We love active holidays and relaxed beach hotels. Considering this, and that there was also a porter service to carry our bags, we figured the Wild Coast Meander would be a great introduction to hiking to our two boys (Liam, aged 10, and Dane, aged 9). I have known the Ross family for many years and they recommended that we make our booking for April as this time of year would offer the mildest and most consistent weather conditions.

William and Liesel Ross own the Meander Inn in East London and they offer a comfortable home from home and what I consider to be the best surf and turf braai in the country. We stayed the night before the hike at the hotel and the next morning took a four-hour transfer to the start of the trail at Kob Inn.

Kob Inn dates back to the 1930s and is a family and fishing hotel with a big bar and dining room area and rows of simple but comfortable rooms. Its greatest allure is its stunning seaside setting and we were lulled to sleep by pounding waves that crashed against the rocks outside. In retrospect we could have spent longer here – and just about everywhere else too!


The Meander has solid relationships with each of the hotels and the following morning our guide, porters and lunch packs were all ready for departure as they were at all of the hotels that followed. Making use of the porters is strongly encouraged as it supports families in one of the poorest parts of South Africa. Like the guides, there are different porters for every stretch of the trail so they are intimate with each of the villages and communities which you encounter. The guides and porters sang local songs, chatted to the children and filled us in on some of the fascinating facts about the Strandlopers, shipwrecked sailors, and tribes that also walked along the coastline.


This stretch of the wild coast has virtually no settlements – and this is thanks to the British colonial government that once ruled this part. Unlike other parts of South Africa where the coastline is choked by developments, they decreed that there would be no buildings within one mile of the coast. To this day this coastal strip is used as communal grazing areas by the local communities and seeing them on the beach with their cows is a common sight.


The highlight of the trail was being able to spend hours with our children walking through unspoiled terrain and enjoying the easy chatter that comes when you are freewheeling through nature. It was a delight arriving at hotels at the end of each long day and finding cold beer, warm hospitality and delicious meals at the ready. (Make sure that you are on the trail on a Saturday as it’s typically seafood night on the Wild Coast.)

The longest stretch of the trail between Mazeppa Bay and Wavecrest is 22 kilometres in length. As luck would have it our long day coincided with the storm of the year – with 100 mmm of rainfall in 24 hours as well as high winds. This was not the sort of introduction to hiking that we had in mind for the family and we were grateful that we were able to re-juggle our itinerary and sat out the storm at Mazeppa Bay until it cleared.


The following day dawned clear and bright and the kids managed the day with ease. Like much of the trail it was easy going with long stretches of open beaches punctuated here and there by grassy knolls, rocky outcrops and spectacular rivers. River crossings were a highlight of the trail and added a bit of adventure to keep the boys on their toes.

The organisers recommend spending two nights at Wavecrest Hotel, which comes at the end of the longest day and we were glad we did. It has an amazing setting on a pristine estuary with Southern Africa’s most southerly mangrove forests and offers bird-watching, horse riding – and should you need it a spa!

The end of the trail at Morgan Bay is also worth savoring. Morgan Bay Hotel, which has been owned by the Warren Smith family since the 1940s, has always been one of my favourite destinations, but it was full and we stayed instead at Mitford Hotel. It had an even more spectacular setting at the foot of the Morgan Bay Cliffs and we were so warmly received by Peter and Tuffy Kirsten that we decided to stay another night and explore the area which includes the spectacular Double Mouth Estuary.

Our kids had been a bit hesitant about the trail (“we are not a hiking family,” they were heard to mutter before setting off) but they loved every moment and strode out ahead of us for much of the time barefoot and fancy-free chatting to the guides and fishing in the gullies and rock pools along the route.


I can recommend the trail to any family – and strongly suggest using Wild Coast Reservations to make your bookings. They started the trail, have access to the best guides and seem to have the most solid relationships with all the hotels.

www.wildcoastholidays.co.za or email meross@iafrica.com.