FOR Gautengers it's a dream come true, but even coastal dwellers rarely get the chance to go sleep to the soothing sounds of the Indian Ocean mere metres from the bedroom – or to wake up totally refreshed to a perfect morning which invites exploration of a stunning little village and the surrounding area.
And that's exactly what you will get at Morgan Bay's lesser known hotel, the Mitford, which changed hands in November and which has one of the most idyllic settings in the Eastern Cape.
Stunning scenery and close proximity to the ocean aside, a further bonus at the Mitford is that all but three of its rooms are self-catering, which means that you have the option of eating in the spacious dining room or in your own room – or possibly having a romantic restaurant dinner for mom and dad after feeding the kids and tucking them in. That's how safe it is in this Wild Coast haven.
Self-catering or not, the menu at the Mitford is simple but affordable – and if you are in the area don't forget to make a booking for Sunday lunch which, at R75, is not to be missed, featuring tastebud tempters such as onion soup, pickled fish, rolled, stuffed chicken, roast beef, veggies and profiteroles for dessert.
For the rest of the time, people like me will be delighted with the six crumbed prawns with chilli sauce on the starter menu for R40. While the portions are ample as a starter they can be extended to make these moreish morsels into a main meal. If that's not your thing, there are homemade burgers served with bacon, mozzarella, onion rings and crispy chips for R55 and a melt-in-your-mouth steak, egg and chips for R65. There are only two simple desserts on offer, but if that's your thing why not keep one in the fridge in your room?
In fact you could keep quite a few desserts as these are self-catering facilities in the true sense of the word, with the spacious and comfortable apartments having far more than the standard bar fridge, microwave, kettle and toaster. At the Mitford the self-catering units range from two- bedroomed units with a large, fully equipped kitchen, to a three- bedroom two-bathroom affair that sleeps seven.
Also featuring three spacious, non-self- catering rooms with a double bed and two singles in an adjoining room, and with most rooms having stunning sea views and balconies from which to enjoy sundowners, the Mitford really is the perfect base from which to explore Morgan Bay which, even in the winter is pleasantly warm in the day if a little nippy at night. And if you are a solitary soul, winter is a good time to go: Over Christmas and also Easter, the population swells from 250 to 5000.
During our two-night stay at the Mitford we were lucky enough to be shown around the area by laugh-a-minute local artist Wayne Blom and the hotel's genial barman Joe van Zyl, who took us to the nearby Kei Mouth to marvel at the rustic ferry which links Kei Mouth with Trennery's, a popular destination for fabulous Saturday night seafood dinners.
We were also taken to the Kei Fig combination coffee shop, tea garden and art market which could easily be overlooked by casual visitors to the area – which is a pity as it is a real treasure trove of art works and collectibles.
Talking of which, from there we stopped at the Morganville Farm where there is an amazing collection of old planes, trains and all things weird and wonderful. Taking pride of place is the Eish airlines Convair 880 which was a gift from the Rolling Stones to apartheid activist Charles Sebe. Never really getting off the ground, the plane later became a restaurant in Bonza Bay before getting pride of place in the Morganville collection. Check for open days if you are in the area.
Back in Morgan Bay we paid a visit to a must-do on any traveller's agenda: we popped in to Yellowwood Forest, a wind-protected camping site run by Shaun and Robyn Rohm. This child's paradise has pet ducks and bunnies, a trampoline and lots of other kiddie fun. And, while the younger generation play to their heart's content, mom and dad can enjoy tea and cake or home- made pizza (we sampled the foccacia which was simply delicious) and a glass of wine.
Rounding off an amazing day, Wayne and Joe took us on a drive to the top of the cliffs (or krantze) where we sipped on chilled sparkling wine and watched the sun go down, while enjoying delicious snacks provided by the Mitford – mini spinach quiches, sliced chicken and stuffing roll, roast beef and an array of cheese with biscuits. These trips can be arranged by the hotel and are well worth experiencing.
While we had a busy but enjoyable day, we didn't get to do any of the amazing walks on offer – keen hikers will love the area for its Wild Coast amble, which starts at Trennery's with an overnight at the Mitford and then on to Haga haga and Chintsa East. We also missed out on another amazing experience: a horseback trail through a nature reserve, an experience which overseas visitors proclaim "unbeatable". There may not be the big five, but there's an abundance of buck, zebra and giraffe.
With so much to see and do, Morgan Bay is a must on any holiday- makers to do list. In the summer there are a stunning beach and lagoon for keen swimmers. In winter there are long walks to restore the soul. It's a little bit of heaven – and with improved roads it's now just over four hours from PE.