One Plettenberg Bay’s two closest neighbours in the beautiful Tsitsikamma region, stretching from Nature’s Valley in the west to Eersterivier in the east and, honestly, is one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. Indigenous rain forest covers this coastal belt from the Tsitsikamma Mountains to the seashore and its not uncommon to see arum lilies clinging to the coastal cliffs misted with sea spray.
Hugging this wild coastline is one of the most famous trails in the world: the Otter Trail. Known as the Grail of Trail, October welcomes trail runners from across the globe to test their stamina and determination on the Otter African Trail Run. Both the hiking trail and run traverse the Tsitsikamma coast from Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley: 45km of the most breathtaking scenery you could imagine.
At Cornerway House, we’re avid walkers and always enjoy a hike through the forest or along the coastline and have put together some of our favourite shorter walks for those who don’t have time or the inclination to tackle the entire trail. You can enter the trail either at Storms River or Nature’s Valley or choose one of the other hikes at either of these locations.
NATURE’S VALLEY POINT WALK
The view below is from the final point of the Otter Trail. After five days of trekking and maybe 43km, the sight of the lagoon and the hamlet of Nature’s Valley must seem like heaven. Although, doesn’t it look like heaven anyway? The hike from the beach up to the point is short, but steep and you’ll feel a fraction of that sense of achievement when you reach it! It’s only about 2km each way from the parking lot, but almost all uphill. There’s a gully that you’ll pass which often has spotted gully sharks swimming and, when you reach the point, cast your eyes out to see for the chance of spotting a whale or pod of dolphins. TIPS: Take water, sunscreen and a hat, wear good shoes and watch your step.
STORMS RIVER SUSPENSION BRIDGE WALK
Possibly one of the most photographed bridges in South Africa, the Storms River Suspension Bridge arches across the mouth of the Storms River in the Tsitsikamma National Park. The walk starts next to the restaurant at Sandy Bay, which is excellent for snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving, and meanders along a boardwalk through indigenous forest to the mouth. Listen for the roar of the pebbles tumbling in the waves and look out for those arum lilies clinging to the cliffs. At the mouth, you can cross the largest suspension bridge (one of three at the mouth) and visit the Storms River Mouth Cave (a Khoisan Heritage Site). If you’re looking for more top-of-the-world views, the trail continues along a steep climb up to a lookout point. This is Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Area, so take some time to enjoy the views above and below the water! TIPS: If you don’t have a Wild Card, you’ll need to pay to enter the national park (updated fees). Take water, sunscreen and a hat, there’s a restaurant and shop onsite or pack a picnic and make a magical day of it.
NATURE’S VALLEY SALT RIVER
If you’ve ever longed for a slice of deserted island, then the Salt River hike is right up your alley. Just look at the magnificent view below…paradise! There are a few ways to do this hike, but we’d recommend a circular route so you can start and finish at your car 😉 The hike then starts at Nature’s Valley and meanders along the coast and up into the forest while offering tempting glimpses of the blue river and ocean beyond. When you reach the mouth of the Salt River, kick off those shoes and cool off in the lagoon! TIPS: Plan your hike with the time and tides, as the coastal section may be tricky at high tide and you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to get back during daylight. Pack a picnic if you feel like carrying the extra weight and definitely wear good shoes, pack water, sunscreen and a hat.
STORMS RIVER WATERFALL HIKE
If you’re looking for an authentic (if limited) Otter Trail experience, the Waterfall Hike is the one for you. This gorgeous hike to the most incredible waterfall and pool is the first 3km of the Otter Trail, taking in breathtaking views. It’s a relatively easy hike, but leave yourself enough daylight to hike the other 3km back to the mouth. TIPS: If you don’t have a Wild Card, you’ll need to pay to enter the national park (updated fees). Take water, sunscreen and a hat, there’s a restaurant and shop onsite or pack a picnic and make a magical day of it.