Retreat yourself, catch your breath and recharge your batteries at these spots in the Eastern Cape.
Here your phone might struggle to find signal, here the sound of nature is louder than the sound of the city, here you will find yourself off the grid but not completely, here you will find that moment of “ahhh” when you fall back into these destinations arms of rest and relaxation.
So go on, retreat yourself.
Here are a few suggestions of where to go in the Eastern Cape to “retreat” yourself
Baviaanskloof – The Wild Retreat
If you have a vehicle that won’t moan and groan too much going off-road, then head to Baviaanskloof – one of the Eastern Cape’s seven wonders – where you will be surrounded by an unspoilt wilderness of narrowing gorges, wildlife, streams and spectacular landscapes. You can enter the valley from Willowmore’s side or from Patensie; the Baviaanskloof is just under 200 km, but don’t fool yourself and think it’s a quick two hour drive…
The road can take up to 8 hours, and besides, why rush when nature offers you so much beauty on a plate?
Staying over in the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve is highly recommended; there are camp sites, high-end lodges, guest farms, cottages and, if you really want to stay in a unique place, try the accommodation in the Makkedaat cave or stay in the Speekhout treehouse.
Hogsback – The Spiritual Retreat
How do you feel about a green, lush indigenous forest, dozens of waterfalls, Samango monkeys, Knysna Louries, Cape parrots and mountains, morning mist, moss carpets and moonshine? What about labyrinths, an eco-shrine, crystals, fairies?
Sounds magical, right?
Hogsback in the Amathole district can only be described as magical, an ideal backdrop for a retreat for mind, body and soul; it is a place encapsulated by nature with plenty of activities on offer such as hiking, biking and horse-back riding with numerous art studios to visit and local eateries.
Accommodation ranges from basic backpacker dormitories to hotels to spots hidden under the forest canopy like Babuhle Self-catering Cottages (if you want a romantic weekend away go for the Loerie Cottage).
Langkloof – The Country Retreat
Just behind the towering Tsitsikamma Mountains lies the Langkloof, the fruit route of South Africa where apples and pears shout sweet promises from the road while proteas – in all shapes and sizes – colours the valley’s fynbos face with dots of pink and white.
The Langkloof is a stretch of more than 160 km and include towns like Joubertina, Twee Riviere, Louterwater, Misgund and Kareedouw, where farm retreats are ready to welcome you with 4×4 trails, hiking opportunities and abseiling. And of course, the
Langkloof also forms part of Route 62, the longest wine route in the world.
The area is known for its numerous farm stalls and unique restaurants like the Belfry Kitchen (in Twee Riviere), where a four-course meal – that will send your tastebuds to heaven – is under R89. How is this possible you wonder? They say, “the centerpiece of this inflation-free marvel is the own production of virtually all ingredients and foodstuffs through simple, family-based, homesteading practices.”
You will find that the majority of the Langkloof’s accommodation is on guest farms such as the Grootnek Guest Farm.
Groendal Nature Reserve in Nelson Mandela Bay – The Active Retreat
A mere 40 minute drive from Port Elizabeth’s city centre will bring you to one of the Bay’s lesser known spots – truly hidden – the Groendal Nature Reserve where the Blindekloof hiking trail can keep you busy for a day if you want to sleep in a comfortable hotel in the city or it can keep you busy for more than a day if you want to be adventurous and sleep in a cave.
The Groendal Area stretches its green arms out over 30 000 hectares of wilderness where rugged mountains, deep valleys and crystal clear pools have brag rights as they take the prize for being completely unspoiled, untouched and unbelievable.
If you don’t want to stay over in a cave and prefer to do the day hike, you can find accommodation in Port Elizabeth or opt for a stay at Sand River Getaways, a holistic wellness retreat, not too far from the Groendal Wilderness Area.
Coffee Bay – The Coastal Retreat
You had me at coffee…
The Wild Coast’s Coffee Bay is situated in the Eastern Cape and its dramatic landscapes, cliffs, beautiful coastline, nature and warm water have the power to keep you on a Coffee Bay high for days. If you want to escape the city, get back to the basics and experience a more rural part of South Africa where cattle roam the beaches and mud huts cover the hills, then you know where you can get your next fix.
Coffee Bay offers a variety of outdoor activities such as walking, the impressive Hole in the Wall, surfing and visiting the Mapuzi Caves.
Even though Coffee Bay attracts a lot of backpackers there are also other accommodation options such as a resort, self-catering cottages and hotels.
Bedford – The Green Retreat
Bedford is a small Eastern Cape town with a green soul.
The town is known as the green heart of the Eastern Cape Midlands and it holds an annual garden festival (October) when its unique roses at the Rosarium – plus other flowers all around residents’ gardens – are in full bloom.
The sense of community in Bedford is something that you will remember for years to come; here everyone works together to better themselves, better each other and better their town through community projects such as mass recycling done at Eaglehout and the vegetable garden projects.
Buying local produce is their motto, connecting with others is their passion and welcoming you to their town is a given.
When in town check out all the beautiful old architecture, especially the period furniture at the Duke of Bedford Inn, visit the Rosarium, Eaglehout, for gourmet treats go to the Apprentice where the food is nurtured and made with love, stop by the Mill Cricket Ground, the Village Farm Stall and just allow yourself to stop, switch off and see Bedford. It’s a town you need to see with your heart, not your eyes.
You can stay at the hotel in the centre of town at Duke of Bedford Inn, or at a bed and breakfast, or guest farm (some of the farms are only open during the Garden Festival in October every year).
Read: A Taste of Bedford
Steytlerville – The Karoo Retreat
Before you take the road to the popular Karoo hotspots, take some time and check out Steytlerville, only 160 km from Port Elizabeth.
The town of Steytlerville oozes with the typical Karoo hospitality where people will still say, “no, it’s okay, you can pay me later” and “it’s on the house, you’re in the Karoo now”.
Steytlerville used to be the home of back-in-the-day rugby legend, Danie Craven, and the celebrated poet and doctor A.G Visser; it’s no wonder that the history still fills the spaces and places.
When visiting Steytlerville make sure to catch the Steytlerville Follies show, a cabaret, at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel, visit Lizzy’s Khaya for some home-cooked meals and the Verandah Coffee Shop where a classic car collection, complete with memorabilia, hides in the backyard of the café.
You can find accommodation at one of the hotel, guest houses or guest farms.
Not feeling like a DIY retreat?
Why not join one of these organised retreats in the Eastern Cape?
In Cape St. Francis you can join in retreats such as the “Stress Relief Retreat” or “Refresh and Restore Retreat” – visit www.capestfrancis.co.za for the next dates.
Take a weekend off and join a yoga forest retreat in Hogsback (Iyengar Yoga). For more information, visit www.backtowellness.co.za.
Join a writing retreat (literary hike) in Hogsback, click here for more information.
Experience the Art of Living Happiness Program in Port Elizabeth, visit www.artofliving.co.za.
From homeopathy to art to mindfulness workshops and many more, have a look at the Facebook page of Thrive Holistic Lifestyle Experiences in Bedford, click here.
Disclaimer: Sections of this blog post was written for, and first appeared in, Traveller24.