Author James Thurber said in one of his more famous books that “beautiful things don’t ask for attention” – and while I’m sure Mr. Thurber meant his words in a more anthropological way, the same can’t be said for Camps Bay, the undeniable Crown Jewel of Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard.
It’s a beautiful early autumn evening as I check-in to The Bay Hotel; a Camps Bay icon, situated in the middle of the seaside suburb’s famous Sunset Strip.
The Bay Hotel has been a stalwart on Camps Bay’s most famous strip since the early 90s, and it’s easy to see why the hotel has stood the test of time. Accommodating everyone from locals, international celebrities and even English royalty. If you haven’t been to The Bay Hotel, have you even really been to Camps Bay?
The checking in process is seamless, and I already feel welcome after the wonderful hotel staff show me to my suite. My suite showcases Camps Bay in all its glory; beachfront views, a view of Cape Town’s famous Lion’s Head and a brightness that can only come from relaxing in a luxury hotel room after some serious traveling.
After unpacking (and unwinding with the complimentary bottle of Muratie Merlot in my hotel room) I find myself taking the first of many gasps as I see the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean and the bright, white sand of the beach turn a milky beige.
As I fumble to find my phone – naturally, to document the sunset in all its glory – I realise why Camps Bay beach has been included as one of the best beaches in the world on several travelers’ websites. I decide then and there that after breakfast the next morning, I would most certainly take a stroll along this world-famous beach.
Breakfast at The Bay hotel is nothing short of a feast. The buffet spread is beautifully presented and offers something for every palette. As for me, all ideas of possibly sticking to a diet fly out the window and into the Atlantic as I grab my second, perfectly baked croissant.
Feeling (a little) guilty after my croissant-indulgence, I make my way to the beach, hoping the walk will help balance out the carbo-loading I just did.
Camps Bay beach reminds me of a Pinterest board; pristine beaches, bright, blue water and enviable bikini bodies. I once again grab my phone, snapping more shots of my surroundings – bikini bods excluded, of course.
As I make my way back to the hotel – a stone’s throw away from the beach – I notice that the infamous Cape Town Red Bus tour has a stop right in front of The Bay Hotel.
Being fond of exploration myself, I decide to buy a ticket.
Opting for the ‘Classic’ package on the open-top bus tour, I was thrilled to find out that the R180 package includes the Constantia Valley Wine Bus, something many a girlfriend has recommended.
With the first departure at 10:50 from the Red Bus Tour Offices, conveniently situated in front of The Bay Hotel, I was dressed, ready and en route to Constantia Nek by 11:00.
To join the Constantia Valley Wine Bus, you have to get off at Constantia Nek, after which the much talked about Wine Bus will pick you up, and take you to three legendary wine farms in the Constantia Valley: Beau Constantia, Eagle’s Nest and the infamous Groot Constantia – the oldest wine estate in South Africa.
My girlfriends were right; the Wine Bus definitely did not disappoint.
Shortly after lunch time, I hop off at Groot Constantia – wide eyed and ready to try the wines and a light lunch (the lingering fullness caused by the croissants prohibits me from opting for a large lunch!).
Groot Constantia wines are fabulous. Without sounding too cliche, or like one of the ladies who lunch on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, enjoying an exceptional glass of wine alongside a delicious serving of mussels in Masala lentil cream should be the way we lunch everyday. Life is too short for bad wine and bad lunch dates – that much I’ve learned!
After perusing the beautiful terrain of Groot Constantia, spending way too much money on Sauvignon Blanc and, once again reflecting on my total disregard for diet, I make my way down to the pick up stop to wait for the bus: Beau Constantia here we come!
Beau Constantia, literally meaning ‘beautiful Constantia’ in French, definitely does its name justice. The view, overlooking False Bay is to die for, and I find myself planning my future wedding in my head.
The last departure from Beau Constantia for the Red Bus Tour leaves at 17:24, which gives me enough time to get back to The Bay Hotel and get changed for dinner.
By the recommendation of many Camps Bay locals, I decide to head to Camps Bay Retreat for dinner at their famed Von Kamptz restaurant.
As if Camps Bay and all its glory has not blown me away already, I am in awe of the absolutely gorgeous Camps Bay Retreat.
Camps Bay Retreat is a luxury boutique hotel, comprising of a gorgeous manor house housing four rooms and several other rooms and Villa’s sprawled across the four-acre property.
I get there just as the sun bids farewell behind the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean, and, just as I felt the day before when witnessing the sunset from my room at The Bay Hotel, I gasp; once more astonished at the pure beauty this view and this seaside suburb offers.
The Von Kamptz restaurant at Camps Bay Retreat is named after Fredrick Ernst Von Kamptz, a sailor who frequented the area in the 1700s and ended up marrying Anna Koekemoer – the widow of Johan Wernich, who owned the land that we now know as Camps Bay, and subsequently left the land to his widow after his death. After the marriage of Anna and Von Kamptz, the area became known as “Die Baai van Von Kamptz”, which is where the name Camps Bay came in to play.
I could count myself lucky as I was told that Camps Bay Retreat offers a buffet-style barbecue every Wednesday and Saturday evening, in addition to their a la carte menu. As this was an already amazing Saturday, I decided to (once again) put my diet to bed and opt for the barbecue buffet.
It did not disappoint.
With a selection of salads, warm, baked vegetable dishes and your choice of protein on offer, I could not resist indulging in the buffet.
The protein, either beef fillet or Kinglklip fillet, is cooked to your specification, on an open fire, while you fill your plate with all the lovely side dishes in offer. I decide on the Kingklip, as I am on the brink of the ocean, after all.
My plate is full of hearty vegetable dishes, fresh, organic salad and a perfectly cooked fillet of Kingklip. Paired with a perfect Chenin Blanc – thanks to the recommendation of the highly competent waiter – my meal is one I savour, as I once more reach for my phone to take pictures, much to the dismay of my girlfriends, drooling at the screen as they tell me how jealous they are.
But alas, the evening’s meal is not done. I venture back into the quaint and cosy dining room where a spread of drool-worthy deserts have just been laid. Chocolate mousse, malva pudding and fresh fruit adorn the tables and with a deep breath, I indulge.
After gathering myself – and adjusting my high-waisted skirt – I retreat back to The Bay Hotel, ready to get into some loose fitting clothing and get to bed.
As I drift off into a slumber on my wonderfully fresh Queen-sized bed, I start to reflect on my wonderful stay in Camps Bay. Have I reached Nirvana? Did I find the Crown Jewel of Cape Town? I think so. And I immediately check my calendar to see when I can return to this little piece of heaven.
My final morning in Camps Bay arises with a sense of intense satisfaction and sorrow, as I realise I have to leave this beachfront escape. The hotel staff at The Bay Hotel are friendly and accommodating, and it makes me feel as though I’m saying goodbye to old friends.
As I wait for my Uber to arrive to take me home, I once again gasp at my surroundings: sitting on the deck at The Bay Hotel, sipping on a gin and tonic, and, with the fast, free WiFi the hotel offers, I pull out my laptop and start documenting my time in Camps Bay.
I could write about the amazing view, the fantastic service I experienced at The Bay Hotel and all the other venues I visited in my short stay, or the friendly Camps Bay locals I encountered on my walks on the beach or my quick stops at the local supermarket. Instead, my mind sums up my experience as a whole, and I realize that I have found a home away from home.
To call Camps Bay the Crown Jewel of Cape Town almost seems like an an exaggeration. A typical metaphor that any first-time tourist would use to describe this little piece of heaven the Mother City has to offer. While I try to refrain from making an analogy that would fit firmly in the realm of “cliche traveller reviews”, I realise that anything else would not do this seaside suburb any justice. The views, the atmosphere, the friendly people and the Sunset Strip in all its glory, could easily transport you to a kind of Wonderland; magical, majestic and down right moving.
With my apologies to Mr. Thurber and his original quote, I’d like to say that the beauty Camps Bay has to offer not only asked for my attention, but demanded it – and I’m oh-so glad it did.