I am a huge fan of finding South Africa’s most unique places to visit and spend the night. Treehouses, caves, even old prisons, they all captivate me and are added to my travel wishlist to one day be enjoyed.
Occasionally I stumble upon the perfect excuse to explore these places, and I hardly let those opportunities go. Which is exactly how the Cape Beer Guy and I ended up spending a night at the Santos Express Train Lodge.
This lodge was situated perfectly on our way home from Knysna, and so we decided to extend our honeymoon by one more day and check it out. Here’s what we found, and why we can’t wait to go back!
Where is the Santos Express Lodge?
The lodge is located on Munro Street, just a few steps away from Santos Beach. If you’re coming into Mossel Bay on the N2, you’ll be able to get onto the R102 and then turn off onto George Street, a little way down you’ll see a left-turn which is Munro Street.
About the Train Lodge
The lodge was first opened in 1994 and has been created from authentic decommissioned train coaches. Trains were once a popular way to travel across South Africa, but today there aren’t many options to do this – and the available trains are expensive. So the train lodge offers train-loving guests a unique experience.
There is a selection of rooms, most of which face the Indian Ocean, and a restaurant connected to one end of the train. The accommodation is secured behind a gate, and only guests receive keys to open it.
It’s 30 metres from the beach and is engulfed in the sounds of sea. In the reception, there’s a book swap shelf as well, which allows guests to take a book to read while they’re staying there, and you can leave books too.
This is not just a novel place to sleep, it’s also one of the best places in this tiny coastal town to really feel the essence of Mossel Bay and its friendliness.
The great thing about the Santos Express is the wide range of rooms available. You can select them according to your budget, how big your group is, and what kind of holiday you’re looking for in this sunny town.
The cheapest room is the dorm, made up of 8 bunk beds (sleeping 16 in total), you can rent a bed for as little as R200 per night. This is fantastic for those looking for a cheap place to stay while enjoying Mossel Bay’s surfing and other beach activities.
The entire 16-sleeper coach shares one bathroom, and each guest gets their own small locker for valuables. The rates for the dorm beds do not include any meals.
These are a bit more private than the dorm room. They offer one single bed in a tiny room. These rooms are minimalistic and simple but allow for a good night’s sleep while on an adventure through the Garden Route.
Guests in single rooms share a bathroom, and there is a light breakfast at the restaurant included in the rates of around R250 pp/pn.
The twin rooms have two single beds, but also two smaller ‘beds’ above those – which are okay for children. So these rooms can hold up to 2 adults and 2 kids. They’re still quite small, and share a bathroom with the rest of the coach.
A light breakfast is included, and you’ll pay about R230 per person sharing.
For couples and small families – or just anyone who likes to spread out at night – there are the tiny yet cosy double rooms. These contain a double bed and two smaller bunk beds that fold down on either wall. You can fit up to four people sleeping a room.
The coach shares one bathroom, and the rates start at R230 pp/s. Plus, everyone gets a light breakfast in the morning, served at the restaurant.
The Honeymoon Caboose is a cozy room with its own bathroom and a double bed. There is only one of its kind on the train, and its in high demand (we’ve tried to book it twice and it’s always booked out).
The room has a shower in the bathroom, and a cupboard and drawers for your clothes. It also has a tea/coffee station with a kettle for early morning coffee in bed.
It’s called the most romantic spot on the train… seems believable too. You pay around R550 per night for a couple, so the price is fantastic. Plus you get a light breakfast included. For a romantic stay, I’d recommend this room (but let’s all take turns because we’re still dying to try it out!)
Royal suites (sea/mountain view)
These are my favourite rooms (also the ones we’ve actually seen in person so – biased opinion). They’re set in two restored royal coaches. Wooden walls and floors, a king-size bed and a victorian-style bathroom make these coaches romantic, luxurious, and extremely private.
You get suites A and C which have windows facing the ‘mountain’ (actually the face the parking lot and a hill) and suites B and D have windows facing the Indian Ocean. We were too late for a sea view room, but you can still see the ocean from the passage windows, and there’s a wooden deck per coach which offers great views and fresh sea air.
The bathroom was my favourite part – there’s a modern shower, but also a victorian bath which provides a steamy bubble bath after a day at the beach. There’s a tea/coffee station in each room as well, and we were provided with tea, coffee, tiny milk sachets and fresh bottled water in the bar fridge.
These rooms are a bit pricier, at R1200+ per night for a couple, but you get the privacy, massive cloud-like bed, and a full breakfast in the morning (we’re talking eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, fruit… etc. etc.).
Dining at the Fork and Train
While the lodge isn’t self-catering, we found the onsite restaurant to be pleasantly affordable. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have a bar for some late-night fun.
The deck is the most amazing breakfast spot and the sunset is spectacular from there as well -overlooking the beach and the ocean. Inside is warm and vibey, for a fun lunch or dinner.
They also have fun weekend events, like quiz nights. We enjoyed having a few drinks so close to our room. We could quite literally just walk a few steps and be safe in bed.
The Sights, Sounds, and Smells
On to some of the best parts! My favourite thing about staying at this lodge was the sound of ocean. It drowns out almost everything else once you’re in the room (like snoring while you’re sleeping). I’m not an ‘ocean’ kind of girl, I feel much more at home listening to birds in a forest, but the waves just made me feel so relaxed.
From different parts of the train, you can see the beach and the water. We saw a lot of boats, water skiing, and surfing. And all we could smell was fresh sea breeze, and delicious meals coming from the restaurant.
Fun Things to do Near the Train
I’d recommend you spend some time on the beach while here. We only had one day in Mossel Bay so we didn’t get to everything, but the town offers some fascinating activities. Including:
- Diaz Museum
- St Blaize Hiking Trail
- Garden Route Casino
- Diaz Express
- Point of Human Origins
- Diaz Waterpark
- And lots of fun boat rides out to sea!
Book your Room at Santos
We stumbled upon The Train accidentally, but even though we’ve been there we really can’t wait to go again. Something about falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves, and waking up to the calls of the local surfers, is absolutely magical.
Whether it’s for a quick night in Mossel Bay or a weekend enjoying the Garden Route, Santos Express offers the perfect space to rest your head.
We booked our room through Afristay, but you can also book on Booking.com, or enjoy lower rates on the Train’s very own website.