Loves and life on the Garden Route in South Africa

Through the eyes of volunteer coordinator and crazy cat lady, Sharon

“History of Noetzie” reblogged from the Noetzie Conservancy website September 26, 2014

History of Noetzie

Noetzie beach view 1930s

In the 1800s, & even before then, the local people came to camp at Noetzie. The earliest maps call the area Noetziekamma (Khoi-san word for dark water, possibly referring to the tannins leaching into the river from indigenous forested banks).

Noetzie beach and lagoon has been an annual holiday site for the locals ever since we can remember. There was a rough old track down which the ox wagons would creak to the beach. The oxen would be let loose and would graze the dune vegetation while people caught fish abundantly, swam in the clean dark waters of the Noetzie lagoon and enjoyed the wilderness experience. Difficult steep access and the south facing aspect of Noetzie meant that Noetzie was left alone during the colder months.

Iron and timber Cottages were brought down by ox wagon in early 1900s. It is assumed that some of them came from Millwood mining village.  “Helenside”  was owned by the North family from Oudtshoorn, and the Knysna family Metelerkamp‘s cottage- is still called “Wegkruip” today.Lagoona, “Torpie’s Laughter” are the charming names of the other original cottages.  “Yellow cottage” was originally on the site of Noetzie castle, but was later moved to a different position on the beach  when the first big castle was built.  7th generations of the same Knysna and Oudshoorn families still holiday at Noetzie today.

Click here for the History of Noetzie

In the early Thirties, the first castle, at the western end of the main beach, was built as a holiday house by Herbert Stephen Henderson, who lived in what was then Southern Rhodesia. He built it in1932 out of the natural stone found at Noetzie.

The story goes that he had no intention of building a “castle”, but had simply used the local stone for practical reasons, when Rex Metelerkamp, who was watching the building process, jokingly said to him: “All you need to do is to add a few turrets and you’ll have a castle”. And he did. That set the trend. (Sadly, this castle has since been demolished and replaced with a modern version by the new owners.)  The Hendersons built Pezula on the hill in the late 1930s which was used in the 40s as a convalescent home for the RAF and later sold to Garfield Todd, Prime Minister of Rhodesia…and bought back in the 60s after his banishment from SA. In 1942, Herbert Henderson built what has become known simply as “The Castle”. His son built Montrose in the 1970s and the Lindsays built Perekuil in the 1960s.

During the apartheid era, Noetzie, unlike other public places, remained non-racial and was always enjoyed by all.

Aware of Noetzie’s natural riches, residents applied to the authorities to have it declared a conservancy in order to protect and preserve it’s natural bounty. In 1999, symbolically celebrated as the last year of the millennium, Noetzie officially became a conservancy.

In 2000, Keith Stewart’s ‘Fastpulse 72′ bought the 640 ha ‘remainder of Noetzie farm’ and began the process towards establishment and  development of the Pezula Private Estate.

Rex and Katherine Metelerkamp  and horse Ninon on the Headland at Knoetzie.

River cottages


From the website “Noetzie Castles” on the natural history of Noetzie, just outside of Knysna, South Africa

The natural history of Noetzie


What makes Noetzie so special is not just the castles, but its very special natural beauty, much of which is still pristine – an increasing rarity in the brash hotel-and-hamburger-stand culture that has ruined so much of South Africa’s once splendid coastline. The golden beach surrounded by forested hills, the dark waters of the lagoon, the rugged ochre rocks and the thundering breakers that roll in row after row from the far southern oceans.

The bay has even been the site of a shipwreck, the 3 masted French schooner the “Phoenix”, in 1881, that appeared to have been abandoned, for no known reason, far out to sea before finding itself laid up on Noetzie beach. Something that caused great local excitement, and much mystification, at the time!


The Sinclair Reserve, on the other side of Noetzie beach is an extensive indigenous forest, with all the unique coastal trees such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood, Cape Beech and Ironwood to name but a few. There are trails in the forest for the intrepid hiker, which do require a permit.

Being a reserve, not only is it and it’s coastline beautiful to view, but it “frames” Noetzie on its eastern side and has to date protected that part of the coast and it’s hinterland from thoughtless development.


Noetzie and its surroundings is home to many creatures that once inhabited much of our shoreline, but which have disappeared in many places as human pressure on the coast increases. Fish eagles and ospreys, can be seen from time to time flying up and over the winding river, otters which scamper across the beach after sunset, or who can be seen searching for crabs in the lagoon (always a sign of a clean environment).

leopard-printEven secretive Cape Leopards – a smaller race from those found in the bushveld further north – have made their appearance on camera traps placed by Noetzie residents, and sometimes their distinctive tracks can be seen on the beach. The forest and fynbos provide shelter to bushbuck, Cape Grysbok, bushpigs, honey badgers, baboons, and vervet monkeys to only mention a few.

In the early 20th century, elephants were sometimes seen near Noetzie, but this unique Knysna population has now shrunk to a few rarely seen individuals that survive in the forest some distance inland.


On the beach Black oystercatchers – South Africa’s rarest coastal bird – can be found with their red beaks and haunting cry. In the forest, if you are lucky you can see Knysna Loeries with their distinctive flash of crimson on their wings as they glide from branch to branch in the deep forest. The shy and rarely seen Trogon, another bird of the deep forest, Paradise Flycatchers, the jewel-like Sunbirds of the fynbos and many others offer a special experience to the bird enthusiast.

In winter, the waters around Noetzie are regularly visited by the magnificent Southern Right Whale, as well as, but less frequently, the Humpback, and Brydes Whale.

There are very regular visits by pods of dolphin passing by or surfing and general disporting themselves in the Noetzie waves

For those in interested in palaeoanthropology, Noetzie was also home to people who have long since disappeared, the small bands of Khoisan hunter gatherers that wandered along the coast for many thousands of years.

Their middens, – layers of discarded shells and bone from many meals over the millennia,- are scattered along the coastal paths and are buried under some of the houses.