The attractive upmarket holiday destination of Plettenberg Bay is characterised by long stretches of sandy beaches and safe swimming waters. The beauty of the rocky coastline, the lagoon and the ancient forests add to the area’s popularity. The bay was named Bahia Formosa (“Beautiful Bay”) by a Portugese navigator in 1576. Almost 200 years later, the Governor of the Cape, Baron van Plettenberg, on an expedition into the then unexplored interior, decided to name the bay after himself.
His expedition also discovered the forests filled with usable timber and a woodcutter’s post was established soon after.
Adventure And Sport
Adventure at Keurbooms River Nature Reserve: The reserve has several nature trails, totalling approximately 5 km, which offer superb views over Plettenberg Bay and the lush valley. Mountain bikes and boats can be hired at the campsite. The Keurbooms Canoe Trail is an easy 7-km, two-hour paddle through the Keurbooms Nature Reserve.
Angling: Nature’s Valley, (about 35 km east of Plettenberg Bay), Keurbooms, Lookout Rocks, Beacon Island and Robberg Beach all are great angling spots. Deep-sea anglers can expect to catch tuna, hake and calamari.
Black-water Tubing: Private operators offer tubing adventures down the Storms River, about 70 km east of Plettenberg Bay.
Boat Cruises: The boats travel out to the bay where visiting sea creatures, such as dolphins and whales, can be observed.
Bungee-jumping: The highest commercial bungee jump in the world is situated at Bloukrans River Bridge, about 50 km east of Plettenberg Bay.
Diving: The coastline offers many fascinating and wonderful diving and snorkelling spots. The underwater reef off Beacon Island, for example is an old favourite among divers.
Elephant Walk: The Diepwalle Forest is famous for its giant yellowwood trees. Animals such as bushbuck, duiker and even elephants roam the forest and there is a large variety of bird life. Elephants once thrived in the Knysna Forest but by 1990 their numbers had declined to just three or four and they are now rarely sighted.
Flights and Gliding: Private operators offer flights over Plettenberg Bay and surroundings. Special flights to view whales are also conducted.
Golf: Plettenberg Bay has several well-established golf courses.
Hiking Trails: There are several hiking trails in the area, such as the Robberg Walk and Nature’s Valley Trails. A 2-km hiking trail starts at the Big Tree all the way to the N2 Highway. The Big Tree is a massive Outeniqua Yellowwood, which is over a thousand years old. Other similarly-sized trees also grow in the area.
Homtini Cycle Route: The 19-km route makes a loop through the Goudveld State Forest.
Horse-riding: Horse trails are a perfect way to discover the beauty of the forests.
Mountain-biking: Among the several routes is a very well-known one named the Harkerville Cycle Route which winds along the coastline and through the forest.
Otter Hiking Trail: One of the most popular hiking trails in South Africa, the Otter Trail, traverses the forests and unspoilt rocky shores of the Tsitsikamma National Coastal Park. The Otter Trail starts in the reserve and ends at the Groot River, five days and 48 km later. Along the way, there are 11 rivers to cross.
Sea-kayaking: Ocean and river-kayaking are popular pastimes, not least because they include the possibility of having close encounters with dolphins and seals and even with some species of birds.
Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail: The Tsitsikamma Trail loops back to form a more arduous, five-day and 56-km trail. This inland route starts at the Groot River near Nature’s Valley and winds through the Tsitsikamma Mountains to the Storms River Mouth.
Water-sports: The Bay is an excellent location for hobie-catting, sailing, surfing and wave-skiing. Keurbooms River is also a popular venue for water-skiing and also canoeing.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
Stone Age sites: The findings in Nelson’s Bay and Matjes River Cave indicate that the caves were once inhabited by Middle Stone Age Man and by Khoisan people more than 100 000 years ago. The Robberg Nature Reserve also hosts some sites of architectural interest. The early “Strandlopers” who lived off the sea used the caves on the peninsula as shelters and articles found here have shed some light on aspects of their lifestyle.
Art And Crafts
Arts and Crafts Route: The route from Sedgefield to Plettenberg Bay visits many artists and crafters who sell their unique work and open their studios to visitors.
Nyati Traditional Mampoer and Witblits Distillery: The distillery produces and sells mampoer of superior quality. Mampoer is a clear liquid with a very high alcohol content and is distilled from fruit.
Trumilk Dairy: The Bitou Valley Company invites you to come and taste its cheese, wine and liquor. The company has already received accolades for producing the best feta cheese in the country, but it also counts Cheddar cheese and Camembert among its products.
Culture / Community Tourism
Umthombo Theatre Group and Township Tours: The theatre group aims to raise funds for the community to improve the condition of life in the townships. Obtain the services of a registered tour guide to accompany you on a township tour to see how these people live.
Entertainment And Shopping
Forest Wagon Trails: Taking a ride on a horse-drawn carriage through the forests down to the rugged coast line, is a treat that most people have never experienced before.
Wild Waters Park: The adventure park offers facilities such as supertubes, mini-golf, a swimming pool and picnic spots.
Fauna And Flora
Bird life: Several unique species of birds, such as the Knysna loerie and the orange-breasted sunbird, inhabit the region. More than 260 species of birds have been recorded in the four different and unique habitats: forests, fynbos, wetlands and coastal.
Elephant Park: The proud legacy of the Knysna elephants lives on here, where visitors are allowed to touch and feed the tame elephants.
Fynbos: Some 27 species of ericas, as well as other plants, such as wild proteas and fynbos, grow in the region.
Garden of Eden Reserve: A small patch of indigenous forest is protected by the Garden of Eden reserve. A circular walk winds through a dense green forest filled with ferns and the large trunks of ancient trees covered in moss and lichen.
Keurbooms River Nature Reserve: The reserve is situated 5 km from Plettenberg Bay and stretches up the river for 5 to 6 km. A ferry ride allows leisurely appreciation of the landscape and the fauna and flora of the reserve. The riverine forest offers excellent bird-watching opportunities and visitors have a good chance of seeing large mammals such as bushbuck, bush pig and grysbok.
Marine animals: The shallow waters of the bay encourage whales to calve here in the late winter months and, throughout the year, schools of dolphins surf in the waves.
Monkeyland: This unique primate sanctuary is home to many species of free-roaming monkeys.
Robberg Nature Reserve: At one end of Plettenberg Bay, the Robberg Peninsula juts out into the sea. This is the site of the Robberg Nature Reserve, which has a hiking trail that crosses its rocky peninsula. The reserve houses colonies of seals and of seabirds, such as black oystercatchers. The reserve also contains some sites of archaeological interest. The early “Strandlopers” who lived off the sea used the caves on the peninsula as shelters and findings have shed light on certain aspects of their lifestyle.
Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park: The park stretches for 80 km along the coastline. It offers a diversity of fauna and flora. The inland wooded ravines are thick with ancient yellow¬wood trees, and the coast is made up of lagoons, dunes, beaches and coral reefs. The boundaries of the park stretch three nautical miles (5,6 km) out to sea and the Underwater Trail for divers is one of its unique features. The mouth of the Storms River is ideal for swimming and snorkelling. The Otter Trail runs through the reserve and is one of the most popular hiking trails in South Africa. The Tsitsikamma Trail loops back to form a more arduous, five-day and 56-km trail. This inland route starts at Groot River and travels through the Tsitsikamma Mountains to the Storms River Mouth.
History And Architecture
Beacon Isle: The island jutting out from the beach at the mouth of the Piesang River is now the site of a luxury hotel. In 1772 a navigational beacon was built here and from 1912 to 1920 it served as a whaling station. It then became a boarding house and a hotel was built on the site in 1940. An old harpoon gun and cast-iron blubber pot are reminders of the island’s occupation by Norwegian whalers.
Forest Hall: This manor was built in 1864 by William Newdigate and is now privately-owned.
Old Rectory: This building was erected in 1776 as a barracks for the Dutch East India Company. It was purchased by St Peters Church in 1869 and used as a rectory.
Old Timber Store: Johann Jerling built the store in 1787. Its remains are preserved as a nationalmonument.
St Andrews Chapel: The small church building, built entirely of yellowwood, is the oldest church in the diocese of George.