WANTED FEATURE: Two Luxe Garden Route Stays

by Jared
 * This article first appeared here in WANTED

With no shortage of stays on South Africa’s green coastal corridor, choosing two of the Garden Route’s most luxurious stays was no easy task: one, an architecturally singular hotel unlike anything else, and the other, what may be South Africa’s prettiest new hotel.

The Turbine Hotel

I knew I was in for something special when I first walked into this hotel years ago. From an electric past to an eclectic present, The Turbine Hotel and Spa Hotel has been transformed from a 1920s power plant when, Thesen Island was a timber processing plant, to the unique five-star luxury stay on offer today.

As part of the plant’s transformation, most of the old mechanics have been preserved for a touch of “steam-punk” fun. Painted with vivid colours, the effect is one of classy conviviality. Bursts of colour light up the dials. Cogs, switchboards, and intriguing powerplant innards are very cleverly finished. All of this, at absolutely no expense to luxury and comfort.

The Turbine Hotel has only 26 rooms spread across the spacious property – my favourite being the luxury suites overlooking the adjacent canal. For the ultimate lux-indulgence, check if rooms 201 and 101 are available, offering the most spacious suites with lounges, dreamy bathtubs and canal views on two sides.

Since 2021 Chef Greg Coleman has been at the helm of the kitchen, and his culinary prowess has certainly elevated the Turbine dining experience to five-star status. The Island Café serves up enticing meals – either at the alfresco tables on the pool terrace l, or inside where tables are arranged around the hotel’s imaginative interior. The octopus carpaccio is a fresh and beautifully presented appetiser, and Greg’s take on a Bo- Kaap seafood curry is a recognised local pleaser.

Don’t leave without sampling some local craft beers and sumptuous burgers on offer at The Gastro Pub, a more informal affair with indoor and outdoor dining areas. Watch the website for the monthly specials and wine-dinner events – I joined for one of the latter, where Chef Greg designs a unique menu to be paired with the month’s selected wines.

Borrowing from the theme of the famed Knysna forests, day visitors to the hotel can indulge in spoils at the spa, where, the foyer and treatment rooms boast serene green wallpapers for an immediate calming effect.

It’s not only the unique building design that sets The Turbine apart but also its enviable location. Accessed by bridge, Thesen Island is every bit the destination itself, with enough designer stores and swanky cafés to keep you occupied. You can even nip into the San Parks office and see one of the rare Knysna seahorses up close in person. After exploring, retreat to the hotel’s infinity pool, and gaze out over the canal as the sunsets on another day of your lavish island escape. turbine-hotel.co.za

The Ivory Haus, Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is the proud home of one of South Africa’s newest hotels – and perhaps one of the country’s prettiest. The Ivory Haus occupies what Plett visitors might recall as “the Grand Café & Rooms” but walking through the doors a brand new experience awaits.

Alexia Teubes, one of the owners of the family-run hotel shared a little of their vision with me: “We set out to blend the charm of the past with a contemporary touch; preserving the rich history while embracing a classic aesthetic. This hotel was designed by dreamers, for dreamers. Giving people an opportunity to retreat and enjoy all that Plettenberg Bay has to offer.”

The previously pink walls and quirky interiors are now whitewashed and pristine, giving a distinctive Cycladic feel –sitting by the pool, I overheard a local visitor walking the grounds and remarking to her posse that it felt like she’d just got off a plane and was on a remote island in the Mediterranean.

The eleven suites are cleverly spread across the building – at first glance, it hardly seems like there are more than three or four rooms. Suite No1 – the Pool Haus or honeymoon suite, is the hero room featuring a bathroom design I’ve not seen elsewhere in the country – two side-by-side Victorian tubs for tandem bathing enjoyment.

There are also two private courtyards – a black and white tiled space welcoming you to the suite, and the second spilling out from the bedroom with a lap pool, daybed and outdoor shower. The four-post beds are distinct with a regal air; being almost a meter off the ground, with velvet stepping posts guiding you up to the plush bedding.

With food and drink every bit as beautiful and enticing as the hotel itself, The Palms Plett is the hotel’s in-house eatery. The space is spread across the Café, with its roadside location under the palms, and the restaurant offers indoor and alfresco dining options. The cocktail menu is a highlight: the Old Fashioned comes with the addition of Bourbon (from their own mini casks) and a bar-side smoking of the cinnamon. The Paint me Pink and I Glitterally Can’t are playful interactive tipples with a difference.

From the menu selection, the zucchini fritters with spicy yoghurt dill cream and toasted walnuts were our favourite choice, along with the ode to croissants, with four variations on offer.

If the café and restaurant weren’t enough, a circular iron staircase elevates you from the pool to the Rooftop bar, where the views spanning over Plettenberg’s Keurboom estuary, ocean, and the distant towering Tsitsikamma mountains, will forever be imprinted in your mind. theivoryhaus.com

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