Escape to Tintswalo on the staggeringly beautiful Atlantic coast
When we arrive at Tintswalo Atlantic, the Cape of Storms is more than living up to its moniker. We parked our car just off Chapman's Peak Drive in a swirl of mist and rain. The wind buffets the shuttle taking us down towards the sea along a winding road cut into the fynbos-covered slope.
Umbrellas are whipped out for our short dash into the lounge. As the sun breaks through cloud, sparkling on the angry sea, we settle by a roaring fire to complete check-in procedures.
We take our welcome glasses of rosé with us to Java — one of 10 clapboard Island Suites perched along this stretch of coast. Each has been decorated differently, inspired by the isle that gave it its name. Ours is easygoing but elegant, dominated by tropical blues.
A fire is lit, and soon the room is toasty. I open the sliding doors and the rumbling and roaring of the waves floods in, the scent of wood smoke and salt-spray mingling together. The water churns and tumbles hypnotically a few metres away from the balcony — an ever-changing blend of whites, greys and greens. In the distance, Hout Bay harbour huddles, with Sentinel Peak soaring.
Lunch is brought to us: deliciously smoky flame-grilled prawns; seared springbok with soft brie on a brioche; a glass of wooded chardonnay.
Although Tintswalo Atlantic doesn't have a dedicated spa facility, mobile therapists can be booked for a variety of treatments. We opted for full-body massages and so, later in the afternoon, two therapists squeeze and knead the stress out of us in a neighbouring suite.
When we emerge, dazed and relaxed, it is almost dusk. I stand on our balcony again, staring at dramatic clouds worthy of a Turner painting and the luminescent stripe hovering on the horizon, interrupted by the blotch of a fishing trawler.
Tintswalo Atlantic uses borehole water, so despite Cape Town's water restrictions we're able to have a guilt-free bath. A full-length window frames the fading view; the slick, barnacled rocks below us are so close we can almost touch them.
We venture out to the lodge's restaurant for dinner. Hout Bay sparkles distantly through the window. Although things start off promisingly — with a light rooibos-smoked tomato soup — the lamb loin chop and ribeye steak that follow are both underwhelming as the flavours lack punch.
With more than 120 options, Tintswalo's expansive wine list offers a wonderful mix of well-known favourites and lesser-known gems from all of the Cape's major wine regions. The majority cost north of R350 and many far more than that — something that SA guests may find hard to swallow, especially considering that drinks are not included in the nightly rate.
We choose the Driehoek Shiraz (R480) from the Cederberg, which beat other international contenders to come first at the Syrah du Monde in France's Rhône valley in 2017. Well balanced, juicy and supple, it's a versatile accompaniment to our three courses.
The next morning, bright-eyed and well rested, we walk in fluffy, warm robes to the steaming swimming pool. The sky is clear, the ocean a deep blue. As we paddle about in the warm, silky water, the sun slips above the mountain behind us, washing the pool in light. An attentive staff member comes to ask if we want something to drink; a few minutes later he returns with our hot chocolates.
At breakfast, a continental spread is laid out: fresh fruit, yoghurt and muesli, still-warm pastries, charcuterie and delicious local cheeses. It's so filling we don't have room left for the hot options.
Neither of us wants to leave. There won't be new arrivals later for our room, so our request for a late check-out is warmly assented to. It is midweek and there is work to do, and so I sit in the hanging egg-shaped chair on the balcony with my laptop. Again, I stare at the ocean and mountain. The calm blues and greens are so different from the previous day's turmoil.
With a high-season rate of R6,180 per person sharing per night, Tintswalo Atlantic is not cheap. You can get a stunning Airbnb in Clifton or Camps Bay for that, with enough spare change to spend on dinner at the Pot Luck Club.
However, what this lodge offers is a powerful and elusive sense of escape. This is a retreat from the city and from everyday life in a staggeringly beautiful location — and yet the bustling heart of Cape Town is less than half an hour's drive away.
The result is that when it's time for you to reluctantly check out, you're rested, invigorated and raring to go, even if your visit lasted less than 24 hours (like ours did). Surely that's priceless.
• Matthews was a guest of Tintswalo Atlantic.