THINK Tsitsikamma and you think of dramatic mountains and lush forest, of walks and hikes through spectacular scenery. There's the Big Tree, canopy forest tours and Storm's River Village.
But there is another side to Tsitsikamma which simply has to be one of the Eastern Cape's best-kept secrets – the stunning Eersterivier area which is home to the world's largest commercial protea growing farm and also the intriguing little village of Clarkson.
To explore these lesser-known attractions – and others along the less travelled R102 – we booked into one of the stunning self-catering log cabins which dot the coastline at Eersterivier for a weekend which turned out to be the ultimate in rest and relaxation.
Our base was the deceptive- looking Gone Fishing, one of the 16 holiday homes on the books of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation. Deceptive, that is, that from the outside it looked like a cosy two-bedroomed affair.
But in fact our "cabin" had a spacious lounge, dining room, fully equipped kitchen with everything you could possibly need for a week-long stay, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, one of which featured a useful washing machine and tumble drier.
Further exploration unveiled a downstairs suite with two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchenette area and bathroom. In total this beach house would easily accommodate 12 people.
Back upstairs there's a large deck which is perfect for sipping sundowners – although on the cloudy, stormy night that we arrived that was the last thing on our minds, so instead we curled up in the comfortable lounge, snuggled into the thoughtfully provided extra blankets and watched movies on the TV which is also provided. If you can't live without DStv, bring your own decoder and smart card, although when you have such a perfect setting maybe it's time to put down the remote and get out the family games.
The next day was sunny and, despite the fact that it was decidedly chilly outside, the large windows ensured that Gone Fishing was just toasty inside. However, exploration beckoned, so jackets were put on as well as thermal gloves – yes it can get that cold there – and we headed down to the nearby beach which would be great for family picnics and the odd bit of fishing: Eersterivier is an angler's paradise. Later we took a longer walk to the beach at Eersterivier itself which is accessed through a gated community – keys to the gate are provided for those, like us, staying outside the enclave.
Although there is a fairly steep climb through the rambling village, again this is a beach well-worth visiting for both sun-worshippers and – in better weather – serious anglers.
After the refreshing walk, it was quite tempting to simply sit back and enjoy the unequalled rest and relaxation that this little haven offers, but instead we decided instead to take a drive down the scenic R102, stopping just before the bridge which spans the Elands River, and taking a walk down to the waterfall which feeds a large rock pool which is a perfect spot for summer swimming.
If you are planning to visit, be warned: You can blink and miss the parking area, and the steps down to the pool are a bit steep, and not for those of us who are vertigo- challenged.
Wrapping up the day, we popped in at the wolf sanctuary adjacent to the Elands River, which has been around for 12 years and which bears silent testimony to man's stupidity.
All the animals housed at the sanctuary were former "pets", often wolves crossed with German shepherds, which were rescued after their owners realised that you could not take the wild animal out of a wolf.
Finally, it was time to return to Gone Fishing to watch the most perfect sunset and enjoy our last few moments alone with nature. What could be better, at the end of a day of exploration, than to curl up in the queen-sized bed, with hot water bottles and blankets, listening to the sound of the ocean just metres away? It's the ultimate in escapes from the hectic rat race that life has become.