A ‘getaway’ is a chance to escape our daily lives, if only for several days. But there are some secluded yet luxurious places that take this idea even further, where ‘getting away’ actually means truly immersing yourself in our great outdoors – without sacrificing comfort or style … and then some. Whether you’re searching for a natural hotspot where no one will find you to spend long summer nights and birdsong-filled days – or simply need an excuse to clear your head – these remote hotels are a good place to start. Best explored at a leisurely pace that any South African would approve of, they’ll make even the most intrepid traveller swoon in awe-struck delight. Summer has officially arrived.
Gonana Guesthouse – a sweet little seaside retreat
Best for eco-conscious weekenders
Few experiences rival the joy of remoteness – shaped by intense solitude, silence, space and pitch black, starry skies. The coastal town of Paternoster’s exhilarating coastline, spectacular sandy beaches, whitewashed fishermen’s cottages and stunning seascapes feel like freedom itself. With ample sun, good-natured locals and a cluster of little white houses perched behind a vast deserted beach, this quaint fishing village up the West Coast (145km from Cape Town) is ideal for experiencing a slow, gentle pace of life. To enjoy Paternoster in guaranteed privacy, the relaxed and quietly off-beat Gonana Guesthouse – one of our favourite little finds – should be firmly on the ‘must-visit’ list. Tucked away down a side street, it feels light-years away from the hustle and bustle of modern Cape Town. Once inside the indoors-outdoors lounge upstairs (the heart of this little hotel), the space is welcoming and open to the elements, like the sofas overlooking the coastline and rattan pendant lights swinging in the sea breeze. And then, suddenly, there it is … the sea, right below you. It’s a view that makes you stop walking and talking and just breathe it all in. The property is as secluded as it is charming, and a go-slow ethos runs right through this place. Its eight guest rooms lack televisions, every lodging option has an ocean view and the on-site dining facilities are open-air. Add the vivid blue of a solar-heated swimming pool against the entirely white surroundings and the whole place has an extraordinary presence. Rooms, pared-back and pin-drop quiet but for the trill of seabirds and crash of waves, are designed with a stylish hand in clean lines, a restrained palette and a stripped-down simplicity. It’s the kind of coastal hideout you’ll want to return to again and again. But for all this attention to detail, Gonana Guesthouse is essentially a barefoot hideaway where throw-on-and-go kaftans rather than shoes take precedence in the dress code. Sleep with the shutters open and nod off to the hush of waves under a dark sky full of stars. Breakfast is a feast of just-baked pastries, local honey and creamy yogurt, served in the lounge by genuinely friendly staff. Should you tire of reading, swimming in the pool or drinking in the view from the divine terrace, activities like kayaking, kitesurfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, kite flying and hiking will mix things up in between all that relaxation – and help keep you disconnected despite the hotel’s readily available Wi-Fi. It’s not as if you need another reason to visit, but environmental sustainability is an everyday priority for Gonana Guesthouse, down to the solar panels and so-natural-they’re-almost-edible Simply Bee toiletries made with beeswax. Our top tip is to ditch the car once you’re there. Paternoster is for exploring hand in hand – take a short stroll down to Voorstrandt Restaurant for possibly the best fish and chips anywhere on the West Coast or The Noisy Oyster for a plate of fresh oysters washed down with a bottle of rosé. Come for a breathtaking seaside escape and forget-the-world sense of peace.
Inside tip: There’s something about the light on the West Coast, the way it shifts and changes, that makes Paternoster so much more atmospheric than it’s often given credit for. The upstairs lounge at Gonana Guesthouse is the most wonderful spot for watching the many moods of this coastline – from the indigo swell which seems to merge with an overcast sky to when the azure sea bounces light onto the rocky shoreline – leaving you intimately entwined with the landscape. Plus, there’s an honesty bar stocked with drinks and snacks, so you can help yourself to an enormous glass of controversial shiraz, chenin blanc, grenache or pinotage from the up-and-coming Swartland wine region at sundown.
42 Sonkwas Street, Bek Bay, Paternoster
066 194 1105
Flamboyant, old-school glamour at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
Best for cult-hotel fans
Looking for a deep-breath escape to disconnect from work emails? Consider a week (or four) at the meticulously appointed Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, with fynbos-clad mountainside to one side and the vast expanse of the ocean to the other. The upscale white hotel – named after the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range that runs parallel to the coast from Camps Bay to Llandudno – manages to ably combine the endless, peaceful landscape with the modern comforts of a top-tier escape. The air is as clean and pure as the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and the coastal swath is the stuff postcard photographers dream of. You come here to be far away from everything – fighting the urge to sit back, relax and do absolutely nothing is futile. We recommend booking a quiet and tucked-away Mountain Facing Room, decked out with riotous pattern, lots of blue and white hues, elegant mirrors, covetable headboards, throws and cushions galore as well as accessories inspired by oceanic elements. These extravagantly decorated rooms – including the boudoir-like bathrooms, soap and pillow menus, and in-room toiletries enriched with botanical extracts – feel every bit as wild and elemental as the sea. Yet given the rugged natural beauty, fynbos fragrance, chorus of the birds and breathtaking views, carefully considered details seem like an unnecessary distraction. Rooms from the upper floors have optimal sea views, too. The main draw here, though, is the dining: The mountain-facing Café Grill, with a coolly muted feel, serves stellar salads, sandwiches, wraps, amped-up burgers and visually pleasing sushi, while seafood-centric suppers of sophisticated dishes prepared by chef Christo Pretorius are served in Azure Restaurant. The restaurant spills out onto the sunny terrace when it’s warm, where you can sip locally distilled gin and order the freshest raw West Coast oysters served with an accompaniment of lemon cheeks, cracked black pepper and mignonette salsa. To wit: There’s founder Beatrice Tollman’s family-favourite crayfish and prawn cocktail; Saldanha Bay mussels floating in roasted tomato risotto; locally caught grilled fish of the day with sautéed baby vegetables; and outlandish takes on the humble stroganoff, like a creamy prawn version with basmati rice. While Azure Restaurant is perfect for a full, multi-course feast, it’s also ideal if you just want to swing by and get your fix of drinks, a slew of oysters and other briny treats. Before supper, sip a seasonal craft cocktail or a glass of wine from the owners’ South African estate –Bouchard Finlayson – and watch the sun sink below the horizon at The Leopard Bar. Guests will also enjoy two swimming pools, an award-winning spa, a cute 16-seat cinema (with popcorn and milkshakes, of course) and a complimentary all-day shuttle to whisk you to Camps Bay and the V&A Waterfront. You’ll be very well placed if you’re planning to visit the Constantia Wine Route, Simon’s Town and Kalk Bay, too, but the location doesn’t matter – the hotel is the destination.
Inside tip: Don’t sleep through The Twelve Apostles’ signature breakfast, which is included in overnight stays. It’s a case-study in old-world decadence – laden with their famous flaky croissants, freshly-shucked oysters, local smoked salmon and trout, aperitivo-worthy charcuterie, viennoiseries and a cheese board – served in the opulent Azure Restaurant. You can certainly wash your breakfast down with a frothy cappuccino or orange juice, but part of the hotel’s whole appeal is the complimentary bubbly, so we encourage you to opt for a mimosa or an oyster-friendly glass of sparkling brut (which might make you that much freer with your credit card while strolling along the rue Camps Bay strip).
Victoria Road, Camps Bay
021 437 9000