive up Constantia Nek is similarly lovely and peaceful.
The crime element has improved enormously in the last few years, since pretty much every Hout Bay neighbourhood put up video cameras. It took us a little longer to understand the ‘flavour’ of crime because we had to grow up and realise that we didn’t live in a flat anymore… You need an electric fence and beams in the garden and a proper alarm system – that’s just the daily reality. And at least there isn’t all the petty crime of town, that used to drive me nuts!
There is also something very real about Hout Bay. So many neighbourhoods in South Africa are like weird little bubbles, where you wouldn’t know you lived in a multi-racial country where people have very different living conditions. Hout Bay isn’t. It’s like a microcosm of South Africa, all in one bay. And as a result, you have people with plenty living next to people with very little, and that can cause some tension. But I have never not felt safe here – I happily walk around alone, drive alone, shop alone. There isn’t a feeling of being hounded, as I often feel in town because the people living on the street are sometimes on drugs, and desperate. Crime is a reality in South Africa, but it takes up very little mental space for us (and our friends) here in Hout Bay.
Simple school system
One more thing to mention is the beautiful school system here. So many of our friends stressed about getting their kids into primary schools – you don’t have to worry about that here. There are all kinds of wonderful play schools (Busy Bees is the best!) Then there’s the amazing Valley Pre-Primary (which many kids reference as their favourite school ever). And right across the road is Kronendal Primary School – a well-run public school with a good academic record, amazing facilities (swimming pool! vegetable garden! full size sports fields!) and great integration. There’s also Ambleside and the International School in Hout Bay, and Llandudno Primary just around the corner. What a joy to not have to worry about schooling until high school!
Really, all this is is a little love letter to Hout Bay: the place that I call home. I am so grateful to live here!