Arniston was founded in 1815 after a British transport ship HMS Arniston sank. This town is also known as Waenhuiskraans, which roughly translated means "Wagon shelter cliff", as a large cave in the area reminded farmers of the large shelters wagons were kept in. The cave is only accessible at low tide for an hour or two.

Arniston remains an unspoiled town and has been declared a national monument in its entirety. Fishermen still go to sea in boats of the style that would have been familiar to locals in the early nineteenth century, although now under contract to larger commercial enterprises.

Artists and photographers in particular are attracted to Arniston because of its picturesque prettiness, and whilst the cliffs may be dangerous, the rolling sand dunes, golden beaches and intense blue of the sea make Arniston one of the best-kept secrets along the Overberg coast. The coastline is an invitation to long walks and has many examples of spectacular sea erosion with numerous displays of caverns and arches. The coastline is peppered with examples of prehistoric fish traps of the Khoisan strandlopers (beach walkers) who submerged these stone-built enclosures at high tide in a bid to catch fish. Piles of fish bones and shells are all that remain of this vanished people.