Rejuvenate Yourself in Arniston

Arniston in the Western Cape.

You could return with more than you bargained for after a relaxing weekend in Arniston. Carrie Hampton liked it so much she almost bought a cottage there.

Arniston is one of those special little places that make you want to buy a cottage there. It is full of nothing much; no post office, no petrol station, no shops, no through traffic and dare I say, no crime! Well there may be a little opportunistic pinching of bicycles, but if the culprit is from the local community, he is soon caught.

If Arniston has a centre, I did not find it, so for me it became the Arniston Hotel. The hotel is not imposing in the architectural sense, but as it is probably the largest building in the village, it presence is felt. Its full width faces east, directly towards the sea. From this saturated horizon the sun emerges each morning, dripping golden rays onto the water.

I do not usually get up for sunrise, but when all I had to do was open one eye from my large comfortable hotel bed and look seawards, the minimal effort was well worth it. The Arniston has thirty rooms including six luxury suites, all of which sport delightful fresh springtime decor.

To attract more visitors over the winter months, a number of innovative weekend breaks are on offer. Foodies who enjoy high spice would like the Thai Cuisine weekend with a masterclass by a Thai chef and much feasting.

Nature lovers are guided around De Hoop Nature Reserve for superb whale watching, bird spotting and Fynbos appreciation weekends. For the educated palate or plain wino, a sniff, gargle and forget about the spit, Wine and Dine tasting weekend, might be just the answer.

Terrible Shipwreck

I found plenty of things to do which included reading up about the history of the area and the tragedy of the HMS Arniston transport shipwrecked in 1815. Three hundred and seventy two people drowned and the skeletal ribs of the ship can sometimes be seen pushing through the white sand on the endless northern beach.

Permits are required to take your 4X4 onto the perfect dunes behind this beach, and their Arabian quality is very enticing.

Arniston is officially called Waenhuiskrans ('wagon house cliff'), named after its magnificent secret tidal cavern, which is large enough to fit several ox and wagon teams inside. Although signs guide the way down to the rocky shore, the dark little hole in the rock to gain entrance, is easily missed.

Penetrating this darkened little world is like stepping into a mariners tale in the telling. Human silhouettes move like ghosts in the light of the cave entrance where bubbling water rushes in.

Entire Fishing Village Is National Monument

The most delightful and enlightening experience afforded to visitors to Arniston, is the short stroll over to neighbouring Kassiesbaai. This is the original 200-year-old fishing village, which has an enviable community spirit stemming from hard work and strong family ties.

You have to be born into the village to be able to live here and a local guide will walk you through the sandy streets, greeting people and offering you a peek inside one of the little thatched and whitewashed homes. So unique is this picturesque little village with its coloured fishing boats boasting loved ones names, that it has been declared a National Monument in its entirety.

Apparently a renowned international novelist stays at the Arniston Hotel each year for several weeks, in order to find inspiration for his next novel. If you feel in need of inspiration, rejuvenation or some good old fashioned family togetherness, it only takes 2 hours from Cape Town to find it.

The author of this article is Carrie Hampton

Copyright 2002 Carrie Hampton. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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