WORDS: LOUISE LIEBENBERG IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK
This small town on the Sunshine Coast lies between the Bushman’s and Kariega Rivers, roughly halfway between East London and Port Elizabeth. The town has a population of just a few thousand, but numbers swell in season, with Kenton a long-time summer holiday favourite for Eastern Cape residents.
Some families have holidayed here for more than a hundred years, carrying memories of a time long before modern conveniences, when the journey was by wagon and beach shacks were simply built from bits of wood and corrugated iron. Today it’s a different story, with many homes featuring top design features and valued at millions of rand.
Kenton is predominantly English-speaking, while the neighbouring village of Boesmansriviermond, on the opposite bank of the Bushman’s River, is largely Afrikaans-speaking.
Marina van der Westhuizen and her husband, Hansie, are citrus farmers from Addo who bought their first Kenton property 12 years ago. They built the second one, taking a year and a half to secure the land in Elliot Road, overlooking the Bushman’s River mouth, and another year and a half to finish construction in 2017.
It’s a big place – about 800m2 – and the Van der Westhuizens can literally just nip down to the beach below. “We now spend quite a bit of time here,” Marina says. “We come here at least once a month and try and spend a week at a time. Our busy season on the farm is winter, with the picking, so now that summer is here we’ll spend a lot more time in Kenton.” Many farmers from Addo own properties at Kenton and Bushman’s, Marina says.
“Kenton is wonderful for families and many people also retire here. At Christmas there’s a lot of entertainment for young people. They walk everywhere and it’s very safe, even today.”
Property holds its value and prices consistently go up, Marina says. Sea and river-facing properties have escalated in price – a stand with a derelict house on it, which buyers will knock down to build, will cost you R4m to R5m.
“Inside Kenton you could pick up a bargain at R2m or R2,5m, a three-to four-bedroom home without a sea view. Many people buy and knock down,” Marina says.
“What I love about Kenton is that it hasn’t been spoilt. It’s still a seaside town; you don’t have high-rise buildings, we don’t have a mall or a big hotel. We have everything we need and businesses thrive year round.”
In the 1950s, kids from Kenton were ferried across river by boat to a tiny school in Boesmansriviermond, as the bridge between Bushman’s and Kenton had not yet been built.
Kenton-on-Sea Primary School was founded in 1958 and moved to its current Kariega Road premises in the late 1960s.
Bushwillow School is in a natural setting and currently offers education from Grades R to 7. It’s a Reggio Emilia inspired school, based on an Italian philosophy allowing children to learn through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment.
For older children, Port Alfred High School in Park Road, Port Alfred, is popular. This state run, co-ed, bilingual school provides a sound academic base and a good mix of sport and cultural activities.
Kenton is about 130km from Port Elizabeth and about 160km from East London. Reaching Port Alfred, another popular Eastern Cape holiday town, takes just 22 minutes, making it ideal for day visits from Kenton. The historic inland village of Bathurst, known for its rich Settler history and home to SA’s oldest pub, is 35km away.
Kenton’s beaches are legendary, so you can go for lazy swims and beach walks. The two Blue Flag beaches are Middle Beach and Main Beach. Kenton Marina, on the Bushman’s at Merry Hill, offers daily boat and canoe hire, as well as an overnight cabin 15km upriver. A small motorboat is a fun way to explore the two rivers, and you’re likely to see wildlife along the way. Kenton also has excellent sea and river fishing.
Beachcomber Horse Trails does a seven-day Sunshine Coast trail ride. Shorter, 90-minute guided beach rides are also available and cater to beginner and experienced riders.
Within a small radius of Kenton are several excellent game reserves. Kariega and Shamwari game reserves offer game drives to day visitors also, or you could opt for a river cruise up the Kariega River and spend a night in Sibuya game reserve’s tented camp. The Thomas Baines reserve is on the Kenton/Grahamstown (Makhanda) road, about 20km or 25km away, and Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve is about 35km away.
Where in the world would you find a seaside resort bordered by two rivers, and with two Blue Flag beaches, all within walking distance? MARINA VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, RESIDENT
- Kenton has no malls, but the Spar in town is well stocked.
- For bigger shopping expeditions there’s the Rosehill Mall outside Port Alfred, about 20km away.
- Kenton has sweet little clothing shops such as ForDays and Beachways, specialising in beach and summer wear.
- The famous Blue Lighthouse in the main road has been there forever and stocks everything, Marina says, “from knitting needles to casseroles, from floor mats to bathing costumes”.
- There are two spas offering beauty treatments and massages.
- Kenton has two very good butcheries – Kenton Butchery, and Surf & Turf – stocking locally-sourced meat and fresh, locally-caught fish. “Kenton Butchery make the best boerewors ever,” Marina says.
- Kenton Bakery is a divine little deli and bakery, Marina says. “Their breads, made with stone-ground flour, are amazing, and they do stunning cheeses and cold meats. Their pastries are to die for and they have coffee on-the-go.”
- The House Planner overlooking Kariega River mouth is a popular little restaurant and coffee shop. There’s an architect downstairs and upstairs you’ll find homeware goodies and a coffee shop.
- The Continental is a more conventional restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They do good Greek dishes, pasta, fish and bakes.
- Roots, a delightful coffee shop, is the home of the legendary Bushman’s River Mud Pies.
- The Red Apple, bordering Kenton/ Bushman’s, does good home cooking, including homemade ice cream, and is open in the day and most nights in season.
- Stanley’s, on the Kariega River, does super Sunday lunches and good fish.
- Kenton Takeaway, same owners as The Continental, does the best fish and chips in the area.
- The Sandbar, a floating restaurant, is housed in an old boat that was grounded at Bushman’s River mouth.