Stilbaai does not make it to the list of places that people flock to visit in the Western Cape in South Africa – I wonder why? The sleepy town is a hidden gem. I am in two minds to write more about it lest it’s pristine beauty gets marred. I guess I shouldn’t be selfish and share a little something about Stilbaai …at least for those who are looking to slow down a little! For starters, I loved the place so much that since the day we left the town, I have been telling Ankur that when I retire, I want us to have a cute little cottage on the seaside in Stilbaai.
The easiest way to get to Stilbaai is to have your own wheels. The town is approximately 350 km from Cape Town and 175 km from Oudtshoorn. It serves as the perfect pit stop to break your journey if you are driving from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn or even further to George or Knysna. While there is a bus from Cape Town and one from Oudtshoorn as well – the frequency is only once a day. We would recommend including Stilbaai in your itinerary only if you have rented a car.
Where to stay?
Like a lot of small towns in South Africa, the only option to stay in Stilbaai is to get a room in one of the many bed and breakfasts or guesthouses. Our choice was Buttercup Guesthouse. Place was even cuter than the name!
Buttercup Guesthouse is run by Eveleen and her husband. The three dogs at Buttercup added all the energy that the place needed! From the minute we arrived, we were made to feel welcome. It felt like Eveleen was our aunt, whom we were meeting after a very long time. She had never hosted any Indian guests till then and was keen to know how and why we plotted Stilbaai on our road trip map – joys of staying with the locals.
Our room at Buttercup was spic and span. Eveleen even had a picnic basket in the room and an awesome sunhat that I used during our stay. The best part about the place is the location – sea facing, with a balcony that lets you watch the waves as the evening sets in…. add to it the candles that are set up on the table – total bliss! You need to walk for 5 minutes to get to the sand and the surf. Highly recommend the place to anyone who is planning a trip to Stilbaai.
What to do?
It’s a sleepy town. We would like to retire and move here. Obviously, there is no nightlife. If partying is on your cards, sorry, you will be disappointed. However, if scenic beauty, good wine and food is what you want, you have hit a jackpot! Here is a snapshot of what we did during the two easy days that we spent at Stilbaai.
Picnic at the beach
Blue waters and the Sun make a perfect day for a picnic. The main beach at Stilbaai is clean and relatively less crowded. You will get your own little spot to toast yourself in the Sun. When we were there in December, it was fairly windy – great for kite surfing and surfing. The beach is also a good stop for whale watching from June to November.
Feeding the eels
Does that sound creepy to you? Maybe it is…but it is also exciting in a weird kind of way. I had never seen eels that close. Any and every fish with teeth is scary to some extent. The eel falls in this category. There is pond at the De Jager farmstead where the Stilbaai Tourism bureau is accommodated. The pond is fed by a natural fountain, in which indigenous fresh-water eels have been living over generations. I could not get myself to feed the eels raw pieces of chicken, but the enthusiasm that eight year olds around me had was quite contagious! Suggest that you check for the time; it was 1100 hrs when we went.
Running through an olive farm
There are no olive farms in India. In fact, there are no olive farms through South East Asia (not that I know of any). South Africa was the first country outside the South East Asian region that I had stepped into. Running through the olive trees, like a Bollywood heroine (yeah, I know, it’s cheesey…but who says cheesey isn’t fun?), was a lot of fun! This was at the Olyven Houdt olive farm just outside Stilbaai.
The staff was happy to take us through the process in which olive oil is make and show us the press as well. The have a cafe/restaurant called The Press Room Cafe. We would highly recommend this place for coffee, crepes and cheesecake. It was the best cheesecake that I have ever had; I have not had a cheesecake which is so delicious as the dessert that we tasted there.
Shopping for knick knacks at Matchbox
Eveleen had recommended that we visit Matchbox to browse through the knick knacks that they have in store and have a cup of coffee. Glad we listened to her! Matchbox is like a little world in fairy tale land….it has a little bit of everything!
The place had some great souvenirs – trinket boxes, dolls, napkin holders, home made chocolate with orange peel….and a host of stuff that I can’t even remember. We skipped the coffee as we were in a rush, but the coffee place looked very inviting – great for a mid morning cuppa in the Sun!
I have only one tip for anyone who intends to visit Stilbaai… slow down… breathe easy… stop running… chill… laze around… enjoy the sea and the Sun!
As always…send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!