It’s not often that I get my brother to come out and visit me here in Gordon’s Bay, but on the odd occasion that I do, it is imperative that the girls and I do something out and about with their ‘favourite uncle’. Luckily, small as it may be, there are more than just one or two pretty things to look at when visiting here in Gordon’s Bay.
On this particular visit of his, we decided to head up for a stroll at the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant Lookout Point, which involves taking a short drive up the mountain overlooking Gordon’s Bay, followed by a walk along a narrow ridge (if you are brave/steady enough) to a clearing that gives you a great view of the treatment plant itself, not to mention an even better view over good old Gordon’s Bay.
A nice addition to the lookout point is the recently installed granite map of False Bay that the local Rotary Club has donated and installed, a great guide to all the major points along this important Cape Town geographical landmark.
Anyway, piggyback rides exhausted, our next stop was back down the mountain and on to the old harbour. (In case you didn’t know, Gordon’s Bay is surprisingly the proud owner of two small harbours!)
Pretty boats in water, what’s not to like? So, two reasonably nice and relaxing sights to see, and one out and about ‘adventure’ with the favourite uncle all done and dusted.
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Note: I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t take as many photos as what I normally do when out and about sightseeing, but it probably had something to do with the fact that it annoys Ryan to no end when I constantly whip out the phone whenever I spot something new! ;)
As for the rest of the day, it was probably spent braaing and playing XBOX games – you know as adult brothers tend to do.
Related Link: Gordon’s Bay
Ah, the brightly coloured Victorian bathing boxes of St. James Beach. What Cape Town travel blog could truly call themselves local without including at least one post detailing this internationally recognised view, right?
St. James itself is a suburb of Cape Town, situated alongside the Atlantic Ocean on the shores of False Bay, tucked away between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. As with a lot of old Cape Town suburbs, St James is constrained to a piece of land that is sandwiched between a rocky shore and the steep slopes of a mountain.
Deriving its name from the early St James Catholic Church (built around 1880), the majority of the current suburb was built between 1910 and 1950, following the completion of the railway line that connected Cape Town to False Bay.
(Incidentally, this line remains the most scenic train ride that you can catch in Cape Town today).
The main attraction for the area is of course St James beach, a lovely sheltered spot that provides a welcome break from the westerly winds, centered around a large man-made tidal pool that provides a splash free seawater experience that is perfect for families with kids.
The small stretch of sand quickly makes way for some fantastic naturally formed rock pools, perfect for observing small pockets of ocean life, and for added excitement, every now and then sees a train pass by right above your head!
And then there is of course the iconic row of little Victorian bathing boxes to provide a brilliant burst of colour to the scene.
In order to reach the beach you need to either cross underneath the railroad line using one of the the railway tunnels near the old train station, or you could perhaps take the enjoyable stroll along the lovely St James walkway which stretches all the way from St James beach to Surfers’ Corner, Muizenberg.
So, pretty much all the ingredients needed for a nice, free to enter, family friendly weekend visit then.
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(Seeing as I’m more of a Helderberg basin, Overstrand and Stellenbosch Winelands travel blog these days, this just so happens to be my very first post featuring the famous St. James beach – though to be fair I have had the brightly coloured bathing boxes synonymous with Muizenberg’s Surfers’ Corner appear on these pages before!)
I’ve previously mentioned how I took the girls up to the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant lookout point above Gordon’s Bay last year, a trip that involves a rather perilous walk along a ridge which I allowed the girls to do by themselves. This of course mortified Chantelle, meaning that we needed to take her there so that she could experience this pretty cool viewpoint for herself.
So one early evening in October we did exactly that.
The viewpoint is situated on the doorstep of the Steenbras Dam Water Treatment Plant, which is itself obviously closed to the public. From this point high up in the Hottentots-Holland mountains you get a great view of False Bay, and if you venture along the aforementioned narrow little ridge along the plant’s fence, you get rewarded with spectacular views of Gordon’s Bay and its sister town, Strand.
This time around it was a lot clearer in terms of sky, meaning that we got treated to some great views of the area, not to mention the chance to snap some photos of the girls in the warm golden light as the sun started going down.
I’m pretty pleased that we managed to convince Chantelle to join us on this little sightseeing adventure, though I’m not so sure that she is any more convinced that letting the girls do the ridge walk by themselves is a good idea!
Also, I’m not much of a photographer, and nor could my phone couldn’t really cope with all that extra light, but I did manage to squeeze out at least one or two half decent pictures from the outing…
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Here’s a map in case you also want to take in the view:
Related Link: Steenbras Dam
I’ve mentioned Steenbras Dam on these pages before, formerly the main reservoir for Cape Town and also current source for the Steenbras Power Station (a pumped storage system).
I know that it used to be open to the public back in the day, making for a fantastic fishing and picnic spot for the local Helderberg residents, but has sadly for security reasons and due to vandalism and neglect, it has been closed to public access for a couple of years now.
Thankfully though, the Steenbras Lookout Point has remained open to the public, situated literally in front of the gates of the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant (constructed in 1946).
Once you reach the top of the steep, winding road leading up to the water treatment plant, you park in the parking area in front of the treatment facility’s gate and are immediately rewarded with a great view of False Bay.
However, for the full effect, you need to walk on the narrow path along the fence of the water treatment plant to reach an open lawn that then affords spectacular views of Gordon’s Bay, Strand, and in fact the whole Helderberg region!
Amazingly, neither of my girls appeared worried by the seemingly treacherous path to reach the lookout point, though I must say for the most part I was sticking VERY closely behind!
The reward was however worth it.
Despite the slight haze on the day, the views were amazing, and the girls and I rather enjoyed watching the cars and boats seemingly at play down below. Mountain flowers were starting to bloom and of course, the girls were rather pleased by the fact that every now and then we could see clouds floating by underneath us!
If you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favour and take the quick trip to the top. It is definitely a nice and short, but rather rewarding, little tourist attraction here in Gordon’s Bay.
Oh, and apparently this lookout point gives quite the view come night time – though I suspect I might do that without the little ones also clomping about!
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(Also, as you might have surmised, Chantelle nearly fainted when I eventually showed her the pictures of what the girls and I had gotten up to while she was away at work!)
Here’s a map in case you also want to take in the view:
Related Link: Steenbras Dam
Aerial photos of Gordon’s Bay always fascinates me, primarily because inevitably they show this massive amount of water, all neatly held by the mountains directly over our little town’s head!
When travelling along the N2 away from Cape Town one has to cross the Hottentots-Holland Mountains via Sir Lowry’s Pass. As one goes over the top and starts to descend into the Grabouw valley on the other side, one of the first sights that one sees is the Steenbras Dam.
The Steenbras Dam is an earth-fill type dam located in the Hottentots-Holland mountains, above Gordons Bay, near Cape Town in South Africa. For much of the first half of the twentieth century it was the main reservoir (storage dam) for Cape Town (its catchment area is the mountainous areas of Grabouw and Elgin) but is now only one of many dams that supply the city. It was built in 1921 and covers an area of 380ha.
The dam is on the Steenbras River, which, in common with most rivers in the western Cape, has a low sediment load and delivers water of very high quality. The river and dam are named after the steenbras, a fish endemic to South Africa.
In recent years the dam has become more visible from the road as many of the pine trees that grew along the mountain slopes have been removed as they have been declared aliens. The dam in fact is split into two sections, the upper and lower dams. One crosses a bridge over the dams on the way to Grabouw.
Although in the past you could actually access the dam and walk through the pine forests surrounding it, not to mention try your hand at trout fishing in the dam itself, sadly for security reasons and due to vandalism and neglect, it has been closed to public access for a couple of years now.
Closer to Grabouw above the Steenbras dam is the Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme. It was built in 1983 and is part of a water transfer scheme. To generate power water is released from the upper Rockview Dam to the two reversible pump turbines located 60 metres below ground level. After flowing through the turbines the water is discharged into the lower Kogelberg dam.
When Cape Town’s water reserves become low water can be pumped from the Palmiet River via the Rockview Dam to the Steenbras Dam to supplement the Cape Town water supply.
The turbines at Palmiet have two functions. In the first instance they are used as conventional hydro turbines in the generating of power. When not generating to meet the morning and evening peaks on the system, they are used to regulate the voltage.
The second use of the turbines is to reverse their direction to pump the water from the Kogelberg Dam back to the Rocklands dam. In the pump mode the generator becomes a huge motor which absorbs electricity from the network in order to drive the turbine in the pump direction. South Africa, has two pumped storage schemes, both operated in conjunction with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry as part of water transfer schemes.
Related Link: Wikipedia