With fun festivals and activities galore, it’s a hot out-of-season spot, writes Angela Daniels
PLETTENBERG Bay is not usually the first place people think of when planning a winter getaway – but it should be. Blessed with natural beauty and unspoilt beaches, the Garden Route destination is an obvious summer paradise and now, tourism officials in the small town have gone all out to ensure out-of-season visitors have a variety of activities at their fingertips.
From a National Arts Festival fringe festival, to the Mad Festival that incorporates theatre and music, plus a food film festival, the area is teeming with cultural treats.
It’s a really clever way to attract visitors to a place usually associated with sea, sun, hiking and dining on decks overlooking the ocean.
What’s also great is that the weather during winter, while cold, is still temperate enough to allow for hiking or well-wrapped-up walks on the beach.
The area is fast establishing a reputation as an outdoor, adventure playground and cooler temperatures should not stop visitors from enjoying a hike along the Otter Trail or a visit to one of the many animal sanctuaries in the area.
Throw in the burgeoning wine industry on the outskirts of town – where food and wine pairings, tours of the vineyards and cosy tasting rooms are available – and you have a recipe for success.
Wine makers in the region are constantly upping their game, adding new must-do activities to the mix.
The latest vineyard adding tourism to the mix is Rare Earth Vineyards, which is busy finishing off its new tasting room and wedding venue.
Last week, Rare Earth’s Lauren Richie said the new tasting room was about six weeks away from opening, when chocolates and truffles will be served with the estate’s delectable wines.
It’s a great new addition as other farms in the area are already offering food options, with Bramon boasting a full restaurant and Newstead providing artisanal foods.
Located in the Crags, just outside Plettenberg Bay, Rare Earth already offers five-star accommodation, so the new tasting room on the estate, which is also home to a working polo farm, is something to look forward to.
But, back to the clever winter marketing Plett Tourism has embarked upon.
Last weekend, the tourism authority hosted the town’s second Food Film Festival, which is expected to become an annual highlight. Slick, sophisticated and loads of fun is the only way to describe the three-day event, which saw chef’s such as Reza Mahhamad and Karen Dudley inspire amateur cooks to learn more and experiment with new flavours.
Cooking demonstrations, food and wine pairings and food-related films made the festival one which foodies cannot afford to miss.
While we missed the opening night, which saw film Big Night aired, Cape Town-based chef Dudley giving a presentation and a delicious three-course meal served, we heard all about it as guests were still raving about it the next day.
The second evening’s food and wine pairing was great fun, with local wines paired with food created by chefs from a variety of restaurants located in town.
Some of the pairings were fabulous and some slightly missed the mark but the mini wine festival vibe and the setting – Plett’s beautiful White House, which has a courtyard that lends itself perfectly to an event of this sort – made up for any faux pas made on the pairing front.
This was followed by documentary A Year in Burgundy, which explores the history of the vineyards of Burgundy.
Without a doubt, night three was the one which received the highest praise. It’s little wonder that it did. Hosted by British chef and TV host Reza Mahhamad, the cooking demonstration was enlightening and had the audience laughing.
The film The Lunchbox was heartwarming and the Indian feast served, simply sumptuous.
The Food Film Festival formed part of the MAD music art and drama festival, which saw the likes of Elvis Blue and local musicians Ben Bad and Minx perform.
The Plett Fringe Festival brought some of the performers from the National Arts Festival to Plett on their way to Grahamstown.
As Plett Tourism officials continue to innovate and think up fun new ways to attract visitors to the town throughout the year, I have little doubt that in time, Plettenberg Bay will be viewed as an allyear-round must.