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Plettenberg Bay

Western Cape

230km from Port Elizabeth
535km from Cape Town

Plettenberg Bay Snapshot

Unless you rank among the elite and own a family holiday pad in Plett (535km from Cape Town), or have a contact who does, you probably don't want to be here at Christmas. Gautengers crowd the beaches, their 4x4s hog the roads, prices leap, standards drop, and the town's entire infrastructure creaks under the load. From late January though, relative sanity returns to Sandton by the Sea, but the atmosphere is still far removed from the sleepy stupor that once typified this rustic holiday village. This said, irrespective of season and the rash of development, Plettenberg Bay is still painfully beautiful. The blue Tsitsikamma Mountains on one side, the long finger of Robberg on the other, the sweeping bay and a curvaceous arc of white beach, provide a constant backdrop to the town. Affordable self-catering options are best found out of peak season, with the months of July and August and the areas lying away from the main centre offering better value.

Things To Do

  • It's not Plett central – a conglomeration of supermarkets, beachwear and slop shops, struggling estate agents and restaurants – but the beaches that the crowds come for. There is a good choice, each with its own subculture: from the kugel tribes of Sandton to the farming folks from Springbok, come Christmas they’re all there. Main Beach is adjacent to the 1960s Beacon Isle Hotel eyesore and has the safest swimming. Further along, bleached teenagers boogie-board to the side of Lookout Rocks, while around the corner Lookout 'Beach' once had the best bodysurfing and babewatching - ever since the sea swallowed up the beach this is no longer the case. For solitude and long sunset walks, spread your towel on the 5km beach between Beacon Isle and Robberg. Alternatively, don your gold chain and Speedo and eavesdrop the kugel chatter.
  • Robberg Nature Reserve is your escape chute from the Plett crowds – no concrete-mixers, no shops, no traffic jams, just nature in its buck-naked splendour. This thin rocky peninsula jutting deep into the ocean has one of the Garden Route's best walks, a 9km circular trail along high cliffs that overlook basking seals and dolphins cutting torpedo-like through the water. A two-hour walk and other shorter rambles (one to a Stone Age cave at Nelson Bay) are also available. A map will be provided with your permit at the entrance to the reserve.
  • Southern right whales and their offspring grace the bay from July to November. Various outfits run regular guided whale-watching and 'eco-trips' into the bay, but there are also excellent vantage points for viewing these gentle giants from the shore. Less fussy about season are Plett's dolphins, which can be seen throughout the year, often in large groups.
  • Keurboomstrand (about 14km east of Plett) is a calm resort with stupendous views and wonderful beaches. An uncluttered place of old holiday houses and limited facilities, it makes for a good day outing (and an even better holiday destination) – but take care in the water. There is also a restaurant situated right on the beach; the superb outlook compensates for the erratic service.
  • Closer to Plett, canoeing up the Keurbooms River yields a refreshing perspective of the area; CapeNature provides permits, basic canoes and the option of overnighting in a secluded cabin along the river bank.
  • Plett's restaurant scene has come a long way since the old days when the choice was limited to Cranzgots or Cranzgots. The latter institution is now dead and buried (thankfully), in its place a nice spot called The Table. Today there's plenty of choice when it comes to eating out. To mention just a few... Le Fournil (best bakery and lovely for both breakfast and lunch in the courtyard, plus free internet), Cornutti (popular spot in season, but rip-off pasta and pizza prices), Beacon Island Hotel (okay breakfast through to dinner on the patio), Enricos at Keurboomsstrand (brilliant setting and questionable value), and Emily Moon River Lodge (Bali-style venue perched above the Bitou River and by far the best spot in town for a romantic dinner out).
  • Pop into the local tourist office and you'll discover that Plett has plenty in the way of outdoor action. There are heaps of recession-hit operators offering a bit of everything, from kayaking to river cruises, mountain biking and horse riding in the Harkerville Forest, river and rock fishing, a screamfest of bungy jumping off Bloukrans Bridge, skydiving, heli flips, and more.  With a bit of planning you can do a lot of these activities on your own.
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