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A Quick History of Noetzie Beach

Noetzie Beach, the beautiful, secluded and almost mystical beach tucked away behind rolling hills, is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa – and definitely one of the most intriguing beaches on the Garden Route!

The pristine beach has a magical air around it. Adorned with natural beauty in terms of fauna and flora, it’s also the manmade castles trickled along the cliffs overlooking the beach that makes it feel like something straight out of a fairytale.

Because of the mysterious air around this beautiful beach, we decided to dive into the history of Noetzie Beach and give you a quick roundup of the history of the stunning Noetzie.

Early days – what’s in a name?

It is believed that (just as is the case with most coastal regions in South Africa) the first people to inhabit the region around Noetzie Beach were the Khoisan. This is also where the beach gets its name.

‘Noetziekamma’ is believed to be what the Khoisan called this beach centuries ago. ‘Noetziekamma’ is a Khoisan word which means ‘dark water’. This is because of the dark water of the lagoon at Noetzie Beach.

noetzie beach

1800s

Jumping a few centuries, the 1800s saw an increase of local residents in the area surrounding Noetzie. The beach became an increasingly popular area for locals to camp and enjoy the natural ‘facilities’ the beach and surrounding area has to offer.

According to historical sources, there was an oxwagon pathway down to the beach, which was used by the locals to get down to Noetzie with their ox wagons. The oxen would graze in the adjacent dunes and hills while the locals enjoyed their ‘day at the beach’.

They would swim in the lagoon and catch fish as they spent their days lazing about on Noetzie Beach.

In 1881, Noetzie became the site of a shipwreck (naturally, only adding to the mystical allure of the beach!).

According to stories, a three masted French schooner, called ‘The Phoenix’, was abandoned far out at sea, and then, somehow, ended up wrecked on Noetzie Beach. There doesn’t seem to be much information about what happened to the French crew.

1900s

The early 1900s saw Noetzie still being enjoyed as a beach where people would lay about, swim and fish. So much so that it seems that some of people who frequented the area decided to put up permanent residences down at the beach.

Soon timber and iron cottages were brought down to the beach area with ox wagons and set up on Noetzie Beach. Most of the cottages were owned by prominent families of the area. Two of these families included the North family, who hailed from Oudtshoorn, and the Metelerkamp family – a prominent local family from Knysna.

Interestingly enough, the Metelerkamp family’s original cottage named ‘Wegkruip’ still stands at Noetzie Beach today. It’s also believed that the cottage has stayed in the family, and that the 7th generation of the Metelerkamp family still visits the cottage to this day.

1930s – The first castles

The 1930s saw the arrival of the very first ‘castle’ at Noetzie Beach. We say ‘castle’ in inverted commas, because, strangely enough, the very first ‘castle’ was not intended to be a castle!

Built in 1932 by Herbert Stephen Henderson, a man from Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), the ‘castle’ was merely intended to be a holiday home for Henderson and his family.

It was built with natural stone found at Noetzie Beach, and thus the resemblance to a castle was made. According to the story, a member of the Metelerkamp family quipped at Henderson that all he needs to do is “add a few turrets” to achieve the ‘castle look’, and so he did.

He didn’t intend on building a castle, it completely happened by accident, but the rest seemed to follow suit!

More castles built by other people followed, and in 1942, Henderson built another castle (simply called ‘The Castle’). The Lindsay family built their castle – called ‘Perekuil’ – in the 1960s and Henderson’s son built the ‘Montrose’ castle in the 1970s.

Contrary to popular belief (and much to our dismay) these castles are actually just holiday homes, and not real castles. However, if you hear rumours that these castles were once inhabited by stowaway princesses or pirates, you are very much encouraged to play along – even if just for your imagination’s sake and to add to the Noetzie mystical experience!

noetzie beach

1960s – 1990s

The 1960s, 70s, and 80s were unfortunately a dark time in South Africa, as the Apartheid regime came to a head. However, a silver lining on a very dark time was the fact that throughout the Apartheid regime, Noetzie Beach remained a non-racial public beach.

This means that everyone and anyone could enjoy the beach, no matter the colour of their skin.

1990s – 2000s

Because of the stunning and beautiful natural riches of Noetzie Beach and its surrounding area, locals campaigned for and applied for Noetzie to be declared a conservancy.

They got their wish in 1999, when Noetzie officially became a conservancy, and remains a conservancy to this day.

Pezula & Noetzie

Being so close to one another, there is some interesting intertwining history between Pezula and Noetzie.

The Hendersons (of the first-castle-on-the-beach fame) built Pezula in the late 1930s. It was subsequently used as a convalescent home for the RAF in the 1940s and was eventually sold to the ex Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Garfield Todd.

In 2000, Keith Stewart bought the remainder of Noetzie farm (which is a massive 640 hectares) and started to develop Pezula Private Estate.

Natural history

Noetzie, in all its natural gorgeous glory, is home to several amazing (and rare) animals and plants.

There have been many rare and special animals spotted at Noetzie Beach throughout its history. Perhaps the most special being the mystical Knysna elephants who once roamed the area in large quantities. However, these elephants were only spotted at Noetzie in the early 20th century and sadly, the entire elephant population in Knysna has been dwindling down since.

People have also spotted Fish Eagles, otters and even the elusive Cape Leopards at Noetzie.

Other than that, bushpigs, vervet monkeys, baboons, honey badgers and the rare black oystercatcher birds have been spotted. The latter being a sight to behold as black oystercatchers are South Africa’s rarest coastal bird.
While we’re sure there are some more tales and facts about Noetzie Beach and its long history, we’re just glad we can still get to enjoy this beautiful, magical place to this day.

noetzie beach history

Sources: https://noetziecastles.co.za/natural-history/ http://www.noetzie.co.za/history-of-noetzie/