Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex

Bartlomeus Dias statute at Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex

Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to set foot on South African soil at Mossel Bay. The museum grounds are situated at the very site where he came ashore and made contact with the indigenous people. The Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias came ashore at Mossel Bay in 1487 and after making landfall all down the West Coast of Africa, he eventually stopped off Mossel Bay in 1488. At the time, he named the region “St Blaize”, at the very site on which the museum complex is situated. A life-size replica of his ship, as well as maps and navigational instruments used by early explorers, can be seen in the Maritime Museum with its replica of Bartholomew Dias' Caravel. Visit the Shell Museum and the Braille Trail and the famous Post Office Tree itself. There is also a cultural display on the Khoekhoen people who lived in the area. The museum features three exquisite stained glass windows illustrating the voyage.

The Bartholomeu (Bartholomeu also spelled Bartholomew / Bartolomeu) Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay is arguably the coastal town's most popular tourism attraction. The Complex is located near to the small Mossel Bay Harbour and Santos Beach, on a grass embankment overlooking the ocean. Incorporating the Shell, Maritime, Granary and Local History museums, this complex celebrates the arrival of Dias's two caravels. A replica of a caravel is on display.

The Dias Museum complex encompasses a wealth of places of historical interest. The most famous is the Old Post Office Tree. The complex consists of three buildings: the granary that serves as reception and info centre, the maritime museum and the Shell museum and aquarium. Trail makes it accessible to sight-impaired visitors.

The Maritime Museum

The Granary

The Shell Museum 9previously The Shirley Building) and Aquarium

The Cultural History Museum

The Post Office Tree

In 1500 Pedro de Ataide, Commander of one of Cabral's ships, left a letter of importance in a shoe or iron pot under a tree or near a large tree. In 1501, this letter was found by Joao da Nova, commander of the Third East India Fleet en route to India. In this way the first Post Office in South Africa was founded. The large milkwood tree had been declared a national monument and is generally known as the Post Office Tree. Today one can post a letter or a card in the replica stone shoe at this site and it will receive a special frank of the post office tree. The statue of Bartolomeu Dias in front of the Post office Tree.

The Padrao

This is a replica of the stone Padrao that Da Gama erected together with a large wooden cross made of a mizzen mast. This erection was done whilst fresh water was being collected at Aguada de Sao Bras.

Munrohoek Cottages (1830)

The first building was built around 1830 by Alexander Munro from Scotland for £25. He operated a canteen on the premises, where unruly seamen met. His son got the first permit to cull whales on the beach below. The front house is one of Mossel Bay's national monuments.

The Spring

Dias named the fresh-water spring "Aguada de Sao Bras" (watering place of St Blaize). In 1512, Gaspar Correa, described it as flowing over a rocky verge into a small dam - just as it is today.

The Indigenous Garden

This ethno-botanical garden featuring plants used for medicinal purposes and traditional beliefs, as well as food and shelter. The valley that surrounds Dias Bay (today known as Munro's Bay) has been transformed into a garden of indigenous flora. Milkwood and Wild Olive trees predominate.

Malay Graves

This site was discovered in 1968, not far from the Post Office Tree. Records show that a piece of land had been granted more than 100 years before as burial ground for Muslims. It is believed that one of the graves is the resting place of a very influential Muslim who was buried here in the 19th century, after dying at sea.

ATKV Hartenbos Museum

The impressive Hartenbos Museum, with the Great Trek of 1838 as its main theme, features realistic displays depicting various stages of the Trek: departure, outspan, men's work, an attack by impui, recreation and female activities.

In the grounds of the Dias Museum Complex are four mountain tortoises, ducks and two museum cats. The Complex has coffee shop and adjoining curios shop to its facilities. Both are situated in the foyer of the Maritime Museum. Inside the Maritime Museum is a shop where postcards, stamps, books, souvenirs and small gifts can be bought.

Hours: Monday to Friday 09h00 to 16h45, Public Holidays and Weekends 09h00 to 15h45.

Museum Tour

An historical steam train ride with the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, starting at the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George to the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay. For further information go to:

Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex Address and Contact

Visiting Address: 1 Market Street, (Garden Route) Mossel Bay 6500, South Africa
Postal Address: Private Bag X1, Mossel Bay, 6500 Western Cape
Tel: +27 (0)44 691 1067
Fax: +27 (0)44 691 1915
Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex On The Web:
Bartholomeu Dias on display