Once home to an order of monks, boutique hotel The Old Rectory now offers sanctuary of another sort with its stylish suites, shady gardens and easy access to the best beaches in Plettenberg Bay. Built in 1777 by the Dutch East India Company, the original building has been kept true to its roots with a thatched roof, stone walls and beamed ceilings, which provide a historical topping to the otherwise modern design. By day, lounge on the tree-ringed sundeck, go whale-watching or wander through Unesco-protected coastline at the nearby Robberg Nature Reserve; come evening, settle on the terrace to dine on the catch of the day and sample wines from the hotel’s own estate.
11am. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Earlier check-ins are possible subject to availability.
Double rooms from £167.76 (ZAR3,500), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates usually include a Continental or Full English breakfast and free return transfers from Plettenberg Bay Airport.
The main building is the oldest in Plettenberg Bay, originally built to house Dutch East India Company troops before it was bought by the Anglican Church in the 1800s.
At the hotel
Garden with decked area; access to the beach; spa with hammam and treatment rooms; free WiFi throughout; laundry. In rooms: flatscreen TV; minibar; Nespresso coffee machine; tea-making kit; free bottled water; underfloor heating; Moya toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The Pool View and Garden View suites are similar in size and style, but the latter just edge it with their private gardens.
The saltwater pool is at the center of the garden, surrounded by decking and shade-giving trees. Sunloungers with parasols are dotted around the outside, and the alfresco dining area is just meters away, making it easy to keep an eye on young Smiths as they swim.
The Sanctuary Spa is in a historic, thatch-roofed building. The interiors are mostly white, and decorated with a smattering of tropical greenery; candles and vases of freshly cut flowers set the mood. There’s a hammam and three treatment rooms, all of them large enough to accomodate Mr and Mrs Smith at the same time. The menu includes various massages; skincare treatments including facials, manicures and pedicures; and couple-specific options like the intriguingly named ‘Moonlight Treatment’.
Elegant beachwear during the day; crisp white shirts and light dresses after dark.
All of the common areas are wheelchair accessible. The hotel also has two accessible rooms with larger bathrooms.
All ages are welcome at the hotel. There are no extra beds at the hotel, but cots (free, suitable for children two and under) can be added to rooms on request. Babysitting is available for ZAR200 an hour; a day’s notice is needed when booking.
If it’s warm outside, you can’t beat one of the tables on the terrace (most are undercover, saving you from the midday sun).
There was a time when you had to wear a habit here, but these days you can bear arms and legs to your heart’s content.
Tipping its hat to the past, restaurant 1777 has a high beamed ceiling, stone walls, a timber floor and wrought-iron chandeliers. The menu is also rooted in the history of the Western Cape, showing influence from African, French, Dutch and British cuisine, reflecting the diverse group that made Plettenberg Bay their home. Fittingly for a restaurant that’s a stone’s throw from the ocean, there’s plenty of line-caught fish – try the grilled swordfish with butternut risotto and lemon foam – and flavoursome seafood dishes like the smoky mussels, which are served with paprika and a crispy chorizo cream sauce. Although the menu changes to reflect the seasons and the fresh organic produce they bring, there are a few favourites that appear on a more perennial basis.
Like the restaurant, Nibbles Bar has one foot in the past, showcasing original beams, exposed stonework and recessed windows – but the copper pipe shelving and exposed bulbs ensure the other is planted firmly in the present. Take your pick from the stools in front of the bar or sink into the leather chesterfield, which lends a vintage touch to the look. Alongside a selection of craft gins, single malt whiskies and cocktails, there’s also a fine wine list, including bottles from the hotel’s own winery in The Crags. A range of enticing bar snacks are available all day, including nuts, biltong and vegetable crisps.
Breakfast is served from 7am-10.30am, lunch from 12.30pm to 3pm and dinner from 6.30pm to 10pm. Drinks flow from noon to 11pm in the bar.
The full restaurant menu is available from noon until 9pm.
The Old Rectory sits just back from beach in Plettenberg Bay, a charming coastal town on South Africa’s famed Garden Route.
The closest airport is Plettenberg Bay, which can be reached direct from Cape Town or OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. It’s a 20-minute drive from Plettenberg Bay Airport to the hotel. Another option is to fly into George Airport, then drive along the scenic coastal route, which takes around 90 minutes. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
If you’re driving the Garden Route, then it’s a simple case of following the N2, a vast highway which stretches from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and beyond, passing Plettenberg Bay on the way.
Worth getting out of bed for
The expansive beaches, nature reserves and small-town charm make Plettenberg Bay a restorative sort of place – and the hotel is very much in tune with its surroundings, lending itself to sunrise strolls along the beach, lazy days by the pool and leisurely dinners featuring plenty of Western Cape wine. But thou shalt be tempted to broach the walls of your sanctuary, because Plettenberg Bay is surrounded by some of the Garden Route’s most beautiful and wildlife-rich landscape. 8 kilometres south of the town is the Robberg Nature Reserve, a Unesco-protected peninsula covered with prehistoric rock formations and Stone Age artifacts. It’s criss-crossed by trails of varying length and difficulty, but if you’d rather take it easy, it makes for a memorable picnic spot too. You could also visit the Birds of Eden sanctuary, a tract of indigenous forest covered by the world’s largest net dome, or take to the waves for a spot of whale and dolphin watching – enormous humpback and southern right whales are regular visitors to the Cape, along with bottlenose dolphins, seals and penguins. Devotees of the grape will reslish a tour at the Kay and Monty Vineyards, a boutique winery in The Crags.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens that are lit up at night, Zinzi(which means abundance in Swahili) has brought together a team of chefs from a variety of culinary backgrounds, who’ve created a menu that’s vibrant, creative and accessible all at once. Aim for a one of the tables on the terrace or lawn, which make for particularly atmospheric dinners. Occupying a classic Cape barn house, Nguni is more anchored in its cuisine, serving distinctly South African dishes with a dash of contemporary flair. Mingling fine antiques with rustic, stripped wood furniture, Emily’s pairs the quality of fine-dining cuisine with a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere. The emphasis is on elevated home-style cooking, with much of the produce coming from the restaurant’s organic garden or trusted local suppliers.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Plettenberg Bay and unpacked their case of Cape wines, a full account of their coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Old Rectory in Plettenberg Bay…
A place that’s still little known outside South Africa, Plettenberg Bay is where city-weary Cape Towners go when in need of a break. And if it’s a little respite that you seek, there’s nowhere you’re more likely to find deliverance than the Old Rectory, a place that’s been devoted to the quiet life for well over a hundred years. The former home of English monks (and Dutch colonial troops before that), this historical property is laid out like a miniature hamlet, with the restaurant, bar and lounge occupying the original building, and the 18 suites arranged in charming house-style blocks along each side. The layout means you get a feel for the history as you drink and dine, and all the comfort of contemporary design when you return to your room, where bursts of lime green and sea-blue bring the colours of the Garden Route inside.