An Unrivalled Riverside Retreat

Considered to be one of the most scenic self-drive routes in the world, South Africa’s Garden Route, stretching from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Storm’s River in the Eastern Cape and extending inland towards the Klein Karoo, is something that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.

As someone who is constantly seeking new places to explore both within and outside of South Africa, I find myself road tripping regularly. The exhilarating feeling of getting behind the wheel and taking off with no real destination in mind and a couple of weeks to kill is both exciting and extremely addictive. Just recently, I decided to venture out of Cape Town and take on the epic, renowned Garden Route, most famous for its unbelievably wild, wide beaches, rivers, lagoons, lush coastal forests and quiet seaside towns. One such coastal town that lies between the Kaaimans River and Goukama Nature Reserve, bordered by the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains and lush indigenous forests is Wilderness – a highly sought after holiday destination and, as the name suggests, a nature lover’s paradise. Wilderness not only looks out onto wide-stretching beaches, but also the Touw River Estaury, a calm lagoon favoured for water skiing, boating, fishing and its abundance of birdlife.

Situated on the banks of the lagoon, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, lies the romantic riverside retreat of Moontide Guest Lodge – an award-winning haven tucked away in an enclave amongst 400-year old milkwood trees overlooking the tranquil waters. Moontide emanates magic and charm with each accommodation option oozing its own unique and idyllic style. From the intimate Treetop suite, a timber treehouse built on stilts with a beautiful elevated view of the lagoon and leafy hillsides of Wilderness, and richly decorated double-level thatched Milkwood Cottage, to the century-old stone and thatch Egyptian-inspired Stone Cottage, there are nine exquisite accommodation options for guests to choose from. Whether travelling with a partner, friend or small group or family, there is something for everyone.

I spent two glorious nights in The Boathouse – situated right on the riverbank of the lagoon. This blue and white nautical inspired semi-permanent structure offers uninterrupted views of the tranquil waters and indigenous flora and fauna. Frequently visited by kingfishers, herons, yellow-billed ducks and even the occasional otter, The Boathouse really allows guests to immerse themselves into the tidal moods of the riverside. Being on the water like that is such a treat and allows for utmost relaxation and rejuvenation. A small wooden deck extends into the little private bay, with kayaks and paddle-boats that are at guests’ disposal and free to use at any point of the day for a paddle up the lagoon.

Private and picturesque, The Boathouse leads into a small charming lounge, with large windows allowing for natural light to stream in, as well as creating an almost eye-level view of the lagoon outside and the critters that frequent the bay. For an added touch of romance, the lounge has a ceramic wood-burning fireplace, enriching the space and creating a cosy hideaway during chilly nights.  Leading off from the lounge, the bedroom is equally as intimate and cosy with a double bed and en-suite, with an open shower and Victorian-style bath. The space is ideal for couples, and particularly honeymooners seeking utmost privacy and romantic ambience.

All rooms, suites and cottages at Moontide are fitted with satellite TV, ‘honesty bar’ fridges, and tea and coffee making facilities. The main thatched house has a separate lounge and dining room available for guests to use. As the lodge operates on a bed and breakfast basis, this is great for those that want to venture into town (which is a five-minute drive) and grab a bite to eat back at the lodge for lunch or dinner.

While we’re on the subject of food, breakfasts at Moontide are considered the very best in Wilderness with “the best breakfast view on the whole Garden Route”. It’s true. Served on the terrace overlooking the sparkling waters of the lagoon, breakfast is a highlight of any Moontide stay. The cold buffet spread is complemented by a menu of generously home-cooked hot breakfasts that are bursting with flavour and clearly made with love. During breakfast, the extremely friendly and accommodating staff, as well as owner, Maureen Mansfield, will chat amongst guests, offering a wealth of information about what restaurants are good in the area, or what activities are on offer. They are there to help with anything, should you require assistance with bookings, directions or any general enquiries. Guests are all extremely well taken care of, and the Moontide pledge – to ensure all guests leave the riverbank feeling relaxed and rejuvenated having experienced the very best of the area and its outstanding beauty – is something the staff take very seriously. They truly are filled with joy when guests leave feeling happy, at peace and having had a well-deserved break.

Moontide Guest Lodge is truly something special. One of the very first residences to be built in Wilderness back in the 1920s, and restored to glory by Mansfield in the 1980s, the space is reminiscent of something out of a fairy-tale storybook. An idyllic and certainly unrivalled riverside retreat. I can’t wait to go back!

For more information on Moontide Guest Lodge, visit www.moontide.co.za.

Text © Julie Graham  |  Images © Moontide Guest Lodge

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