Deserted beaches, endless rolling green hills, wandering herds of cows and nothing on the to do list except relaxation. This is what a typical Wild Coast retreat is like. And even if you did want to get out and get active, you’d have trouble choosing between the cliff hikes, river canoeing, horseback rides and surfing.
When I visited the Wild Coast during summer, however, we opted for the chilled route. We spent hours on the beach, sometimes completely by ourselves and sometimes joined by only a few others. We went for extended ambles along the coast, walking on the white sand or the grassy hills and meeting many cows on the way. We lazed at our rural backpackers, playing chess, eating cheap monster sandwiches, drinking R13 quarts and borrowing books to read. We stayed in Xhosa huts and started the days early drinking coffee from a tin mug while the sun rises over the ocean. But essentially, we did the one thing that holidays are made for – nothing.
We did this for a week and it cost less than R3000 (petrol from Cape Town and back included). So to help you plan your ideal backpacking retreat, here’s our a breakdown of our trip.
Wild Coast backpacking trip planner
Day 1: Dijembe Backpackers, Storms River Village
Driving from Cape Town, it’s best to find a nice spot along the Garden Route to spend one night. See it as part of the holiday, because there are so many great and affordable places to stay at. Dijembe Backpackers is in a quiet corner of Storms River Village. Hammocks, a grassy lawn and a jacuzzi makes for both great relaxation and a fun night around the fireplace and those who want to sleep away from the noise can opted for a room in the second wooden house down the dirt road. The dinners are incredible and completely worth the R55 extra. Breakfast is included.
Day 2: Bomvu Backpackers, Coffee Bay
If you want to experience the buzz of Coffee Bay, this is a very basic and affordable option. Then again, most of the backpackers in Coffee Bay are. We only stayed one night since we wanted to experience the more rural regions and it honestly wasn’t my favourite. In the morning, a hike to Hole in the Wall or a drive there is definitely worth it. Apart from the sight itself, there are shaded, grassy spots beside the sea as well as a perfect beach across the river. Just take your own food and water as there aren’t really any shops or restaurants nearby.
R100 a person a night for a dorm room (R120 in peak season), R240 a night for a double room, R60 a person a night camping (R90 in peak season)
Day 3 & 4: Mdumbi backpackers
Situated about 35km north of Coffee Bay, this rural backpackers was one of my personal favourites. The people who work here mostly went for a holiday and never left, and you can understand why as soon as you arrive. The dorms and rooms are in free-standing Xhosa huts, the bathrooms are decorated with beautiful mosaic, the self-catering kitchen is very well equipped with numerous fridges and all of it is situated high on a grassy hill. Just walk down to the far-stretching beach where there’s a volleyball net and some of the best surfing along the coast. Rent a surfboard for the day (R25 for a short and R50 for a long) or go on one of the many nature excursions like hikes and canoe adventures. Return for a toasted sandwich and make your way to the local shebeen for some beers. The backpackers is partly owned by the community and all the activities are small businesses run by the community members, making them a great sustainable tourism destination.
Day 5, 6 & 7: Bulungula
This was my highlight of the trip. Even more rural than Mdumbi, Bulungula is owned and run entirely by the community so there’s no begging in the area. The Xhosa huts are painting in cheerful colours and the cafe makes the most filling meals (for decent prices) I’ve ever had. Also situated on a hill, but closer to the sea, you can laze at the river mouth or wade a little deeper in the ocean. The water is the ideal temperature for swimming and if you walk along the beach and over a hill or two you’ll reach the most beautiful deserted beach. Here you won’t find another soul, perhaps just a cow or twenty. Back home you can help yourself to drinks, sweets and chips at the honesty bar and then take an afternoon nap in the outside chill area or wander across the river mouth to quiet spot under the trees. Getting up at 4am rewards you with an incredible sunrise over the ocean. You need at least three nights to fully appreciate Bulungula.
The Wild Coast is not just ideal for young people who don’t mind sharing rooms, it’s also great for families. Especially at Mdumbi and Bulungula, there were many families with small children cooking all there meals in the kitchens and staying in private rooms. We reached all the places we went to with a sedan vehicle, but some of the roads are quite rough, so if you don’t have a 4×4 just leave yourself with enough time to get to every destination.
The Wild Coast makes you feel like you’re in a different world and, unlike a foreign holiday, you don’t have to save for ages before you can go. It truly was my definition of the perfect summer holiday.