While the girls are still sleeping, heads under the blanket in their cosy bed, Carl and I are enjoying our first morning coffee on the patio outside our suite. As we enjoy the moments between taking delicious sips of steaming coffee and peering into the room to see if there is any movement from the brood yet, the grey West Coast sky becomes flecked with streaks of amethyst, and the strips of cloud vary its hues from tangerine to fuchsia. The unhurried town of St Helena Bay, known locally as ‘Die Agterbaai’, is unique as it is the only place on the West Coast where the sun rises over the ocean.
The area is a region of contrast and beauty. Away from the sea, the landscape is speckled with eerie granite outcrops formed by winds, currents and changes in the sea level over the millennia. During the Ice Ages, the mighty glaciers that changed the landscape and vegetation of Europe didn’t reach the western coast of southern Africa. So geologically speaking this region has remained unchanged throughout the ages. After good rains, the barren fields are bedecked in the bright colours of myriad spring flowers, making it a great area to just go for a drive.
In between this normally bleak countryside and the clear cerulean water lies the luxurious BON Hotel Shelley Point.
A short walk from the beach, the hotel setting is incredible. The white thatch-roof buildings are spread over lush green lawns, interspersed with palm trees, and bright orange and sapphire strelitzias peer over the hedge outside our room. Set on a private peninsula, the hotel is a fantastic family destination and great for kids of all ages.
As we are about to find out over the next two days, there is a myriad of things to do at Shelley Point. The resort’s facilities include a gymnasium, tennis courts and a bowling green, and a challenging 9-hole links golf course – one of the best in the country – winds its way through the plush peninsula. There are two swimming pools – an absolute must for families with kids, each with their own lounging area and poolside bar. Each of the resort’s 88 rooms can sleep two adults and two children, and kids under 12 sharing with parents stay free. All suites offer state-of-the-art facilities, privacy, space and comfort with a lounge, kitchenette and designer bathroom. Our room really is lovely, with its modern finishes in umber, white and bondi blue.
After a scrumptious breakfast at the São Gabrielle restaurant, boasting panoramic views of the golf course and the bay beyond, we head off to explore the resort. Naturally with two highly energetic pre-schoolers in tow, our first stop is the Crazy Crew Kids Club. At BON Hotel Shelley Point, children are not only tolerated…they are very well looked after and always kept entertained. If you would like to take some time to relax at the Country Club, you can drop them at the club which offers an indoor play centre, outside park, pool table, board games, plasma TV and Play-station consoles. We’re here during the hotel’s low season, so Hannah and Georgia can take their pick. Of course they head straight outdoors and into the sandpit, the air pierced with high-pitched shrieking and squeals of delight.
I take my fortuitous chance and slip out the door to go and enjoy some me-time. I have a booking for a massage at the spa and I can’t wait. I can’t miss it either as they also cater for local clients, so they’re always busy, even during low season. My chances of getting another booking is close to, well…nil. Besides massages, this luxurious spa also offers a sauna and steam room, jacuzzi, indoor pool, facials, body treatments, a nail studio and more. Ultimate relaxation for weary moms and dads.
The peninsula is a natural playground for children. The coastline here teems with animal and marine life and the water is crystal clear. What more could young children ask for when all they really want is a beach with rock pools and space to run around? The nearby beaches of Stompneus Baai, Shell Bay and Brittania Bay offer all of this, plus they are some of the most popular vantage points from which to gaze at Southern Right and Humpback whales when they come here to calve between June and December. Shelley Point is a marine reserve and each new day brings close encounters with nature; crayfish, abalone, mussels, dolphins, cormorants and the rare oystercatcher.
Older kids and adults are even more spoilt for choice. Besides the beaches there’s golf, fishing, hiking, sailing, surfing and more. If you are looking for something different to do, ask the concierge about available activities in the area. There’s plenty, including a Berg River boat trip, visiting the nearby West Coast Fossil Park, guided kayaking, cycling, horse riding on the beach, quad biking and paintball.
St Helena Bay, like the rest of the West Coast has a rich and unique cultural heritage. Discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1497, it is today one of the world’s prime fishing centres. Sandy Point’s harbour is a great spot to watch the locals go about their daily task of hauling in the ‘trek’ nets to harvest the day’s catch and the women’s ‘vlekking’ of snoek.
If you don’t feel like doing anything, the Shelley Point Coffee Shop serves light meals and refreshments all day and they have a lovely cocktail bar overlooking the first tee. With all that Shelley Point has to offer, you will leave as laid-back and relaxed as ever.
In the end, as alive as the West Coast might be, the true appeal of the place has nothing to do with activity and filling your day with stuff to do. For me the West Coast is romantic and somewhat mysterious…a place where you can be close to the beautiful simplicity of nature. Something about it makes you want to come back for more.
In her article A West Coast homage, Catherine Hofmeyr wrote: “Whether it’s the whisper of waves on a lonely beach, the kaa of seagulls, the profusion of spring flowers, plenty of kreef (crayfish) on a braai (barbeque) or immense nothingness, it’s here…” She sums it up perfectly when she quotes ‘Dis al’ (‘That’s all’) by Jan F. E. Celliers. I’ll use the translation by Herman Charles Bosman.
It’s the yellow and the blue,
It’s the veld and the sky,
And a lone bird above it
Flies slowly and high –
Reservations: +27 (0)22 742 1394
Email: [email protected]
Shelley Point is approximately 150km frm Cape Town. From Cape Town, visitors should take the R27 West Coast road and turn off to Vredenburg. At first robot in town, turn right towards Velddrif. Continue until you see theSt. Helena / Stompneusbaai road sign. Turn left and continue through St. Helena to Shelley Point.
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