12 best weekend breaks in Plettenberg Bay

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 30 July 2019

Blessed with several beaches, bounteous nature and plenty of entertainment, Plett is a true holiday playground. These places to stay will add that something extra to your trip.

How TripAdvisor lists accommodation rated by guests, but as much as we love peer reviews, they don’t offer a comparative voice – so how do we know No. 1 is really the best? Pippa de Bruyn, who has reviewed accommodation for 20 years for the likes of Frommer’s and The Telegraph, scours TripAdvisor and other online sites when researching a destination. For Plettenberg Bay, she created a longlist of 26 to inspect. The following made the cut.

1. Best beachfront vibe

The Bungalow
TripAdvisor No. 22 of 101 Speciality Lodgings

If you feel like checking in to a young, funky party atmosphere, and want to be right on the beach, The Bungalow is perfect. Walk in at sunset and it feels like you’ve arrived at a well-heeled house party – music pumping, cocktails flowing, lithe creatures splashing in the plunge pool or gazing into the firepit, the rest in the rooftop bar plus a lone barefoot brunette curled up in the cute corner lounge with her laptop. Hobie Beach is literally stumbling distance from the front door. The scale and style is contemporary boutique – weathered silver-grey decking with built-in seating, cushions in grey with geometric pastel pillows. The sea-facing rooms open onto a semi-private deck edged with indigenous milkwoods, and there are several comfortable, quieter nooks behind the house to hive off into.

Room Tip If you’re a couple, go large and book one of the ocean-view rooms.

Cost  Sea Facing Room from R1,375 per person sharing (sleeps two). Cliff Side Room from R1,100 per person sharing (sleeps four). Family Villa from R2,200 per person (for the first two people), plus R440 per extra person (sleeps six). All include breakfast.

Contact 044-533-1864, thebungalowplett.co.za

2. Most romantic

Emily Moon River Lodge
TripAdvisor No. 8 of 101 Speciality Lodgings

Comprising 16 cottage-suites set on stilts on a ridge that overlooks a broad curve of the Bitou River, Emily Moon is, in my opinion, the best-value luxury lodge on the Garden Route. Rooms are large and tastefully decorated, but it’s the deck with private, expansive views of the pristine wetlands below that offers the extra sense of luxury – like waking up to hear the call of a fish eagle at dawn. That said, owners Mark and Christine Valentine have not rested on their view laurels: interiors are cosy, with painted timber walls covered in framed photographs, artworks and antlers under whirring fans. It’s very atmospheric, the entire property treed and filled with eclectic objets the Valentines have collected from their travels through Africa, Asia and Polynesia. It’s one of my favourite places to stay but sadly I’m not alone – if you want to stay here, particularly over weekends, when the whole lodge is often booked for weddings and special events, book well in advance.

Room Tip The new deluxe luxury suites are exactly that, but the standard luxury ones are still gorgeous and cost R1 160 less. Ask for one with a fireplace – I really like Suite 3.

Cost  From R1,280 per person sharing B&B.

Contact 044-501-2500, emilymoon.co.za

3. Best self-catering house

Soul Arch
Not rated on TripAdvisor

Built mostly from reclaimed wood collected over several years, Soul Arch is a unique and very atmospheric space.

There are plenty of grander, bigger and ‘blingier’ self-catering houses along Robberg’s sought-after beachfront, but for me Soul Arch hits the sweet spot: a low-key, beautifully detailed, designer home, uber-stylish yet comfortable, a short stroll from the beach but with its own pool. Given its location in ‘rich Robberg’, it’s a very fair price too. Frances and Wotjek Orzechowski moved to Plett to live in an off-grid cottage 15 years ago. They opened a clothing shop (Indalo) and started collecting doors, windows and wood. In 2008 they found the ideal spot: a hillside overlooking the bird-filled vlei, a block back from Solar Beach. Inspired by New Zealand bach-style beach houses – ‘Simple living using a combination of products,’ as Frances describes it – they designed Solar Arch (named after a surf move by 70s surfing legend Gerry Lopez), incorporating their recycled wood and found doors and windows, and then furnished it in their trademark boho-chic style.

Room Tip The house has three bedrooms – two with double beds, the other one with three bunk beds. If you’re looking for a bigger house in the same area, check out ‘Solar Beach House’ on Airbnb – not as stylish, but it sleeps 15 in seven bedrooms (R3,500 a night).

Cost From R4,200 a night (sleeps four adults and six children)

Contact 021-790-0972, perfecthideaways.co.za

4. Most tasteful guest house

Christiana Lodge
TripAdvisor No. 12 of 101 Speciality Lodgings

What appears to be four separate residential homes, clustered on a block set back one road from Solar Beach, have been cleverly linked together to create a cohesive boutique hotel from the inside. It’s a lovely warren-like experience exploring these interlinked houses. Corridors and courtyards lead to a variety of B&B rooms in Christiana Lodge (11 rooms), House Philip (three rooms) and Brakvlei (three rooms; also available as a self-catering unit). Brakkloof is a stunning little self-catering apartment for two – the kind of place you want to move into for a month. Rooms throughout are finished to a high standard, with classy, contemporary decor: wicker and wood in a neutral white-and-cream palette, with plenty of white-painted American shutters. It’s immaculately maintained too – I left super impressed, despite the whirlwind nature of my visit.

Room Tip Views vary and rooms are priced accordingly. For a longer holiday, book Brakkloof and you have all the joys of self-catering along with the benefits of a staffed property.

Cost From R950 per person sharing B&B. Self-catering apartment from R1,190 per person sharing.

Contact 044-533-6212, christianalodge.com

5. Best sea-view house

Dolphin Views Keurboomstrand
Not rated on TripAdvisor

Owner Vanessa Raphaely calls this her ‘soul spot’, the place she yearns to return to, and it’s not hard to see why. Wedged between indigenous coastal vegetation and endless Keurbooms Beach, the location is simply wonderful. Step out onto the timber deck to survey the unobstructed vista, with no looming monstrosities on either side, and it’s easy to feel a bit smug as you gaze at the far-off twinkle of Plett’s glitterati coastline across the bay. It’s a proper beach house, too – the kind of place you can put your feet up. The central kitchen-lounge-dining area opens onto a deck with stunning sea views, while another deck has a small pool and views over the 28-hectare fynbos-covered property. There’s a kids’ playroom to get them out of your hair, and a two-minute stroll along the boardwalk takes you to the beach, looking out for dolphins or whales.

Room Tip Of the four bedrooms, two are of similar size and both have views, making this an ideal house to share with another couple.

Cost  From R2,900 a night (sleeps nine).

Contact 083-259-1781, airbnb.com

6. Best-value hotel

Grand Africa Rooms & Rendezvous
TripAdvisor No. 6 of 14 Hotels

This hotel and cafe have been renovated recently and the results are, well, grand. Large porthole windows now frame the view over Lookout Beach, the new steel exterior cladding is attractive, and there are more rooms (11 in total) – including four that are dog-friendly. It has retained its distinctive atmosphere of bohemian decadence, with candelabras covered in melted wax, vases filled with red roses and the trademark tall French-style beds with stepping stools. That said, some brash branding has crept in, but perhaps this new zeal for corporate sponsorship (The Grand is now owned by Life & Brand) is what keeps the prices down, because the rate really is fantastic given how lovely most of the rooms are – many with sea-view balconies.

Room Tip For romance, you can’t beat Room 6 with its bathtub facing the view; Room 7 and 8 are great too. If you’re travelling with a pooch, book The Farm Room, which has extra-length twin beds, a shaded patio furnished with a table and chairs, and an outdoor shower. The Bath House has its own swimming pool.

Cost From R600 per person sharing B&B.

Contact  044-533-3301, grandafrica.com

7. Best beach apartment

Singing Kettle Beach Lodge
TripAdvisor No. 24 of 96 B&Bs/Inns

I was loathe to share this – it’s already become virtually impossible to get a room here – but the ‘sharing is caring’ mantra prevailed. Singing Kettle comprises six self-catering apartments located directly above Ristorante Enrico, the much-loved pizzeria that advertises with: ‘Any closer and you’ll get wet.’ It really does enjoy the most privileged position, right on Keurbooms’ Kettle Beach, and as the apartments are on the upper floor, you have a great sea view from every room. There are three standard rooms and two deluxe rooms, all with a private terrace, and a honeymoon suite with a terrace and extra balcony, and a fireplace. They are well set up for self-catering and there’s a shared balcony at the back with a Weber braai.
Or you can just pop down to Enrico’s.

Room Tip The apartments basically sleep two, although three have sleeper couches. If there is a choice, I’d take Room 4 of the standard rooms or Room 1, the ‘honeymoon suite’.

Cost From R800 per person sharing.

Contact  044-535-9477, singingkettle.co.za

8. Best winter glamping

AfriCamps at Ingwe
TripAdvisor No. 8 of 13 Speciality Lodgings, The Crags

Having watched the glamping trend sweep through Europe, newcomers to the Cape, Jeroen van Rootselaar and Manou Bleumink, decided to buy an industrial sewing machine and experiment with canvas. Six years later they have eight ‘glamps’ around SA, and this is one of my favourites. Located on a hillocky farm in The Crags area, the six tents are erected on timber platforms on stilts, with decks that overlook the surrounding fynbos slopes and pockets of forest. There’s a table on the deck for dining with a view, and a firepit/braai surrounded by chairs. Tent interiors are divided by canvas walls into three spaces: a well-equipped, spacious kitchen-lounge-dining area with fireplace, and two bedrooms (one has a queen-sized bed with single bunk above it). At the back is a zinc-lined, plumbed bathroom.

Room Tip Book one of the three with a wood-fired outdoor hot tub and loll about under the stars – real luxury.

Cost From R545 per person sharing plus R200 per person extra (sleeps five).

Contact 063-170-4222, africamps.com

Worth a Look

9. Hunter’s Country House
This historic, thatched farmhouse-hotel with marvellous staff offers a bargain: at R940 pp sharing B&B, the Terrace Rooms are a total find, given the level of luxury you’ll enjoy. countryhouse.hunterhotels.com

10. Periwinkle Lodge 
Run as expertly as a hotel, this popular B&B enjoys a plum position, opposite the lifeguards on Robberg Beach. Most rooms have sea views and the atmosphere is great. From R1,440 per person sharing. periwinklelodge.co.za
11. Southern Cross
A pretty B&B right on peaceful Solar Beach. The guests’ lounge-dining-kitchen area opens onto the garden and view; note that none of the five rooms, set around a courtyard, have sea views. From R675 per person sharing B&B. southerncrossbeach.co.za

12. Long Story
Run by a mother and daughter, this is one of the best-value B&Bs in town and close to Robberg Beach. It’s an all-round hit with tasteful, creative decor; warm, intelligent service; fantastic food and a magical vibe. From R575 per person sharing. thelongstory.co.za

13. Lodge on the Bay 
By far the most glamorous and exclusive beachfront B&B, right next to Periwinkle, with just six suites sharing a pool and rooftop jacuzzi. The garden suite has its own plunge pool. From R1,870 per person sharing. lodgeonthebay.co.za

Don’t miss this

• Seeing whales and dolphins up close with Ocean Blue (boats) or Dolphin Adventures (sea kayaks). Offshore Adventures offers swimming with seals.
• Exploring the Robberg Peninsula on foot.
• Animal encounters – at Radical Raptors, Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and others.
• Adventures in The Crags, from canyoning and ziplining to abseiling. Also check out the new farmstall, Bread & Brew.
• The Plett wine and bubbly route (in a horse carriage, if you like).
• A Keurbooms River ferry trip, including a picnic stop. Or do the SUP & Champagne cruise.
• The new Mungo Mill weaving museum.

Photographs by Jotham Van Tonder

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