With breath-taking ocean views, incredible scenery, luxury spas and five-star accommodation, Wilderness tops the bucket list for romantic getaways. Local blogger Clare van Rensburg took her husband for a soul retreat in nature’s wonderland. She gives her top five tips for enjoying a beachside vacation in the Gateway to the Garden Route.
One’s first impression of the sleepy little village of Wilderness is the vista from Dolphin’s Point. The Indian Ocean sweeps the golden shore as far as the eye can see. Candy coloured paragliders hang in the balmy summer breeze and the tang of salt saturates the air. Wilderness is soaked in holiday vibes. This relaxed and fun-loving little town is in a league of its own when it comes to romance. If there was ever a place to get lost and in love, it’s here!
Featured: Escape to the Beach
1. Splurge on Sensational Sleeps
We chose to blow our budget on a weekend at ‘Escape to the Beach’, on Sand’s Road. This five-star boutique guest house is famous for its chic modern décor, elegant architecture and proximity to the beach. It is an ideal setting for lovers; dance in the dark, dip your sandy toes in the ocean and have a sneaky kiss on the sun loungers.
Stepping through the ground floor entrance, guests are treated to jaw-dropping panoramic views of the ocean. The lounge, bar and kitchen open onto a sun-drenched deck and lap pool. The white sandy beach and soothing surf lie just footsteps from the deck. You can toast your getaway by sipping gin cocktails at sundown and watching the dolphins play in the waves. Take a dip in the jacuzzi and ask hostess Sarie for dinner recommendations.
Escape to the Beach has five lavish suites named after the region’s whale species. We stayed in the beach-facing Humpback Suite. The hanging ‘love seat’ on the private balcony is the perfect place to snap a selfie. There is even a Cowrie shell chandelier hanging over the toilet! Escape to the Beach is all you can expect from a five-star guest house; expensive cotton sheets, duck down pillows, a flat screen TV, Nespresso machine and minimal environmental impact – no dreadful plastic bottles! Best of all, it comes with a soothing ocean soundtrack, for blissful deep sleep.
Featured: Escape to the Beach
2. Pack light and live like a local
Heavenly beach holidays require only the minimum baggage, so pack light! The Wilderness locals are famous for their carefree attitude, walking barefoot and in board shorts. A bikini, a sarong and a couple of dresses will suffice for a holiday at Escape to the Beach. The guest house supplies fluffy robes and slippers which quickly become standard attire. Follow the locals for a ‘post-surf’ morning coffee at the Commonage or the Green Shed in the village. Local hooch joint, The Blind Pig , is a great option for a mid-afternoon craft beer and there is a small craft market every Sunday afternoon in the Milkwood Village.
Featured: The Milkwood Village
3. Enjoy award-winning local cuisine
We chose to get dressed up and dine in luxury at the award-winning Serendipity Restaurant, on Freesia Avenue. This unique fine-dining restaurant is situated on the banks of the Touw River, overlooking the Wilderness National Park. Rudolf Stolze, owner and Maître d’ welcomed us with a selection of local aperitifs and an in-depth explanation of the night’s menu. Drawing inspiration from South African flavours and culinary heritage, executive chef Lizelle Stolze plans a five-course menu championing South African ingredients and flavours. The offerings change seasonally depending on the availability of fresh fish and local game, but invariably include indigenous veldkos, fynbos botanicals and fresh vegetables from the garden. We selected the wine pairing, and a talented young Sommelier chose local wines to complement each course. We loved the descriptions and tasting notes as these were delivered effortlessly at our table. Serendipity is an intimate dining experience, with only five tables of diners per sitting, so bookings are essential.
There are several other reputable dining options in Wilderness village. Ilali Restaurant and Social Bar is perfect for cocktails and tapas. They host local musicians in season. Pomodoros is famous for excellent wood-fired pizza and authentic Italian gelato.
Featured: The Wilderness National Park
4. Experience nature’s playground
Spend a peaceful morning in the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park. Stroll the Half-Collared Kingfisher Trail. A seven-kilometre round trip winds along a shaded path through indigenous forest. Take an invigorating dip in the icy waterfall and watch out for the local love bird, the Knysna Loerie. Enjoy a secluded picnic in the great outdoors. The Wilderness Picnic Company promise to ‘deliver food to match your mood’. They specialise in planning romantic picnics in the area and offer a delicious range of freshly prepared local and seasonal foods, in eco-friendly packaging. Our choice, however, was a sunset cruise on the Touw River, with Wilderness River Safaris. This company cater for honeymoons, engagements and anniversaries, and offer a private cruise for the lovestruck on their safari-style boat. A gentle cruise on the idyllic waterways is the perfect way to celebrate love. The reed lined wetlands, lush forests and placid lagoon are perfectly enjoyed with a glass of bubbles, at dusk.
Featured: Stock Image
5. Soothe and spoil your soulmate
The Wellness Emporium at the Views Boutique Hotel offers a couples’ massage package to die for. The ‘Togetherness Ritual’ includes a Moroccan Rasul steam cleanse, followed by their signature serenity massage and a mineral hydro bath. If you are looking for a blissful opportunity to rejuvenate your mind and body and reconnect with your loved one, look no further!
On our final morning, Mark and I rose at dawn for a quick dip in the waves at Wilderness Beach. It brought back memories of our first holidays together as boyfriend and girlfriend. As Ed Sheeran would say, ‘We were just kids when we fell in love’. Decades ago, we camped on this very beach. We were penniless then and spent the evening laughing under the stars with a cheap bottle of plonk. We woke up in a stuffy and sandy tent. Our five-star romantic getaway left me feeling smug. We might be older now, but we are certainly wiser, and finally, we can stay in hotels!!!