After a bit of sun, sea and winelands? Better get down to the Western Cape region of South Africa
I recently had an excuse to visit the Western Cape Province in South Africa, and so I took the opportunity to go on a short road trip.
First stop, Plettenberg Bay. On a sunny morning in Plett, you’ll want to check out Beacon Isle. It’s a beautiful beach, with some pretty impressive houses overlooking the bay. If you’re feeling adventurous, clamber up the rocks for magnificent views of the area. This part of Plettenberg Bay actually used to be a whaling station, which started there around 1834 and ended in 1916, after a string of unfortunate events. With the end of whaling, the spot slowly turned into a popular holiday destination and is now landmarked by the famous Beacon Island Lifestyle Resort.
The Lookout Restaurant makes a wonderful dinner venue as you can sit outside on the wooden deck and enjoy infinite ocean views until the sun goes down. The menu is varied but I would definitely recommend the seafood. Some of their classics are shrimp and avocado salad, tender calamari or wild coastal oysters, and delicious 'pint o' prawns'. (www.lookout.co.za)
In the spirit of a road trip, we took a drive into The Crags where the weather began to mist up and gave the landscape an eerie feeling. There is a very photogenic country church, St Michael and All Angels near The Crags. The Church dates back to around 1847 and was built by Mr. William Henry Newdigate who was dubbed the ‘squire’ of Plettenberg Bay.
Not far from the church is the upmarket Emily Moon River Lodge. The venue overlooks a wetland valley with mountain views in the far distance. The late afternoon air can sometimes have a slight chill, which is when it’s a good idea to huddle close to the crackling fire and listen to the sounds of the wetlands. The menu comprises various mouth-watering options like caprese Salad, lamb shoulder medallions with Cabernet Sauvignon jus and chocolate torte. To avoid disappointment, be sure to book in advance. (www.emilymoon.co.za)
After an incredibly diverse and scenic four hour journey you will find yourself in the Cape Wine lands, Franschoek to be specific. I’m always astounded by South Africa and how her landscape can vary so dramatically in a matter of minutes. From inspiring seaside landscapes to winding gusty mountain passes, she will capture your heart one way or another. If you go over the mountain pass, make sure you set aside a few minutes of your journey to stop at one of the spectacular viewpoints.
I have always loved Franschoek, and every time I go there she beguiles me with her charms a little more. It’s a quaint little Cape-Dutch and French inspired town, and there is no shortage of restaurants, cafes, pubs and shops along the main road. We happened to come across a perfect little B&B quite by chance. I would recommend the Cape Vue Guesthouse any day. Imagine looking out onto awe-inspiring mountain views, whilst surrounded by vineyards and simple, understated luxury. The country house is inviting, and the breakfasts wholesome and hearty. It’s within walking distance from the main road in Franschoek, but far away enough to feel like you are well and truly in the countryside. Plus, it’s reasonably priced in an area that is fast becoming known for its tourist prices.
Staying true to the French vein that runs through Franschoek, The French Connection Bistro is definitely on my top restaurants list. Here’s something to get the appetite going: Crispy duck with raspberry jus, warm Belgian chocolate tart and copious amounts of wine – all absolutely decadent and completely satisfying in a cosy bistro atmosphere. (www.frenchconnection.co.za)
What would a road trip in the Cape be without a pit stop at one of various vineyards that this area is famous for? We chose the picturesque Boschendal Wine Estate where you enjoy a wine tasting under the shade of an enormous oak tree. Here you can take in the spectacular views of the surrounding Groot Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountain ranges. There is a fantastic restaurant and café on the estate or one can enjoy a picnic under the estate pine trees. There is also the old Manor House, where you can see how people lived in the Cape almost 200 years ago. Boschendal estate is extremely photogenic, so if you have photographers in your midsts get ready to wait around while they snap away! (www.boschendal.com)
After leaving Boschendal, we navigated through Stellenbosch en route to Gordon’s Bay. If you are in the mood for a nibble then head down to the cheap and cheerful Ocean Basket (Harbour Island Breakwater Lane, Gordon Bay, +27 21 856 0328) which offers various seafood dishes. After that, make your way down to the charming Bikini Beach where you can dip your toes into the clear water without getting the frostbite that’s usually associated with the Cape waters. The Sunset Bay Spur is an old favourite, (66 Beach Road Gordon’s Bay, +27 21 8562676) for hearty pub type meals and picturesque ocean views. Sip a glass of wine as the sun goes down and end your journey by witnessing yet another perfect African sunset.