I have dreamt of a romantic escape to Santorini since the travel bug bit me a couple of years ago.
But the reality is, I cannot afford it. Flights take up 150% of the budget typically, and then you still need to eat, sleep and explore. So, I've postponed my dreams of sunbathing on a yacht on the Aegean Sea until I have a little more dough to work with.
I was just finished drying my tears of Greek holiday disappointment when a friend invited me to Arniston - we were still in varsity. I had to Google it first, I have to admit. And when I saw it was also called Waenhuiskrans, the place where Madel and Jan-Hendrik from 7de Laan have a holiday home, I didn't expect much.
My meagre expectations were blown out of the water when we arrived: Along the southernmost shore of the African continent, a romantic fisherman's village awaited us, embedded in fynbos and rugged limestone cliffs.
We were admiring the little white and blue houses when an old tannie with a walking ring jaywalked in front of our car and then shouted at us for laying on the brakes so aggressively. Was this the Santorini I had dreamt about?
Arniston may be a million miles from Santorini, but it offers warm water, fresh fish and an escape from the hustle and bustle.
If you're dreaming of a Greek escape, why not settle for an SA-flavoured Greek getaway to Arniston in the meantime?
Here are a few things to get up to...
Where to eat what
Yup, the best meal in Arniston you'll find in your own beach house...If, of course, you buy a fresh fish from the harbour when the fishermen of Kassiesbaai return from a day out on the ocean.
For about 50 bucks you can get a moerse galjoen, able to feed a family of five. Just chuck it on the coals, add some soetpatats (sweet patatoes) , freshly baked bread with butter and grape jam and you're a-for-away.
Have breakfast in the Arniston hotel
While a big breakfast at home is the best, you deserve not having to clean up for at least one day of the breakaway. That's when you head the Arniston Hotel for a scrumptious full English.
Also, if you happen to be in Arniston for a major sporting event and want a few South Africans to share in your spirit, this is the place you'll find all 5 of them.
Ice-cream on the main beach
Warm day. Swimming. Sun-bathing. Ice-cream truck. Enough said.
What to do
Let's be honest. You do not go to Arniston with a packed list of daily things to do. No, you go with an open itinerary that can accommodation getting up after 10:00 and drinking wine from 10:30 in the morning.
At best, you can bargain on exploring one activity per day. Here are some of my favourites (to go with wine, picnics and lazy mornings)...
Explore the secret Waenhuiskrans Cave at low tide
You simply cannot go to Arniston - or Waenhuiskrans - and not see the cave. Why? Because this is the actual place to which the town owes its name.
Legend has it that the cave was once large enough for a wagon and a full span of oxen to turn around inside. Hence, Waenhuiskrans or Oxwagon Cave if you're being literal.
You can either enter the cave at low tide from the beach's side, or through the small hole at the top of the cave. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding seas, and the odd freak-wave to create a bit of hysterical laughter...
The cave is situated on the main beach, a short stroll outside of the actual village. You can spot the entrance towards the end of the parking area.
Hike up a dune for sunset, or to watch the sunrise
I haven't been able to make a sunrise from the top of the dune, simply because I like to sleep late. But I hear it's quite something to see.
If you prefer sunsets to sunrises, head up the big old dune with a few cold ones just as the day starts to melt. It's essential you go with good company, and race to the top. This will make the beer taste even more rewarding...
The Overberg's waters are, like a lot of the Atlantic Ocean beaches, ice cold. In Arniston, however, the Indian Ocean currents definitely play a role - because the water there is lovely and refreshing, even warm by some standards.
This makes swimming lovely, especially in the hot summer months.
The main beach is a little outside the town, but worth a short stroll if you'd like to have a good swim and beach area.
My favourite place to swim, however, is at the harbour entrance right in town, or on the small beach in front of the hotel. This is not where you'd park out for a day at the beach, but rather a spot to dive in and out before lighting the fire for the braai and taking a shower.
The shoreline of Arniston makes for some pretty incredible fishing spots - and even if you don't catch anything on the day, the beautiful scenery makes the outing worth while.
Explore the surrounds
If you've seen and done everything there is to see in Arniston, here are some day trips to enjoy...
De Hoop Nature Reserve
The Overberg is world-renowned for its land-based whale watching opportunities, which explains why popular spots can get very crowded during the peak whale season.
De Hoop offers an exclusive refuge from such crowds. SEE: Peace and calm at De Hoop
The Koppie Alleen beach front where the protected marine rock pools are situated is open to sleep-over guests, as well as day visitors in the area.
Also, both day visitors and sleep-over guests can book activities with the guides on the reserve.
Agulhas - the southern tip of Africa
If you're in the area, you might as well check out the southernmost tip of the African continent, as well as the southernmost lighthouse on the African continent.
When traveller Wallace du Plessis headed there a while ago, he described the road to l’Aghulas to be a splash of colour. "The pallet seems quite subdued. But wait for it. When least expected, a squall of rich pigment assaults the senses. The detail steals the show...
"The air is filled with pungent aromas. This valley is fynbos, that one canola and finally the unforgettable flavours of the beach at the southernmost point of Africa. You can taste it," he writes.
Read more about Wallace's Agulhas experience here: Heading South - Dawdle, explore, breathe
Where to stay
The Arniston Spa Hotel - book your stay here
An obvious choice, really. But for good reason. This is the only place to book in if you're after a pampered weekend away in SA's own little Santorini...
The best part is that it's only a minute's walk from the beach. And despite sitting dead and centre in the middle of town, it offers panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and features full spa facilities, a swimming pool and a restaurant.
16 On Main - book your stay here
This 6 bedroom house is also situated only 1km from the beach. It has everything you'd need for a self-catering breakaway, including a private garden and braai facilities (without which you cannot do a proper escape to Arniston).
This property is also rated for the best value in Waenhuiskrans by Bookings.com, so you're guaranteed value for money when you check in.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Peace and calm at De Hoop
- Whale Trail hiking: The long and short of bluebottle sting remedies
- Heading South - Dawdle, explore, breathe