The Willows Resort

Location: 18 kilometres from Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay on the ‘wild side’ of the city’s coast, in the Eastern Cape. It isn’t even 15 minutes drive.

Date Visited: 4 – 6 May 2012 (Fall)

Accommodation: We stayed in a beautifully fitted 2-bedroom chalet with a kitchen, dining room, lounge & bathroom. The resort offers chalets & cottages of varying sizes, as well as camping sites for caravans & campers.

What we Drove: Our 1998, 2.8i Landrover Defender 90-series

What we did: we loved the ocean a few steps from our chalet’s front door. It is mesmerizing. We listened to the ocean, which at times washed over every thought we might have had and at other times created the rhythm of our conversation. We went for a beautiful walk. We did a treasure hunt for our lunch, enjoyed breakfast at the resort’s breakfast room, cooked supper together on an open fire. We played miniature golf, air-hockey, pool & table tennis. The children devoured the super tube water slide, while Zuko & I took the opportunity to read & think & talk. We also explored the area close to the resort.

Recommendation: The Willows is really the ideal family destination. If you live in or close to Nelson Mandela Bay, The Willows is perfect as a weekend destination, avoiding long distance travel, but still affording you the feel of being far away from home. If you’re visiting the city, The Willows is a perfect base from which to explore this area. It is 15 minutes drive from the airport and 10 minutes from almost everything else you’d want to visit.

Website:The Willows Resort & Conference Centre


Zuko & I have many memories of Nelson Mandela Bay.

We both grew up in this city.

We went to school here.

Studied here.

Fell in love, here.

We left together in 1995 and returned together in 2002.

We came back with some children and had some more here.

We learnt of defeat & resilience & hope & the ability to begin again, right here in this little bit of world.

Memories aren’t words.

Memories are filled with color & texture.

With emotion.

And smells.


This Friday afternoon we tasted and felt the memories of our own childhood as we drove through the resort to our chalet.

We swam in that tidal pool as a five-year old.

We walked on the soft sand, there, when we were seven.

We explored the rocky shore, hunting for crabs & sea stars & tiny fish when we were eight.

We did not know each other then, but somehow this shared history brings us closer together as we forge new memories with our own children in this wonderous place.

In some ways The Willows was able to retain a feeling of familiarity, despite upgrades & renovations & modernisation.

It is a welcome feeling.

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While we stock the fridge and settle Maddi into our new surroundings, the older three of our tribe goes off to explore the resort.

Their free passes in hand.

Now there’s a memory.

The excitement on their faces as they opened that envelope & discovered those little cards.

‘Do they really mean we can do anything for free?’ they repeatedly ask in disbelief.

And then they’re off to go and test them.

It is almost dark when they return with laughter & excitement.

They’ve played air-hockey & foose-ball, pool & darts & soccer.

Tomorrow they’re going to super tube & play miniature golf.

It is a children’s paradise.

Not once during the entire weekend did one of them say those three dreaded words: ‘I’m bored!’

In fact, on Sunday I had to bribe the tribe with the promise of lunch at The Boma, to lure them away from The Willows.

Friday night we cooked together on an open fire.

Saturday morning, as I lay in bed, listening to the sound of the ocean’s rolling waves & our children playing, I realized that I am content.

This is good.

It is very good.

We drank coffee, then strolled down to the games room & breakfast room.

We had a slow conversation filled breakfast.

We made new friends.

Then we set off on a walk along the ocean’s edge before letting the children loose on the super tube water slide.

They were tireless.

They’re fervor inspiring other children to join the fun until a whole band of young ones were splashing through the water with excitement.

‘It always seems like summer, at The Willows’, I think as I watch from the lawn, taking the opportunity to read and talk and dream.

As the sun climbs high up into the sky & our shadows shrink to almost nothing, a scroll is brought to us.

It holds a secret.

It sets us off on an eventful treasure hunt, for our packed picnic lunch.

We seek birds on walls & ladies who listen for bells, a place of many holes and a bear who does not move.

It is the bear who tells us where we can find our lunch and as we spread the colorful blanket on neatly kept lawn and unpack an exquisite lunch, Pippa and I discover that we both love a picnic.

We resolve that we’ll do it more often as we devour a perfectly made meal.

We take an afternoon nap while the children disappear on an adventure. Later they tell us they explored some puddles and pools, found a sea star and almost caught a crab.

We join them for miniature golf.

Sophia gets a hole-in-one.

I accumulate the highest score and the tribe agrees that it is the one with the highest score who wins.

As the sun starts to set and a full moon rises, we find our way to our chalet and preparing supper together and reliving the excitement of hunting for lunch.





Sunday morning is even more relaxed.

Coffee is followed by more fresh breakfast & more conversation in the breakfast room.

We play another game of pool.

Pippa challenges me to an air-hockey stand-off.

Sophia takes on the winner.

As Zuko and I pack our bags & load the Landy, the children take a last wild splash on the super tube water slide.

Sunday Lunch has come.

Too soon, as always.

Reluctantly we say our goodbyes.

We stop at The Boma restaurant & Reptile World for lunch.

We delay the end of this journey.

As long as possible.

We could’ve stayed longer.

There is so much to do & enjoy & explore.

We didn’t get to the Seaview Lion Park or Heavenly Stables’ Beach Horseback ride.

We didn’t even consider the paintball or golf course ten minutes away.

The time together was too precious.

The time there.

Hidden away.

On the ocean’s edge.

When we arrive home we’d travelled a mere 36 kilometres.

We created the memories of a journey.

Colorful memories.

Pippa careful places a yellow serviette holding a blue knife and fork, tied together with rough brown rope in her memory box.

Soffie takes some prestic & stick her free-pass to the inside of her cupboard’s door.

Theunsie writes on Facebook that the tribe is awesome.

Late that evening I lie in bed listening to them chew on their weekend’s experiences.

It is beautiful memories.

One’s they might just share with their children, as one day they too take them to this wondrous world.



Categories: Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “The Willows Resort

  1. Pingback: The Willows Resort « travelingtribe | Nelson Mandela

  2. Diana

    Wish I could experience that look so peacefull, just what my tired soul need

  3. I wanna go back! Used to spend most weekends there as a child 🙂

  4. Memories. In my eyes, you didn’t have to write the whole article for your experience to capture my curious soul. Seaside memories are always captivating. Thank you for sharing your precious experience with your fam with the world.

  5. Zandile Prince

    From what I’ve just read… I think I’ve experienced what The Willows has to offer. Yet leaving me with a lot of curiosity and excitement.
    I think I have to go make my own memories with my family. #Speechless

  6. sylvie321

    Absolutely LOVE the Willows. . . lots of childhood memories! Something for each and every member of the family!

  7. Yes i agree, reading ur amazing experience has brought back many a memory, of camping at Willows.Ive heard how it has changed and how remarkably it has not lost its touch of adventure for all.We must not cease from exploration, but to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time…….Thank-you

  8. gemma schlaphoff

    “The time together was too precious.
    The time there.
    Hidden away.”…….that statement right there makes me want to pack my bags and head off to Willows to spend some time hidden away, with the people that matter the most and focusing on whats important – family!

  9. Leanne Bennett

    What a great reminder of my childhood… Willows was such a treat to us when we were young, and fond memories of more recent trips too!

  10. What a wonderful world we have right in the Bay of Plenty! Thank you for sharing your memories with us!

  11. Penny Morris

    I never grew up in Port Elizabeth, so don’t have any childhood memories of The Willows, but have often wondered if we should try it out! Well, after reading how awesome of a time you guys had, I definately want to share that with our children. A “peace” of heaven right on our door steps! Thank you for reminding us all how important it is to spend time with our families and to appreciate what God has blessed us with, admist this hectic world that we live in.

  12. mandy frank

    Oh, how I long for the smell and the sound of the ocean after reading this! The feel of sea sand between my toes and waves brushing against my legs! The peace and tranquility! The safe feeling, confidently allowing our children to run about while we relax by a fire. PE is so beautiful, and The Willows is one of its best treasures!

  13. David

    The phrases “A Children’s Paradise” and “We could’ve stayed longer” just do it for me – this has got to be a “must visit” resort for anyone with a family!

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