It’s so cool you’ll platz at Plett’s Winter Arts Festival
Live dance, music, theatre, fashion, surf and snakes
Plettenberg Bay is famous for beaches and parties but its winter arts festival, wine farms and crags are just as compelling reasons to visit this jewel of the Garden Route.
From this week until July 9 Plett has its own arts festival with live dance, music, theatre and fashion shows. Street performances and food are on offer and the Plett Winter School has courses on topics including the visual arts, viticulture and quilt making.Standup comedy at the Fringe, Afridocs and Plett Food & Film are popular events, says Patty Butterworth from Plett Tourism. Plett Afrojazz is a new entry this year with Femi Koya headlining, and every night DJ Jazztrain will host an afterparty.
Gourmet food will feature at the arts festival and at the Plett Wine & Bubbly Festival in spring, but more than 50 restaurants in Plett are open all year round. Fat Fish and the Skiboat Club on the beach are favourites. The Double Shot Coffee Bar and Le Fournil de Plett are great coffee and croissant stops.Overlooking the river, Emily Moon has a great menu, while the Bramon Wine Estate has food fit for good wine.
Stand-up paddling is no longer the new kid on the waves and Plett, with its calm turquoise bay, is an idyllic place for the sport. Try supping with Clayton Bischoff from Learn to Surf Plett on the lagoon near Lookout Beach and be surprised at how much marine life is in there.We saw subtropical fish and an eel from our lofty position, and Bischoff said that in breeding season dozens of bronze sharks come into the lagoon. He gave me a stable and inflatable board and it was easy to traverse up and down the water despite wind.
The sea was calling after exploring the lagoon so I rented a surfboard and went out at Robberg Beach where the surf was up. Literally.The waves were too big for my amateur longboarding skills but I caught a few, watching the pros glide by. Plett has almost as many surf spots as beaches but avoid dusk when sharks are active.
On a sea-kayaking trip from Lookout Beach to the Robberg peninsula I spotted no white sharks but saw, and smelled, hundreds of seals once we got close to their colony.Kayak instructors have seen giants in the bay, sharks and whales, but these have been thrilling not threatening encounters.
To go whale watching in luxury, Ocean Sailing Charters is a fabulous option. The friendly, family-owned business has a catamaran that can take up to 12 people, and even offers overnight cruises.We had a brisk sail with snacks and drinks and enough salty spray to feel we were out on the Big Blue.
TAKE A HIKE
On the Robberg peninsula, overlooking the beach and bay, you can take one of the most beautiful day hikes in South Africa.The longest of the three walks, at about 10km, goes all the way around the headland to a point that extends into the Indian Ocean and has gorgeous views.
Plett has an abundance of mountain bike trails, one of the most well ridden being the mountain biking leg of the Sabrina Love Challenge.This is a fun route with some technical riding. But the most famous mountain biking is found near to Knysna and Plett at Harkerville. The marked and graded Harkerville trails (four levels) start in the Garden of Eden and wind through coastal fynbos and onto sea cliffs.
At Lawnwood Snake Sanctuary on the outskirts of Plett you can get up close and personal if you like these slinky reptiles. Lawnwood has more than 100 snakes and the owners Michael and Emily Caithness are passionate about snakes. Even though a massive reticulated python Axel once nearly crushed Michael, his enthusiasm remains unbound.Cape cobras, banded cobras, forest cobras, snouted cobras, boomslangs and vipers (gaboon, copperhead, green tree) are among the other species at Lawnwood. They even have a black mamba which starred as an assassin’s weapon in Kill Bill 2 with Uma Thurman.
Plett’s Wine Route is a relative newcomer in South Africa’s centuries’ old wine making traditions, with the first wine estate opening 18 years ago.But now it has more than 10 tasting rooms and is earning a reputation by winning awards, including Michelangelo double golds (Newstead). The Newstead Lund family vineyards on the crag feature another popular tipple at its bubbly bar. Try out the new age-ish MCCs along this coastal paradise but rather do this after you visit the snake sanctuary, not before.