Barbara & Stu's Excellent Vacations Great trips we have taken

Cape Town

  • Taking the cable car up and hiking on top of Table Mountain to relish the views
  • Ferry to and tour of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.  The island is home not only to the prison museum, a small lighthouse and other historical buildings, but to a colony of African penguins, striking Black Oystercatchers among other seabirds, and adorable Steenboks.  The tour guides were informative and amusing.
  • Strolling around the bustling Waterfront and Nobel Square which features statues of South African Nobel Prize laureates
  • Art museum and gallery tour
  • Tour of the Castle of Good Hope where I got to light the fuse to fire off a small antique cannon
  • Observing the African Penguin colony at Boulder Bay
  • Driving to the Cape of Good Hope, taking a hike along Shipwreck Trail and coming back via Chapman’s Peak Drive to admire the scenery
  • Walking around the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood
  • Shopping at the Old Biscuit Mill and Neighbourgoods Market.  Listening to live musicians and having a scrumptious lunch at the Pot Luck Club

The Winelands

  • Strolling around the charming town of Franschhoek and visiting art galleries
  • Enjoying the gardens, birds and tortoises at Babylonstoren
  • Ogling the fabulous classic car collection in the Franschhoek Motor Museum at L’Ormarins Estate
  • Touring the meticulously preserved historical mansions at the Stellenbosch Village Museum
  • Lunch at the gorgeous Delaire Graff Winery, their art collection is as stunning as the property.

Cederberg Mountains

Route 62 Wine Country

  • Scenic boat ride on the Breede River
  • Champagne tasting at Graham Beck, wine tasting at Viljoensdrift and Van Loveren

The Whale Coast

  • Exploring the Walker Bay Nature Reserve and Klipgat Cave with spectacular views of the sea
  • Spotting frolicking seals and dolphins from our lodge (during their winter season, you can spot loads of whales)
  • Climbing the stately Danger Point Lighthouse and spotting a shy Steenbok near the grounds
  • Taking a scenic drive to Cape Agulhas, and a short hike to where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.  Hauling ourselves up the ladders to the top of the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse.  Viewing an atmospheric shipwreck off the wind-battered coastline.
  • Stopping to admire the picturesque mission village of Elim, founded in 1824 with its white-washed fisherman’s cottages, handsome church and a mill that features the largest wooden wheel in the country.
  • Having a relaxing lunch on the patio of the Black Oystercatcher restaurant and wine farm

The Garden Route

  • Sailing on a sunny day with Springtide Charters on the Kynsna Lagoon out beyond “the Heads’, two rocky sandstone cliffs that frame the entrance to the vast Indian Ocean.  It can be a dangerous passage and we were lucky that calm weather and tides allowed us to pass through to the open sea.  We saw seals though not any whales or dolphins.  It was an idyllic way to spend a late afternoon and after we returned to the estuary, they broke out the sparkling wine and finger food to enjoy as we sailed back to shore.  Though we didn’t book a private tour, we ended up being the only passengers.
  • Hiking the wide expanse of the peaceful white sand beach at Buffalo Bay (Buffels Baai) and enjoying a picnic lunch on the dunes
  • Hiking the Jubilee Creek trail
  • Checking out the antique steam engines and amazing HO model train set at the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George
  • Browsing in the shops on Thesen Island and admiring the quirky architecture and décor of the Turbine Hotel, built on the site of a former power plant
  • Navigating swaying footbridges and wooded hiking trails with awe-inspiring sea views in Tsitsikamma National Park
  • Enjoying the solitude and all of the beautiful flowers as the only visitors to the small but lovely Pledge Nature Reserve in Knysna


  • Wine Tasting at Klein Constantia, including the exceptional Vin de Constance
  • Visiting the grounds of Groot Constantia Estate

The Kalahari

  • We spent 5 days at a private reserve where we had our own guide and tracker every day, so we could tailor the game drives to our interests, which cover just about everything.  During this season we experienced the “green” Kalahari.  Loads of vegetation and flowers, so it was very beautiful.  It did mean however that there were a lot of insects, not many mosquitoes, but moths, beetles and other types.  Some were fascinating, such as the Ant Lion, Armored Cricket, Jeweled Beetle and Assassin Bug, and some were annoying and potentially painful, such as the blister beetle.  It was also not the best season to find the more elusive nocturnal animals that the reserve is famous for, such as pangolins, aardvarks and aardwolves, which tend to come out during the day in the winter time, and we weren’t lucky enough to see any of those, though not through lack of trying.  However, there was wildlife aplenty and our tracker, Jonas, and guide, Kyle, were fantastic!  We’ve been on several safaris in different countries, all fantastic, though here we found that we were afforded real quality time with the animals.  Usually we’d be the only ones around and could spend as much time as we pleased.
  • We spent at least an hour following a black rhino female and her 6 month old calf as they wandered around eating leaves. We found them lying down in high grass and barely visible, but Jonas predicted that there was insufficient shade and that they’d find the heat uncomfortable and would get up soon to settle under a shadier Camelthorn tree in the near distance.  Sure enough, within 5 minutes they were up, but instead of heading straight for the tree, they took a long circular route to graze. We were so close that we could hear them munching the leaves, which is highly unusual since black rhinos are notoriously ornery about visitors so you can’t usually be so near to them.   We were ecstatic! They eventually settled right under the exact tree Jonas had pointed out and we left them to their morning nap.
  • Everyone at the lodge had been trying to find cheetahs without success all week and we were keen to see some.  Jonas kept finding their tracks, but no cats. On our last morning at the break of dawn, he picked up the trail of two large male siblings and we found them casually strolling down the trail ahead of us.  We spent nearly an hour following them as they prowled the territory, scent marking on trees, and keeping an eye out for breakfast.  At one point they looked particularly alert and started stalking, so we thought they might have found prey, but they never gave chase.  It was still very interesting behavior to observe. Eventually they found a shady spot to rest and we took off just as another truck pulled up to have a look.
  • Stu and I had never seen African Wild Dogs. They’re endangered and quite rare to find and we were excited about the chance to see them here. One late afternoon we were planning to search for cheetahs but Kyle thought there was a chance that the dogs might be in a specific area of the reserve since Jonas had seen some fresh tracks around there recently, so we decided to take a look.  As we approached another guide radioed that he’d found them and allowed us to share the sighting, though they moved on about 10 minutes after we arrived.  We found the pack of 7 dogs with their extraordinary “painted” coats, each with a unique pattern, feeding on the remains of a warthog that they’d dispatched, playing with each other and exploring the terrain. Unfortunately there were no pups, but we were still thrilled.  Wild dogs are fierce hunters who can travel vast differences at speeds up to 35 mph/56 kph and can usually outlast prey that may run faster in sprints but cannot sustain speed over long distances without tiring.   We spent a long time with them before we decided to stop following.  We were very lucky because the next day they were nowhere to be found, probably in a distant area of the reserve.
  • After having spent time with the Cheetahs, we went off to try to find male lions.  We’d followed a pride of 5 large, healthy females the previous day as they searched for prey. We never found the males however, we came upon 3 lionesses resting.  Two of them had cubs, one pair was 5 months old and the other pair about 6 weeks old.  While the older ones looked large compared to the infants they were still tiny next to their mothers.  The cousins were busy rough-housing with each other, biting mom’s tail and pouncing on her (she didn’t react at all).  They were totally adorable!  We were positioned with a view of the lions and of a nearby waterhole, where giraffes, antelopes and birds all came to slake their thirst, unaware of the nearby danger.  We headed off when they all moved to a more secluded spot and the little ones, tired of playing, settled down to sleep cuddled next to their mothers.
  • One early morning we took a walk through the bush to bird watch and spent a good deal of time watching a family of Meerkats, including several endearing babies, exiting their burrows, hanging out in the sun and starting to forage for food.
  • On night drives we spotted Spring Hares, which are not in the rabbit/hare family, but small appealing rodents with short ears that hop like kangaroos; 2 small spotted genets, one in a tree and the other climbing on a rock pile; two clans of Bat-Eared Foxes with kits; sleek Cape Foxes; Spotted Eagle Owls; African Wild Cats, which look a lot like domestic cats with oversized ears; 2 large Porcupines bristling with quills; a lone Brown Hyena; sly Black-Backed Jackals; and a deco designed Silver-Striped Hawk Moth.  On one drive a startled Nightjar flew up from the road and landed in Stu’s lap, where it nestled quietly until we gently returned it to the wild.
  • The bird life was also magnificent during the day!  We saw several Yellow-Billed Hornbills with their impressive scimitar beaks, a tiny Pearl-Spotted Owlet, huge colonies of Sociable Weavers, including a chirping chick in its nest, Southern Masked Weavers, White-Browed Sparrow Weavers, the dramatic Shaft-Tailed Whydah with its 4 long tail feathers, a Golden-Tailed Woodpecker, the black and white Pied Kingfisher, Red-Capped Finches, Yellow Canaries, Burrell’s Sand GrousesCromson-Breasted Shrikes, Red-Backed Shrikes, Scaly-Feathered Finches, Red-Eyed Bulbuls, resplendent Violet-Eared Waxbills, Ostriches, the evocatively named and very handsome Pale Chanting Goshawks, Bokmakieries, goofy looking Red-Crested Korhaans, Spotted Thickknee, Red-faced Mousebirds, Sunbirds, Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eaters, Fawn-Colored Larks, Scrub and Kalahari Robins, Ant-Eating Chat, Crowned Lapwings, Cape Turtle Doves, Namaqua Doves and more.  We stopped for lunch near a waterhole where huge flocks of White-Backed and Lappet-Faced Vultures had descended to drink and then took to the sky like a squadron of black-winged fighter jets.
  • Reptiles were commonly seen as well.  On one drive a lethally venomous Puff Adder slithered across the road.  We also spotted Sand and Rock Agamas, a Giant Sand Gecko, skinks and a well camouflaged Chameleon.
  • We must not forget all of the antelopes and other hoofed animals.  It was the first time we’d seen Sables with their impressive black coats and curved horns and the Roan, which resembles the Oryx/Gemsbok.  There were also Kudu, Eland, Impala, Springbok, Steenbok, Oryx and Red Hartebeest with plenty of young ones, along with Black Wildebeest (Gnu), Warthogs, Giraffe, Plains/Burchell’s Zebras and Cape Mountain Zebras.
  • Most days we went out for game drives around dawn and late afternoon until dark, though one day we took a picnic lunch and spent the entire day in the reserve. On our last day we enjoyed an excellent picnic dinner atop a dune with Kyle and Jonas, where we marveled at the expansive view and a gorgeous sunset, before heading out on a marathon night drive, returning to the lodge after midnight.  During this drive we saw many animals but also a couple of brilliant shooting stars, one bright green, streaking across a star-packed sky.  Meals were very good at the lodge and one night they treated us to a braai with local singers.  There’s a waterhole in plain sight of the outdoor dining area and at meals we’d often watch animals coming to drink.  Bird and animal watching was also quite good from the deck of our bungalow.


  • Constitution Hill – site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court and of the old fort prison where Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were political prisoners.  The prison is now a museum and the tour is engrossing, though it’s heartrending to learn about the inhumanity of the place during apartheid.  The Courthouse is modern and attractive with a lovely art collection and designed to promote openness and transparency.
  • Carleton Center “Top of Africa” – there’s a modest fee to ascend a tall building that rises out of a shopping mall with a panoramic view of Johannesburg and the surrounding communities.  Our guide told us about the history of the city while pointing out the modern features, such as the sports stadiums.  We passed through an up-and-coming neighborhood on our drive through town.
  • Soweto (for South Western Township) – founded in 1885 when gold was discovered nearby, it is most well known for the 1976 uprising to protest the government’s policy of using Africaans as the language taught in schools, which lead to wider spread protests and eventually reforms. The poignant Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum commemorates a 13-year old student who was shot and killed during the demonstrations.  Vilakazi Street, where both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived, is now a very popular and crowded tourist strip with shops, street vendors and restaurants.  Mandela’s house is open to the public but Tutu’s is not. We also had a look at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, which is reputed to be the largest in the world and spotted the Orlando Towers, cooling towers for a decommissioned coal power plant that feature brightly painted murals and are currently used for bungee and base jumping thrills.


We mostly stayed in small boutique hotels, guest houses and lodges and were very highly pleased with all of them.  While not the lowest cost accommodations available, they were reasonable and all provided excellent value for the cost, as well as that elusive sense-of-place that distinguishes the most charismatic lodgings.

Cape Town – 5 nights

MANNABAY FINE BOUTIQUE HOTEL – An ultra-modern mansion situated at the base of Table Mountain with spectacular views of the mountain, city and harbor, it has only 8 rooms, each decorated in a distinctive style.  Wonderful modern art adorns the public areas and guest rooms. There’s a lovely pool, a good gym, a cozy library and all the amenities you require, including free parking and free transfers to and from dinner each evening.  The breakfasts were outstanding with lots of fresh fruit, delicious pastries and hot dishes cooked to order.  The entire team was delightful and couldn’t be more helpful.  We stayed in Versailles, which was as opulent as the name suggests.  The best feature was a large private terrace with a king size day bed and comfy chairs where you can lounge around and enjoy unparalleled views of Lion’s Head, the city and the harbor.  We had a view of Table Mountain from the spacious bathroom.  It’s in a safe, quiet residential neighborhood but not too far from the heart of the city.  We walked to the waterfront area in about 45 minutes, though heading back uphill would probably take considerably longer.  Very highly recommend!

Winelands - Franschhoek – 2 nights

AKADEMIE STREET BOUTIQUE HOTEL & GUEST HOUSE – Situated in a quiet neighborhood a couple of blocks from the main street in the charming village of Franschhoek, Akademie Street offers 8 suites in Cape Dutch style cottages set in luxuriant gardens within the property.  We stayed in Gelatenheid, a two-story cottage with wraparound balconies on both levels, views of our private garden and the surrounding mountains, a very large private pool with comfy loungers equipped with sunscreen lotion and straw hats, a full kitchen and dining area, two bathrooms, in and outdoor bathtubs and a private parking bay.  When we were there it was set up for one couple, though it looks as if it’s now divided into two suites, so you’d have to share the pool.  The most private and romantic suite now for couples would be Vreugde.  You can avail yourself of free wine, brandy and snacks and the public areas are cozy and inviting.  Breakfasts were outstanding, with every kind of fresh fruit imaginable, homemade muesli and hot items cooked to order.  The best feature of Akademie St. is Declan, the gregarious owner, and the unfailingly gracious and helpful team who cater to your every whim.  Very highly recommended!

Cederberg Mountains – 3 nights

BUSHMANS KLOOF – Set on a private reserve in the mountains, Bushmans Kloof can accommodate 34 guests in rooms and suites spread out amongst their extensive grounds.  It’s an all inclusive resort with most activities and meals baked into the cost , including a truly sinful afternoon tea, though you have to pay a bit extra for some special experiences and alcohol.  They have an excellent spa with a wide range of professional treatments.  We booked Riverside, which was an elegantly appointed cottage overlooking the river (dry in this season) with a private infinity pool and loads of space. Birdwatching from our veranda was very good, and the antelopes often grazed near the riverbed.  You don’t come here for the kind of safari experience you’d expect at Kruger or the Serengeti, but there are some rare animals, such as the Cape Mountain Zebra, and the landscape is lovely.  We mainly wanted to see the San rock art and were not disappointed. They set a very high standard for service and will quickly remedy any issues that arise.  Highly Recommended!

Route 62 – Robertson – 1 night

THE ROBERTSON SMALL HOTEL – A short distance off the main highway in a more laid-back wine area than the well known Franschhoek/Stellenbosch/Paarl region, The Robertson Small Hotel offers 10 rooms, 3 in the main manor house, 2 in the stable and 5 poolside.  There’s another pool for the guests in the stable rooms.  We took the top floor of the stable and loved the style of it!  There’s not much of a view or windows, but it’s well lit with an enormous bathroom and comfortable bed and sitting room.  There’s a private guarded parking lot and they even washed our car!  They have a very pretty bar and fine dining restaurant, and as at most other places, the team was friendly and helpful.  Highly recommended!

The Whale Coast – DeKelders – 2 nights\

CLIFF LODGE – If there was one place that we wished we had stayed longer, it was Cliff Lodge, and if you visit during the main Southern Right Whale migration season (June – December), we recommend staying a few more days.  You’ll be able to spot whales right from your room, and though we didn’t see any whales, we did see frolicking seals and some distant dolphins. It’s an intimate lodge with 4 sea view rooms, a suite and a cottage for families or larger groups.  We were in the Ocean Suite and it was magnificent, all light and air and sea vista!  The spacious terrace had killer views of Walker Bay and ultra comfy lounge chairs, a spotting scope made it even easier to spot sea mammals.  The rooms were lovely.  There’s a nice pool and all the amenities you need.  If you’re a coffee lover, they take it very seriously and offer expertly made cups of cappuccino or espresso or whatever you want.  Breakfast is ample and delicious.  We can’t say enough about the team, from the owners, Gideon and Gill, to cheerful and uber-helpful Nico.  We felt very welcome and well tended.  Very highly recommended!

The Garden Route – Knysna - 4 nights

KANONKOP GUEST HOUSE – Kanonkop is a private mansion in a peaceful neighborhood on a hill overlooking the town of Kynsna that has been converted into a handsome guest house with 6 stylish rooms, all different.  There are attractive shared spaces and a kitchen and bar where bottles of wine and snacks are available free of charge to guests along with afternoon tea and a good breakfast.  There’s also a pool, a parking area and a garden teeming with flowers and beautiful birds.  We were in Selwyn, which sat above the tree tops and featured wide-ranging views of the Kynsna river, the lagoon and The Heads from the room and our spacious balcony.  The team was friendly and very accommodating.  Highly recommended!

Constantia – 1 night 

THE LAST WORD – A luxurious small hotel with 9 rooms, 4 superior double rooms and 5 suites in the posh wine valley of Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town.  It’s conveniently located to explore the nearby wineries.  We didn’t stay long enough to use much of the facilities, but our room was exceedingly comfortable and beautifully furnished and included a small outdoor patio in a leafy garden.  We had to leave too early for breakfast, however, they packed some tasty sandwiches for us to take away.  Highly recommended!

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve - 5 nights

THE MOTSE – Meaning village in the local Tswana language, the Motse consists of 9 thatched-roof legae (little house), each with its own sundeck, indoor and outdoor showers, fireplace, dressing room and spacious bedroom and bathroom decorated in elegant and distinctly African style.  The main lodge building was equally attractive and comfortable and food was plentiful and delicious.  Views of the surrounding savannah and mountains were wonderful.  There’s a large infinity pool, a full service spa and a very nice gym to enjoy when you’re not on game drives.  The WiFi here was more reliable than in Cape Town.  It’s all-inclusive including laundry, meals, wine, liquor, and activities, though not spa services. Tswalu maintains a few small turbo prop aircraft that transport guests to and from the reserve and either Cape Town or Johannesburg.  Their hangars, especially in Johannesburg, were beautiful and it was a fast and stress-free check-in and boarding process.  The entire team was delightful, uniformly attentive, gracious and helpful.  The best part is that you can customize activities since you have a dedicated guide and tracker for the duration of your visit.   Very highly recommended!!




The Roundhouse – Round House Rd. Camps Bay; Excellent haute cuisine in an elegant historically significant building with breathtaking views of Camps Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the 12 Apostles.  They offer only a tasting menu with optional wine pairings. Every bite was sublime and the wines were equally enjoyable.  Service was practically perfect.  It’s a very romantic spot and also very popular, so you have to book well in advance. Very highly recommended!


Chef’s Table at Belmond Mt. Nelson Hotel 76 Orange St. ;  We had better luck at this hotel restaurant.  The grounds are very grand, almost pompous, as you pass through tall iron gates and up a long driveway to reach the sprawling pink hotel.  They have a fine dining restaurant called Planet, but also offer a special 8 course tasting menu served in an alcove with 4 tables just off the massive kitchen, where you have a view of the chefs preparing your meal.  In addition to the 8 official courses, there were lots of other treats.  The bread was exceptional and wine pairings were well chosen.  Our favorite courses were a modern take on tandoori chicken, tender flavorful springbok loin and a scrumptious chocolate confection.  Not all courses were as stellar, but overall it was an excellent meal and fun experience.  Service was thoroughly delightful and attentive and the sous-chefs brought out dishes and explained them.  Very highly recommended!

Pot Luck Club - The Old Biscuit Mill 375 Albert Rd. Woodstock; Situated on the top floor of a silo in the repurposed Old Biscuit Mill with lovely views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, Pot Luck Club is modern and innovative.  It features the cuisine of celebrity chef Luke Dale Roberts, whose flagship restaurant, The Test Kitchen, is on the ground level across a courtyard. We had lunch there on the day that we visited the market.  You order a series of small plates to be shared. We tried 6 and enjoyed all of them, especially the beef tataki.  They have very good wines by the glass and bottle. Service was not a high point, but it was adequate.  Highly recommended!

La Mouette 78 Regent St. Sea Point; Despite the name, the menu offers more of an international mash-up.  It’s located in a touristy looking seaside community in a large house converted to a restaurant so there is seating in various rooms up and downstairs.  The food was generally tasty and service was good, though it’s not worth going out of your way to find.  If you’re staying nearby it would be a good choice.

Bouchon Wine Bar & Bistro 95 Hout St.;  We didn’t make a reservation for the evening we arrived and didn’t have a lot of choices, but our hotel reserved a table for us here.  The atmosphere is lively and the décor stylish, but the food and service were only mediocre.  I had one glass of wine, which was fairly good.  It would be ok in a pinch, but not one to seek out specifically.


Dash Queen Victoria Hotel V&A Waterfront; This hotel is very attractive, but exceedingly difficult to find, tucked away in an odd location.   It’s probably great if you’re staying there so you can escape the mass of tourists on the waterfront.  Dash has a good reputation so we thought we’d check it out for lunch after returning from our tour of Robben Island.  The place was nearly empty, just one other couple, yet service was inept, they seemed unprepared to deal with guests even though we’d made a reservation.  We had a light lunch and the food was fairly good, though not anything special, and not the best value.  I’m sure that they do better at dinner, though we couldn’t recommend it. 

Ash 81 Church St. ; This is one of those trendy new places that tries a bit too hard.  Service was diffident and the food was very disappointing. It specializes in meat but the steak we had was tough, which is surprising since steak was usually one of the best dishes at many restaurants in South Africa .  Neither of us ate much.  Definitely one to avoid.

The Winelands

Delaire Graff – R310, Helshoogte Pass | Banghoek Valley, Stellenbosch .  Delaire Graff is among the most gorgeous wine estates we’ve ever seen. Not only are the views breathtaking, but the architecture and art in their buildings are stunning.  We wandered around a bit before going in to lunch in order to enjoy the grounds.  We were seated at a perfect table right at the edge of the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards and mountains.  Our server was personable and efficient.  The wines are top class and the food was delectable.  They have another restaurant called Indochine, which looked lovely, but try to dine in the flagship restaurant.  Very highly recommended!

The Tasting Room – on the main street in Franschhoek in Le Quartier Francais hotel; This restaurant is now closed and they’re opening a new one with a different chef later in the year, so there’s no point in recommending it.  It was considered one of the top restaurants in South Africa, so we’re glad we had a chance to dine there.  The room was striking and service was professional and congenial.  We had their grand tasting menu which consisted of many small bites, and some larger servings, paired with very good wines for me.  The cooking was innovative and daring at times; most times it worked, but not all of the time.  We enjoyed the meal very much, though it was not our favorite.

Ryan’s Kitchen 1 Place Vendome, Huguenot Rd. Franschhoek;  We’re struggling to understand the positive buzz about this place.  The room is very attractive with comfortable seating, but the food left much to be desired.  Service was friendly and prompt, however our server spilled my glass of wine all over Stu. Thank goodness it was white wine.  They refilled the glass but didn’t offer any compensation to Stu.  Even without the wine incident, we wouldn’t recommend it.  There are wonderful restaurants in this area.


Cederberg Mountains

Embers Bushmans Kloof;  Although meals are included we have to mention this lovely venue,  set up a hill with a view over the landscape and lit with candles and torches.  You’re assigned a guide when you arrive and if you’re a couple, you generally will have other couples joining you on the small group excursions.  At the Embers braai we were seated with our guide and the 2 couples who explored with us, which greatly enhanced the experience.  It was a magical night!

Kadoro Bushmans Kloof; Dining at Kadoro incurs an additional cost, but it’s well worth it.  Londi drove us out to a former shepherd’s stone cottage which has been redecorated with antiques to serve as the most romantic dining room!  There’s a fire pit outside to enjoy over drinks, and a separate kitchen hut, however, it was quite windy so we stayed inside.   I counted over 90 candles and 7 lanterns illuminating the interior.  You have a private chef to prepare the meal who consults with you in the afternoon to tailor the meal to your preferences.  The food was outstanding and since we were celebrating our anniversary, they included the wines.  We danced to slow tunes that I played on my phone.  The moon was full and the sky ablaze with stars.  And as if that were not enough, we even enjoyed a game drive on the way back to the lodge.  We spotted a duiker and an African Wild Cat in addition to the more common antelopes.  What a night!  Very highly recommended!

Route 62 – Robertson

The Small – The restaurant at the Robertson Small Hotel is aptly named The Small.  It’s in a highly stylish and attractive room with an outdoor patio and a view of the kitchen from inside.  Our server was warm and attentive and the food was terrific, fresh and well prepared, accompanied by a complimentary glass of Graham Beck Brut to acknowledge our anniversary.  Breakfast here was also very good.  Highly recommended!

The Whale Coast

De Kelders Private Retreat – Guthrie & Main Rd. DeKelders;  Neil Stemmet, a well known designer and cookbook author, owns a chic guest house in DeKelders where he applies his considerable culinary expertise to dinners that he prepares for his own guests and guests of Cliff Lodge, where we stayed.  The night we went, we were the only guests, so we had an intimate private dinner.  The house is high design and full of character, and the soundtrack was fabulous, featuring classic blues and jazz artists.  Neil is fascinating and talking to him was a real highlight of the experience.  The meal was superb, made with locally sourced ingredients, truly among the best we had in South Africa.  He was very generous sharing cooking tips and showing us how he was preparing the food.  If you’re lucky enough to stay at Cliff Lodge, make sure that Gideon or Gill books dinner for you here.  Or you can stay here, though it doesn’t enjoy the sea views that Cliff Lodge does.  Very highly recommended!

Thyme at Rosemary’s 13 Main Road, Gansbaai; +27 28 384 2076; This is a wonderful local restaurant, occupying a small house with a glassed in dining area overlooking the garden and tables in the garden.  The food is all home cooked and very fresh and the people who work here are warm and welcoming.  The servings are seriously huge, had we known how large we would have shared a main course.  We couldn’t come close to finishing.  I had pork ribs that were outstanding and Stu had lamb shank that was equally delicious.  They don’t have a website.  We didn’t need reservations for lunch, popping in there early on a Monday afternoon, however, you would probably want to call ahead for dinner or on the weekend.

Kloeks @ home De Villiers Street De Kelders  +27 28 384 2769;  This is a charming family run restaurant in a pretty house.  Our server was attentive and affable.  We thought the food was quite good, but the portions were overly generous.  It’s a very popular place with a lively atmosphere.  We enjoyed it quite a bit though it’s not on the same level as Neil’s place.  No website, you definitely need reservations.  If you stay at Cliff Lodge, they’ll take care of that for you.  Recommended! 

Black Oystercatcher R317, Moddervlei Farm, Bredasdorp (near Elim);   We stopped here for lunch after visiting the town of Elim, and it’s convenient when coming from Cape Agulhas.  Set on a wine farm, it’s a modern and relaxed place to enjoy a nice meal and some good wine while gazing out over the fields.  Our server was friendly and gregarious, and if service was a touch slow, who cares when you’re chilling out enjoying the weather and wine.  I enjoyed a tasty salmon salad and Stu savored the burger.  Recommended!

The Garden Route

Die Gieter Cathy & Remy’s 5 Phantom Pass Road, Knysna, +27 44 386 0201.  Hands down our favorite restaurant in Knysna and among all that we tried on the Garden Route.  It’s run by a charming and outgoing French couple, Remy in the kitchen and Cathy in the front room, though Remy came out frequently to chat with us and the other guests.  It felt very cozy and intimate.  As lovely as the room and owners are, the food outshines it all. French classics expertly prepared, the duck confit and beef in a Bordelaise sauce were luscious.  You get a tasty tapenade as an amuse and a glass of brandy at the end.  I don’t think there’s a website, but do book ahead as it was full when we were there.  They had just moved to a new location so the address above may be incorrect.  Very highly recommend!

Pembrey’s Bistro Brenton Road, Belvidere, Knysna South, 044 386 0005.  Pembrey’s feels a little more formal than Cathy & Remy’s but this is South Africa so it’s still fairly casual. The room is attractive and the food above average.  We met the chef here as well, he seemed a bit shy.  Highly recommend!

East Head Café 25 George Rex Dr, Knysna 044 384 0933 Situated on the East Head overlooking West Head, the lagoon and ocean, it would be hard to find a more scenic spot.  Parking is challenging but there’s an efficient guy to direct everyone.  They’re only open for breakfast and lunch and don’t take reservations, so if you want a table on the outdoor deck there can be a long wait.  We settled for a table indoors, but next to the large windows which afforded us a gorgeous view.  The food is simple but fresh and well prepared and our server was terrific, personality plus!  Highly recommend!


Ristorante Enrico - 296 Main Street, Keurboomstrand; After hiking around Tsitsikamma National Park we were hungry so we stopped off  in Keurboomstrand (near Plettenburg Bay) to have lunch at Enrico’s.  We were seated outdoors on a picnic bench with umbrella with an amazing view of the beach and all the seabirds foraging on the shore, such as Black Oystercatchers.  While the pizzas looked terrific, we opted for tasty grilled fish.  Wine is by the bottle so I got a very nice white from the Veneto and brought the rest with me to enjoy the next day.  Recommended.

Café Gannet - Old Post Tree Sq. Church & Market Sts. Mossel Bay; On the drive from DeKelders to Knysna we broke up the long road trip with a lunch stop in Mossel Bay.  It looked like a package tour type of town and the Café Gannet looked quite touristy, so we were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was.  We had a whole local sole grilled with soy sauce on a bed of vegetables.  The receptionists weren’t the most friendly, but our waiter made up for it.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here, but if it’s convenient to stop in Mossel Bay, this is a good choice.  Recommended!


Olive Tree - 21 Main St. Knysna +27 44 382 5867; The team at Olive Tree is exceedingly affable, service is attentive and the atmosphere is cozy and homey.  The food is very good in a home-cooked style.  We tried Boboties, a typical South African meat dish followed by tender grilled lamb chops accompanied by a variety of vegetables  As is common, the servings were overly generous.  This is an enormously popular restaurant so you should reserve a table.  Recommended! 


Île de Pain - Long St. Thesen Island Knysna; Both a bakery and eat-in café, Île de Pain (island of bread) bakes the most exquisite pastries and bread.  We didn’t indulge in the pastries, but we picked up a couple of tasty sandwiches and a squash salad which made a perfect picnic lunch which we enjoyed on the dunes of Buffalo Bay.  Recommended!

Freshline Fisheries – Railway Siding Dockyard behind Tait Marine on way to Thesen Islands, Knysna;  A fish market and BYOB restaurant, Freshline Fisheries presents  a fun, casual atmosphere.  You’re seated on picnic benches set in sand under canvas awnings and illuminated by candlelight.  Our server was lovely.  It’s very popular, so I think we ordered the wrong thing, as the fish was overcooked and very disappointing.  The best part of the meal was the baby baked potatoes which were outstanding.


La Colombe - Silvermist Wine Estate Constantia Main Road; The best restaurant that we tried in South Africa, La Colombe is exquisite.  It’s located in a charming building at the top of a hill in a picturesque winery. We had a lovely table with a view of the estate.  Service was flawless and the food was creative and sublime.  We had an 8 course tasting menu that included 2 amuse-bouches and a surprise taste test at the end.  The second amuse was incredible, one of the sous-chef’s presented a hot pan in which she mixed chicken cracklings, sauces, herbs and a spray of balsamic vinegar.  We were given red wine bread to sop up the mixture.  It may sound odd but it was luscious!  The wine paired with the courses were well chosen and of high quality.  Highest recommendation!!!

La Parada – We wanted a relatively light lunch since we knew we’d be having a big dinner at La Colombe, so we stopped at this casual tapas bar.  They apparently have branches in Cape Town and Camps Bay as well.  The receptionists were a bit haughty, however our server was terrific and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. We sat outdoors on stools at a large table, but no one was seated near us, even though the place was very busy.  We ordered 5 shared plates and they were all delicious accompanied by a very nice glass of Saronsberg Provenance Shiraz.   Recommended!

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

All meals are included at Tswalu and for the most part the food was very tasty and well prepared.  We especially enjoyed a picnic lunch and dinner with our guide and tracker in the bush.  The dinner was atop a dune with sweeping views of the savannah and mountains and a glorious sunset.  A curious giraffe checked us out from a distance before moseying along on his way.   We also enjoyed a candlelit braai with local singers. You don’t visit Tswalu for the food, however, you’ll be well fed and happy here.