* This article first appeared here in the Saturday Citizen
An easy 90-minute drive from Cape Town, Walker Bay is a scenic slice of the Overberg stretching from Hermanus in the West to Gansbaai on its Eastern flank. Walker Bay Nature Reserve includes a large section of coastline, with the Klein River Lagoon at its back.
Following the Klein River up its meandering path, you’ll soon stumble upon the quiet village of Stanford. I’ve always driven past en route to Gansbaai or further afield, promising myself to visit someday. Thankfully, ‘someday’ recently came in the form of a lazy weekend away.
For those willing to drive a wee bit further than Hermanus, Stanford is the perfect base from which to explore all the wonders Walker Bay has to offer.
Gently hugging the Klein River, the town had its origin in 1857, and today several preserved Cape Victorian and Edwardian-styled residences line the quiet streets. I wanted to find a home that took in some of the river’s beauty, and Stanford Heights River House merrily checked the box.
Owner David Morin is an American actor and director, whose love affair with our continent began as a 19-year-old, doing some famine relief in Ethiopia. It would be many years later when he moved to Kenya on a one-way ticket. South Africa followed next, and after living in Cape Town for some time, it was regular visits to friends in Stanford that finally brought him to settle here – and eventually acquired Stanford Heights River House as a rental property.
On entering, the double-volume living space, the first thing you’ll notice is the view – affectionately dubbed “God’s Window” – and it is a glorious window onto The Overberg wild at that. The house graciously spans an enviable stretch of the riverfront, and before your eyes eventually settle on the towering mountains in the distance, kilometres of pristine farmlands meet your gaze. In short, a divine view that will long hold your entranced stare.
David’s African love affair is clearly visible in the various art installations around the house – including a wooden canoe that hangs in the lounge. As much as you might feel like the lord of the manor when renting the home, it’s the resident cat Yoda who rules this river roost. Originally a rescue cat plucked out of a tree, her innate inquisitiveness means she happily follows guests around the property, and now has free reign of the home. The most affectionate cat I’ve met!
For those who need to combine a little work with pleasure, there’s uninterrupted power and the house is always online. In one weekend we experienced glorious sunshine, which we soaked up on the lawn and riverside. When the rain came, we happily retreated indoors and languished at the generous fireplace, enjoying the costume change Mother Nature was giving us. stanfordheightsriverhouse.com
When you’ve settled in at your home away from home, ready to head out and explore, there are a host of local outings to experience. Since the house is perched above the river, perhaps the perfect starting point is a two-hour tranquil cruise down the Klein River aboard The Lady Stanford. Gently following the meandering river curves, you can expect astonishing bird life, which for us, included sightings of the rare African Marsh Hen, Fish Eagles and annually flocks of flamingos will delight dancing their blushing ballets without end. You’re free to bring your drinks and snacks to enjoy en route – glasses are provided if you need them. The two-hour journey takes approximately two hours, with three launches per day at R250pp. xplorio.com/stanford
Birkenhead Brewery is officially the Western Cape’s oldest craft brewery and serves up an enticing selection of award-winning beers – accompanied by hearty meals from the pub-style restaurant. The venue is also home to Walker Bay Wines, so plan for enough time to taste your way through their selection. Tastings start from R80pp. walkerbayestate.com
Less than a 30-minute drive away, Walker Bay Nature Reserve is a must-visit and offers 4×4 enthusiasts a thrilling track above the dunes. Enter the Reserve from the suburb of De Kelders, and you’ll soon see the massive shards of sandstone carving the main beach into smaller slices, reaching out into the waves. An impressive view of elemental grandeur.
There are a series of caves to explore around De Kelders, with the most famous being Klipgat. The caves were inhabited by Late Stone-age people, from as early as 2000 BC, and Cape Nature has done a marvellous job at preserving the site, offering historical insight through the various info boards on display. The reserve entrance is R60pp and well worth a visit. capenature.co.za