Driving south along Port Elizabeth’s Marine Drive towards the Cape Recife Nature Reserve, an imposing sign beckons travellers to pop-in for a visit at Pine Lodge Resort & Conference Centre.
So I did, and after a guided tour of the expansive facilities, Tourism Tattler (TT) got to interview the resort’s General Manager, Dale Tucker (DT).
TT: The resort layout, facilities and range of activities are impressive – when and how did this all start?
DT: Pine Lodge actually started out as a caravan park in 1990 with a few caravan sites and an ablution block. Back then we pitched on the old Sea Acres Caravan Park site, but the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality clearly had other plans as this is where The Boardwalk Hotel & Casino is now located, so we were offered this site next to the Cape Recife Reserve entrance gate, which turned out to be fortuitous as it’s the perfect location for a seaside resort.
TT: I don’t see any pine trees around, so how did the name Pine Lodge come about?
DT: The owner, Dennis Tucker established Pine Lodge Resort in George with a few partners around 30 years ago, so when they expanded to Port Elizabeth the name was a logical extension as the same resort style concept of caravanning / camping with self-catering accommodation and on-site activities was planned from the outset. Dennis subsequently sold his interest in the George operation and now owns the PE operation outright.
TT: It’s certainly much more than a caravan park now – how many sites / rooms do you now have?
DT: We have 25 caravan and camping sites, all 4-star rated with electrical points, ablutions and scullery areas as well as a fully-equipped laundry, a childrens’ play area, a games room, and a well stocked tuck shop. We also have 13 Site Cabins and 2 Cara-Cabins – a concept that is unique to Pine Lodge as these are built on caravan sites to combine the outdoor enjoyment of camping with the comfort of a fully equipped cabin, and available at an affordable price. Over time we then built 84 self-catering Luxury Chalets on sand dune elevated sites, each with its own private deck and braai area. Again, the Chalets are unique to Pine Lodge in that they have been built in pairs so that families can have an inter-leading door to the adjoining unit, and these are available in 4-, 6- and 8-sleeper configurations. For guests who prefer a Bed & Breakfast option, we also provide a full buffet-style English breakfast as well as a Continental option. Our on-site restaurant, ‘Ziggy’s’ provides a venue for relaxing sundowners or quiet dinners overlooking the beach.
TT: I noticed some zip-line platforms in the bush as I arrived – are activities a big part of the resort?
DT: Yes, the zip-line is operated by Base Camp Adventures who also offer a High Ropes Experience, Climbing Wall, Fatbike beach cycling tours, and Guided Walks. On-site activity facilities include a 9-hole mini-golf course, a trampoline, jungle gym, giant chess set, basketball court, Astro-turf court for 5-aside soccer, cricket and volleyball, a gymnasium and a fully-equipped games room with pool table, darts, table tennis and mini soccer. Our famous donkey cart rides take guests on a leisurely trip down to the Cape Recife lighthouse. There is also an on-site Spa for those looking for a little pampering. Then there are activities offered in the surrounding area, which include bird spotting in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve, the penguin colony at the SA Marine Rehabilitation & Education Centre, golf at the Humewood Golf Club, and game viewing in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Grysbok Trail.
Then there’s angling, scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and kayak-fishing, which are also popular activities.
TT: Leisure tourists are certainly well catered for – what about the business tourism side?
DT: Conferences, functions and weddings are a major part of our business, as are school excursion groups, and we have 7 venues that can cater for events ranging from 5 to 500 attendees or delegates. In fact Pine Lodge is one of the few venues in PE that can provide business conference and incentive groups with accommodation, catering and team-building activities – all onsite for up to 300 guests. We then also have an arrangement with other beachfront hotels for over-flow accommodation and provide a shuttle service, so in reality we can cater for much bigger conference groups and use their conference halls for break-away sessions.
TT: Well, Pine Lodge Resort & Conference Centre certainly meets the needs of Port Elizabeth’s leisure and business tourism sectors. But don’t just take my word for it – pop-in for a visit and see for yourself.
To find out more visit www.pinelodge.co.za