If there was a place that guaranteed more sunshine hours than anywhere else in the country, wouldn’t you head there?
Stretching between Tsitsikamma and East London is just such a place; its coastline gives you over six hours of driving pleasure along the N2. And whilst I know you’re itching to know what it is (no, it isn’t the Garden Route), you’ll be tempted to slap me when you hear it’s (ta da): the Sunshine Coast.
But what you may not know is that this coastal belt reads like a list of who’s who of little seaside villages close to beaches, rivers, lagoons, sheltered coves, rock pools, nature reserves and hiking trails. Kenton-on-Sea, St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis, Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Alfred all sound familiar. That’s because they’re the heart of the Sunshine Coast.
There are others too, not as well known, but easily as charming – like Kleinemonde, Boknes, Cannon Rocks, Kasouga and Bushmans River.
It is difficult to explore the entire area in 4 days. You probably need more like a week. But to get you started, we’ve put together 4 day trips along the Sunshine Coast. What are you waiting for?
DAY TRIP ONE:
Learn the basics at Oyster Bay Lodge and then take to the dunes with a board to surf the sand at your own pace. An extraordinary experience and wonderful way to drink in the views of the coastal reserve at the same time. However, book ahead (it’s popular).
Take a guided walk through the wetlands, river deltas and fynbos of Oyster Bay; climb the vast stretches of sand dune, and walk through the woodlands. Throughout this varied environment discover bird and animal life.
The 235 hectare coastal reserve of sand dunes, woods, river deltas, beaches, wetlands, lagoons and free roaming horses is the backdrop for a dune picnic. Order your basket from the Oyster Bay Lodge and have it delivered by a guide on horseback.
A hike with a difference. Try to make time for this perfectly scheduled trail through the reserve, to discover the difference between the stars of the southern and northern hemispheres, looking out for night creatures along the way.
DAY TRIP TWO:
Where better to learn the basics of surfing that on the main beach in Jeffreys Bay. For a two-hour lesson head to Wavecrest Surf School. The lesson includes a board and a wetsuit.
Papiesfontein lies just outside Jeffreys Bay, between the Gamtoos and Kabeljous rivers. Covering about 13 kilometres, the ride will take between two and three hours to complete. Experienced riders can take the unguided version of the tour, and between July and December, whales often breach in the waves.
If horse-riding is too tame for you head to Jeffreys Bay Airfield to skydive, in tandem, with a professional skydiver from an altitude of 12 000 feet and at a speed of 220 kilometres an hour.
For those after a quieter afternoon, or for shell fanatics, view over 600 shells from around the world in one of the largest shell collections in South Africa.
DAY TRIP THREE:
This lovely and easy 8 km trail is possible as either a circular or a one-way trail between Schoenmakerskop and Sardinia Bay, through the Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve. The round trip should not take longer than three hours; guaranteed to relax and expose you to nature at its best.
Postman’s Reef lies close to the slipway of Hobie Beach in Port Elizabeth. Close to a city it might be, but once on the reef you will be blown away by the sea life – sea fans and soft corals litter the rocks, surrounded by any number of sea creatures. Take an underwater camera with you.
Take a scenic, and sedate, ride along Marine Drive past the surf and beach hot spots, and on towards the Cape Recife nature reserve and lighthouse. Opt for the half-day rental and do this in the late afternoon when the day is cooler.
DAY TRIP FOUR:
Leave from the small boat harbour in Port Alfred and head up the Kleinmonde River on a canoe – a non-tidal river that makes paddling that much easier, follow the river 9 km upstream. You can follow this with a 2 km hike to the Nyala Game Reserve.
Bathurst is just 17 km inland from Port Alfred, its highlights a huge pineapple (the biggest in the world, apparently) on the R67 just outside town, and the oldest licensed pub in the country – the Pig and Whistle Hotel (the old stone walls breathe history and memorabilia). The hotel is also within walking distance of further national monuments and Waters Meeting Nature Reserve.
Try to keep your Bathurst trip for a Sunday when the Farmers’ market comes to life between 9am and 12.30pm. Fresh vegetables from local farms, cakes, quiches, a selection of homemade breads and an array of tartlets, humus, olive tapenade, goats cheese and more from chef Angela Papakonstantinou.