The Southern Cape’s scenic Garden Route offers travelers a surprise around virtually every corner, and the tiny coastal holiday resort of Noetzie is indeed one of these! Situated some 10kms east of Knysna, the hamlet was known as Noetziekamma by the indigenous Khoi inhabitants, probably in reference to the dark waters of the Noetzie river (from tannins leached from the surrounding Knysna forests).
As Knysna too became engulfed in the 19th-century gold rush that swept through South Africa, miners searched high and low for intriguing and beautiful locations in which to briefly cast aside their hectic life associated with mining and just enjoy some serious R&R! The Millwood miners in the Knysna area soon discovered the picturesque Noetzie beach and lagoon and trekked to this newly found gem via a challenging track in ox wagons! During the early part of the 20th century, Knysna’s famous Coffee Pot steam train would add some extra spice to these early holidaymakers’ adventures, ferrying passengers from the forests to Knysna on a 2ft narrow gauge railway line.
Whilst the Noetzie coastal waters are characterized by unpredictable and dangerous currents, rendering swimming unsafe, holidaymakers were drawn to the area by the magnificent Noetzie Beach, the lagoon, the spectacular surrounding rock formations and unspoiled vegetation, superb fishing and remoteness. As the area became a preferred destination for locals, iron and timber cottages were erected in Noetzie, having been transported from the Millwood Goldfields! Fortunately, Noetzie is south facing which deterred holidaymakers from visiting during the cooler winter months.
A prominent feature of modern day Noetzie is the prevalence of hillside ‘castles’. Herbert Stephen Henderson, from Southern Rhodesia, constructed the first Noetzie ‘castle’ as a holiday house in 1932, using the local Cape sandstone for the building. Henderson probably never intended initially to erect a ‘castle’, but certainly set in motion a style of architecture future builders imitated, adding to the current allure of Noetzie as the township of ‘castles’!
The natural beauty of the Noetzie area motivated the few local residents and holiday home owners to form the Noetzie Conservancy in 1999, so preserving what remained of the bountiful natural treasures which had lured early holidaymakers. The shoreline, river and adjacent coastal fynbos and temperate forest are now included a 10ha registered conservancy, part of a network of approximately 20 such registered conservancies in the Southern Cape. Although essentially residential in nature, the Noetzie Conservancy aims to protect both the cultural and natural heritage of the area, as well as striving to uplift the local community through sustainable development.