At the end of 2018 Luke and I went on a 3 week long backpacking and camping trip along the East Coast of South Africa. We enjoyed swimming in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, hiked through forests, took a bath on the edge of cliff, wandered through rural towns characterised by rolling hills and rondavel huts, enjoyed the sunshine on some beautiful beaches and learnt more about the Xhosa culture. We visited Nature’s Valley, Yellow Sands, Coffee Bay, Hogsback and Cape St Francis. To read all about that trip head over to my Cape Town to Coffee Bay Roadtrip blog post.
We loved that trip so much that we decided to revisit some of those spots for New Year. We drove up to Cape St Francis and spent a lovely New Year there relaxing at the beach, spending time with friends and dancing in the New Year. We stayed at Seals Backpackers Lodge which is the most affordable and divine accommodation in Cape St Francis. I cannot recommend it enough!
We then drove back down, stopping at Wild Spirit Backpackers in Nature’s Valley for a few nights. We loved being back in this fairy forest and enjoyed evenings listening to local musicians around the campfire, mornings stretching out doing yoga and afternoons lolling about on our floaties on the Nature’s Valley lagoon.
We loved these spots so much, but I’ve already written all about them in my previous road trip post and so they aren’t the focus of this post. The focus of this post is a little gem nestled between our two destinations. It’s a spot that has been on my radar for a while now and I was so excited to finally visit it.
Storm’s River Mouth, Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park is located just where the Western Cape becomes the Eastern Cape near the Bloukrans Bridge. You’ll need to drive along the Tsitsikamma Toll section of the N2 to get here so make sure you factor in the toll price when planning your budget (R55.50 per vehicle). To get to Storm’s River Mouth you’ll take the Storm’s River Mouth, Tsitsikamma National park turn off and drive a short distance to get to the National Park gate. Once you’ve entered the gate you’ll drive down towards the sea following the Storm’s River Mouth signs. When you start seeing the camp sites and chalets drive on a little further to the day visitor parking.
Entrance will cost R62 per adult and R31 per child for South African citizens and residents. Entrance is free for valid wild card holders.
Where to stay?
What to do?
Go for a hike along the Storm’s River Mouth Trail
This hiking trail starts just after the main beach at Storm’s River Mouth. Once you’ve crossed the beach you’ll arrive at the sign for the trail. Keep left up a fairly steep set of stairs and you’ll be on the right track for the Storm’s River Mouth Hiking Trail. The hike is about 2km long and involves some steep climbs and hair-raising downhill sections. It will take between 1-2 hours to go there and back depending on your fitness and is accessible to anyone with normal walking fitness.
The trail follows a boardwalk nestled deep in the Tsitsikamma forest. It’s a beautiful shady and lush walk, with the path lined by bright green trees and dangling mosses.
Every now and then you’ll be treated to a break in the foliage for a breath taking view of the gorgeous coastline. Dolphins and whales can be spotted frolicking through the surf as you look out at the turquoise blue ocean.
The walk takes you slightly up the river mouth giving you a glimpse of the vastness of the Storm’s River Gorge. Sheer cliffs covered in green foliage and mosses plunging steeply into the Storm’s River. The final destination is the three suspension bridges at the Storm’s River Mouth.
Storm’s River Mouth Suspension Bridges
There are three suspension bridges at the turn around point of the Storm’s River Mouth Trail. The longest one is 77m and spans the whole river mouth. You’ll be able to admire the transition from sea water to river as the deep blue water gradually turns to browny green. If you enjoy a little swaying sensation then you’ll love the walk across. However, if you’re like me and have the reality of motion sickness to deal with, then maybe just go halfway, enjoy the view and turn around. It can also get pretty crowded in high tourist season which will further amplify the swaying.
If you’d like to continue across the whole suspension bridge you’ll reach a pebbled beach. From here it looks like there’s a steep trail up a peak to a viewing spot. We didn’t end up crossing to the other side but this is an option if you’d like more of a strenuous hike.
Coming back along the main suspension bridge you’ll be able to cross another two bridges which then loop back to the Storm’s River Mouth boardwalk trail. These are much shorter bridges and don’t sway as much. They provide a wonderful viewing point of the ocean. After enjoying the suspension bridges and gorgeous views of the Storm’s River Mouth you can come back along the boardwalk finishing the hiking trail.
Go on a kayaking trip with Untouched Adventures
Untouched Adventures does guided kayaking adventures up the Storm’s River Mouth. You’ll kayak upriver from the ocean or the Tsitsikamma Forest (conditions depending), into a dramatic cave full of bats, and between towering cliffs. At low water, hop on a “lilo” inflatable mattress to explore further upriver, with ample opportunities for cliff-jumping en route. Finally, float and kayak back towards the sea.
Have a swim at one of the bays
On your way back along the boardwalk choose your favourite secluded bay and pop down for a swim. We walked back and went down to the bay just before the main beach (on the suspension bridge side). The main beach gets quite crowded and so finding a quieter spot is advisable. This bay had a lovely little beach, crystal clear blue waters and a little rock jumping spot.
We parked off here for a few hours enjoying the warm sun, eating our picnic lunch and delighting in the lovely swimming water. The water was so clear and our only regret was that we’d decided to leave our masks and snorkels in the car. While there didn’t appear to be too much in the way of marine life where we were swimming it would have been lovely to open our eyes and enjoy the crystal clear underwater view. However, there were a few rocky reefs that probably held a wide diversity of marine life had we been able to have a proper look. Next time! Luke enjoyed jumping off the rocks into the ocean.
Once you’ve had enough sunshine and sea you can head back out the Park. We did this as a half day trip on our way from Cape St Francis to Nature’s Valley. So we can definitely recommend it as a break in your journey between two places. If you’d prefer to spend some more time enjoying this beautiful spot in nature then book your stay at the Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp. You’ll be able to explore a few different bays and enjoy some more of the incredible hiking trails the Tsitsikamma National Park has to offer. Alternatively you can do it as a day trip during your stay in Nature’s Valley.
Storm’s River Mouth had been high on my South African bucket list for a while and I was so grateful for the beautiful day and special time spent in the Tsitsikamma National park.