In contrast to the languid lagoon and long soft sands of Nature’s Valley, Storms River Mouth presents the elemental face of the Garden Route, with the dark Storms River surging through a gorge to do battle with the surf. Storms River Mouth Restcamp, sited on tended lawns, is poised between a craggy shoreline of black rocks pounded by foamy white surf and steeply raking forested cliffs, and is without a doubt the ultimate destination along the southern Cape coast. Don’t confuse this with Storms River Village just off the N2, which is nowhere near the sea. Even if your time is limited and you can’t spend the night at Storms River Mouth, it’s still worth nipping down for a meal, a walk or a swim in the summer.
Walking is the main activity at the Mouth, and at the visitors’ office at the restcamp you can get maps of short, waymarked coastal trails that leave from here. These include steep walks up the forested cliffs, where you can see 800-year-old yellowwood trees with views onto a wide stretch of ocean. Most rewarding is the three-kilometre hike west from the restcamp along the start of the Otter Trail to a fantastic waterfall pool at the base of 50m-high falls where you can swim right on the edge of the shore. Less demanding is the kilometre-long boardwalk stroll from the restaurant to the suspension bridge to see the river mouth. On your way to the bridge, don’t miss the dank strandloper (beachcomber) cave. Hunter-gatherers frequented this area between 5000 and 2000 years ago, living off seafood in wave-cut caves near the river mouth. A modest display shows an excavated midden, with clear layers of little bones and shells.
If you’re desperate to walk the Otter Trail (5 days; 42km; book through SAN Parks), which begins at Storms River, and have been told that it is full, don’t despair. A single person or a couple do stand a chance of getting in on the back of a last-minute cancellation, so it may be worth hanging out at the Mouth for a night or two.
Swimming at the Mouth is restricted to a safe and pristine little sandy bay below the restaurant, though conditions can be icy in summer if there are easterly winds and cold upwellings of deep water from the continental shelf.