* This article first appeared here in the Saturday Citizen.
Sandcastle Villa, East London
On a stretch of wild coastline, barely an hour’s drive South of East London awaits a destination and villa so unreal it almost feels like you’re stepping into a fairytale. Sandcastle Villa is a larger-than-life exclusive-use home in the Eastern Cape.
Sandcastle certainly seems the epitome of freedom, with 2km of unspoilt beach, 275 hectares of nature reserve, and an exclusive villa of 1600m2. Arriving in the late evening we didn’t have time for the short walk down to the beach, but the sound of the waves endlessly kissing the shore reminded us it was near.
Expect African Adobe styling – a rather calming combination of both, including curation of artwork from across the continent. There are four en-suite bedrooms, two lounges, dining room, study, and an open-plan kitchen. The space was so vast, that when I ran across the interior of the villa from the East lounge to my bedroom, I arrived utterly out of breath.
The expansive sand-castle-inspired villa is set in a game reserve, in front of 2kms of private and pristine coastline. Wewe is the resident game guide (and also an apiarist), always ready to introduce guests to the wildlife that he is so proudly a custodian of. The reserve is home to giraffes, sable, kudu, waterbuck, zebra, and with no predators you’re free to roam at will.
Included in your stay the staff can set up sundowners in either location for memorable bush and beach moments. Opting for the latter on our last evening, from our boho-beach setting, we stared out at the calm surface of the ocean broken only in places by breaching whales, while closer to the shore a string of dolphins was slowly traversing across the horizon. In this setting, it’s hard to not feel like you’ve found freedom. Freedom of space, time, place and environment. It’s this beautiful mix of beach and bush that adds to the undeniable Sandcastle magic. sandcastlesa.com
The Beach House, Jacob’s Bay
Glancing at a picture of the Beach House you almost have to make a double take; yes you’re seeing what you think you are – it’s a beach house set in the dunes, directly overlooking the ocean. Set in the picturesque and rather underrated little hamlet of Jacob’s Bay, this four-bedroom West Coast 10-sleeper is a comfy and unpretentious beach house.
Jacob’s Bay is one of the smallest West Coast towns – quietly hiding just behind Langebaan. The Beach House is the last property set on a little peninsula – surrounded by kilometres of seemingly deserted beaches for exploring. This magical setting provides some of the most memorable sunsets I’ve experienced.
The bottom story serves as a separate cottage with its own kitchen and lounge. The middle story has two bedrooms, the living spaces and then the famous living and dining room that open onto the dunes. Lastly, an upstairs en suite loft has two queen beds.
The West Coast has always been a salve for my soul – with its proximity to Cape Town (in this case a 1h30 drive) and quietly wild beaches. The nearby Weskusplek Restaurant offers a variety of meals – although with a dining room that spills out onto the beach you may just choose not to leave at all.
With plenty of space, it’s a dream location for a friends or family gathering and is also child and pet friendly. Be sure to book your stay in advance, after all, there are not many places where you’re afforded the opportunity to step right out of your home into the ocean. thebeachhouse.co.za
Forest Whisper, Ballots Bay
Mention Ballots Bay, and there’s a good chance that many South Africans won’t know where you’re talking about – and isn’t that the point of a hidden gem – its elusive allure? Ballot’s Bay is essentially a private nature reserve 20 minutes outside of George, where fynbos-covered hills become cliffs, which then tumble dramatically into the ocean.
I had the privilege of being the first to visit Forest Whisper, a brand-new treehouse-styled home hidden in the verdant expanse of Garden Route greenery. Ballot’s Bay is accessed by a thrilling steep road in, and then properties are dived between Ballot’s Heights with homes scattered along the cliffs and Ballots Bay where the road winds down to the secluded beach where several homes hug the valley, including Forest Whisper.
Owner Henry was the architect and mastermind behind the house and along with his wife Sally, they have lovingly created something remarkable. The structure gently cascades down the steep hill, with three levels of living spaces – all glass-fronted to show off the sweeping views.
The first level is home to the open plan kitchen, dining, and living space, and then two decks. Each of the next two levels feature en suite bedrooms with alternating forest and valley views. Expect all the finer touches, including exclusive Joe Paine designs, Mungo towels, an Everdure braai and T-Shirt Company linen – and all this is available at a surprisingly affordable rate.
If you decide to leave the sanctuary of the home, Ballot’s Bay Beach is a minute’s drive – or a short walk down the hill – where you’ll find a braai spot and an enthralling clifftop walk. The estate itself is also crisscrossed with paths to explore the pristine landscape. Book a few nights away for a magical experience tucked away in the forest; from the fragrant fynbos, passing whales and dolphins, alfresco dining, and majestic views. secretescapegardenroute.com