Luxury at Royal St Andrew’s

Growing up, Port Alfred was never a destination holiday. We always passed the sleepy seaside town en route to family holidays in the Wild Coast or Durban. So, when an opportunity came to spend a weekend in Port Alfred, a mere 152km from Port Elizabeth, I jumped at the chance to explore this town with husband, Nick, and our toddler Levi in tow. We arrived on Friday afternoon at the Royal St Andrew’s Hotel; this luxurious five-star hotel which is part of the Mantis Group was to be our accommodation for the weekend. The cheery yellow cupboard in the reception area caught my eye as we checked in and I immediately loved the decor. It is classy with some contemporary pieces adding splashes of colour. Our bedroom had the same theme, with a king-sized bed and camper cot for Levi. After we settled in, we were feeling peckish so the tray of dried wors, fruit and melba toast was a welcome sight. I could get used to this royal treatment. That evening we enjoyed a meal with the hotel manager, Mr Benson, at the Highlander pub which is right next door to the hotel. “Mr B”, as he is known, told us stories about the area and the hotel while we tucked into the pub’s famous chips that should come with a warning (have a glass of water nearby). I was impressed with the pub’s extensive menu as it was not your typical pub fare, with gourmet dishes and an array of curries, chicken dishes and steaks. I had the steak for dinner while my husband enjoyed their surf ’n’ turf. The bustling pub was packed with patrons enjoying the food and the local craft beer. The next morning we had an early wake-up call (Levi was our wake-up call) to watch the sunrise at the Blue flag beach, Kelly’s Beach. It was a brisk morning but the sunrise was spectacular. As the waves crashed against the rocks, I was reminded yet again what a beautiful country we live in. After a breakfast of champions at the Paper Nautilus Deli in the hotel, we did some exploring in the town. Port Alfred is best explored by foot so you can meet interesting people and discover the quaint shops and tea rooms in every nook and cranny. A walk along the Kowie River is also a must, especially after a delicious seafood experience at Ocean Basket which sits right on the river bank. After a long, lazy lunch we went to the Port Alfred Marina for a cruise up the Kowie River. We first went up the canals taking in the beautiful surrounds. But then our boat stopped. We were going nowhere slowly as our captain reached for the paddle to get us to the nearest available jetty. We were stranded in the middle of the canal. At first we thought it was a joke. The captain never said a word to us. He just got on the cellphone and called for help as we overheard he had run out of petrol. A few minutes later we were attached to a jetty waiting for someone to bring us petrol so we could finish our cruise. The captain had still not mentioned a word to us. Only 20 minutes later when a rasta, paddling a canoe while trying to balance a can of petrol came towards us, did the captain apologise. It was hysterical really. I had not laughed so hard in ages and will remember this moment forever. The wait was well worth it, as we watched the sun dip over the iconic Kowie River bridge. The big event of the weekend was The Thistle Restaurant’s degustation evening at the hotel. The restaurant doesn’t allow under 12s in, so “Mr B” organised a babysitter for Levi so we could enjoy our evening. It was the personal touches that I loved about this hotel. We all had to dress up in our Sunday best and enjoy an evening of fine food – and great company. The food was amazing and so fancy . . . I felt like royalty. The weekend had come to an end too quickly as we woke up early Sunday to head back home. We made wonderful memories with our little family and it will definitely be a holiday destination in the near future. The hotel also offers free wi-fi, free parking, an outdoor pool and a laundry service. For more information contact (046) 624-4703 or e-mail