The origins of The Twelve Apostles Hotel

The first residents of this part of the world were the San and the Khoi.

When the Dutch settlers arrived in Cape Town in 1652, the Twelve Apostles Mountains behind the hotel were covered in forests and were home to lions, leopard and antelope.

The Khoi tribe lived on the slopes of the Twelve Apostles, but were decimated by measles and smallpox, and then restricted to the Oudekraal area.

The Het Huis te Kraaiestein (many spelling variations), a Dutch East Indian ship sank on 27 May 1698 en route to Holland. The wreck is 100metres offshore at an average depth of 9metres. The wreck is not easy to find since most of it is buried under sand, however three anchors and a dozen iron cannons can still be seen today.

For most of the 19th Century, this area was undeveloped, serving as a hunting ground for Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of The Cape. He used The Roundhouse in Camps Bay as his hunting lodge.

The first member of the van Breda family came to the Cape in 1721 and over the years, the family became owners of large tracks of land. Their home was the famous Orange Zicht homestead in Oranjezicht, a suburb of Cape Town (the house now belongs to the city council). Lord Somerset gave Michael van Breda a piece of land at Oudekraal in 1836 on which to build his own hunting lodge.

At this time and into the first quarter of the 20th century, the farm extended around the Atlantic coast from Camps Bay to Hout Bay and possessed an unusual feature in that the title went down all the way to the high water mark. The van Breda’s gave the public access via the coastal drive between Sea Point and Hout Bay. This road was built in 1848 by Thomas Bain and named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee – Victoria Road.

In 1929, Jack van Breda designed a handsome house – much after the style of Sir Herbert Baker – with two big white frontal gables and a thatched roof. It took two years to build.
Van Breda sold the farm on 28 January 1954 to Sir Henry Philip Price, Chairman of a well-known London tailoring establishment for the price of GBP60 000.

Price issued instructions for the homestead, and slightly more than one acre of ground (portion 3), to be divorced from the remainder of the estate.

In 1955 Emily Bolton purchased portion 3 of the farm, on which the house stood, from Sir Henry. Bolton, a rich English spinster, lived here with her lover, a Mr Butcher. Bolton and Butcher, both regarded as recluses, lead strange, solitary lives and paid no attention to the house which fell into disarray. It was rumoured that Butcher did not care for the frivolous way Bolton lived and made her throw all her jewellery into the sea.

The Wiehahn family bought the surrounding Oudekraal Farm from Sir Henry’s estate on 28 May 1968.

The Antipolis, a ship due for 'retirement' while being towed, was driven ashore at Oudekraal in a storm in 1977.

In 1986 Mel Miller, who operated an advertising agency called The White House, bought the house on auction for R405 000.

In 1992, Mel Miller sold the house to the developer Stephen Jones for R3.1 million, who decided, amidst great controversy, to build a R40 million hotel and conference centre.

Up until 1995, what is now The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, was a gabled house that was captivating because it stood so alone. On ordinance maps, it is still indicated as a landmark, and anyone living there is required to keep the exterior white.

In the same year Kasper Wiehahn encountered a lot of protest when he announced plans to develop portion seven of Oudekraal farm – the section of land closest to Camps Bay. The City Council is still to approve these plans.

The Business Bank buys the hotel from Stephen Jones.

The Business Bank and its assets are bought by PSG Bank.

In March 2002, the hotel becomes part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, who re-named it The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa.

Within just five years all the hotel rooms, suites, restaurants, bars and meeting rooms were completely renovated. Around the hotel alien plant species were removed and extensive indigenous gardens were cultivated here at the foothills of majestic Table Mountain, inviting hotel guests to take walks amongst the fynbos while enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

A brand new spa facility was built, which has been given a Leading Spa Accreditation, and following the commitment in training staff to provide outstanding service, the hotel became a member of the prestigious “Leading Hotels of the World”.

In April 2009, the next step was taken to position The Twelve Apostles Hotel as Cape Town’s top boutique hotel, when it undergoes an extensive multi-million Rand refurbishment. Red Carnation Hotel Collection Founder and President Beatrice Tollman and her daughter Toni, inspired by the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and towering peaks of the Twelve Apostles Mountains, create a fresh and calming design scheme that artfully combines sophistication with simplicity and comfort with elegance. The extensive refurbishment was completed in November 2009.

This is followed by an extensive renovation of The Spa in 2011, designed by Toni Tollman. The Spa at The Twelve Apostles features a light and calming ambience, allowing guests to completely succumb to the hands of expert therapists with treatments that heal, restore and pamper. A unique range of Signature Treatments and Experiences is offered with the introduction of B|Africa, the signature product of choice in all Red Carnation Hotel Collection South Africa spas.

In 2012 it is voted ‘Best Spa Hotel in Africa’ in the 2012 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Hotels Awards, whilst celebrating its 10th Birthday. Over the past decade it has made monumental progress, and with General Manager Horst Frehse at the helm, won some of the world’s most coveted hotel, restaurant and spa awards – including being voted No. 1 Top Hotel in Africa in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2012 (USA), and rated amongst the Top 20 Travel Experiences in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean in Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Top 100 Travel Awards 2012 (UK). 

In 2013, The Twelve Apostles was named Top Hotel Spa in Africa and the Middle East in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Hotels (USA) and was placed in the Top 50 Hotels worldwide, with an overall score of 93.71%

From Dutch settlers to an international, discerning hotel audience – The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa has had a fascinating, varied history.

Extraordinary Dining at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa