Welcome to Coffee Shack, the only place you should want to stay in Coffee Bay…
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit Coffee Bay. When I was little, we would often drive down to the South Coast for family beach holidays, but we never really went much further than Margate, Uvongo and surrounds. So when the opportunity came up to travel after being in Durban for work, it seemed like the ideal time to explore a part of the country that I’ve only ever laid eyes on in pictures.
Driving from Durban was an experience in itself. I can admit that I really didn’t expect it to be as far as it was, or as slow going as it was because of trucks hogging the road, but the drive is a beautiful one crossing from KwaZulu-Natal into the Eastern Cape.
When I told a few people that I’d be visiting this part of South Africa, I had mixed reactions. Everybody warned of bad roads, dangerous drivers and terrible accommodation. While I can concede on the bad roads (more about that in a bit), the rest is nonsense and you need to immediately dispel anything you believe about the Wild Coast right now.
The drive from Durban is a long one. It took us about 8 hours in total with comfort breaks along the way. The N2 down the coast is a fantastic road and in much better condition than I thought it would be. There are also plenty of towns to stop in if you have the time. The road off the main highway and down towards Coffee Bay is honestly a bit rough and even though it can be done in a small car, I’d recommend going down in something bigger with a decent clearance just for your own comfort.
Welcome to Coffee Shack
Arriving at Coffee Shack was absolutely awesome after the bumpy drive down towards Coffee Bay. The place is just super laid back and everybody is so welcoming that you immediately know that dodging the potholes was worth it. The central common area with the bar and fire pit make it easy to settle in. Guests amble about and in true backpacker style, are friendly and will strike up conversation straight away. There were quite a few people who were travelling solo and had come down from Johannesburg using the Baz Bus, an independent traveller’s dream way to travel in South Africa if you ask me.
I stayed in one of the private rooms with en-suite bathroom but caught a glimpse into the dorms as well. Purely on a personal level, the days of staying in a dorm are way behind me (and truthfully not something I ever really did in any case), but if you’re looking for comfortable, affordable accommodation, then the Coffee Shack dorms are a great option. The private room however is only R380 per night and has a double bed and a bunk so can work well for families or even a group of friends travelling together. It also has an en-suite bathroom, which is a big deal for me, I’m not a fan of communal ablutions.
There is also so much to do here that there’s very little chance of getting bored. Between surf lessons, day hikes, traditional Xhosa dinners and the parties, there’s enough going on to keep everybody busy for a couple of days before moving onto their next stop.
We timed our stay with Coffee Shack’s monthly Full Moon party: dancers, free vodka shots and a delicious meal all form part of the festivities. Sadly, we had more clouds than moon, but the atmosphere made up for that on the most part. The Babalaza Bar has a free pool table, fire pit and even free oysters and mussels when they’re available.
What I missed
I probably overdid it ever so slightly because I never managed to get up for the surf lessons early the next day, but this is something I’d really like to go back for at Coffee Shack. All the equipment needed is included and there is even a surf lesson package including five days of accommodation, lessons, meals and more for basically next to nothing, R2 200.
Staying in the private room for me was perfect for this spot. I had my own space, bathroom and lockable room, but had access to the atmosphere and bar that a great backpacking establishment provides. I would love to go back here for the surf package in the warmer months and spend more time just checking out the community projects that have been implemented here.
If you’re going to visit Coffee Bay, make sure your vehicle can make it down the roads and that you pack all the amenities you need as well as towels. Some backpackers provide these, but best to take your own for Coffee Shack.
Coffee Shack is also heavily involved with community development projects for its staff and the families they in turn support financially. They’ve built schools, are involved in HIV and AIDS awareness projects and also ensure they are as environmentally-friendly as possible. The local community is represented by the Tshezi Community Trust, which has a 30% shareholding in Coffee Shack. They are also Fair Trade in Tourism accredited.
After our stay at Coffee Shack, we headed to Hole in the Wall and you can read about that here.