The Guardian: Keurboomstrand a top 10 destination
Somewhere on the planet there might be a more beautiful beach than Keurboomstrand, 10km east of Plettenberg Bay on the Western Cape, but I’ve visited a few beautiful beaches in my time and am yet to be convinced.
Plettenberg Bay is South Africa’s answer to the Hamptons, and Keurbooms is seemingly endless, wild and pristine – it feels lost in time.
I’m an inveterate strandloper (beachcomber) and love to search for pansy shells and rare paper nautiluses along its shore. Even during high season, I’ve only ever shared the beach with the occasional dog walker, fisherman or oystercatcher. Almost every time I’ve wandered along the sand, I’ve seen pods of about 100 bottlenose dolphins leaping through the crystal clear waves. Bryde’s whales are in residence throughout the year, while humpback and southern right whales bring their calves to play during winter. On one occasion, I counted eight pairs of mothers and babies, from the top of the dune, as I drank my morning coffee.
The Plett River Lodge, on the banks of the river that reaches the sea via the lagoon, is relaxed and highly rated (doubles from £62).
Keurbooms’ single flaw is its notorious rip current – this is not a swimming beach. But the lagoon behind the beach is as safe and warm as any in the Caribbean or Indian Ocean. For children, or those who prefer a gentle wallow, the lagoon beach at Pootjie (Little Paw) is perfection.
When tired of the sea, take a boat tour up the river to Whiskey Creek. There, early birds can claim white, sandy beaches for a picnic, and there are rocky cliffs from which bold children and adults can leap into the copper-coloured water that gives the creek its name.
The bijou Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve boasts the Big Five, and is 10 minutes’ drive up the Wittedrift road. There’s a decent, 18-hole Gary Player-designed golf course at Goose Valley. Also in the bay, Ristorante Enrico serves fresh seafood caught daily off the owner’s boat and offers a jaw-dropping view of the bay at sunset. I also love Emily Moon for its glamorous food, delicious grapefruit, gin and tonics, and romantic views of the Bitou river. Thyme & Again is the neighbourhood’s iconic roadside farm stall: it has an excellent deli, a salad dressing renowned across the country, a casual restaurant and sophisticated selection of cheese and wines.
Fly to Port Elizabeth via Jo’burg with South African Airways from £644. Transfer to Plettenberg Bay: 2hr 45min
Flight time 11hr 10min
Time difference +2hr