We trawled South Africa’s coastline to find our country’s greatest beach cottages. Here are 10 of our favourites.
Please note: although prices were correct at time of publication, they are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please confirm before booking.
Also read: Guide to the South Coast’s best beach houses
1. The Beach Hut
Paternoster, Cape West Coast
Distance from Cape Town: 150km
This is exactly the kind of white-washed and nautical-themed spot that springs to mind when you think of a waterfront holiday. The Beach Hut is an idyllic escape that’s unusually private considering the spike in property development in Paternoster over the past few years. Its site on the far north of a short stretch of homes on Mosselbank means it feels secluded, and from your patio you’ll only see fynbos, sand and the Atlantic. The shore itself isn’t the barefoot- friendly type – broken mussel shells make up the bulk of the sand – but that shouldn’t stop you from going for a swim.
In typical West Coast style, the three en-suite rooms are dressed in blue and white and there are antique touches here and there. The sea-facing lounge is an airy space, with a skylight, glass doors, a dramatic chandelier hovering above simple couches, a fireplace and a coffee table centrepiece of driftwood, shells and starfish. Pictures of seaside scenes are dotted about the house, not overdone, but just enough to keep the coastal theme going. Kids will love the two toy-filled lofts, active guests can use the supplied mountain bikes and surfboard, and couch potatoes can settle in and watch DStv on any of three TVs.
Although the hut is fully equipped for self-catering, a visit to Paternoster isn’t complete without dining at one of its popular restaurants. We recommend the Noisy Oyster for a casual dinner and Gaaitjie for something more upmarket, while Kobus van der Merwe’s Oep ve Koep serves the best breakfast in town. Voorstrandt’s location right on the beach makes it an excellent venue for sundowners while Abalone House is the place for high tea.
Price: From R5000 a night for the house (sleeps eight)
Contact: Book through Safarinow
2. Sea ‘Scape
Langebaan, Cape West Coast
Distance from Cape Town: 125km
There’s nothing quaint, cute or rustic about Sea ‘Scape, but what this West Coast spot lacks in seclusion and privacy (there’s a string of homes along this stretch) it certainly makes up for in grandeur.
Solid wood tables, a chaise longue, rich leather couches and stainless steel and marble finishes replace the thatch roofs, wicker chairs, shells and driftwood so typical of beach cottages. It’s a double-storey mansion within a few metres of the sand and calm turquoise waters of Langebaan Lagoon. The owners are clearly into entertaining: the bar/lounge area upstairs has a magnificent sunset view through one long glass wall and there’s a separate movie theatre with DStv. Fancy.
Two en-suite rooms downstairs and one upstairs all carry a beach theme courtesy of sailing photographs and fishing pictures. In the master bedroom (on the ground floor) – which should be called a presidential suite – you can step out of bed into the freestanding oval bath and adjust the flat-screen TV to face you as you soak. If you’re keen for a sea dip, open your sliding door and step down to the beach. Conveniently, there’s a coffee station next to the laundry, if you’re too lazy to head up to the kitchen.
Sea ‘Scape isn’t a typical getaway-from-it-all holiday house, but rather an indulgent beach break for when you want to spoil yourself. It’s fit for even the fussiest traveller, but we wouldn’t advise taking young kids along, as there’s lots of glass, open stairs and far too many breakable model ships around.
Price: From R3200 a night for the house (sleeps a maximum of eight)
Contact: Tel 022 772 0186, www.capestay.co.za/sea-scape
3. West of the Moon
Churchhaven, Cape West Coast
Distance from Cape Town: 115km
The whitewashed, rustic beach feel with weathered furniture alongside modern finishes can so easily become clichéd, but West of the Moon in West Coast National Park has the authentic vintage look down pat. There’s nothing modern about the place – everything from the brass light switches and old-fashioned furniture to a blue kettle and kitsch containers is dated and rather delightful.
Owners Kevin French and Linde Woolley dreamt up the idea, made cardboard models of what they envisaged and had an architect do the rest. The idea was to be as true to an original West Coast fisherman’s cottage as possible, with low doorways, small windows and thatched roofs. The white-walled house with red and green window frames sits nestled in the shrubbery just metres from the Langebaan Lagoon dotted with pink flamingos (offering a great view from the loungers and daybeds on the veranda).
Six people can stay in three elegantly sparse bedrooms and although there are a number of brightly coloured enamel jugs and basins (originally used for bathing), there’s a Victorian bath and a shower for guests to use. There’s also hot running water and electricity, an outdoor braai area with a grid and thankfully, no TV.
There’s little to do in Churchhaven besides swim, bird-watch and relax, so if the kids get antsy, take them hiking, cycling or kayaking in the surrounding nature reserve. If the weather gets bad, grab a hot-water bottle and catch up on your holiday novel in the sunny loft or get cosy near the fireplace.
Price: From R4400 a night for the house (sleeps six)
Contact: Tel 021 790 0972, www.perfecthideaways.co.za
4. The Lighthouse
Yzerfontein, Cape West Coast
Distance from Cape Town: 87km
The ‘no shoes’ sign at the front door sets the tone for the clean, white interior of this laid-back retreat. Although it’s really big, the wooden floors, worn cupboards, picture frames and an old turquoise display cabinet give it a sense of cosiness. When the wind’s howling and the deck loungers won’t do, the large fireplace is the heart of the home. Whip up hot chocolate in the open-plan kitchen, put your feet up, set your mug on the eccentric coffee table, and take in the salty air and foamy shore.
According to owner and designer Andrej Brandt, the nautical name comes not only from the peculiar round shape of the master suite upstairs (which has 180-degree sea views), but also because you can see the lighthouse on Dassen Island from here. Either way, it’s one of the best views-from-your-bed experiences you’ll ever have.
With room for 10 guests, five bathrooms and a dining table fit for feasts, you’ll find it’s built with families in mind: there’s a mini dining table, board games, kids’ crockery and a stair gate to make it child-friendly. Just keep an eye on kids if they venture out, as the seas can be rough.
Price: From R5500 for the house a night in low season (sleeps 10) – this price rises to R9 500 in season.
Contact: Tel 021 790 0972, www.lighthouselocation.com
Simon’s Town, Cape Peninsula
Distance from Cape Town: 40km
This refurbished clapboard fisherman’s hut, between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, offers such great value that even Capetonians love it as a weekend getaway. It’s reasonably priced, has views of False Bay, and despite it being on the same property as the owner’s home, it feels secluded on the fynbos-covered mountain.
Its three bedrooms have a chic farmhouse feel, with antique trunks and suitcases at the ends of crisp linen-wrapped beds, old kitchen scales and whisky jugs on wooden shelves and sash windows letting in a cool breeze. The seaside-inspired bathroom is whitewashed with a touch of colour in the form of vivid paintings done by a family member.
Thalassa (meaning ‘sea’ in Greek) faces Pyramid Rock, which is known for its kelp forest and interesting marine life (snorkellers will be happy to know it’s one of the only areas in the world where you can swim with docile cow sharks). If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s still lots to see: while tossing a chop on the Weber, you could spot Cape clawless otters and whales (in season) from the little deck.
You probably won’t need the DStv that’s available at R25 a day – rather chill on the leather couches with mismatched cushions, have a glass of the thoughtfully supplied and chilled lemon-and-mint water and go through the Giles cartoon collection on the bookshelf. Two words of warning: the resident dog can be cheeky if you head up to the main house, so it’s best to call ahead if you need anything; and don’t leave windows open as the surrounding area is known for its marauding baboons.
Price: From R1300 a night for the cottage (sleeps five)
Contact: Tel 021 786 1118, www.capestay.co.za/thalassa
Also read: our pick of affordable B&Bs in Simon’s Town
Blombos, Garden Route
Distance from Mossel Bay: 120km
Having a beach all to yourself in summer is almost unheard of … unless you stay at Summerhill, a secluded hideaway surrounded by fynbos on the Southern Cape coast, between Cape Agulhas and Stilbaai. It’s this setting, far away from signs of civilisation, that makes this lonesome lodge so special. There’s no TV and all you’ll hear are birds chirping and the ebb and flow of water on the white sand below. Kick off your shoes, relax on the wooden deck and leave only to take a swim in the ocean (staying put is a good idea, since getting anywhere quickly is tricky: the nearest town of Riversdale is an hour’s drive away).
The trimmings are simple and modern, with pastel furnishings, wicker chairs, wooden floors and colourful scatter cushions on large couches. Interesting cut-out lamps and the mosaicked bathroom add quirkiness, and the family portrait canvases lining the passage wall lend a personal touch. Open the floor-to-ceiling glass doors to get a 90-degree sunset view from the lounge and to take advantage of a cool breeze on days when the freestanding fireplace isn’t needed.
Summerhill sleeps six adults in two double en-suite mezzanine master bedrooms and four kids can share bunk beds (the outdoor shower will come in handy after mornings spent building sand castles). You can brave the sometimes bumpy drive from the N2 to the hideaway in a sedan, but the drive is a lot more pleasant in a high-clearance vehicle or 4×4.
Price: From R4400 a night for the house (max eight)
Contact: Tel 021 790 0972, www.perfecthideaways.co.za
7. St. Helier Cottage
Umkomaas, KZN South Coast
Distance from Durban: 50km
St. Helier Cottage ticks every box – tucked away at the end of a panhandle, you enter a private eyrie that feels very secure. Step inside, and the view will stop you dead in your tracks: a cool, uncluttered living space – all textured whites; modern geometric lines softened by natural materials – while beyond, through the floor-to-ceiling wall of glass, a manicured green lawn drops off to meet the blue of the horizon. It’s classy and clever – enormous mirrored sliding doors on both bathrooms (no en suite in the main house) reflect more of that amazing view, and an almost hidden slit in the garden reveals a set of stairs that leads to a completely private en-suite guest bedroom, a level below the main house. The balau-timber exterior spaces are equally well-proportioned and stylishly furnished. Hardly surprising, given that owner Joy Brasler was part of the design team that created the award-winning interiors for Singita Lebombo Lodge (ranked No. 3 hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2013 and 2014).
It’s sophisticated but comfortable, fabulously equipped, and the atmosphere very welcoming: this has much to do with Joy and Lucien’s help-yourself-and-make-yourself-at-home attitude. The passing trains rumble by from dawn, but I was pleased to rise with the sun. A great place to cook, read, contemplate, dream.
Price: From R5000 (sleeps up to 10 in four bedrooms (six adults, four kids in one room with two bunk beds); serviced thrice weekly.
8. High Rocks Beach House
Umkomaas, KZN South Coast
Distance from Durban: 50km
Very few places offer the feel of a luxury coastal holiday at the price of a budget break, but this converted fisherman’s hut on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast pulls it off in style. Screed floors, high ceilings, Nguni rugs, abstract art, leather headboards, ornate lamps and bright paintings add glamour to the otherwise stark white sea-facing suites and the four-bunk and double rooms that open onto a big lawn.
The airy lounge has DStv and couches that’ll suck you in as you get comfy, but as inviting as the interior may be, it’s the hammocks, colourful scatter cushions, portable braai and splash pool on the viewing deck that will keep you coming back to High Rocks.
The low price has a catch: there’s a railway line between the house and the rocky shore, and although you’ll never actually see the trains (the property is elevated) you’ll hear the occasional toot-toot and feel short-lived tremors.
Umkomaas is popular for diving and angling and you might spot the occasional surfer. If you prefer a more basic option, the neighbouring Aliwal Bungalows / House on the Beach cottage is simple with an impressive veranda and swimming pool. The friendly resident dogs, Gabby and T-bone (who looks like he’s had quite a few steaks) watch over both units and if they saunter inside, a stern command is all that’s needed to move them along.
Price: From R2000 for the whole house, or Aliwal Bungalows from R1 400 a night (sleep 10 in each)
Contact: Tel 082 552 6112, www.highrocksbeachhouse.co.za
9. Sea Cottages
Salt Rock, Dolphin Coast
Distance from Durban: 60km
Holidaying in a village on the Dolphin Coast, just 45 minutes north of Durban, is hardly going off the grid. But if you’re looking for a convenient, no-fuss break in an area with loads to explore and easy access to the rest of the attraction-rich coastline, Sea Cottages in Salt Rock ticks the boxes. A stay here is never dull; there’s a vibey German pub across the road (live music on Sundays), a shopping complex around the corner and an animal farm a short drive away.
Three of the thatched self-catering units have stoeps with views to the ocean, between palm trees and over a tropical garden. The fourth, a teeny round hut about 10 steps from the sand and away from the other units, is excellent for couples; Sea Lodge, the largest of the lot (sleeps four), is a favourite for families.
Each unit, decked in earthy tones and safari decor, has a braai, TV, air-conditioning, kitchenette and also access to the fenced swimming pool and shared lapa.
Chill on the loungers in front of the property for ocean-and people-watching – just don’t pay too much attention to the big buildings to the left and right while taking in the views.
The chalets are comfortable, but not too spacious. However, this is unlikely to matter since you’ll spend most of your time on the beach or out and about. What’s more important is that there’s a babysitting service so you can have alone time when you need it.
Price: From R1050 a night for depending on the number of guests (max four)
Contact: Tel 083 289 1612, www.seacottages.co.za
10. Oyster Box Beach House
Kenton on Sea, Sunshine Coast
Distance from Port Elizabeth: 130km
It’s the simple yet thoughtful touches that make you overlook the fact that this spacious beach cottage isn’t right on the sand. It’s the paprika, thyme, basil and other spices neatly in a kitchen rack; the Twinings teas, honesty minibar and handmade bath salts; customised bottled water, electric blankets and heated towel rails; the mohair blankets and 100 percent cotton Mungo bath towels.
This palatial house on the Sunshine Coast is two roads back from the water’s edge and has a dining table that could seat an army of 20, a TV area, gasand- stone fireplace and couches as big as single beds. If you need to work during your getaway, call dibs on the master suite upstairs; its snazzy office with Wi-Fi access has a welcoming couch and a Nespresso machine.
There are two equally opulent rooms downstairs, one complete with a Victorian tea tray, sweet treats and a flat-screen telly and another especially for children (PS you’ll find toys, books and puzzles for them in a little nook under the stairs).
But the pearl in the Oyster is undoubtedly the outside deck with its splash pool (swimming towels are provided), braai, loungers and an oval hanging chair overlooking the Bushmans River mouth and the ocean. Warning: only sit in this egg-like beauty if you have hours to spend doing nothing – it’s easy to get carried away suspended in midair, watching waves or dozing off.
Price: From R795 a person a night sharing and R2995 for the house, depending on number of guests (max eight)
Contact: Tel 046 648 3466, www.theoysterboxbeachhouse.co.za