Travelling out from the city centre on the M3, Muizenberg is the first settlement you reach on False Bay and as such has long been a popular local bathing spot. The Battle of Muizenberg was a small but significant military affair that began in June 1795 and ended three months later with the (first) British occupation of the Cape. Cecil Rhodes bought a holiday cottage here in 1899 and many other wealthy people followed, building some fine Victorian and Edwardian cottages along the back streets and attracting the likes of Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling to its shores. Although the resort had decayed significantly over the last decade, various recent regeneration projects have meant that the area is starting to look like its old cheerful self again. The beach certainly remains beautiful: a vast stretch of powdery white sand sloping gently to the water. It is safe for swimming as there is no backwash, and it is very popular with surfers who head out to the bigger breakers. At low tide you can walk into the shallow sea for more than 300 m without having to swim.
The walk along Main Street towards St James is known locally as the Historic Mile and will take you past a number of interesting old buildings. Some of these are national monuments, but most are closed to the public. The first of note is the Station building, a fine example of art-deco architecture built in 1912. Further along on the right is Het Post Huijs (The Post House) 186 Main Rd, T021-788 7972, Mon-Fri 0800-1530, Sat 0900-1300, Sun 1400-1700, entry by donation, thought to be the oldest building in False Bay, dating back to 1742 and built by the Dutch East India Company as a toll-house to levy taxes on farmers passing by to sell their produce to ships moored in Simon’s Bay. One of the early post holders was Sergeant Muys, from whom Muizenberg is thought to have got its name. The building itself is a picturesquely squat stone house, with thick whitewashed walls and a thatched roof. Inside are exhibits on the history of Muizenburg, with photos of the resort in its heyday and displays on the Battle of Muizenburg of 1795. There are original English canonballs which the cheery curator will happily let you lift.
Rhodes Cottage 246 Main St, T021-788 9140, daily 1000-1600, entry by donation, is surprisingly small and austere for someone as wealthy as Cecil Rhodes. It has been restored and now contains many of his personal items, including his diamond-weighing scale and the chest in which he carried his personal belongings, and there are displays on his life and achievements. It’s a pleasant place to wander around, with a lovely garden around the side. This is where he died on 26 March 1902, and his body was transported by train with great ceremony to the Matobo Hills outside Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, where he was buried in a giant rock outcrop. The volunteers that keep the place open make charismatic and enthusiastic guides.
Graceland, further along Main Road, is one of the largest and most impressive mansions along the coast. It was the home of John Garlick, a well-known merchant at the turn of the 20th century. The house has a Spanish feel to it, with arched balconies and glazed clay roof tiles. Unfortunately the house is not open to the public. Just before you reach St James you pass another grand house, with palm trees in the garden, known as Stonehenge. Built in the style of an Italian villa this house once belonged to HP Rudd of De Beers Consolidated Mines....
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