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Beach house – these two words could make you ache to leave the office, kick off the suit and tie, throw on the Bermudas, flip-flops, sunscreen and run around asking where it is.
For an answer, look at The Greenwood Guide recommendations and start planning. The quicker you book, the sooner you will be lying in the sun with a good book.
Fairlight Beach House
031 568 1835
I arrived on a typically hot KwaZulu-Natal day and Denise bustled me off for a dip in the sea.
I was soon sipping a fresh granadilla juice by the pool and tucking into scones.
The garden behind the house is dominated by a large milkwood, a favourite hang-out for vervet monkeys and a great place to shelter from the sun. The front of the house has a wooden deck from where you can watch the surfers – six rooms open on to it.
It is effectively a family home and luxury guest house rolled into one – plenty of light and air, family snaps on the wall and a welcoming vibe. Rays of energy emanate from Michele and Bruce and charming managers Jaquie and Rhona.
Kilometres of heaven, aka Umdloti Beach, are but 40 paces from the house, and the Mount Moreland roost site for migrating swallows (September-April) is just 10 minutes away by car.
Thonga Beach Lodge
035 474 1473
I knew this would be great because all the Gehrens places are (Isibindi Zulu Lodge, Kosi Forest Lodge and Rhino Walking Safaris), but I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful.
Thonga Beach is sandwiched between forested dunes and ocean, and is an hour’s sandy drive and 4x4 trail from the nearest tar road.
Huts, each with a huge mosquito-net hanging from high rafters, are connected by snaking wooden walkways. A single piece of sculpted concrete flows past glass-bowl sinks and chrome taps to an oval bath. After unpacking, I took a quick dip in the sea before being whisked out for a sundowner on Lake Sibaya.
An elegant supper followed and my light fish accompanied by a soft white wine sent me to my hut for a long, much-needed sleep.
Come morning, I was raring to go for a sunrise stroll. The sky was a soft pink, the surf breaking on to footprint-free sand, and, looking back to the lodge, I could just make out the thatched tops of each rounded room, 12 in all, poking out through milkwood brush.
This is a luxurious and romantic destination, but super-relaxed too. The staff are friendly, the birding, diving, walking and wildlife are superb and it’s mostly community-owned, so your pennies help support the local economy.
Between Tsitsikamma and
St Francis Bay
042 297 0150
Here’s yet another film-set masquerading as a B&B. Hans and Liesbeth have the envy-inducing run of 3.5km of pristine beach, the fine white sand as pure as it is wind-driven.
As well as offering 4x4 dune safaris, Oyster Bay Lodge has 18 horses, which cater for every skill level and roam free on the 235ha nature reserve.
On my first visit there wasn’t time for a beach ride, so I returned for the experience. Hiking trails from the sand dunes through the fynbos offer a chance to see some of the 140 species of birds.
Your stay is relaxing, with the use of the swimming pool. There are self-catering facilities – or the restaurant menu looks a treat, often with a fresh catch of the day.
Come here for the empty beach, the horses and walks along an unspoilt coastline; the mountain bikes; and picnics at tables set on the dunes overlooking the ocean.
Brenton Beach House
Brenton on Sea
078 415 5246
It’s 7.30am. There’s a rat-a-tat-tat at my bedroom door. Derrick, tracksuit-bottomed and trainer-shod, is there, grinning. We’d promised to join two German guests for a jog along Brenton’s 8km of fynbos-backed beach.
Brenton Beach House is a place for those who like moving about in the great outdoors. Although South African, Derrick ran a cycling company in France for 25 years.
An exercise fanatic, he “speaks golf” and has nifty deals with Knysna’s golfing and bike-rental companies for special guest rates.
After a pedal, big, bright, neat and airy rooms with generous bathrooms and shared balconies await, over two floors across two sides of a central garden.
Over a hearty post-jog breakfast, the camaraderie was such that I envied those Germans asking Derrick if they could stay for two more nights.
The De Hoop Collection
De Hoop Nature Reserve
021 422 4522
There are 86 mammal species in De Hoop Nature Reserve and although I would have loved to have seen them all – I did spot bontebok, eland, caracal and Cape mountain zebra – it would have been too much to jot down.
Hidden in the reserve, the De Hoop Collection accommodation is as eclectic as the wildlife. I stayed in De Hoop Village, a suburban-style street made up of nine whitewashed three-bedroomed cottages. The table in the rustic kitchen was already laid when I arrived and as I sat having supper, a bontebok strolled past eating his.
My double bed lay beneath a row of fynbos prints. Similar cottages and a few basic rondavels overlook the vlei, a stunning landmark that turns golden at dusk. Houses, with larger rooms, are dotted among the milkwood trees. Luxury lies at the other end of the vlei: a four-bedroomed manor house done up to its former glory.
Next door, the Fig Tree Restaurant serves food and drink all day, including an indispensable sundowner G&T. The song of 260 species of birds was the only sound.
Hugging the sand dunes that make up the reserve’s unspoilt beaches are the old fishermen’s cottages of Koppie Alleen, making them ideally situated for whale-watching; from the courtyard I could hear them blow while I watched the shadows from the fire dance on the curtains.
Southern Cross Beach House
044 533 3868
With this dreamy, whitewashed wooden house at the quiet end of Robberg Beach’s long arc, it is impossible not to relax. Plettenberg Bay is a lively town with lots of restaurants and bars, but people really come here for the sea, and you would struggle to get closer to it than at Southern Cross.
During the Christmas , the beach is packed, but for the rest of the year there are more signs of life in the sea. Dolphins pass here year round, with southern right whales often wallowing just in front of the house from June to November.
The house is just up a wooden gangway from the beach. Wood predominates, with blues and white echoing the ocean.
The brochure says “plantation style”, but I would plump for classic Massachusetts beach house. Wooden decking looks across the bay to the Tsitsikamma Mountains to one side and the Robberg Peninsula opposite.
The breakfast room and living room are set around the garden on the ground floor (Sue and Neill live upstairs) and there are five lovely rooms. Barefoot, laid-back luxury.
Anlin Beach House
044 533 3694
A run along the soft sand here to the Robberg Peninsula was exhilarating at sunset. Beneath cobalt-blue skies, I passed only seals and surfers cresting the smooth ocean rollers.
The beach really does seem to slow you down, as both Dermot, a wine-marketer, and Fran, a trained counsellor, will attest.
The beach house style is contemporary, with walls and furnishings in natural colours reflecting the beach, the ocean and dramatic rocky outcrops. The bedrooms have tiled floors and cream furniture drenched in light from the private patios and vast windows.
Dermot is an avid collector of SA art, so expect to see some interesting pieces. If you can, book the upstairs apartment.
The view, which sweeps across the ocean to the Outeniqua Mountains, persuaded Fran to go for the house.
The kitchens, with their polished-cement surfaces and hi-tech gas hobs, come well stocked with tea, coffee and other goodies.
The Beach House
046 624 1920
For a luxurious getaway in the sun, where the pace of life is slow, head for the Beach House at Port Alfred. Janine and her husband moved here a few years ago, from Bathurst, to enjoy the sea air.
All six rooms have sunny balconies, a pair of white, wooden “sun-thrones” (four sea-facing), sliding glass doors allowing uninterrupted views, even from your plumped-up bed.
Downstairs, spongy sofas and bright, open spaces feature in an L-shaped sitting room, which sweeps to a breakfast hall and out on to a shaded porch, eventually meeting the generous deck surround of a cobalt-blue pool.
Janine has thought of everything and, to top it all, has a wonderfully relaxed hostess, Mary-Anne, who will greet you with a smile on arrival.
Trafalgar071 422 0773
“Yengele” is Zulu for spotted genet, which, along with a wide diversity of other wildlife, populates the forest bordering this property… so keep your eyes peeled when traipsing along the leaf-canopied walkway to the beach. The marine reserve waves roar ferociously here. The brave can snorkel the 90 million-year-old fossil beds at low tide, but blue-flagged Trafalgar Beach is only a scenic 25-minute stroll away for gentler swims.
Significantly closer to home is the Black Lake, a sleek, little-known horseshoe of flat water, as mysterious as its name suggests. The people who held it sacred many years ago told a tale of stars originating from the lake.
The house has been impressively reinvented with retro character and plenty of creature comfort. The autumn-coloured exterior is contrasted with bright interiors and family heirloom décor: Middle Eastern kilims, a red Victorian sofa, Zulu head-wear, a 1960s Xhosa skirt dyed in red river mud. The bathrooms are small and the bedrooms homely. The self-catering kitchen is ideal, although Anna specialises in vegan dishes.
Blues Breaker Cottage
Britannia Bay076 862 9706
Blues Breaker Cottage, featured in the February 2011 edition of Homes and Gardens magazine, is every flawless bit as seductive in reality as it is to read about. My solitary night among the lofty beams, with soft-coloured hues, luxurious linens and shea butter soaps, was beachside bliss. The polished concrete flooring, plumped-up cushions and African portraits, among many other details, conspire to create a subtle “beachiness”.
I must have felt most at home here as I slept for nine hours, intoxicated by the sea air. I would have slept on, but remembered that Chantal had seen whales basking in the morning sun the day before. Fifty short metres from my pillow and I strolled along the sandy shores of virtually unknown Britannia Bay before taking a lazy brunch in the sunny white-walled garden.
Chantal and husband Jeremy are a relaxed, stylish (did I mention fashion career?) and musical couple who invite you to experience simple, luxurious beach life the way they like it. It happens to be the way I like it too. - Sunday Tribune