There’s a beautiful stretch of coastline in the Eastern Cape, about halfway between Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and East London. Sometimes referred to as “the Sunshine Coast”, this area stretches along Route 72 and includes several small and medium-sized beach towns like Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea.
Well north of the Garden Route but well south of the Wild Coast, the Route 72 region seems to get overlooked in South African tourism literature. After ten years of traveling and writing about South Africa, I had barely heard of it myself. But while planning my visit to Bathurst, which is just inland from Route 72, I was introduced to a group promoting tourism in the area. Thorsten and I got the chance to spend a couple of days there during our Blogitect Road Trip and it turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.
We spent two nights in Port Alfred and one night in Kenton-on-Sea, with a quick stop at the tiny farm village of Kasouga in between.
Three Days on Route 72: Port Alfred
Our first stop was the Beach House, a beachfront guesthouse run by Isabeau, our fabulous Port Alfred host.
It had been a year and a half since I’d seen the ocean. It was cloudy and a little bit cold when we first arrived, but walking out onto those dunes felt like literal heaven to me. I wanted to throw myself down onto the sand and cry for joy. Instead I took pictures.
Early the next morning Isabeau drove us about 20 minutes north of Port Alfred to the mouth of the Riet River, where we did the “Three Sisters” walk. Thorsten and I agree this was one of the best beach walks of our lives. If you’re on Route 72 and have time for only one activity, I recommend the Three Sisters walk.
After the Three Sisters walk we went to Nature View Farm, right on Route 72, which I also loved. The farm, owned by Piet and Doffy van der Byl, has a charming farm stall selling a wide variety of pineapple jams, relishes, and other spreads, as well as pineapple juice that Piet and Doffy squeeze by hand. (This is pineapple country, as you may remember.) The van der Byls also sell delectable homemade scones, which we we devoured right out of the oven with cream and jam slathered on top.
Nature View also has a canoe trail: You hike down an embankment to the river’s edge, where you can borrow one of the canoes and go out for a paddle. Our canoe expedition only lasted about ten minutes because it started to rain and also because I am a terrible canoeist. But I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
We did several other cool things in and around Port Alfred. Shout-out to Guido’s, a Port Alfred pizza joint with a fantastic view of West Beach, Adele’s Mohair, a beautiful mohair workshop on Route 72 between Port Alfred and Hamburg, and especially to Isabeau herself. Isabeau is a wonderful person who knows everything about Port Alfred and I can’t recommend staying at her guesthouse enough.
A Quick Stop in Kasouga
On our way to Kenton-on-Sea we stopped off at Oribi Haven in Kasouga, where we spent the morning collecting and eating mussels straight from the ocean.
After collecting the mussels, we climbed back up the cliff to a deck overlooking the beach. Jenny from Oribi Haven cooked the mussels in a big pot over a fire, and made braaibroodjies (South African grilled sandwiches, also cooked over a fire) for us to munch on the side.
One Night in Kenton-on-Sea
Our stay in Kenton-on-Sea, another tiny beach town with a romantic-sounding name, was also very short. We arrived at lunch-time and left the next morning after breakfast. But we spent a lovely evening at the quirky Woodlands Cottages and Backpackers, a collection of log cabins near the mouth of the Boesmans River. (There are so many rivers on Route 72.)
Highlights of our stay in Kenton included a late afternoon boat ride down the river with Allen — who owns Woodlands with his wife, Gail — and dinner at the Goatshed (Woodlands’ outdoor restaurant) on “Fresh Fish Friday”.
Route 72 is such a pleasant, laid-back part of South Africa — it was the perfect antidote to a year of lockdown. If you’re yearning to relax and get away from the drudgery of pandemic life in the city for a bit (and who isn’t?), there is no better place to do so than Route 72. A new Route 72 website will be coming out soon, but in the meantime you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Thanks so much to Jenny, Allen, Isabeau, and everyone else who helped host the Blogitects on Route 72. Our accommodation and food were complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.