It's worth pointing out that the four-bed Oyster Shack doesn't have a sea view, even though it is the sister property to the Oyster Box Beach House just across the road, which definitely does have a sea view and a rather impressive one at that. Both have the same sort of colonial, seaside feel, with cream painted floors and walls, white wooden beams, tongue and groove panelling, aged paint effects and slightly twee furnishings. Although as a couple staying in a four-bed property, three of the bedrooms were redundant, it certainly gave us plenty of choice for bathrooms. And at R8750 for a week, it was good value compared with staying in a four-star boutique hotel.
Something of a let-down was the fact that the WiFi mentioned in the advertised details didn't exist; the letting agent did suggest that we could take our laptop to the Oyster Box, which does have WiFi, but that was hardly the same and definitely not what was advertised. The Oyster Shack is well provided with flat screen TVs, including a 42" plasma TV in the living room, but given that it's clearly intended as a family holiday let, it's surprising that there's not a single DVD player in sight. There's also no air-con or ceiling fans, but sleeping wasn't too much of a problem.
The Oyster Shack has a decent sized, covered verandah with a very comfortable hanging chair and an upholstered bench. Steps lead down to a small pool with some difficult-to-manoeuvre, wooden sun loungers plus more benches and an outside table. This wasn't exactly private as there's a road in front of the property, but this gets little traffic and there's no other property overlooking it. However, from time to time, you may find a passer-by leaning over the fence and asking for money!
The kitchen is well equipped and there's a large range-type cooker. There's plenty of cutlery and tableware as one would expect given that the Oyster Shack accomodates up to eight. Breakfast can be provided by someone coming in each morning although most would find this rather intrusive. There is a dishwasher and washing machine/drier but no tabs or detergent are provided; it would have been helpful for a starter pack to be provided with these items included. The local Spar is the best source of provisions; there are various 'farm shops' around Kenton-on-sea, but a lot seem to cater for tourists rather than selling true farm produce. Further afield, there's a SuperSpar with more choice in the Rose Hill mall on the outskirts of Port Arthur; the food section of Woolworths is also good for a M&S-type experience.
There are a few restaurants in Kenton-on-sea: the floating Sandbar restaurant is quirky and seemingly a bit of a watering hole for locals, but it serves decent value, well prepared food; Homewoods is beach-side, family friendly, and serves good pizzas as well as more traditional fare; Stanleys (3.5 km on the Grahamstown road) is a pub/restaurant with superb views and an extensive menu and wine list, although the food was only average; Bushman's Grill has a superb view of the estuary with friendly service and excellent fresh fish.
A 'must do' is a visit to Elizabeth Quin's sculpture garden (R15 per head) in nearby Alexandria: a rare example of a sculptor exposing 50 years of her work to the public without a trace of hard sell or even security watching over you. There's also a 'poor man's game drive' (i.e., free) to be done on public roads running between the Kariega and Sibuya game reserves, the turning being about 12 km outside Kenton on the road to Alexandria.
Finally, a 'must read' is the 'Wisdom' coffee table book in the Oyster Shack's living room: 200 pages of superb, characterful photos of older celebrities who actually have something worth saying - Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu included.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Beautifully decorated and well-equipped modern beach house with some of the best views on the South African coastline. We offer both bed and breakfast or self catering accommodation for up to 8 guests. Located in Kenton on Sea in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. We have been graded as a 5 star self catering house by the TGCSA. ... more less