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Sand, sea and sun in the winter

Manage the chilly season by taking every gap the weather offers to enjoy the simple pleasures of the Garden Route

The Wildside Beach Restaurant in Buffalo Bay is a new kid on the block that ticks all the boxes. Make the most of the bath that has been converted into seating on the dunes
DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER: The Wildside Beach Restaurant in Buffalo Bay is a new kid on the block that ticks all the boxes. Make the most of the bath that has been converted into seating on the dunes
Image: ELAINE KING

Winter on the Garden Route is actually very cold, the kind of chill that creeps into bones, and unless climate change and Greta have thrown us a curved ball this year, it also rains.

Washing on the line doesn’t dry and the sky turns a depressing grey for days on end.

George number plate CAW is known as “cold and wet” for  good reason. I am  convinced  I get SAD — seasonable affective disorder — in winter here owing to a lack of sun.

But there are ways of managing this and that’s to take every gap the weather offers to top up Vitamin D levels — and keep those hypothalamus and serotonin levels happy.

As the chill of autumn starts to nip, and swimming in even-more icy seawater (it’s never really warm even in summer) isn’t an option any more, there are places, ways and means of still being able to wiggle your toes into beach sand while soaking up every last ray.

A new kid on the block, the Wildside Beach Restaurant in Buffalo Bay, popped up in the last month — and already people are flocking there, especially on weekends and holidays.

It’s on the way to the main beach in Buffs and it’s without  doubt one of the most charming spots on the Garden Route, owing to its simplicity and location.

Wooden tables and benches are plonked in the sand, there are umbrellas for shade, but also fires in winter. Dogs and children are welcome.

The menu is simple and what you would expect here, like their crispy fish and chips which don’t cost an arm and a leg, prawns with a garlic sauce to slosh them in — all perfect beach fare.

Nothing fancy, but what a treat to while away the day here.

If you are lucky, you will score a turn on Wildside Beach Restaurant’s pièce de resistance seating, which is an old-fashioned bath that’s been adapted as a bench — right on the dunes overlooking the sea.

The day I saw the bath-bench, an old couple were sitting close and holding hands and I thought life doesn’t get much better than this.

Sometimes the Wildside Beach Restaurant also has live music.

For a forever sea view, head for the Ski Boat Club in Plettenberg Bay with its unrivalled location right on Plett’s main beach.

Watch the fishing boats come in and out and more often than not dolphins put on a splendid show.

Many locals don’t think of going here, but though you can become a member (and get a proper discount on food), the restaurant is open to everyone.

 They don’t take bookings and ideally you want a table on the deck, but I have never waited too long — and if you get seated inside, you can still see the beach.

While parents enjoy a drink, children can play safely in the sand within earshot.

The fish-and-calamari combo with chips that are golden-crispy outside and fluffy inside is my downfall, but they also do a mean breakfast and the usual suspects like burgers are also on the menu.

In all the years I have been going there, the vegetables they serve, as an option to chips, have been exactly the same. Creamed spinach and pumpkin, proper comfort veggies.

Then there is always the option of heading for the Buffalo Bay main beach’s grassy picnic area with built in-braai spots.

They are limited, so on a sunny day, be it summer or winter, you need to claim your spot before lunchtime.

Spread a blanket on the grass or park off on camp chairs with panoramic views of the sea.

Go for a walk on the sand, fish, make sandcastles with your children, chuck that boerie on the fire but be careful of the seagulls, which are adept at stealing meat right off a braai.

Make sure you invite someone like my friend Sharon, who comes with a picnic basket laden with treats to last the day.

Soak up the warmth and privilege of living on the Garden Route.

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