Discover the hidden five-star gem in the seaside town favoured by Love Island’s Maya Jama and Jared Leto

 (The Old Rectory / Getty)
(The Old Rectory / Getty)

Situated within the picturesque Western Cape along the Garden Route, Plettenberg Bay boasts pristine beaches that attract not just local travelers but famous faces such as Love Island host Maya Jama, Oscar winner Jared Leto, and British actor Tom Hopper.

Plett (as the town is known locally) remains largely undiscovered by visitors from beyond Africa's borders. Even fewer travelers like Jama venture beyond the inviting beaches to explore the hidden treasures of South Africa's most captivating coastal vistas and expansive indigenous forests.

But when revellers are looking for a tranquil oasis after a day of searching for whales or hiking Robberg Peninsula then The Old Rectory and Spa is just the five-star hidden haven for weary heads to recharge.


Nestled in a quiet corner of Plettenberg Bay, The Old Rectory and Spa is one of the oldest buildings along the coast, built in 1777. Sandwiched between the rugged Tsitsikamma mountain ranges and the pounding Indian Ocean surf, this hotel offers a serene retreat for those seeking a restorative stay. The property is just a two-minute walk from Hobie Beach, where a world of water sports and boat tours await eager travelers. It’s also a short stroll from the town’s cafe-lined main street, making it easy to explore local dining and shopping options.

For those not driving the Garden Route, Plett has its own regional airport and is located 40 minutes east of George Airport. Unlike more cosmopolitan areas, Ubers are hard to come by, so it's wise to get a taxi company's number upon arrival if you’re traveling without a car and to allow plenty of time to get around.

 (The Old Rectory and Spa)
(The Old Rectory and Spa)


Originally built as a barracks for the Dutch East India Company (better known nowadays as the VOC) in the 18th century, the building later served as lodgings for the Anglican church before transforming into the bright, eclectic boutique hotel that stands today. Amazingly, aside from a relatively minor roof update in 1887, very few structural alterations have been made, making it a rare piece of architectural and cultural history that remains virtually intact from its construction nearly 250 years ago.

This rich history is evident from the moment guests arrive, greeted by its striking Cape Dutch silhouette. Inside the reception area, the building’s architectural heritage is proudly displayed with exposed oak beams dating back to 1777. The original stone and mud brick walls seamlessly complement the contemporary décor, creating a space that is decidedly sumptuous and filled with character. The dining room continues this tribute to its heritage with the original yellowwood floors, the VOC emblem on the back of the chairs, a wall of historic photographs, and a centuries-old milkwood tree lovingly retained in the garden.

Located just off the reception is the ‘Ladies Bar’ – where every gender is welcomed despite the name. There deep Chesterfield sofas, and a copper-fronted bar add to the venue’s old world charm while modern touches like linen-covered armchairs under plantation fans elevate the space.


The hotel’s Sanctuary Spa is truly spiritual experience, not just because it’s based in the rectory’s old church, but mainly for its decadent Moyo treatments and a starlit hammam. Loved by both guests and locals, booking ahead is essential to secure a spot in this serene retreat. Meanwhile a Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe’s Swimmer Girl sculpture at the edge of the saltwater pool, casting a watchful eye over sun-seekers relaxing on cabana-striped sun loungers.


The hotel’s 18 open-plan suites offer laidback coastal luxury, with the interiors taking inspiration from the local area’s flora and fauna. Guests can enjoy their own in-room spa experience with a walk-in rain shower and free-standing tub. The experience is taken up a notch with the hotel’s own eco-friendly brand of bath salts, bubble bath and bath oils.

Other luxury amenities, include a Nespresso machine, well stocked mini-bar and underfloor heating, while a nightly turn down service is finished off with a hand-tied poem of the day and chocolate on the pillow of your king-sized bed. All rooms boast either sea or garden views from your private terrace or balcony, and a selection of the spaces can be turned into family rooms.

 (The Old Rectory and Spa)
(The Old Rectory and Spa)

Food & drink

The Old Rectory boasts one of the best restaurants in town, the aptly named 1777. The bistro-style menu draws on Dutch, English, and South African influences, with standout dishes including ostrich fillet, line-caught kingklip, and Bunny Chow—a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with curry, a unique Indian-South African dish.

Guests can choose to dine in the main dining room, located in the oldest part of the hotel, or outside at one of the candlelit tables for a more intimate setting. After enjoying a sumptuous meal, diners can retire in front of the centuries-old fireplace for a cozy nightcap, perhaps paired with a slice of Amarula cheesecake.

The culinary delights continue with breakfast and made-to-order brunch favourites such as Eggs Benedict and pancake stacks. Yet, the bespoke breakfast table is a sight to behold, featuring freshly baked pastries and breads, fruit platters, cheese, and meat charcuterie boards. To top it all off, there’s a Bloody Mary and Mimosa station to wash it all down alongside excellent service with a personal touch.

 (The Old Rectory and Spa)
(The Old Rectory and Spa)


Although Stellenbosch is better known as South Africa’s wine capital, Plett and the surrounding area are home to several wineries, and the estates have great restaurants where you can enjoy fabulous food while you sample the wine – or skip the food and simply savour a glass of Chenin Blanc.

The Rare Earth group, the small luxury hospitality company behind The Old Rectory and Spa, also own the award-winning Kay & Monty vineyard ( in the Crags, thirty minutes outside the town. There you can taste a cold glass of their much-loved MCC while chowing down on a sharing board piled high with local cheeses, seasonal fruit, and cured meats.

However, if adventure is what you seek, the hotel is ideally located minutes from the popular Central Beach. Guests can book a range of ocean activities through the hotel, including sea kayaking, surfing, swimming with Cape Fur Seals, and whale watching during the winter months (July to October).

For those who prefer solid ground, hiking the Robberg Peninsula is a must. This area is an ideal vantage point for spotting marine life such as Killer Whales, dolphins, and Orcas. It’s also a haven for bird spotters, with species like Cape Robins and Cape White-Eyes in the area. Just outside of Plett is the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary (, where you can walk with rescued elephants just like 30 Seconds To Mars’ Leto has. The area also hosts several other animal sanctuaries, including Birds of Eden, Monkeyland, and Jukani (for big cats).


Rooms rates start from around £242 per night including breakfast, travelling off peak (May 1 to July 31, 2024)