Here’s where you can escape to the countryside and all enjoy a unique getaway. These are some of our favourite family stays…
1. Limpopo – Baobab Hill, Kruger National Park
When the Kruger National Park comes to mind, the south often gets all the attention. But I learnt it is certainly worthwhile to head north, not only for the tranquillity, but because there is never a shortage of things to do.
A great option for accommodation is Baobab Hill in Pafuri, a luxury bush house in the Makuleke Concession of our flagship national park. You get the entire house for a great price, complete with small swimming pool and giant baobab trees surrounding the property, so make sure you invite the extended family on this adventure.
Eight people can sleep here and the price includes a cook to assist at mealtimes, a housekeeper, and a dedicated guide with a game-viewing vehicle to show you the gems of the area.
I love that no public vehicles are allowed on the roads in the concession, which makes the experience unique. While there is much to see in the area, we especially enjoyed viewing herds of buffalo in the fever tree forest and Lanner Gorge, a breathtaking viewpoint with panoramic views of the Levhuvhu River. – René de Klerk
011 646 1391, www.returnafrica.com
2. Western Cape – La Cotte Farm, Franschhoek
I recently enjoyed a glorious weekend at the forest cottages on the La Cotte Farm, high on the slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains, a 40-minute drive from Cape Town.
The property borders Chamonix wine estate and overlooks some of the most picturesque wine farms in the valley. But despite its ‘out in the country’ feel, it’s just a short walk to the vibey town centre with its pavement cafés, swanky restaurants, arty shops, and buzzing Saturday market.
The affordable but beautifully decorated, self-catering cottages have either two bedrooms or a single bedroom downstairs and an open-plan upstairs room, with two beds that’s perfect for kids (or close family/friends). Compact and cozy, the cottages have fully equipped kitchens and a fireplace in the dining room/lounge.
All have a braai terrace overlooking a huge swimming pool where you can relax on a day bed while watching the changing hues of the mountains and enjoying the peace.
There are lovely walks and cycling opportunities on the farm, plus MTB, horse riding and other fun stuff nearby. For larger groups, book the self-catering, grand La Cotte House, which sleeps 14. Perfect venue for a family party. – Fiona McIntosh
3. Karoo – Renosterbos, Sutherland
If you’re in the mood for enchantment and an off-the-beaten track adventure with the family, in old-world comfort, Renosterbos is it.
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with a view of Sutherland in the middle distance, you can find Renosterbos over a low bridge and through a farm gate off the R354.
Renosterbos is spacious and beautiful, and has original wooden floors, thick walls for cold winters, and a loo in the far back corner of the house, like it was in the old days. The three bedrooms are spacious and decorated with magnificent antique pieces.
An indoor fireplace gives welcome warmth in winter, and an outside braai and comfortable dining area is inviting in summer, although Sutherland doesn’t get as hot as you might imagine.
Relaxing on the long, front stoep and gazing out over the hills and surrounding Karoo scrub is soothing. Sitting around the huge kitchen table while cooking and bantering feels cosy and homely.
There is enough space for a family of six, and an array of unusual attractions in the nearby town to keep everyone entertained, including the Enchanted Forest.
Stargazing is, of course, a must as it is captivating for all ages. Do this at the SALT and observatory in Skitterland, or privately with Dave O’ Hearns at Renosterbos cottage. – Keri Harvey
4. Mpumalanga – Misty Mountain, Sabie
Think back to those old-fashioned family holidays with a wide variety of outdoor activities, a pool you could spend hours in and fun indoor stuff to do if it rained. This is exactly what Misty Mountain in Mpumalanga offered us.
About 24km from Sabie and 31km from Lydenburg on the Long Tom Pass, Misty Mountain is 1 700m above sea level and has spectacular views over the Lowveld.
Owned and run by the Sheard family, the lodge is exactly what families want on a holiday. The food is superb but also child-friendly and we ate ourselves silly.
With 280 hectares to play in, there is a lot to do, including a variety of walks, superb bird watching, quad biking, a swimming pool that parents can loll at and enjoy the view while kids play and, best of all, the toboggan run. This is a new offering unique in South Africa, and is based on a European system known as an alpine coaster. For 1.7km, the monorail whizzes through the grasslands and mountains on Long Tom Pass. And I promise that you will all want to do it again and again.
Misty Mountain is centrally situated for exploring the Lowveld, with gold-panning and ghost tours in Pilgrim’s Rest, playing in waterfalls and rivers along the escarpment and at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and flyfishing in Sabie. – Sue Adams
073 375 1817, www.mistymountain.co.za
5. West Coast – As it is in Heaven, Paternoster
Perched atop a sand dune with 180 degree ocean views of boulder rocks and a small private beach, the words ‘As it is in Heaven’ suddenly make perfect sense.
This majestic double-storey, self-catering house offers the ultimate beach holiday escape to a large family or group of friends. We stayed in an en suite bedroom downstairs and kept the curtains wide open to reveal ocean views from floor to ceiling.
The two en suite bedrooms downstairs open to a sublimely comfortable and private TV lounge, dining room, formal lounge, and well-equiped kitchen, which are all open-plan. Upstairs are another four spacious en suite, double bedrooms.
Wrap-around verandas are on both levels, and our days were punctuated with dips in the pool found on the bottom deck. We enjoyed long and lazy summer afternoons on sun loungers, while the evenings were spent around the braai area and fire.
A secluded alcove, replete with comfy couches and a sea view, of course, is where I chose to escape with a book each afternoon before sundowners as the sun set over the ocean right ahead. Our early mornings began with a stroll on the small private beach where we collected pure-white mussel shells for keepsakes – just as it would be in heaven. – Keri Harvey
082 760 3529, [email protected]
6. Eastern Cape – Haga Haga Hotel, Wild Coast
An introduction to the Eastern Cape coastline leads me to Haga Haga Hotel. Here families are revelling in everything this picturesque venue – a short, grassy walk to the beach – has to offer.
The hotel’s 11 comfortably-furnished, en suite bedrooms, with uninterrupted vistas over the warm Indian Ocean, provide a restful space when the day is done. For those who prefer to self-cater, nine fully-serviced chalets mean independence from dining-room meal times – and of course help keep costs down.
When, however, cooking feels like a chore, remember all guests have full use of the hotel’s facilities, including the restaurant, and a pub that also serves meals.
The tidal pool, lagoon and gullies promise to keep active bodies and minds absorbed, while the hotel’s swimming pool offers a peaceful place to relax and soak up the laid-back ambience.
In the unlikely event of a ‘bad’ day, board games and DVDs in the cosy lounge provide a fun-filled alternative to being outdoors. Apart from the beach, there are exhilarating family activities including walking trails, volley ball, a jungle gym, tennis, mashie golf, bird watching, and quad biking. – Olivia Schaffer
7. KwaZulu-Natal – Alpine Heath Resort, Northern Drakensberg
I will always find a reason to go back to Alpine Heath Resort, which is situated close to the Royal Natal National Park in Kwazulu-Natal.
A corporate conference was my first reason for visiting but, soon after, we turned it into a midway overnight stop between the KZN South Coast and Gauteng. This time around, we had the opportunity to spend a relaxing weekend and explore even more of what this resort has on offer.
At night you won’t hear roaring lions, but you will hear the joyful laughter and chatter of kids of all ages returning to their 6-bed, self-catering chalets after attending the many activities on offer by the fun crew at the Market Village.
During the day, we had even more activities to choose from, including exercising in the gym, swimming, hiking, horse riding, cycling, enjoying a drink at the tavern, playing tennis or squash, having a massage, or eating at the restaurant, coffee shop or pizzeria.
But not all is about being busy: the ever-present views of the surrounding mountains, even when covered in mist, still offer complete serenity, like only mountains can. Then it hit us, as we arrived in Johannesburg. On our hike we never extracted the geocache hidden close to the waterfall. We have to go back. – Riaan Hattingh
8. Limpopo – Bifrost Mountain Retreat, Haenertsburg
Perched in the midst of dramatic scenery, lies Bifrost Mountain Retreat. This large and homely self-catering house, which is tucked below the Iron Crown Mountain (the highest peak in the Wolkberg Range) has soaring views down to the Ebenezer Dam in the valley below.
Bifrost is the perfect getaway for a big family or a group of friends wanting a spacious base from which to explore the dramatic mountain landscapes with their hounds. There are many hiking trails leading up the escarpment, or you can venture into the Wolkberg Wilderness Reserve where sparkling streams tumble over deep ravines.
We took a winding route up through pristine mountain grasslands, catching glimpses of mountain reedbuck and Long-crested Eagles along the way. I love to come back to a hot shower and get a braai fire going in a place where you can put your feet up and not worry about muddy paws ruining carpets, and instead have a house manager who makes sure you have everything you need. This unpretentious house, sleeping up to nine people, offers extraordinary views and hiking routes, with the tranquillity, privacy and space needed for a great group holiday with your hounds. – Lisa Martus
011 784 0314, [email protected]