Long walks on golden beaches, year-round sunshine, the scent of the ocean breeze in your nostrils and the sea and forest at your doorstep. Add to this – personalised service, barefoot luxury and the freshest gourmet seafood – and you have the ultimate seaside escape. You have The Plettenberg .
The exclusive five-star hotel in the heart of the picturesque `Garden Route` is one of South Africa's most iconic hotels, and the cornerstone of the Liz McGrath Collection. Built on a rocky headland between the two main swimming beaches in the millionaires’ playground of Plettenberg Bay, it commands a prime position with spectacular vistas of the Indian Ocean, the Outeniqua mountains and the dense green forests. The region is a haven for migrant whales and frolicking pods of dolphins. In fact, the hotel has a whale bell which is rung whenever the mighty creatures are sighted.
The Plettenberg consists of 35 rooms housed in two buildings as well as two family villas - the 6-sleeper Lookout Villa and the 4-sleeper Beach House. We stayed in the latter, a gorgeous house with sweeping views of the bay and the mountains, where beach chic meets 5-star luxury. Decorated in soft cream and blue shades with bleached wooden floors, it had two en-suite bedrooms, a huge living room with a fireplace, a dining room and a fully equipped kitchen.
The main bedroom had a walk-in closet and opened on to our very own private deck with a heated swimming pool. The bathrooms featured huge bathtubs, spacious showers, double vanity basins, and heated towel rails. Fluffy bathrobes, comfy slippers and fragrant Molton Brown amenities were provided.
Also at our disposal were flat-screen televisions with satellite channels, DVD players, coffee machines and board games. So was a mobile phone with unlimited calling and internet access to use during our stay. This is especially handy for international guests who don’t wish to activate roaming on their regular phones. Talk about going the extra mile!
We were welcomed with Appletisers and a fresh fruit platter in our dining room. Our bar fridge was stocked with complimentary drinks, and there were Pringles and other snacks for the kids. My children, who have been to so many luxury hotels that they’ve almost become blasé about it, were suitably impressed.
This was the perfect beach house for families or friends travelling together. We had access to the facilities at the main building while maintaining our private space.
The main buildings also house two swimming pools which seem to flow into the ocean, several lounges, a boutique store, and the restaurant. For additional pampering, there is a spa on the premises too.
Even if you’re not staying in a private beach house, the suites in the main buildings are fit for royalty and boast sublime views. Apart from the two villas, there are also several sets of inter-leading rooms for families who want to stay in the main buildings. Younger children are given age-appropriate activity packs, beach toys and games (if required), and children’s menus in the restaurant. My son wanted a fish burger -which wasn’t on the menu-and the chef made one especially for him.
Seafood is the hotel’s signature restaurant. As the name suggests, fresh seafood is the order of the day here, and dishes are created with local seasonal produce. The menu draws inspiration from the bounty of the ocean, and you are treated to a side serving of magnificent ocean views.
We enjoyed a decadent seafood dinner with spicy bouillabaise, tempura prawns, smoked paprika calamari, and twice baked cheese souffle. This was perfectly topped with the creamiest crème brulee and a chocolate dessert platter. The food looked as good as it tasted and our already lofty expectations were exceeded.
The outdoor terrace is perfect for alfresco meals, especially at sunset. We had a delightful breakfast there overlooking the ocean. Eggs Royale with corn fritters, Welsh rarebit on rye, refreshing strawberry lemonade and chocolate waffles with ice cream for my son. This was accompanied by a continental breakfast. Even after we had eaten our fill, it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the views. This sentiment was shared by many locals and visitors who were there for the scenic and scrumptious meals, even though they were not staying at the hotel.
At The Plettenberg , barefoot luxury is encouraged. As Wiida, the friendly assistant general manager told me, guests must be comfortable enough to go barefoot without losing any of the 5-star conveniences. They should begin relaxing the minute they step through the doors. The azure blues and sea-greens reflected in the marine theme are designed to bring the ocean in and encourage this relaxation.
The Plettenberg is one of those exquisite retreats that charms and captivates and makes departure such sweet sorrow – with the promise of an expeditious return trip to look forward to.
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Things you must do in South Africa