This post introduces you to one of our most loved places in South Africa and one of our favourite hikes. Along the famous Garden Route in South Africa is the coastal town Plettenberg Bay. A mere 8 km south of this town is the Robberg Nature Reserve. The reserve is one of the Cape Nature reserves. The hikes in the Robberg Nature Reserve are well known and treasured by many locals and visitors. We have hiked Robberg numerous times, making day trips to Plett from PE or staying the weekend in the town. The stunning photographs we have captured have encouraged friends to experience the hike with us as well. This phenomenal peninsula will always have a special place in our hearts; yours too if you decide to hike it.
Once the entrance fee (R40 adults and R20 children) is paid and you have parked, you can already enjoy spectacular views of the open ocean or of Plettenberg Bay. There are three hikes that you can choose from:
- To the Gap (2km, easy): From the car park you walk to the gap in the peninsula and then back to the car park. There is a boardwalk that you can explore the Gap on. There is also the option to climb up to the top of the Gap edge.
- To Witsands and the Island (4 km, moderate): From the car park you continue past the Gap until you reach the white sand break. There you head down to the Island to explore and then back to the car park. The island is optional.
- To the Peninsula head (11 km, strenuous): From the car park, you continue past the Gap and Witsands break. You walk down to the peninsula edge and back along the other side of the peninsula towards the island and eventually back to the car park. If you have not reached Witsands before 14:00 you should not proceed because you will not finish the hike before the reserve closes.
We have hiked the second and third options (the first option naturally being a part of the hikes). Essentially there is one large circular path, with smaller tracks within. The wind can be intense for most of the year so do pack a jersey!
To Witsands and the Island
This hike can be started in the morning or early afternoon. The walk to the Gap is easy. The Gap has boardwalks connecting the two pieces of the peninsula. The hike to Witsands is more difficult. There is an uphill climb that gets your heart pumping! Thereafter, for the most part, the hike is flat because you walk along the top of the peninsula. Listen out and look for the seals below (you will smell them too!). There are also caves to see. The sensational scenery makes up for any difficulty in the hike.
Witsands is a break of white sand on the peninsula. There are sign posts to direct you to the Island or where the path continues to the peninsula head. The walk towards the Island is down a massive sand dune. There is a beach stretch linking the peninsula to the Island. The scenery continues to amaze! We have not personally swum at the beaches but we have seen fellow hikers swimming. A word of warning if you do want to swim: watch out for rip tides (and sharks!).
There is a boardwalk around the entire island that you walk on. You do, however, need to climb up to the boardwalk steps and climb down rocks to get back to the beach after. There are signs warning of freak waves that you need to be careful of. From the island, we saw seals playing in the water and saw whales in the deeper ocean. There are benches and viewing decks. We recommend taking some time to look out over the ocean and absorb its beauty. We had a small picnic here of cereal bars and biltong. The wind on the Island can be chilly even when the sun is shining.
The walk back to the Gap is along the peninsula cliff. The waves splash up and wet the rocky pathway so care must be taken here. The wind can really blow along here as well (there are signs warning of the strong winds). From the Gap, you go back the same way you came, towards the parking lot. This is the quickest route back but you can climb back up the sand dune to Witsands and trace your steps back that way.
To the Peninsula head
This hike really was amazing! The hike took us about 5 and a half hours to complete and we did break for small snacks or to enjoy the panorama along the way. The views of the ocean and bays are really incredible and the hike along the peninsula to the head is not too strenuous. We had our lunch at the edge and enjoyed watching the waves. The sun shines down on this side of the peninsula and you are protected from the wind.
The most strenuous part for us was the hike back towards the island from the peninsula edge. The way back is along the rocks at the bottom of the peninsula (be careful of waves during high tides). This side of the peninsula is in the shadow and the wind is strong – it can become very cold. Now walking along the bottom of the peninsula, you begin hiking to halfway up. This is where it becomes difficult.
There are no boardwalks or climbing aids here. You hold onto rocks or vegetation to help pull yourself up or to stop you from falling down. Once up and on a path things are easier again. We found some rocks in the sun to stop and watch the seals playing in an enclosed rock pool. Soon after you are making another ascent. Eventually, there is a wooden staircase up and down the one section of the trail. The Island is coming closer and closer! Exploring the Island is optional. The first time we hiked, we did not explore it. The path back to the car park from the beach is the same as that of the second hike option.
Signs to look out for
Follow the Seal signs to stay on the right path. There are sign posts at the Gap, Witsands and the Island. NSRI posts with emergency numbers are along the entire 11 km hike. There are signs warning of the wind and wet surfaces.
Animals to look out for
There are seals and sharks in the water below so be sure to keep an eye out for them. Sun bathing on some rocks will be lizards and there are birds to see too. Dassies call the peninsula home so look at rock outcrops because the little animals love catching some sun.
There was a powerful and massive fire that spread through the Knysna and Plett area in 2017. A small part of the peninsula was caught in the fire but most of it was safe.
The only toilet facilities on the peninsula are at the car park.
Why is the peninsula a nature reserve? The rocks of the peninsula have been dated back to the breakup of Gondwanaland. There was evidence of stone age inhabitants in some of the caves along the peninsula. The peninsula is a national monument.