The current boom of new hotels in the Western Cape, coupled with some impressive renovations of existing properties, brings the province to the forefront of architecture and design in South Africa.
Much has been written about the ‘edgy’ new Silo Hotel in Cape Town and its home in the elevator of a grain silo complex. Not only is its design innovative, it enjoys a prime location above the city’s popular tourist site, the V&A Waterfront, and sits above what will soon be another premier Cape Town attraction, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA).
In Cape Town’s Sea Point suburb fronting the ocean, a 45-year old landmark, The Ritz, is being refashioned in ‘laid back Miami style luxury’. There is much anticipation about the reopening of the Top of the Ritz, a revolving restaurant on the 22nd floor, which showcases ocean, mountain and city on its 360-degree rotation.
Once open, the hotel will no doubt become one of Cape Town’s substantial set of five-star exclusive properties, which includes the V&A Waterfront’s Cape Grace and the historic Belmond Mount Nelson in the suburb of Gardens, a short stroll from fashionable Kloof St. Other stand-out hotels – both boutique properties with superb locations – are the mountain-side Twelve Apostles and Spa, poised above the Atlantic and flanked by Table Mountain National Park, and Tintswalo Atlantic at the foot of a spectacular mountain drive, Chapman’s Peak.
Strong on the personal touch and spontaneity is 21 Nettleton, a boutique hotel in the seaside suburb of Clifton in a large private garden which backs onto Lion’s Head. GM Dirk Jacobs says staying at the hotel is much like staying in a private residence, but with all the facilities and services associated with five-star grading. The hotel owner hosts guests to canapes and cocktails each evening, or to a barbeque on the lawns, and will even organise a drive for guests in his vintage Jaguar.
“Lunches and dinners are tailored to guests – tell us what you want and we will make it happen,” says Jacobs, whether it be crayfish from Hout Bay, oysters from Saldanah, or game from Franke Fenners Meat market.
In the four-star bracket, the aha Harbour Bridge Hotel & Suites, in walking distance from the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town International Convention Centre, is a good choice for location convenience. The contemporary hotel links city and sea by sea water canal running through its bridge wing. It has 16 luxury suites and 40 rooms on offer, with floor to ceiling windows and views of canal and harbour.
Further afield in the province, there’s a growth in facilities for special interests. For example, The Trails End in the Cape Overberg, highlighted by Wesgro, the provincial tourism promotion body. Situated in Elgin, the hotel bills itself as multi-purpose sporting and adventure destination, “slap-bang in the middle of some of South Africa’s most legendary and breathtaking trails.” Mountain bikers and trail runners as well as families gravitate towards its facilities.
Then there’s the funky Karoo Art Hotel in the farming community of Barrydale off the R62, where every room is individually decorated with eye-catching artworks. Its restaurant has won the Klein Karoo Gourmand Restaurant Award, and is a member of the international gastronomic guild Chaîne des Rộtisseurs. It is also known for live-music events and hosts performances by leading local artists.
On the Cape West Coast, there’s a kitesurfing centre, the South African version of a Brazilian concept. Windtown Lagoon Hotel at Langebaan has a fully-equipped kite school. Langebaan’s windy weather from October to May provide the right conditions to get to grips with the sport. On windless days, other water sports, like kayaking, are offered.
Another unusual accommodation facility on the same lagoon are the Kraalbaai Houseboats. Two sizeable, permanently moored self-catering houseboats sleep eight and 22 people.
In the Cape Karoo region, Wesgro suggests the Swartberg Hotel in Prince Albert, a national monument well-placed to explore Oudtshoorn, the Swartberg Pass and Meiringspoort. There’s also the Lord Milner, an authentic tribute to Victoriana in Matjiesfontein.
With Karoo cuisine fast-gaining ground amongst foodies, a ‘special interest’ facility is African Relish, a recreational cooking school in Prince Albert, that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone destination or part of an extended gourmet tour. The school accommodates guests in restored cottages in the town.
On the Garden Route, Gondwana Game Reserve boasts two notable characteristics – free roaming big five game and fynbos vegetation, endemic to the Cape. A drawcard, says Vanessa Naude, Marketing Manager, is the Tented Eco Camp Programme, where guests contribute to nature by getting involved in wildlife and veld management, and learning bush skills.
“The Gondwana Conservation Foundation also offers guests staying at the lodge the opportunity of joining one or two conservation activities,” says Naude. The reserve is a four-hour drive from Cape Town and 45 minutes from George airport.
Also on the scenic Garden Route is aha The Rex Hotel Knysna, a four-star property with 25 self-catering suites on the shores of the Knysna lagoon. Once a R65m extension is complete in November, it will offer an additional 56 rooms, refurbished public areas, a new pool and restaurant.
Positioned on the town’s lively waterfront, it provides convenient access for shopping, dining and entertainment. For outdoor enthusiasts, nearby activities include bungee jumping, sky diving and cycling – the hotel offers free bicycle hiring.
A new arrival on the Garden Route’s hotel landscape later this year will be The Old Rectory in Plettenberg Bay, owned and managed by Rare Earth.
Says COO Richard de la Rey: “This heritage building dates back to 1777 and was later used as a rectory by the Anglican church until the present rectory was built in 1939. The beautiful building is now being returned to its former glory and is the focal point of this small boutique hotel. Just metres from pristine beaches in a quiet cul-de-sac and only one kilometre from town, its position gives perfect access to one of South Africa’s most picturesque and naturally beautiful seaside towns.”
The property will have 18 rooms, a spa, a restaurant and swimming pool. It is a 15-minute drive from Plettenberg Bay Airport and complimentary transfers to the airport and to town will be offered.
Wesgro makes two additional suggestions in the area – the self-catering Reflections Eco Reserve, consisting of tented accommodation and chalets on a 28ha rehabilitated pine plantation in Wilderness, and Hog Hollow Country Lodge & Villa, east of Plettenberg Bay where hiking and horse riding are major activities.