* This article first appeared here in ESCAPES Magazine
With spectacular scenery where waterways, green hills, fragrant forests and impressive beaches abound, Sedgefield is so much more than the highway strip-town that it’s often thought to be. Rather than bypassing it for one of the larger towns along the Garden Route I spent three days in the greater area to discover what Sedgefield had in store.
Subsequent marine advances and regressions over millions of years have created the various depressions around Sedgefield – which are now the water-filled lakes that wind around the dunes and inland hills. As a result, a drive anywhere in Sedgefield leaves you ogling at the natural surroundings.
To better appreciate the unique scenery, take the two-kilometer walk from the car park to Gericke’s Point. The walk hugs the beach which eventually narrows out with the ocean on the left and towering dunes to your right. Besides being the nesting grounds for colonies of cormorants, these two-million-year-old dunes are also some of the best examples of fossilized sand dunes in South Africa. Bear the tides in mind when you plan your visit; go during low time as Gericke’s Point becomes an Island at high tide.
While the town has its origins as a farm in 178 when it was annexed and sold off from the larger Ruigtevlei Farm, it was only when the N2 tarred road that linked George and Port Elizabeth was completed in 1952, was it more accessible.
Nowadays, Sedgefield is well-known for the bustling Saturday Wild Oats Market – possibly South Africa’s best-loved market of its kind where you’ll find a Smorgasbord of local crafts, curiosities, and culinary treats. The weekly event draws a crowd from near and far, but thankfully outside of the market time there is still a clutch of stalls for perusing. On the sunny Tuesday morning of my visit, I gravitated towards the town’s craft brewery.
Ross Elion took over ownership of the Sedgefield Craft Brewery only six months prior and has already been building on the well-established local brand’s reach. He took us on a tantilizing flight of all eight of his beers. Tastings cost R50 for four sample, and a reasonable R35 a bottle or R30 for a draft. Production is soon to double, meaning the beers will be more widely available and not solely consumed by the faithful market-dwellers and thirsty locals – who support with zeal.
Of course, with small towns come quirky cafes that are owner-run and filled with persuasive treats. Sedgefield Delicious is the lovechild of local Mariska, who for years wanted her own spot. The café doubles up as a deli, offering well-priced pasture-fed organic meat – a worthwhile one-minute diversion to stock up on for any garden route trip.
For an adrenaline-pumping way to enjoy the town, consider a paragliding flight and soar high above it all. From the launch spot high on the hill Dolphin Paragliding offers guests a bird’s eye view of the landscape. Sadly, the wind wasn’t quite right for flying on the day I visited, but from the high vantage point I was at least able to view the town itself spreads its wings over the green hills and blue waterways below.
On my last morning the Zimbabwean duo Edna and Precious served up my breakfast at the Riverdeck Restaurant. When I asked why they’d chosen to live in Sedgefield, a smile quickly stretched across their faces: “It’s simply very quiet and peaceful”. After my three-day Sedgefield sojourn I couldn’t help but agree and wondered if I hadn’t just visited South Africa’s most peaceful town.
Where to Stay: Two local nature escapes
Goukamma Nature Reserve
The chalets at Goukamma occupy a scenic part of wilderness from which to admire the confluence of both estuary and ocean. At night, while a fire roars in front of you, a chorus of frogs join the sound of the distant crashing waves. During the day kilometers of reserve are waiting to be explored through hiking, walking, running or paddling. The short version of the Porcupine Trail is a relatively short walk and offers a good cross section of some of the reserve’s most beautiful parts. As with all of CapeNature’s unique properties, it’s not only an incredibly scenic getaway but also an affordable one. capenature.co.za
The journey up into the forest took me just over 15-minutes – I couldn’t help thinking of the early pioneers who made the forest home – and for whom a similar journey would have taken a day or two. Get hold of one of local author Dalene Mathee’s iconic novels – the stories will give you a deeper appreciation for the forest and have you keeping your eye’s peeled for the fabled forest elephants. Deep in the forest, along one of its ridges eight unique suites make up Teniqua Treetops. These tree-top dwellings have a far-reaching reputation and as I discovered with good cause; they’re isolated escapes that offer a fully immersive and private nature experience. teniquatreetops.co.za