South Africa’s First Deep-Sea Residential Marina Is More Of A Lifestyle Than A Destination
Whether you arrive by luxury yacht, kayak, canoe or car, you have to visit Port Owen. Velddrif is a 90-minute drive from Cape Town to the Carinus Bridge where salt is harvested from pans below. Take a left through the fishing village of Velddrif and then another left to enter the 100 hectares, Port Owen. Named after H. Owen Wiggins Junior, it’s more impressive from the water. Surrounded on three sides by the Great Berg River Port Owen has 3.5 km of waterways and 7 km of the embankment.
It took Wiggins 15 years to dredge one million cubic metres of sand and rock to construct the plots for houses, jetties and other infrastructure. Take a walk along the marina and visit Charlie’s Brewery and Poetic License distillery. No wonder they are part of the West Coast Way Foodie Route. The brainchild of Russell Foster, originally from Britain, he adopted Port Owen as home after falling in love with the West Coast.
Poetic License artisan distillery was officially opened in October. It’s managed by Renaldo Fourie with help from wife Willa and 500-litre copper pot still christened Amelia. The couple studied wine-making but their passion for distilling brought them together – Willa was studying brandy distillation. Renaldo was her mentor.
She graduated, they went for coffee and the rest is history. Well, not quite. Renaldo applied for a position at Poetic License in England. Russell Foster saw his application. He invited Roland to work at the Port Owen distillery that he planned. It’s not every day that young distillers get to design a purpose-built double-storey distillery.
Poetic License gin brands currently include Northern Dry, Old Tom, Strawberries and Cream and Fireside Spiced Gin. Renaldo says it took much time to find the right mixers, pairings and brands for the tastings. The Strawberry and Cream Gin is the most popular perfectly mixed with elderflower tonic and garnished with fresh strawberries over ice. But it all starts with the gin. “A gin should be good enough to be drunk on its own,” says Renaldo. And that’s why a tasting starts with neat gin. Poetic License serves light snacks and has a shop where all their gins are sold.
Charlie’s Brewery is named after Russell Foster’s grandson and the beer is made by brewmaster Anton Knoetze. Starting from humble beginnings Anton started out in the 1980s as a hobbyist making beer from a kit. The hobby turned more serious when he visited Germany. “A country with a beer-drinking culture and where I learned to make real beer,” he says. After years of holidaying in the Velddrif area, Anton bought a house in 2010.
Five years later and retirement he moved there permanently. He was also hand-picked by Foster to run the brewery. “It’s a dream come true to make locally sourced beers. The hops are sourced from the mountains above George,” he says. This micro-brewery boasts four beer variants – Sandveld lager, Lighthouse blonde ale, Cormorant Bourbon stout and Harbour American pale ale. They recently launched a Weiss beer in time for the festive season.
Charlie’s Brewery extensive menu was developed by David Walker – formerly resident chef of the Taproom at Devil’s Peak Brewing Company. Dishes range from bar snacks and traditional hearty British pub fare adapted for the West Coast palette. Taste buds salivate selecting from local mussels in ale and coconut sauce, beer prawns, chilled line fish ceviche, beer-battered fish and chips served with mushy peas, or smoked hake and avocado bruschetta. Meat dishes include Moroccan spiced lamb burger with tomato and cumin relish or hefty toasted sandwiches including three kinds of cheese with tomato and basil or pulled pork.
Other favourites include beef tartar, honey mustard glazed eisbein, home-made sausages served with creamy mashed potatoes, or steamed beef and ale pudding with cauliflower puree. Salads include chicken Caesar and calamari and lentil. Vegetarians are not forgotten. There’s mushroom pasta with spinach – a delicious concoction with cream, chilli and sage paired with Darling sauvignon. Or try the chickpea and lentil burger served with beetroot, avocado and tzatziki accompanied with Harbour pale ale.
If you have space, the dessert menu is to-die-for. Apart from old favourites of malva pudding, chocolate brownie with stout ice cream, lemon posset with cranberry biscotti there is the dessert of the day – chocolate mousse with ice cream. As for children, the menu features favourites including hamburgers, bangers and mash or fish and chips. The service is good as is the music. The staff friendly and they know their menu. There are large television screens dotted around and a choice of seating inside near the bar or in the raised, glass-panelled terrace.
Where to stay
Apart from budget home-stays splurge for the comfort of boutique hotel Russells on the Port. Accommodation varies from spacious rooms with river or garden view. All are en suite and have quality linen with snuggly bath towels and breakfast included – try the eggs benedict – if you’re vegetarian the ham is replaced with mushrooms. Food is served on the covered veranda, which boasts a wood-fired pizza oven, or the restaurant which has a fireplace and walls adorned with mementoes collected by owner Russell Foster. The hotel is child-friendly and has two swimming pools.
Why go to Velddrif? Take a walk along the estuary at low tide to Laaiplek (loading place) at the mouth of the Berg River. Around 1830 it was established as a depot to collect wheat and other products to transport to Cape Town. With the arrival of Italian families, Velddrif became a fishing village and established the pelagic fish industry and bokkom production.
Other Things To Do:
At low tide take a walk along the Berg River to where it enters St. Helena Bay at Laaiplek. The breakwater and harbour entrance are popular sightseeing spots. You can also see Sandveld houses with their characteristic elongated design and thick walls.
Buy bokkoms, beer and more at Bokkomlaan to the east of the Berg River.
The SA Fishing Museum celebrates local history, nostalgically interweaving the whaling history to pelagic fishing and rock lobster catching. It’s the only one of its kind in the country. The late 1800s building is in De Villiers Street, at the Laaiplek Hotel.
Bird watching on the flamingo bird route which stretches along the West Coast Way. The mud banks of the Berg River have the highest diversity of waders along the Atlantic seaboard. On the beaches are black oystercatchers, terns and gulls feasting on mussels and other shellfish. The marshes have water birds including blue heron, redshank, curlew sandpipers and plovers.
Sailing, St. Helena Bay is the largest on the West Coast and offers the finest sailing conditions on the South African coastline. This is due to its sheltered nature and orientation to the prevailing summer wind. Vasco Da Gama landed here and a monument was erected on the shore by the Portuguese government.
There is also angling and fishing from the beach or boat; golf at the nine-hole golf course, squash, tennis and a bowling green.
Contact: 022 125 0568 or email [email protected]
Contact: 022 783 0448 www.charliesbrew.co.za
Russells on the Port
South African Fishing Museum
Contact: 022 783 2531 082 849 9251 [email protected]
Karen Watkins started out as a travel writer and photographer supplying articles for numerous newspapers and magazines including Indiwe, Country Life, Go, Good Taste and others. Joined Independent Newspapers Limited in 2007 to work one year with Special Projects writing marketing copy before joining the Constantiaberg Bulletin as a multi-media journalist writing news and taking pictures until May 2019. And now she is writing for West Coast Way