For my birthday this year, my boyfriend offered me the pick of any holiday destination I’d want to visit. After a lot of back and forth, hours spent on Google Maps and a long list of pros and cons, I settled on Still Bay – a mere 316km from Stellenbosch. We packed our bags, and in early November, headed to this popular holiday destination.

Getting there

I’m an absolute sucker for a road trip! I don’t mind taking the long way around; in fact, I sometimes prefer it! If you’ve ever been in Stellenbosch on a Friday, you’ll know that traffic can be quite a nightmare. In light of this, we opted to rather take Franschhoek pass from Franschhoek to Villiersdorp, and join up with the R60 just after Worcester (if you ever need to skip some of the traffic at the Huguenot Tunnel this is a great option).

franschhoek-pass

We stopped at the lookout point to take in the amazing view of the Franschhoek valley. Having originally lived in the Free State, I never get sick of looking at the mountains and beautiful vineyards surrounding the Winelands area. The pass can be quite treacherous here and there, so I’d advise you just stick to the speed limit as you head down.

Next up, we passed Robertson, Ashton, and Montague, taking Route 62 to Barrydale where we stayed over. We’ve recently rounded up our favourite stops on Route 62, so if you are planning on heading that way yourself, be sure to check it out.

The next morning we were ready to take Still Bay by storm and started by heading down the Tradouw pass in the direction of Heidelberg.

marloth-swellendam

From Heidelberg, we headed towards Riversdale where we hunted down Baleia Wines. Just outside of Riversdale, close to the famous Bali Trading, Baleia wines has recently added their tasting room. We’ve been following their wines for some time now after tasting their Erhard pinot noir earlier, as well as my personal favourite, the Tempranillo. We were lucky enough to be served by the winemaker himself and even shared one of their delicious cheese platters – what a treat! The tasting room is so beautifully decorated that we spent hours just debating the decor.

Exploring the bay

From there it was an easy 50km to Still Bay. Seeing as it was off-season, we had very little traffic heading into the little town. Still Bay is divided into east and west, separated by the estuarine Goukou river. Most of the shops and restaurants are located in Still Bay West, while the new developments and some of the beachfront restaurants are located in Still Bay East.

We stayed at a newly renovated Airbnb in Still Bay East that is most definitely worth a shoutout. The main house, that sleeps six, is beautifully decorated in monochrome with natural woods and industrial finishes. This uncluttered space is an entertainer’s dream with the kitchen windows opening onto the braai area, ensuring that no one is stuck alone in the kitchen – one of my pet peeves. The open plan ensuite master bedroom continues in the monochrome theme, making for a very sophisticated space. Look for Uitnaweek 10 Oos Street on Airbnb to give them a try.

The beach round-up

On Sunday we headed out in search of the best beaches that Still Bay has to offer. The main beach is on the Still Bay West side and we kept that one for last, heading to the Lappiesbaai beach first. From here, almost the entire Still Bay West is visible from the beach.

Lappiesbaai beach is a blue flag beach during peak holiday periods which means that it meets a standard of excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management. It also implies that there will be lifeguards during the holiday season and that holiday goers have to abide by a certain set of rules during the period.

My favourite part of the Lappiesbaai beach was not the pristine beach or the stunning views, it was the Lappiesbaai restaurant. I opted for my very first fish and chips of the trip. It was the best fish and chips that I’ve had in a long time – not too oily and the fish was perfectly cooked – soft and fluffy! I would definitely recommend this spot on the beach, but as I understand, it gets quite busy during the festive season, so I would recommend that you go early!

A bit more off the beaten track is the Preekstoel beach, also on the Still Bay East side. Besides the long stretch of clear oceanfront, the beach ends in a formation of rocks where you can, at any given time, find a few fishermen casting a line. If you are looking for a quieter space or would like to take a bit of a walk on the beach, Preekstoel is the answer, as you can walk along the beach for quite some distance.

Preekstoel is another blue flag beach and you are also able to camp close to the beach. The beach also forms part of the Geelkrans Hiking Trail and one can choose to end the hike here. When it is low tide, you are also able to pass the rocks and head down an even bigger stretch of beach further to the east.

preekstoel-stilbaai

Just before heading to the main beach, we stopped by the harbour on the Still Bay West side. To me, the harbour is really the heart of any fisherman’s town. It is always bustling with activity, interesting personalities, fishermen’s boats and the smell of the ocean.

This Sunday, everything was quiet and there was almost no wind – quite unusual for Still Bay. We sat down for coffee at the Anchor Restaurant, right there on the harbour. All the tables were booked, and the waiter informed us that they are fully booked most Sundays – I would love to go back one day to this special little spot.

We decided to keep to the main beach for early Monday morning. Just after 7am, we headed out to Still Bay West. The weather was quite overcast but made for some excellent imagery. We took a walk along the estuary, wading in deeper than one can normally go due to the low tide. It was finally my birthday and we watched the sunrise from the rockpools through the clouds.

The beach stretches quite far and we took the opportunity to walk along the coast and admire the different houses, big and small, each with their own unique name… Affiesee, Moeggetransvaal, Peace & Quiet. The refreshing lukewarm water was just the wake-up we needed on a Monday morning, and as we stopped for coffee on the way back, we reflected on the privilege of being able to experience our beautiful country.

A special treat

First of all, a huge shoutout to my amazing boyfriend who not only joins me on all my crazy adventures, but will even go gin tasting with me at 10am on a Monday morning. That’s right; I just could not drive past the famous Inverroche distillery, situated just outside of Still Bay.

Definitely, worth the stop, the Inverroche distillery is famous for their collection of craft gins. Their amber gin really took the market by storm, and their tastefully decorated tasting room is evidence of the sophistication with which they approach the craft gin industry.

Seeing as it was only 10am and we still had an hour’s drive to the farm, we opted for the gin and tonic tasting. This included tasters of their Classic Gin, Verdant Gin (my favourite), Amber Gin, their Aged Rum (another favourite) and their limited edition Coco Carissa Gin. This limited edition gin uses seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree from the Amazonian forests in South America and the red berries of the Carissa bispinosa tree from the forests of the Southern Cape.

We stocked up on a few goodies – there was some Baleia wines and Inverroche Gins in Christmas stockings last year – and headed back home. Arguably one of the best birthdays I’ve had – 27 here I come!

Author

Free State-girl, living in Stellenbosch. Love to explore small towns, read in Afrikaans and everything pop-culture. My favourite yoga move is 'The Pigeon' and one day I'd like to own my own vintage cinema.

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