Head for the coast and seek out sun, sand and surf at these handpicked destinations. Here are six of our seaside Country Escapes…
1. Western Cape
Arniston Spa Hotel, Eastern Overberg
I’d been away for ten days, touring through Lesotho and the Wild Coast on a motorcycle. On the last day, on my way to drop the bike at my mechanic in Bredasdorp, I battled into a handlebar-wrenching, south-easterly gale. It made me think of the Arniston transport ship blown onto the shore of the nearby coastal town that bears its name, and it was then that I decided to whisk my partner, Annette, off to the four-star Arniston Spa Hotel.
There are few hotels located in a more romantic setting — aquamarine waters cloak putty-coloured rocks and wash onto a white beach in front of this 67-roomed resort. Our room’s cosseting allure, coupled with a bottle of bubbly, conspired to make us miss the renowned sit-down dinner menu and order room service instead. But we did make it to breakfast the next morning, a calorie-laden feast that urged us to take a walk on the beach and through the historic fishing village of Kassiesbaai. – Nick Yell
028 445 9000, www.arnistonhotel.com
Canelands Beach Club & Spa, Salt Rock
The name beguiles. Canelands Beach Club & Spa is not a club. Even if it were, you’d want to join because this is one very desirable establishment. As close to the beach as you can get without being washed away at high tide, this boutique hotel was built as the owners’ private home. Yet despite its changed purpose, Canelands still feels like home. Or, to be more precise, the kind of home many dream of – chic, spacious, sumptuously comfortable, spa treatments on tap, and with an uninterrupted view of the Indian Ocean. Oh, and an excellent chef.
The sea-facing suites with private decks are the best, but there are garden suites for those who don’t need to hear the lullaby of the ocean. If the pounding surf daunts, the lap pool just yards from the beach and running parallel with the ocean affords swimmers a sense of being in the deep blue sea. – Andrea Abbott
032 525 2300, www.canelandssaltrock.co.za
3. West Coast
Indigo Blue & Baby Blue Beach Cottages, Langebaan
Think of Langebaan and blue comes to mind – the kind of blue you want to gaze and gaze at. That’s exactly what you can do at aptly named Baby Blue and Indigo Blue, two self-catering cottages situated above intimate Sandbaai Beach overlooking the lagoon. With its own little succulent garden, Baby Blue is a perfect romantic hideaway for two, or for a family of four.
Indigo Blue, a sophisticated yet simple beach house, sleeps eight, has a generous kitchen, a living area and a sitting room with balcony overlooking the bay. It’s the perfect spot for water sports from kayaking to kite boarding, and a great base for exploring the West Coast, including the West Coast National Park – Marianne Heron
021 683 1159, www.gravity.co.za
4. Western Cape
Land’s End, Garden Route
Land’s End, in the cute little surfing village of Victoria Bay on the Garden Route, has been described as ‘informality with panache’. With six self-catering apartments, this is the closest you will get to staying at the sea in South Africa. Owners Rod and Shanell Hossack are surfers and know just what people want in a seaside place.
Come and go as you like, sit and watch the surfers just off the rocks in front of you or enjoy the beach and fish to your heart’s content. The Driftwood Terrace is a quirky little deck they have created for serving tea and lights snacks and you are welcome to drift in and out as you wish. Victoria Bay is one of the top surfing spots in South Africa and if you’re lucky you might even spot a whale or an otter. – Sue Adams
044 889 0123, www.vicbay.com
5. Western Cape
Thalassa at One Castle Rock, Simon’s Town
When I think ‘beach cottage’ an image of my childhood holidays at a wonderful ramshackle fisherman’s shack on the Wild Coast comes to mind. But I’ve found a real gem closer to the Mother City. Thalassa is exactly that, a fisherman’s cottage, lovingly renovated into a cosy beach pad. It’s just above the main coast road (but there’s little noise so this isn’t a concern), midway between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, overlooking the magnificent boulders of Castle Rock.
The property is within the Castle Rock Conservancy and has a stunning 20-minute nature trail that offers spectacular views over False Bay with the Hottentots Holland Mountains and Hangklip in the distance. A stream on the property is home to the elusive Cape clawless otter, and other creatures include mongoose, civet and genet. The coastal strip in front of the cottage is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, a great spot to snorkel, paddle or simply listen to the waves. Nearby are three particularly beautiful swimming beaches; the closest is Miller’s Point, the most famous is Boulders Beach with its penguins, and the locals’ secret hideaway is at Smitswinkel Bay. – Shaen Adey
021 786 1118, www.capestay.co.za/thalassa
6. Eastern Cape
Oyster Bay Beach Lodge, Humansdorp
The Eastern Cape coast is full of little gems. The thatched Oyster Bay Beach Lodge, tucked in the dunes above the empty golden sands of Oyster Bay, just west of Cape St Francis, is a firm favourite with fisherfolk and families in the know. But with its unobstructed views, wonderful hiking and stunning bird life, it’s also the perfect retreat for beach or nature lovers.
All the rooms are comfortable and well-equipped, but there’s nothing fancy about the place. Rather, owner Nick Bornman wants you to feel at home to come in, barefoot, straight from the beach (as he and his ebullient Jack Russells do), and not have to worry about bringing in sand. As you sit on the big wooden deck with a sundowner or scanning the ocean for dolphins and whales, he’ll be frying up fresh fish for dinner. The remoteness of the area means night skies are a mass of stars and the only sounds you hear are the crashing of waves. Simple but stunning. – Fiona McIntosh
042 297 0003, www.oysterbaylodge.com