HOUSEBOAT WEEKEND (Part 1), Port Alfred

A weekend houseboat cruise on the Kowie River

After we have settled into our new home, we were looking forward to a weekend away. We have read great reviews on Port Alfred, a small town at the mouth of the Kowie River and situated approximately 132km (82 miles) from East London.

While we were looking for accommodation for the weekend, we saw some really nice holiday homes, but then … the opportunity of renting a houseboat came up. Feedback on availability on a houseboat quickly came back from Onika at Houseboats Port Alfred … and we were ready for our next adventure!

Our houseboat for the weekend

No skippers’ license?

The company, Houseboats Port Alfred offers one the opportunity of a self-drive houseboat. Berto does not have a skippers’ license, but that was no problem, since Houseboats Port Alfred offers an Interim Certificate of Competence. The course takes 45 minutes and once you’ve proved yourself in an oral and practical assessment, the certificate is valid for 6 months (though, only for houseboats on the Kowie River).

Fortunately, Berto have some previous boating experience and after Johan from Houseboats Port Alfred done the assessment, we received a valid certificate to take the houseboat on the river!

The houseboat is fully equipped with whatever one might need on a weekend on the river. A comfortable bed with soft linen, a shower, a loo, a nice kitchen area with a stove/fridge (and a luxury touch in the form of a coffee/tea station) and then the bonus … a braai!

Our comfy bed on the houseboat

Since we arrived late on Friday afternoon, we decided to overnight in the harbour of Port Alfred before taking the houseboat on the river the next day. We saw a restaurant on the other side of the harbour, namely Tash’s Restaurant & Craft Bar and headed straight over there for a relaxing dinner.

Tash’s Restaurant & Craft Bar:

Now, it’s true that their food is really delicious – Berto had stuffed cream cheese jalapeno poppers, which was very tasty and my crumbed mushrooms were done to perfection … but oh my, their cocktails are out of this world!

Purple Rain & Rum Runner cocktails
Crumbed mushrooms

We both enjoyed our main meals while sipping a glass of white wine. We don’t dine out often, but when we do, it’s great to get to a place like Tash’s Restaurant where the food is delicious and the service warm and friendly.

After we enjoyed a delicious dinner, we headed back to our houseboat where we quickly fell asleep with the soft sway of the boat on the water.

Saturday – River cruise day:

Well, we couldn’t ask for better weather conditions! It was an absolutely beautiful day – no wind and a maximum temperature of 26 degrees Celsius (and remember, we are in winter)!

We were eager to get going

We made a nice cup of coffee and tea and then took out a box of the famous South African “Ouma” rusks … we would make a proper breakfast on the river later.

There surely are not many things better than to relax on a houseboat while cruising down a river! The scenery is breathtaking beautiful – at first, we cruised under the well-known bridge of Port Alfred, then past lovely houses on the river’s edge and then unspoiled nature was in front of us … it was stunning.

The well-known bridge of Port Alfred (maybe a smaller version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge) …
Berto was enjoying his new status as skipper of the houseboat
Another beautiful house

We soon found a lovely spot where we have anchored the houseboat to make breakfast.

Our breakfast spot

Berto prepared a tasty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and fried tomatoes, while I’ve added some juice and yogurt as healthy options.

While I was doing the dishes, Berto called me out to see something really spectacular … a couple of giraffes were wandering around across from our houseboat! The Mansfield Private Game Reserve is situated along the Kowie River and we were hoping to see some wild animals from the river – it was such a wonderful moment.

Giraffes high on a hill across from our houseboat
A perfect tree
A last look at the giraffes

There were a lot of activity on the river. It was such a beautiful morning that many water enthusiasts could not resist the temptation of getting into their boats, kayaks or rowing boats.

Four ladies training in their rowing boat

After enjoying breakfast and the excitement of seeing giraffes, we decided to cruise further down the river. Our plan was to cruise as far as we were allowed to and then make lunch (which mean, getting the braai out)!

Cruising down the Kowie River

We saw so many birds along the river – some were just walking around in the shallow water, while others were swimming and diving for fish. There were also a couple of fishermen on the banks of the river – they waved friendly when we past them.

Nature in its purest form
Blown away by the reflections in the water

There is a jetty at the Mansfield Private Game Reserve where houseboats are allowed to stop for a braai, swim in the pool or to join a game drive. There is also a restaurant, but this is only open during the peak summer time. But for us, today was all about tranquility on the river.

Mansfield Private Game Reserve
A road, probably for game driving, at Mansfield Private Game Reserve
The birds were not particularly bothered with us passing them

Eventually we got to the furthest point of where houseboats were allowed to go (about 11km up the Kowie River). This was the perfect stop for lunch and to just relax in nature. It was just the two of us, with only one boat that cruised past us during the three hours we were there … pure bliss!

Actually, we had some company … in the form of cows, more birds and a couple of beautiful fish eagles. That didn’t bother us at all!

Cows grazing on the banks of the river
Birds high up in the tree tops
The view from our “kitchen”

It was time to make a fire and have a braai. Since we are on a boat, we are only allowed to make a fire with charcoal for safety reasons. We decided to make hotdogs with proper “boerewors” (unique South African sausage).

A braai with a view
A traditional South African hotdog with our favourite chutney, Mrs Balls

We had such an amazing day on the river – there was really nothing to complain about! We were in such a state of serenity … life is simply great!

Cheers on a houseboat on the Kowie River

In our next post, we will tell you all about our overnight spot on the river … and another magical moment!


74 thoughts on “HOUSEBOAT WEEKEND (Part 1), Port Alfred

    1. Dit was darem nou ‘n feestelike naweek hierdie Aletta! Port Alfred is pragtig en jy’s reg, net ‘n klipgooi van ons af. Boknes? Dis ‘n kostelike naam en ek het gaan loer op Google, dit lyk mos nou sommer na ‘n lekker plek om te gaan kuier vir ‘n naweek! Dankie vir die “hint” 😉.


  1. What a magnificent experience from start to finish. If we ever make it to SA, this will be high on the list. The boat looks really cosy and my god what vistas to have as you cruise around. I LOVE the idea of saying “This is gorgeous, let’s pull up here for breakfast”. And then giraffes wandering around in the background!!! All the food, both from the restaurant and the stuff you whipped up yourselves, looks wonderful. As I have come to expect. One of your best articles Corna!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And we are not even finish yet 😁. Thank you for your lovely comments Leighton, it’s much appreciated. The scenery is totally amazing – I had to pinch myself a couple of times … I mean, having breakfast on the river while watching giraffes go by! I really hope you get an opportunity one day to experience this yourself – I’ll remind you if I hear your tickets are booked to SA!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Leer jy my nou ‘n ding. Dit was nog altyd ‘n droom van my om in Nederland so op ‘n eie boot die kanale in te vaar… en hier kan ek dit binne 4 ure se ry van my huis doen. Wil jy nou meer. Gaan nou vir my liefie wys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nou net so Elsabe! Ons het ook altyd gepraat van ‘n riviervaart in Frankryk of Nederland en voila … hier is dit op ons voorstoep! Geen vliegkaartjes en visa nie – net ‘n tassie, kamera en bietjie petrolgeld 👀.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh Corna I would also have loved to take that houseboat trip along the river. How wonderful to spot giraffes and all those birds along the scenic river bank. Also your hot dogs cooked on the brai looked delicious too as did the restaurant meal the previous evening.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh yes Marion, I’m sure you would love this … it’s almost like a little bit of game viewing while cruising on the river! A scenic cruise indeed (and with perfect weather). It’s amazing how simple a meal can be (like our hotdogs), but it still tasted like a 5-star meal – I presume it depends where you eat it 😉. Thank you for reading about another adventure and your lovely comments.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed, it was heavenly 😄. We were talking about a houseboat adventure in France for a long time … and hey, here we have one right on our doorstep (without buying a plane ticket and getting a visa)! Ok yes, it’s maybe a bit different, but it certainly didn’t lack any beauty.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dit lyk absoluut idillies! Iets soortgelyks is hier aan ons kant va die land op die Vaalrivier beskikbaar, maar ai die rivier is deesdae so besoedel dat ek nie myself sover ka kry nie. Hierdie lyk na n uitstekende alternatief!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dit was soos ‘n ander wereld – ons was verstom dat iets wat so ongelooflik mooi is, so naby aan ons kan wees! Ek kan sommer sien dat julle hierdie baie sal geniet … dink net aan die wildrit wat julle kan kombineer met die riviervaart 😉.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right Diane – this could count as a 10 out of 10 weekend 😁. A river cruise while game viewing … perfect! Oh, I thought it was called crumbed mushrooms everywhere – that’s very interesting (but it also make sense to call it breaded). Well, whatever it’s called … it’s one of my favourite starters!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “If I could choose the life I’d lead, then I would be a boatman. On canals and the rivers free, no hasty words are spoken” The Levellers

    In my white water rafting days I absolutely adored the tranquility of the rivers (apart from the rapids, of course!) and the beautiful, unspoiled places where they take you.

    I have often thought our next adventure might involve a boat and your post absolutely underlines how wonderful life is on the water! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, I absolutely love that quote! We have talked so many times about a houseboat cruise on a river and was quite surprised that it was now actually on our doorstep! And yes, the tranquility is truly amazing (I’m glad there were no rapids 😉). I’m glad you enjoyed this post, take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s always nice to be on the water and that houseboat is floating perfection! How wonderful to find isolation just to enjoy the sounds and sights that are natural. What a great find!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, the tranquility one finds on a river is quite amazing. It was one of our best experiences – the river cruise and to spot wild life at the same time … we are fortunate to have this on our doorstep!


  7. You always come up with amazing things to do but taking a houseboat for a river cruise is one of the best ideas ever. Congratulations to the captain on successfully navigating through the river traffic and twists and turns.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks John … I must admit, this was a weekend that definitely exceeded our expectations! There were a few times during this weekend that I just had to pinch myself – so much beauty in one place, it was mind blowing! Ah, the captain says thank you – he’s quite chuffed with his boating skills 😁.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Ruth, I would say this was the perfect way to spend a sunny weekend. The reflections of the hills covered in vegetation and high cliffs in the calm river were amazing … as was the spotting of the giraffes of course. Thank you for your lovely comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I let out a gasp when I read the part about the giraffes; how cool! I absolutely love seeing animals in the wild. Your weekend sounds amazing. I’m looking forward to reading more. Just FYI, when I first met theTravelsketcher, many years ago, he lived on a houseboat on the Columbia River in Oregon; it was a really fun experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was a magical moment to see those giraffes on the hills next to the river … almost unreal. Oh my, I always thought theTravelsketcher is a bit of an adventurer 😉, I can absolutely understand that it must have been a wonderful experience!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa, it was a truly wonderful weekend! Perfect weather conditions with a good mix of wildlife – we couldn’t ask for anything better. The cocktails were actually the perfect way of starting the weekend, don’t you think 😉. Hope you have a great week too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you … yes, there’s not much to complain about this weekend ☺️. Here, dinner is a couple of hours away, so I better not look at any food pictures now, otherwise I’m going to snack until it’s time to eat!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What an awesome thing to do. You clearly had an idyllic time. Many years ago we did a similar thing on Knysna Lagoon. We shared a tiny boat with four little girls – aged between 3 and 12 for 7 days! It was one of our best holidays ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We loved this weekend on the river! We were obviously lucky with the weather, but the pure beauty of nature was just breathtaking beautiful! Oh my, I can understand how much fun it was with those little girls on the boat … 7 days on a tiny boat and ‘one of your best holidays ever’ … it says a lot! 😉


  10. The houseboat adventure looks amazing. I’m reminded when we did something similar at the Knysna lagoon many years ago. It was part of our honeymoon trip and hubby also had to take us out onto the waters, him sailing for the first time. I especially remember his excitement and showing off his captain certification to everyone else for bringing the boat back safely(and of course us too). Thank you for sharing and for bringing back such lovely memories Corna🌸💕

    Liked by 1 person

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