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Country House Hotels in South Africa

The Facts
You Can Take it With You
Besides its highly regarded wine, the Garden Route has much more to offer visitors looking for trifles to take home. A delicate handblown glass bowl by David Reade can be had for $259 at Art Now (14 Hugenot Rd., Franschhoek; 27-21/876-3101). Pick up a canvas bush jacket, to look the part when heading out into the wild, for $45 from Groundcover (intersection of R45 and R310, Groot Drakenstein, Franschhoek; 27-21/874-1605). Home furnishings and Central African-inspired objects, like leather and mudcloth handbags ($80), are sold at La Grange (13 Daniel Hugo St., Franschhoek; 27-21/876-2155). Bikinis, bath treats, and assorted accessories fill the shelves at the Kurland Shop (Kurland; 27-44/534-8082). A three-piece silver-plated bachelor's tea set from Birmingham, England (circa 1911), goes for a song ($260) at Jill's Antiques (at Hunter's Country House; 27-44/532-7740).

Out and About
Marine Safari From July to November, southern right whales swim up from the Antarctic to mate and calve. Spot them (and bottle-nosed dolphins) from the Robberg Peninsula in the Robberg Nature Reserve (signposted from Robberg Road; 27-44/533-2125; entrance $1.50), or take a whale-watching flight over the bay with African Ramble Air Charter (Plettenberg Bay Airport, 27-44/533-9006; $50 per person). To see the mammals face-to-face, try a close encounter cruise with Ocean Adventures (Shop 13, Yellowwood Centre, Main Rd.; 27-44/ 533-5083; $33 per person).

The View on Foot
The Garden of Eden walk is an easy 30-minute introduction to the area's indigenous forests. Massive yellowwoods (some estimated at 800 years old), stinkwoods, and red alders form a canopy above thick undergrowth and crystal-clear streams (signposted next to the N2, between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay; 40 cents in high season).

Adrenaline Highs
Rappel down a 200-foot waterfall with Abseil Africa (27-21/424-1580; $57 for an all-day trip), or tube down the rapids with Stormsriver Adventures (Darnell Street, Storms River Village; 27-42/541-1836; $43 for six-hour trip, including all safety gear, lunch, and transport).

Great Rides
In winter, the world's top surfing pros converge on Jeffreys Bay to ride its famous right-hand waves. Rent a board for $9 a day from Billabong Surf Shop (Magnatubes Centre, DaGama Rd., Jeffreys Bay; 27-42/293-1101). The more sedate should catch the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe, South Africa's last scheduled steam train, between Knysna and George (Knysna Station, Remembrance Ave., Knysna; 27-44/382-1361; $8 round-trip).


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