Arniston Spa Hotel: Bliss on the beachfront

Arniston is a place where one can drop your defences for a day or two; where the cutting edges of city slickers slip away on the outgoing tide with the local fishing boats and sharp tongues start to hum along with the seductive sirens’ song. It is a place where everything is soft – from the incredibly photogenic aquamarine and cream colours of the bay to the lukewarm sea temperature (at least in comparison to Clifton…) It is one of the few really enchanting South African coves. Located only 2 hours’ drive from Cape Town, it definitely belongs on the itinerary of every visitor to the Western Cape.

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The Arniston Spa Hotel was renovated a few years ago and now offers the most luxurious catered accommodation in this 120 year old fishing village. The hotel lies within walking distance of the well-known Waenhuiskrans caves. And it is only a short drive to the nearby De Hoop Nature Reserve, a large protected coastal area where you are almost guaranteed to spot schools of dolphins playing in the surf. Or you may want to simply make a bee-line from the hotel foyer to the powder white beach across the road for a swim during low tide.

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From your own private balcony at the Arniston Spa Hotel you can watch how the local fishing boats return with what will become the ‘Catch of the day’ at the hotel’s own sea-facing restaurant. I had lovely Yellowtail during my stay and was as impressed with the polished service as with the exciting wine list which included many of my personal favourites such as Springfield’s Life from Stone and many other excellent selections from the Cape Winelands.

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If you feel like a bit of pampering, the hotel hosts a relatively large Gingko Spa with a Rasul (a Turkish steam chamber), two saunas, four treatment rooms and a tranquillity lounge.

There is plenty of light flowing into the hallways and every possible piece of wall has been utilised as gallery space, with colourful and poignant works from local artists to keep the mind stimulated as the body starts to relax.

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I recommend the deluxe sea-facing rooms which gave me the impression of sailing on a large passenger boat – and they all have private balconies. This would be particularly useful during the whale watching season (from May to November) when the marine giants visit the bay to mate and calve. And if the winter air is a little bit too fresh to your liking, you can always request one of the deluxe sea-facing rooms with their own fireplaces and stay indoors with your binoculars and a bottle of wine.

Speaking of wine, my only criticism would be the large, ingrained red wine stain on the deep blue carpet of my particular room. I also think that the ‘Do not remove’ stickers on the Charlotte Rhys toiletries are unnecessary and do not suit a hotel of this calibre. But, then again, within an hour after checking into this friendly hotel, I hardly noticed it any more.

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The Arniston Spa Hotel is a happy space – it instantly lifts the spirits.

Review by: Lizelle Steyn, independent traveller