We zipped past Franskraal, Gansbaai, De Kelders… It was 10.30pm and we were chasing (within the speed limit) to get to our destination before the curfew. The roadworks in Stanford were still ongoing and it’s not ideal to drive this road at night. Even less so when there’s a curfew, blue lights driving past, and you’re in a wedding dress… When we got to Hermanus, I started nibbling on the packed snacks our wedding caterer organised for us and sighed with relief as we turned into Pringle Bay a little while later.
I had never wanted to jump on a plane right after I got married to head on an overseas honeymoon. I always thought it sounded tiring. Thankfully my new groom shared my sentiment. Instead, we shot off after the wedding celebrations to commence what was set to be a terrific local “travelmoon”.
Our honeymoon route took us along the Coast of Flowers as well as the Garden Route. Our aim was not only to revel in the new chapter of our lives, but also to spend plenty of time in nature and to rest well after planning our wedding in a short period of time. We knew this itinerary wouldn’t disappoint – especially because we were travelling out of season.
The Coast of Flowers encompasses the rugged coastline from False Bay around Cape Hangklip, past Hermanus, Gansbaai, Franskraal, Pearly Beach and off to Cape Agulhas and Arniston. Among its luring beaches for surfers and sunbathers are multiple fishing spots, caves and camping sites, as well as wild flowers, mountains, reefs, islets and capes that could tell many tales of shipwrecks and disasters out at sea. It then passes on the baton to the Garden Route which commences at Witsand (debatable… as some say it’s only at Mossel Bay) and stretches all the way to Storms River.
Stay 1: Pringle Bay
Waking up in Pringle Bay is, well, difficult. What makes this coastal village great for honeymooners is its peace and quiet – especially in winter. We spent our mornings drinking coffee and eating breakfast overlooking False Bay. On the odd non-misty or cloudy day, we could clearly see Cape Point across the massive body of salty water – a view which also we often enjoyed from within the rooftop jacuzzi.
Things to do:
Pringle Bay’s beach is perfect for sunrise or sunset walks, if the weather permits. It’s also an epic bodyboarding spot when the wind and swell plays along. Even strolling through the village and admiring the watsonias, proteas and other beautiful fynbos with the sweeping mountains as the backdrop is blissful. Towards Hangklip, you can take a leisurely hike along the rocky bay in the direction of the Cape Hangklip Lighthouse. The views are spectacular and the walk serene.
A day excursion to Betty’s Bay is always a good option if you’re based in Pringle Bay. On driving past, Betty’s Bay’s unlovely, haphazard collection of holiday homes doesn’t scream “come visit!”, but if you do decide to turn off the R44 (Clarence Drive) into Porter Road, you can’t help but fall in love with the fauna and flora, generous erven, and of course, the waves – Betty’s Bay is a renowned surf spot and is surfable at almost all stages of the tide.
If the beach isn’t really your thing, spending a day in the Harold Porter Botanic Reserve might suit your fancy instead. Home to a magnificent array of wildflowers, the area is known for its red disas and various hiking trails.
With more time on hand, continuing on Clarens Drive brings you to Kleinmond – built at the ‘small mouth’ of one of the lagoons of the Bot River. A couple of years ago, Kleinmond Harbour underwent a complete overhaul and you can easily spend half a day browsing the secondhand bookstores, art shops, surf shops or boutiques, or grab a good ‘ol fish and chips to enjoy whilst overlooking the ocean.
Where to stay: Airbnb
Stay 2: Waenhuiskrans/Arniston
Waenhuiskrans/Arniston is an easy two-hour drive from Pringle Bay. This fascinating town with its two official names might be a popular holiday destination, but it’s also rich in history.
The town, which is known for its bizarre marine erosion in the form of oddly shaped caverns and arches, was originally named after the Waenhuiskrans cave and gained a second name after a tragedy on the night of 30 May 1815. The Arniston, a British transport ship bound for England from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), was caught in a storm off the Agulhas Bank. The ship hit a reef little more than a kilometre offshore and began to break up. It is said that of the 370+ passengers and crew, only six men reached the shore alive.
Things to do:
On your way to Arniston from Pringle Bay, book a spot on the Lady Stanford in advance, and pack a picnic to enjoy on the cruise along the Klein River towards the Hermanus Estuary and back. Soaking up the peace and quiet – only disturbed by the conversations of giant kingfishers, African black duck, weavers, fish eagles and other birds – is medicine for the soul.
Once in Arniston, the rich fishing culture is what catches your attention first. The locals here know the ocean and have been sustained by it for decades. Kassiesbaai is the captivating fishing hamlet and the village, with its thatched-roof, whitewashed stone cottages was officially declared a National Heritage Site in 1986. Take a stroll or cycle through the village and engage in a lighthearted conversation with a local or two. Their stories are amusing.
Apart from fishing, one of the most popular activities in Arniston is a visit to the Waenhuiskrans (literally translated from Afrikaans to ‘wagon house cliff’) cave… They say that if the cave was accessible from land, it would have been large enough to accommodate six ox-wagons – complete with their spans of oxen!
Take a day to explore Struisbaai and the Southernmost tip of Africa – L’Agulhas – a mere 40-minute drive away from Arniston. Remember to take a jacket as I’m convinced this is where the wind is manufactured…
Where to stay: Arniston Spa Hotel
Stay 3: Plettenberg Bay
From Arniston, it can take up to four and a half hour’s to get to Plettenberg Bay. It is a long stretch but with ample spots to stop along the way, it doesn’t feel that long at all.
The famous seaside holiday town of Plettenberg Bay needs no introduction. It’s got great beaches, surfing and fishing spots, lagoons and estuaries, and ample restaurants and bars. We stayed slightly out of the hustle and bustle of the town, closer to Robberg Nature Reserve.
Things to do:
Robberg Nature Reserve offers various hiking trails. We loved the fact that the terrain changed often – in some places it’s normal trail, then it’s rocky, then it’s beach… Around every corner is a breathtaking view of endless oceans. We spotted hundreds of Cape fur seals at the foot of the one side of the cliff and now totally understand why it’s called “Robberg” (seal mountain).
After an intense hike, it’s always a good idea to treat yourself to a luxurious spa experience. The Spa at Kurland is only a 20-minute drive from Plett. We opted for a couple’s back-and-neck massage and made the most of the sauna, steam room and other facilities. We even braved the freezing splash pool in the middle of winter!
Other activities you could consider is taking day trips from Plett to surrounding towns such as Knysna, Sedgefield or Nature’s Valley – each town with its own uniqueness, history, and beauty.
Where to stay: Grace Cottage, AirBnb
Stay 4: Kammabaai
Kammabaai is a little piece of heaven situated right on the ocean, between Stormsriver and St. Francis. Many don’t even know about its existence and I think the regular holiday goers and locals prefer it that way. What you need to capitalise on in this hideaway is chill time.
Nature invades your life from every angle here – from Knysna Loeries boasting their green, red and blue bodies on your stoep; dolphins showing off their surfing skills in the boisterous waves; whales breaching with endless energy as if they’re trying to get your attention; to the sonorous ocean sussing you into a deep sleep at night.
Things to do:
The ocean is rowdy in this part of the world. Currents at Eersterivierstrand are dangerous, so rock pools are ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The thick greenery on the mountain cocoons a fairytale hiking trail, suited for all fitness levels.
On the odd rainy day, take an outing to Jeffrey’s Bay for a surf or a lunch at Die Walskipper. There’s also obviously Tsitisikamma National Park with plenty of beautiful trails to explore, but once you’re in Kammabaai, you’re probably not likely to leave for just any quick outing or activity – the gravel road is too rough and the serenity too hypnotising… So make sure you buy what you’ll need in terms of groceries before you tackle that gravel road.
Where to stay: Dis Al, Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation
Stay 5: De Hoop Nature Reserve
From Kammabaai, make your way back towards Cape Town along the Garden Route. It takes about five or six hours to get to De Hoop, depending on stops along the way. You could definitely cut this leg in half and stay in Sedgefield, Vleesbaai or Stilbaai for a night.
The gravel turnoff from the N2 towards De Hoop is deceivingly long, but the sights of green pastures and blue open skies allow you to ponder those thoughts you never really get time to ponder.
De Hoop Nature Reserve is a World Heritage site. Encompassing 36,000 hectares of conservation area, it includes a 19 kilometre wetland/vlei and a marine protected area that stretches 70 kilometres along the coast and three nautical miles (5.5km) into the sea. Apart from SouthernRight Whales, dolphins and seals in the ocean, De Hoop Nature Reserve is a safe home and playground for over 259 species of birds such as Cape griffon vultures, ostriches and African oystercatcher among many others. The 86 species of mammals that graze ever so peacefully include eland, bontebok, baboon, Cape mountain zebra, grey rhebuck, duiker, steenbok, and even little dung beetles (this one captivated us for nearly 15 minutes!)
Things to do:
You won’t enjoy De Hoop if you don’t enjoy nature. We often spotted eland, Bontebok and Cape zebra grazing right outside our suite – especially in the evening. There are plenty of activities on offer, but you can just as easily do your own thing – be that running, cycling, or going for leisurely drives in the reserve.
Our guide, Lizo, accompanied us on the Cape Vulture experience. We hopped on a safari truck and made our way to the Potberg Nature reserve, from where we took a short (but steep) hike to a wooden viewing deck. These huge birds are mesmerising, hovering over the cliffs and swooping down when you least expect it. We forgot binoculars, but luckily this wasn’t Lizo’s first rodeo and he whipped out a pair just as we needed them. He also packed us a scrumptious picnic for lunch!
The coastline at De Hoop is truly something spectacular. During the winter months (June to November), Southern Right whales come super close to the shoreline and though we didn’t see any crazy breaching, we spotted plenty of whales blowing and flapping their enormous tails and fins.
Where to stay: De Hoop Collection
South Africa surprised us once again with its unending natural beauty and warm, friendly people. It seems everyone especially loves honeymooners – so if you’re in the planning stages of a honeymoon and want something different to a Thailand Hotel or Zanzibar beach (even though those are amazing too!) look no further than Mzansi. We’ve got it all.
Lady Stanford, Arniston Hotel and De Hoop are all members of Cape Country Routes.